Religious Magic

Religious magic is that which is performed in the name of, or with the assistance of, Deity. It has been practiced by peoples all over the world, at all times in history, and it still has a vigorous following.

In earlier ages deities representing the fields, the mountains, springs, and woods were invoked during magic. The Moon and Sun were thought of as deities (or symbols of them), and were called upon during magical ritual. This was perhaps the purest form of religious magic.

Prayer is the quintessential example. When an individual fervently prays for a healing, a caring husband, or a studious daughter, the devout person directs personal power through the prayer and out to Deity. The person's emotional involvement in the prayer "programs" the energy being sent forth. The hoped-for result is, of course, a manifestation of the blessing being prayed for.

Unless the person praying is trained in magic, she or he isn't consciously aware that this process is at work. But this is unimportant. Prayers offered by devout persons of any religion are often answered. These prayers are effective because their personal energy, attuned with their magical need, is released toward Deity, and empowered by this larger energy source, manifests in Earthly form. The person's emotional state and belief in the Deity determines the effectiveness of the prayer.

Sacrilege? No. Just explanation.

Religious magic isn't practiced solely by lowly adherents to a religion. Priests, ministers, and others also perform it, and magic is an integral part of many current religions, including Christianity.

Specifically, divine power-that which has no physical form-is brought down to Earth through the agency of a priest or minister and is made to enter into certain objects. This form of religious magic includes the creation of, and use of, blessed religious medallions, crucifixes, and palm leaves worn by some Catholics for special favors. It is also the rationale of transubstantiation.

Other less ritualistic Christian sects utilize prayer and music to whip up a veritable brew of personal power to attune with that of the divine. Operators of revival meetings and charismatic Christian preachers know these secrets well, and effectively use them to elevate the consciousness of their followers to a high spiritual state.

But some individual believers-even Christians-have long brought elements of folk magic into their religion and have created a new form, one incorporating religious symbolism with the practices of folk magic.

This began once Christianity had established itself throughout Europe. Whether the new religious magic was an attempt to avoid persecution or death by outwardly converting to the new faith, or was a result of its practitioners' true conversion is open to speculation. But throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, an entirely new form of magic was practiced by the high as well as the low. It also marked the temporary abandonment of folk magic.

At one time, a woman wishing to prepare an herbal charm to protect her child would collect herbs while chanting ancient words, calling upon goddesses of healing and urging the plant to make its sacrifice for the benefit of the child. She'd fasten the herbs in cloth and hang this charm around her or his neck.

After Christianity's rise to power, the herbs were plucked with prayers to Jesus, God, or the Virgin Mary. Saints were often invoked (at least by Catholics). The cloth may have been stitched with a cross, symbol of the new religion that was often considered to have magical powers (witness its supposed effects on vampires). Finally, the magic charm was taken to a church to be blessed.

An extreme example of the people's belief in the powers of the church is the common medieval practice of stealing hosts from Catholic churches for use in protection spells, healing rituals, and the like. This was done not by Witches but by persons who had forgotten folk magic and had turned to the new faith. Witches had their own magic.

Such a practice, which instilled horror among the religion's power-wielders, wasn't a mockery of Christianity or Catholicism. On the contrary, it was an acknowledgment of the power of the religion and of its priests, for only a true Christian could see power within a consecrated host or a piece of bread.

Many forms of religious magic are still present. Lighting a candle to a deity and asking for a favor is another form of religious magic, like any other type performed with supplications or invocations to higher powers, such as in modern Wicca magic.

Naturally, religious magic is frowned upon by the religious officials; most deem it improper that humans should practice magic. It's seen as a move by the faithful to bypass human representatives of God and go straight to the source.

The Vatican can't be too happy about the fact that many Mexican-Americans wear medals depicting the saints for magical purposes, but this hasn't stopped the practice. Rituals involving ancient African- deities are performed on the steps of churches in Haiti, Detroit, and New Orleans. Images of saints sit side by side with those of Chango and Yemaya on tens of thousands of household altars in the U.S. and Latin America.

Religious magic of this kind is common in the United States: the Bible is used to divine the future; crosses are viewed as protective amulets; psalms are recited to bring love, health, and happiness; images of Jesus, Mary, and St. Christopher adorn dashboards in cars. A thousand and one spells of this sort are used daily by persons of orthodox faiths.

Any form of folk magic can be performed by ceremonial magicians or within religious contexts. When this is done it ceases to be folk magic.

Be aware that the practices outline in this chapter aren't those of folk magicians or Witches. They don't use Christian symbols in their rituals because thousands of others are available. They don't steal from churches because they don't believe in those doctrines. They also, generally, don't pray to Egyptian goddesses or Greek gods. Though they may be aware of the spiritual nature of the energy used in folk magic, they usually don't worship it in structured ritual forms. Wiccans certainly do, but folk magicians don't.

Folk magicians work with powers of nature to improve their lives and the lives of friends and loved ones. Religious persons revere these energies, and prayer is often the only magical ritual which they practice.

Chapter 6 - Simple Folk Magic Rituals

The human experience is filled with numerous trials. Everyone has problems with money, love, health, and protection. Few of us haven't had times when we've nearly lost hope of ever getting out of the holes that we've dug for ourselves.

Some people give up. Some people pray for answers or miracles. And some, sadly, decide that this world isn't for them any longer and end their lives. Others, however, find a method of taking control of their lives.

As we've seen, folk magic is the movement of natural energies to bring about needed change. It is a means by which we can take control of ourselves and our lives, thus turning negatives into positives. It allows us to transform poverty into prosperity, sickness into health, loneliness into love, danger into security.

Though this isn't a primer of folk magic, a few simple rituals are certainly warranted here. Such rituals can be performed by anyone who has a problem and wishes to correct it-not through supernatural forces but with the use of natural, real energies. Those who would never think of performing such rites can simply read them, and in doing so, learn something more about the ways and methods of folk magic. One of the techniques of demystifying a subject is to reveal it.

The following sections discuss two common problems of everyday life: love and money. Simple rituals are also given to solve these problems. These aren't ancient spells but they will work if carefully performed.

Just as a compact disc player set on "scramble" will replay the same songs for eternity unless this command is altered, so too must we change ourselves to accept the new energies aroused during magic. This change always starts within the mind. Make this change (as suggested in the discussions below), and the folk magic has a greater chance of being effective. Refusing to make the change is tantamount to asking for failure.

No unusual ingredients are needed for these simple rituals-no unicorn horns or rare plants. Only such basic items as candles, flowers, a mirror and coins are required. The rest is up to you. If you don't feel the need or desire to practice folk magic, fine. You'll know if the times comes.

Folk magic is an exciting tool of self-change. It is the birthright of every human being. It is a means of communicating with our deepest selves and with our planet-a tool that we can grasp and use to shape our lives into uplifting, immensely satisfying experiences.

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