Back around Christmas, I read a blog entry by Mark in which he describes the difference between magic and miracle. While he was mainly investigating the topic while examining literature, particularly Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, it got me to thinking about the nature of magic as I understand it. This line of thought was further stimulated this past week while working on my Review of the movie, “The Covenant.” As a result I’ve decided to start a small series of posts on various concepts I consider important to the practice of magic.
For those who find this and any future entries while searching for spells or practical advice on casting spells, I must inform you that you will be severely disappointed. This is not my intent, as I generally do not believe that a public blog (or most other forms of Internet communication, for that matter) is an appropriate medium for disseminating that kind of information. Instead, this and future posts will be theoretical in nature, covering concepts whose understanding will, in my opinion, at least, enhance a witch’s ability to ply her magical craft.
The first important concept to understand is that creation is not a “done deal.” While many religious traditions teach that God or some other Divine Source created the universe like a “master clockmaker” who assembled everything and wound everything up enough to last for the rest of its existence, a witch understands that the creative forces are still in progress. They see the universe not so much as a mechanical wind-up toy, but as a living thing that has a more organic life. Under such a paradigm, both creation and desctruction are ongoing activities. In Norse mythology, this is represented by Yggdrasil, the world tree which holds up the nine realms. This tree is constantly being nourished so that it grows. That growth is then controlled by the harts which feast on its leaves and the wyrms that gnaw at its roots.
Norse mythology further corroborates that the creation process was not a “one time deal,” at least indirectly, when you consider that there is not a single creation myth in the lore, but a series of stories describing different aspects of creation. In one tale you have the uncovering of Ymir and Audhumla when the fires of Muspelheim and icy waters of Nifleheim combine, while in another tale, you have the creation of man and woman from trees by Odin and his brothers. (Indeed, one might go so far to ask who or what created the trees that were turned to human and when they were created.) This all suggests that the universe unfolded over a period of time.
More importantly, it suggests that there were a great number of players in the creation process. Creation was not done by a single Supreme Being all at once, but was a process where many forces and beings built upon one another’s part of the process. This brings us to the next part of the creation concept: We are participants in the process of creation as well as part of the outcome.
To underscore this concept, I again draw upon Norse mythology. As I mentioned earlier, Yggdrasil is nourished daily. The task of providing this nourishment is left to three giant maidens known as the Norns. These Norns are the embodiment of the Norse concept of wyrd, which can be roughly described as a hybrid of the more familiar concepts of fate and karma. (This is naturally an oversimplification, but a more careful examination of wyrd deserves its own post, which I hope to offer at a later date.) Upon applying this understanding to the myth, the symbolism becomes clear: The universe itself is propagated and nourished by the actions of all who are a part of it. In effect, the universe and its constituant parts, through their actions, guide its own own development and the creative process that is unfolding.
Magical work involves understanding this basic principle and applying it by acting in ways to influence the continuing process of creation in specific ways. Or as Crowley put it, it’s a matter of “effecting change in accordance with will.”
An understanding of creation as an ongoing process addresses one of the issues inherent in Mark’s characterization of magic. Under a paradigm in which creation is a completed process performed long ago by a single Creator, it’s hard not to see any attempt to alter that creation as a “twisting” of said creation. Furthermore, it’s inevitable that one sees that “twisting” as a purely negative and evil thing. The perfect clock cannot be enhanced, and therefore any changes are obviously bad.
An organic understanding of a universe that is still going through the creation process, however, allows for a universe that can be changed both for the better and for the worse. In such a system, especially a system which recognizes every individual as a co-creator anyway, influencing the process becomes natural and understandable. The question of whether said influence is negative or positive becomes a matter of further ethical consideration.