Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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A Finger on the Scales

  20+ Double Pan Balance Stock Photos ...

What Magic Is...and What It Isn't

 

 

Belief in literal magic can be cruel.

When Lady N. was diagnosed with cancer, she wasn't worried.

She knew she was going to beat it. She believed in magic, you see.

All over the country, night after night, people of her lineage and tradition cast circles and raised cones of power to heal her.

They didn't work.

She had given her life to the Craft, but in the end, the Craft failed her. Her magic failed her. Even her gods had failed her.

 

A dear friend was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is a cruel disease. At worst, it can end in the butchery of prostatectomy, leaving a man stripped of dignity, sexual function, and even sense of identity.

My friend is someone given to expecting the worst. He's not from a magical background, but in our conversations I've found myself, in effect, discussing the basics of magical thinking.

Your job now, I've heard myself telling him, is expectation management.

Expectation shapes outcome. That's the heart of real magic.

You've seen it; I've seen it. All the studies show it. If you expect a bad outcome, you're more likely to get one.

Fortunately, the converse is true as well.

Belittle it as magical thinking; dismiss it as self-deception. If a little self-deception can win you a better outcome than otherwise, then, me, I'm all for it.

Of course, there are no guarantees. You may get the bad outcome anyway, as Lady N. did.

But, in the end, that's not necessarily failure. There's magic, and there's magic.

 

When Old Lady Manygoats was dying of cancer, her family held a ceremony of healing for her.

They hired a ritualist to lead the ceremony. Friends and family converged from all over.

For three days, Old Lady Manygoats sat on the dry paintings that the singer had drawn on the ground. For three days, he chanted the prayers and stories of healing over her.

The cancer didn't go away, but when she died shortly thereafter, Old Lady Manygoats died healed nonetheless.

She died in what Christians would call a state of grace: at one with herself, her people, and her gods.

 

Magic isn't the wand you wave that presto! makes everything right again.

Magic is a finger on the subtle scales of reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.

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