Folk Magic

Chapter 1 - The Magic of the People

Folk magic was born in an age of wonder. Tens of thousands of years ago, nature was a mysterious force. Points of light swung far overhead in the sky. Invisible energies ruffled matted hair and kicked up dust storms. Water fell from above. Powerful forces, inconceivable to those early humans, sent flashes of light from the clouds, blasting trees into raging infernos. Women miraculously bore young. Blood was sacred. Food was sacred. Water, the Earth, plants, animals, the wind, and all that existed was infused with power.

Magic-as well as religion and science-sprang from the actions of the first humans who attempted to understand, contact, and gain some control over such forces. Through countless centuries they examined the natural world around them, discovering the physical properties of water, fire, plants, and animals. They investigated the mysterious processes of birth and death, and pondered where the deceased had "gone." They marveled at the intricate patterns of minerals and flowers, and watched the clouds moving overhead.

These earlier peoples were different from us. They lived in and with nature, depending upon it for their sustenance as well as for protection against human and animal dangers. When they reaped wild grains for food, smelled richly scented flowers, or brought glistening, opalescent shells up from the ocean's edge, they must have sensed that there was something more to these things than their solid, physical forms.

Unhindered by materialistic training, their primeval minds explored the world and discovered an indescribable something existing within all objects and beings. In inanimate objects the color, form, size, and weight may have been recognized as clues to their nonphysical natures. The location in which an object was found-beside streams, high on mountains, or deep within the Earth-may also have been an indicator of the type of energy found within it.

The powers that seemed to be afoot in human beings were of indescribable diversity. A man filled with tenderness radiated different energy than one bent on killing. A strong, healthy individual's energies were similarly strong and healthy, while the sick had lowered reserves of a lesser type. Even the bones of the dead, along with her or his personal belongings (if any), were also sensed to contain a form of power.

Eventually, ritual was developed as a means of contacting and utilizing the energy within humans as well as in the natural world. How, why, or where this happened is of little importance, but this step marked the advent of magic and religion.

Yes, religion. Speculation exists today that the earliest humans held some type of spiritual reverence. They certainly practiced magic, and in earlier times the two were intimately linked-as they continue to be.

Certain objects prized for their energies were probably utilized for specific ends. Amber, not a true mineral but a fossilized pine resin, may have been among the first materials used for magical purposes. Images of bears and geometric carvings of amber-often perforated for hanging purposes-apparently were worn as protective or hunt-ensuring devices in the earliest ages.

Pieces of meteoric iron must have been viewed with awe, especially if the falling of the meteor had been witnessed. Flowers used for magical and ritual purposes were held in higher esteem once their medicinal properties had been recognized.

Thus folk magic slowly developed into a method of using natural objects in ritual ways for specific, necessary purposes such as protection, fertility, safe childbirth, and successful hunts.

At some point human energies were introduced into folk magic. Complicated rituals developed as a means of uniting the magician with the object's energy. In a sense, this was a form of communication. Gesture, rhythm, dance, ritual postures, and later, hallucinogenic plants, were used to successfully merge human energy with that of prized objects.

All magical systems and religions grew from these early practices. Tribal magic, as well as group religious rituals, undoubtedly developed from folk magic, but the magic of the individual survived.

These simple rituals continued to be used for many thousands of years. As great civilizations rose and fell-Sumer, Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Crete, and Rome-folk magic continued to be practiced, while priests and priestesses slaved over state religions and magical systems.

Then a new organized religion, born in the Near East after the death of a Jewish prophet, flexed his growing political muscles. The official conversion of the Roman empire to Christianity around 325 C.E. (Common Era) spread Christianity throughout the Western world. As country after country converted, many of the old ways of folk magic were forgotten, often under threat of imprisonment or death.

Some peoples, unwilling to discard thousand-year-old rituals, altered them slightly to conform to the new religion. That magic which could not ne made to at least vaguely conform was practiced in secret. The days when the old European charms and spells were a part of everyday life were over.

The leaders of the new religion, determined to wield absolute control over all aspects of human life, sought to stamp out such "crimes" as foretelling the future, psychic healing, the creation of protective amulets and love-attracting charms, and everything else which failed to fit in with this religion's creed. Throughout the "known" world folk magic became a dim memory, as scenes of religious mass murders (performed in the name of God) became commonplace.

Soon after, the advert of modern scientific inquiry occurred. As the horrors of the Medieval and Renaissance Witch persecutions faded from memory, humans began investigating the ways of nature in a new light. Magnetism, medicine and surgery, mathematics, and astronomy were codified and moved from the realm of "superstition" and magic to science.

Building upon this knowledge, the Industrial Revolution began in the late 19th century. Humans gained some control over the Earth through mechanistic means. Machines soon replaced religion in overcoming folk magic. Humans, no longer dependant upon the Earth for their lives, grew isolated from their planet.

In the 1900s a series of local and world wars ripped apart much of what remained of the old ways of living for millions of Europeans, Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Folk magic, once the lifeblood of all humans, had never seen darker days.

But it had not completely died out. Wherever machines and technology hadn't yet invaded, folk magic continued to exist: in areas of Asia, Africa, and the South Pacific; in Central and South America; in rural sections of North America such as the Ozarks; in Hawaii; and even in parts of Europe.

During the 1960s folk magic sprang back to life. The youth movement in the United States and Britain rebelled against rigid social codes and Christian-based ideals. Some young persons turned to Buddhism, Zen, and other Eastern teachings. Others became enchanted with what little they could learn of spells, charms, herb magic, tarot cards, amulets, and talismans.

Countless popular books and articles appeared, revealing this once-public knowledge to a new generation dissatisfied with their purely technological lives.

Spellbooks and magical texts, written by researchers or practitioners of folk magic, were purchased by persons whose ancestors had originated these practices. Books such as Paul Huson'sMastering Witchcraft, Kathryn Paulsen's The Complete Book of Magic and Witchcraft, and Raymond Buckland's Practical Candleburning-along with dozens of others-were hugely successful. A reawakening had begun.

But the religious suppression of folk magic continued unabated during the 1960s. Books were released stating that this renewed interest in folk magic (usually referred to as Witchcraft) heralded the end of the world. Preachers in the United States publicly burned occult books and magical objects. They did this, they said, in an attempt to destroy "the Devil's works."

However, Christianity's influence in shaping public opinion was weakening. Through many nonpractitioners continued to view magic as Satanic, unnatural and dangerous, open-minded persons investigated it for themselves. Some became ardent practitioners, finding in folk magic a link with their ancestors and a sense of personal power.

Today, the resurgence begun in the late 1960s has produced a generation of aware individuals. Many of these folk magicians have also become involved in channelling, psychic healing, herbal medicine, sensory deprivation, holistic consciousness, crystal work, vegetarianism, neurolinguistic programming, meditation, and Eastern teachings. This-along with a big media push-has produced the New Age movement.

As a response to the continuing interest in folk magic and non-Christian spirituality, and to the waning of Christianity's social power, orthodox religion has now turned its propaganda guns toward this new wave of folk magic by again predicting that these are the last days of our planet.

I've included this short, greatly condensed history of folk magic in Europe and the U.S. to point out that it is nothing new. It has been with us almost as long as we've been on the earth. Exactly what it is will be explored in the next few chapters, but what it isn't is almost as important as what it is.

Folk magic isn't "the Devil's work." It isn't Satanism. It doesn't involve living sacrifices. It doesn't consist of talking to spirits or bondage to demons. It isn't dark, dangerous, evil or supernatural. Folk magic isn't anti-Christian, anti-religion, or anti-anything.

Folk magic is pro-life, pro-love, pro-healing. It is a tool with which people transform their lives. It is a relationship with the earth. When "normal" means failure, when all efforts have brought no results, many millions today turn to folk magic.

It is practiced by twelve-year-old girls and senior men and women. All kinds of women and men-professionals, laborers, lawyers, and salespersons-perform spells. Persons of every race carry out ancient rituals, some of which may be linked with their cultural background. A Chicana living in southwestern Arizona might brush her children with rue and rosemary leaves as part of a healing ritual. A Cajun man might stop by a New Orleans shop to purchase a green candle and money-drawing incense in preparation for a wealth-attracting ritual. Rational Hawaiians place leaves of a certain plant in elevators to guard women against rape.

For those with no strong attachments to their ancestors, a plethora of spells and rituals are available for use in personal magic.

Folk magic, then, constitutes the bulk of ancient and modern magical practices performed by individuals to improve their lives. Unfettered by social beliefs or religious strictures, folk magicians carve their own futures through timeless rituals.

Folk magic is alive once again. Chapter 2 - The Spell

The spell is at the heart of folk magic. It is simply a ritual in which various tools are purposefully used, the goal is fully stated (in words, pictures or within the mind), and energy is moved to bring about the needed result.

Spells can be as simple as reciting a short chant over a fresh rose while placing it between two pink candles in order to draw love; forming and retaining an image of the needed result in the mind; or placing a quartz crystal in a sunny window for protective purposes.

Spells are usually misunderstood by nonpractitioners. In popular thought, all you need to perform magic is a spell-a real spell, not the kind you find in books: a spell passed from an angel to King Solomon, a spell inscribed in some mythological sixteenth-century Welsh Witch's workbook-a spell of untold power. Your wildest dreams could be fulfilled if only you had a real spell.

Many seem to think that simply by gathering together a few obj ects (the stranger the better) and chanting a few words, the powers of the universe will spark and move and produce miracles. This is the product of a world that believes magic to be supernatural, irrational, impossible.

But magic works with nature, with natural energies. The spells-chants, gestures with tools, lighting of candles-are the outer form and they are worthless unless energy is moved. This is the sole responsibility of the magician. No demonic power flows to help the spell-caster. Instead the magician, by correctly performing a spell, builds up what I call "personal power." At the proper time this power is released to go to work in manifesting the spell.

Effective spells-or rather, spells that will produce the needed results-are designed to bring this about. In the days when magic was part of the everyday routine, spells were probably pedestrian. The magician knew that the ritual would work and didn't need to be coaxed into this belief.

After the glory days of magic this natural approach to magic was gone. For spells to be effective magicians had to lay aside their culturally ingrained disbelief. They very nature of spells changed. The magician donned special clothing which symbolized the event about to occur. Candles were lit and incense burned to produce the proper romantic atmosphere. The spell might have been worked exactly at midnight in a desolate area with the Full Moon shining far above. Strange words were chanted to stir the power within the magician. Finally, after an hour or so of working up to the proper peak of energy as well as to the prerequisite state of mind, the magician simply released the power and the spell was finished.

Chants, candles, incense, and even the Moon contain specific energies which can be utilized in magic, but such tools aren't necessary to the performance of folk magic. The magic is in the magician, not within the tools.

Strange trappings and bizarre ingredients aren't necessary either-unless the magician deems them to be. Different types of folk magicians use different types of spells. If of an analytical, intellectual mind, the folk magician may prefer visualization rituals in which the goal is firmly established in the mind as a vehicle through which the power will flow. A more romantic magician may prefer herbs, crystals, and candles. Those intrigued with form and intricate patterns may find that the use of runes, images, colors, and magical symbols fulfills their needs. Artists may create ritual paintings; musicians, spell-songs.

This is mere generalization, but it should serve to show that no one type of spell will be equally effective in every folk magician's hands. Additionally, all spells-published or not-can be effective.

Spells are designed to release personal power within the magician. It is this energy-along with natural objects such as crystals, herbs, oils, incense and the like-that powers the spell, that gets it moving. How does it work? We can't fully explain it yet, but the following theory seems valid:

There is a power in the universe. It is the power of life. This is the inexplicable force behind the wonders that early humans encountered. The Earth, the solar system, the stars-all that is manifest-is a product of this power. Humans have given the names of "God" and "Goddess" to this energy source. It is that which is worshiped in every religion in various forms.

This is the power that keeps our bodies alive, that allows us to reproduce, that is within all beings and things. It isn't supernatural; on the contrary, this is the power of nature itself.

Human beings are manifestations of this power, as are plants, rocks, trees, clouds, and water. Our bodies aren't power plants as much as they're power-assimilatory. We take in energy from the food and drink that we consume, from the Sun and Air. We release it during concentration, prayer, and magic.

Therefore, magic can be seen as a method of releasing personal power. It is as real and natural as exercising or making love. And just as those two activities are engaged in for specific purposes, so too is magic.

Personal power isn't the sole source of energy used in folk magic. It is usually combined with that of various objects such as herbs and stones, which have been used in folk magic for countless generations. These things, to the folk magician, aren't viewed as merely pretty rocks or fragrant plants, but as energy sources.

This power can be roused and concentrated. Personal power-that which exists within humans-is "awakened" through music or chanting; through dance; through manipulation of various objects; through concentration or magical visualizations.

Energies within stones, herbs, and other objects are roused with rituals. Herbs may be blessed or visualized to contain the energies. Stones may be placed between the palms. During such operations the magician senses the energies within these objects, touches them in a metaphysical sense, and sets them stirring.

Humans and natural objects contain bands or spectrums of different types of energy. Only one type of energy exists, but the physical form in which it is manifest determines its specific characteristics. Thus the herb rosemary contains energies that can be used for a variety of magical purposes.

The type of energy within our bodies is constantly changing in accordance with our thoughts, hopes, wishes, and physical condition.

This power can be "programmed" or "fine-tuned" to effect a specific results. This programming is accomplished within the magician as well as in the natural objects used in the spell. This usually occurs after the magician has sensed the energies within her/himself and those objects to be used, if any. These energies are then narrowed down to the spell's purpose, such as love, money, or healing.

This process may entail visualizations: creating and holding certain images or concepts in the mind. Color is another tool often used to program the energy: a rose is about to be used in a love-attracting ritual may be seen to be emanating a brilliant pink, which is the love hue.

When the energies to be used in the spell at the proper pitch and frequency (to borrow those terms), all is ready for the actual transference.

During this attuning process candles may be lit, symbols scratched or drawn onto bark, or words stated, but such ritual actions only serve to intensify the magician's concentration on the work at hand.

This power can be moved and directed. The attuned power can be freed from its physical confines (the human body, quartz crystals, etc.) And sent out toward the spell's goal. During healing rituals it is projected toward the sick person. If protection is needed, the energy might be directed into a small object that can be worn, into an area of a building such as the front door, or even into a car or pet.

Once the energy has been freed from its material form, it is no longer bound by physical laws. The folk magician can move it ten feet or ten thousand miles to do its work. The folk magician's knowledge and experience-not the distances involved-determines the spell's effectiveness.

The energy is moved through the use of visualization, through ritual gestures such as pointing fingers, through use of wands, swords and magical knives-or simply through concentration.

This power, once moved, has an effect on its target. Because everything that exists contains greater or lesser amounts of the same divine energy, everything can be affected by the introduction of similar energies. This principle is the fulcrum of folk magic, the basic thrust of the process itself; for if the power is acknowledged to exist, if it can be charged with specific types of purposes and be moved, then unless it has an effect once it reaches its destination, all is for naught.

The method by which the power changes its target is either determined by the magician during the ritual or is left up to circumstances at the time of its arrival.

Exactly how this change takes place cannot be explained-at least not yet. Perhaps it can be understood by using an analogy: when a few drops of food coloring are added to a glass of water, the water itself hasn't been dramatically altered; but the introduction of the food coloring, which is soluble in water, has created a blend of both substances-color and water.

Magic seems to work along the same lines. Healing energy sent to a sick or wounded person doesn't actually heal, but seems to kick the body's healing processes into high gear. Protective energy doesn't visually alter the building or object in which it is infused, but it does create a nonphysical change-an energy barrier that resists the entrance of dangerous or negative powers.

That, in short, is at least one folk magician's rationale of magic. Not all magicians would subscribe to every detail of this model, but it gives us a framework from which we can create our own explanations.

Examined from this vantage point, folk magic cannot and could not be construed as a supernatural, otherworldly process. Though we haven't yet explained every intricacy of folk magic (fringe physics is coming close to this achievement), it's a perfectly natural process that most of us simply haven't used.

The spell is a form of ritual drama-a series of physical, mental, and magical actions designed to rouse, program, release, and direct magical energy for a specific purpose.

Science doesn't pretend to have penetrated every secret of this mysterious force. The effects of turning on a light switch would have seemed magical to our predecessors, and still is to some. "Turning on" magical power, once commonplace, is today an occult (hidden) practice, but it occurs many thousands of times a day.

Once a newspaper reporter complained that magic as I explained it, was too ordinary, too everyday. Looking for screaming headlines and demon devotionals, he was crestfallen to discover that magic is a natural process.

I didn't mind disappointing him. Magic is the movement of natural energies. All the trappings, the secrecy, the bat's blood and newt's eyes, the chilling music, strange incantations and the like are there for those persons who need or want them-those who can't feel the energy within themselves or within nature without dramatic props to suspend their disbelief.

True folk magic, as we've seen, doesn't require them. All it requires is a human being with magical knowledge and deep connections with the earth. Within these things are all the secrets of magic.

Another important pointy, often overlooked in books, should be made regarding folk magic: belief doesn't empower spells. I may believe that alien beings from another planet landed in 1939 and dictated battle plans to Adolph Hitler. Of course, I'm not certain that this is true because I have no proof.

Belief is uncertainty and implies that the believer may be incorrect. It is a crutch, an idea which often has nothing but emotion to back it up. A belief in God is one thing; the knowledge of a personal relationship with Him or Her is quite another.

Belief may play a part in magic at the onset of a person's experiences in it. This is a necessary step. Eventually, once magic has proven to be effective, this belief firms into certain knowledge. Belief isn't enough and faith isn't enough. Only knowledge leads to effective magic: the knowledge that magic is a genuine process-that energy is a viable, natural part of life, and can be programmed and projected to produce specific effects.

So those books that say the magician must believe in magic for it to be effective are incorrect. Belief is no more a part of magic than it is a part of computer repair. Once a person has mastered the basics, she or he knows that if certain steps are taken, certain effects will be achieved.

Folk magicians have no doubt regarding the efficacy of their magic. They know that spells are keys to unlocking natural energies that can be utilized to improve their lives.

Chapter 3 - Tools of Power

Although personal power-that which resides within humans-is the most potent force at work in folk magic, its practitioners utilize a wide variety of magical objects borrowed from the spells and rituals of various cultures. Such "tools" are used to lend their own energies, as well as to produce the state of consciousness necessary for magical workings.

Magic can be, and often is, effective purely on a personal level, with the magician utilizing no power other than that which resides within. However, folk magicians have always used natural objects as well as expertly crafted tools to strengthen their magical rituals.

Here are some of them.

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