Magical Thinking

Magical Thinking

Author: Levi

Many times when people find the Pagan community we hear that children display many unique abilities, unlike their adult counterparts who have been conditioned to our modern mundane world. How do children view the world of seeming superstition and magick? What can we learn from this and apply to our lives as modern Pagans? It is with the tools of skeptical thinking, psychology and a dash of good old fashioned pondering that I would like to explore with you these topics.

First of all children take things for face value; while observing, they soak in every comprehensible detail unknowingly. Yet their actions are based more on what they have been instructed to do, not what they observe independently. If you were to throw a notion or better a devout law into their thought process, and couple that with the respect they feel for the notion-dropper, that child is capable of believing in any possible thing. Think about Hansel and Gretel, Harry Potter, God, the bogeyman, any of the archetypal “make-believe” characters, and you know what I mean. Their level of belief in the characters, and/or magickal thinking, depends greatly on which level of cognitive development the child currently maintains. Aside from that, social learning plays an important role because parents are the children’s first and foremost teachers and the sheer scope of their job is extensive. “Therefore if children are to learn to walk, to speak, and to take care of themselves, adults cannot simply wait for a time driven process of cognitive development to unfold, neither can they wait until a child exhibits desirable behaviors by chance, and then lavishly reinforce the lucky episode.” (Vyse pg. 157) As the years pass from pre-operational thinking, ages 2-7, to concrete operational thinking, ages 7-11, so declines their susceptibility to superstitious beliefs and irrational concepts of reality. Skepticism is an adult characteristic and is acquired, if at all, with age. Which brings us to formal operational thinking, over 11 years of age, which starts to incorporate logical thinking over the more fiction-based, directly-handed-down method of learning. The pre-adolescent begins to put together abstract thoughts and construct its own views on its reality, and other realities. After the pre-adolescent stage the child therefore begins to seemingly take on a more what we would term adult view of reality and reason. Though conformity can be seen as the destroyer of intellectual thinking, it nonetheless steps in around this age. It works as your individual observations weigh less as your understanding of social interaction and acceptance begin to affect more and more of your decisions.

What exactly does all this mean, you may ask. Well all of these facts show that in our increasingly modern world we are slowly conditioning our children to no longer think with imagination and creativity. Nevertheless a starling array of what are termed as old wives tales, warnings and magickal thought still survive till today and are reflections of many preoccupations and/or human fears that have been passed on over time. But it is my thought that we need not view these things in such a light, as it would be much wiser to view them as a part of oral tradition to pass on. It is also interesting to note as a parallel that sometimes science has demonstrated that certain beliefs relating to various plants and foods that hold magical powers do in fact have a basis in reality and have been proven to work. On the other hand people still avoid walking under ladders and knock on wood and cross their fingers in order to guard there luck. With this in mind, of all things this teaches us that it is not only important to instill our traditions into our youth if they are to survive, but to instill these traditions as a way of love, if the world and intelligent humanity is to survive.

My personal experience with the topic of traditions could be viewed I guess in part as a long legacy if you will, which everyone has, if a little thought has been put into it. First off I come from an Irish/Sicilian descent; both cultures have been steeped in magickal and superstitious thinking for millennia. Ever since I was a small child I remember a figure or wall plaque of the triskele in my home. The triskele is a symbol of Medusa surrounded by three legs representing the three magickal nymphs. In essence the story of this symbol dates back to the times and stories of the goddess Diana within ancient Italy. Still today many Sicilian people have this symbol within there home to guard the home from negativity and yes today here in my home, hanging over the front door, is a triskele symbol. Somehow throughout my childhood I have taken on this simple traditional superstition, accepted it and have woven it into the workings of my own life. But this is typically how family traditions or what may be termed superstitions seem to work.

Thrown into this mix I was born and raised in Kansas. Now the Midwest doesn’t seem like it is much of a magical place, but actually it is a place filled with local traditions and legends, mostly belonging to the Native Americans that once lived there and other people known as God fearing Christians! In addition to this I can remember as a child being told by my grandmother to stay close to the house because of the Gypsies who at one time were known to be in the area. But moreover she taught that they would kidnap me and never let me come home. Actually and generally these Gypsies were immigrants that would travel through the area from time to time, but were long gone before my days on the prairie. What I do know now is that this was her way of protecting and keeping me close to home as was also her way of keeping me in bed at night with tales of the bogeyman and his nightly rampaging of the land in search of children! “But don’t worry; he might let you lose when the sun comes, if you’re lucky, ” she would always say, ever so wisely.

Over the years as I grew up and have (unfortunately) gone far beyond my stages of development I have later learned that these fictional creatures have served as a tool for elders throughout time as means of safeguarding children. Even though I still may think of Mr. Bogeyman from time to time, and maybe I’ll pass that one on. I believe that because of these experiences that I have had in the past, my upbringing and the fact that I am the product of two old hippies, this has led me to where I am today. It has led me to my view upon the world as a much more magical place than what the average may think. Witchcraft and the study thereof, is an earth-based religion passed on from our Pagan ancestors that looks to the divine within the aspects of nature, therefore working and following closely with the waxing and waning seasons of the year. It is heavily involved with ecology and moral issues in addition to environmental issues. Witchcraft also teaches us to be open-minded and at the same time to think very wisely of the world, and the issues within it. It also teaches you to value the people around you and your future of this world, remembering not to take everything for granted or at face value, thereby devaluing one’s own self and worth.

It is suggested these traditions are that of false superstitious behavior and are abnormal in nature. Probably no other aspect of psychological behavior is more challenging to understand than that of the abnormal because it is thought of as kind of working hand-in-hand with mental disorders. In everyday life, people often talk about “mental illness, ” a term which echoes of medical asylums and twisted and cruel mental health practitioners, so in turn this view has given a negative view or stigmatism upon the subject of abnormal behavior. In hand this is placing a negative view upon traditions, which may be viewed as abnormal, because they do not fit into the mainstream. The reality is that public understanding of true abnormal behavior is fairly limited and right now we still don’t have all the answers when it comes to understanding and treating disorders. But is abnormal behavior by itself really a disorder? When you think about the word itself all abnormal behavior really is the fact that when someone may act in a manner that does not fit society’s expected view of normal behavior, they are viewed as abnormal. Does the behavior make them mentally ill? I think not, in fact to me this sounds a little reminiscent of what we now term as The Burning Times. Truer things to consider or to ask when deciding if someone is abnormal are: Is this person suffering? Is her or she seemingly maladaptive? Are they irrational or unpredictable? Or are they violating morals or society’s standards? The thought is that when a person displays a couple or more of these conditions then we could label one as abnormal or as having a mental condition with some confidence. I also think this is a good approach and also say as long as the person is not harming him or her self, others, or the surrounding area then there may really not be a problem at all. Maybe the person is very creative or there could be a long list of other possibilities that do not fit under the heading mental illness. When real thought is put into it maybe the real problem lies in the observer of this “abnormal behavior.” It may in fact be touching on some of observer’s own personal fear, bias and or issues on an unspoken or hidden level. Or simply it may be a behavior that the observer has never been exposed to before.

This also works within the realm of Magickal traditions. Because of the mainstream views upon Magickal traditions as irrational in nature it is thereby simple to label someone as irrational. This type of labeling can be very tricky and or harmful, as history has shown us. But again we tend to view irrational behavior within the context of the extreme, which leads us back to that old abnormal behavior. Are my beliefs or traditions abnormal and/or irrational compared to that of a Christian or a Jewish person or are theirs compared to mine? I think not, because as we can see every faith and/or culture around the world has its own set of values, traditions, and thoughts on belief, magick and superstition. It’s how we think that is really important because when we think in a linear way opposed to a more creative way we tend to push our personal views and/or perspectives upon others and in the long run can lead to conflict, maybe even harm. We see these downfalls and issues working everyday within the media alone.

My closing thought on growing up learning and passing on magickal traditions and in effect living one’s life with the belief in these ways is not something to be shunned. The point is no matter how odd society would like to view us and our magical ways of thinking or what labels they would like to put upon the subject, in actuality under some circumstances it can prove to be very rational, therapeutic and/or a combination of the two. Our beliefs in Magick as well as our traditions will continue to flourish as a natural human expression around the globe even in the most technologically advanced societies, and probably as long as there are humans to utilize these tools… The fact is, is it above irrational to bring comfort to the modern human condition? Which the magickal traditions can and do provide. With this in mind learn once again to think with the imagination of a child and create new beautiful realities for our future to come.

Footnotes:
Vyse A. Stuart (Oxford university Press 1997) Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition
Pickering, David (Cassell 1995) Dictionary of Superstitions

 

The Wicca Book of Days for Tuesday, Oct. 2 – Guardian Spirits

The Wicca Book of Days for Tuesday, Oct. 2

Guardian Spirits

The Wiccan community has embraced the concept of guardian angels in recent years, but the belief that each individual has a spirit guide and protector from harm is ancient, universal, and inherent in the animist beliefs of paganism, according to which every natural object has a spirit guardian (and a soul). Icelandic lore tells for instance of the fylgia, or the “shadow-soul” that accompanies every person wherever they go while the Native American vision quest results in young men being granted visions of their own guardian spirit, which typically takes the form of an animal or bird.

Angelic Feathers

It is said that every white feather that flutters into one’s path has fallen from the wing of an angel, and is a sign that your guardian angel is watching over you. Resolve to preserve every white feather that you come across in future , and if you can, meditate on one today.

Definitions of Wicca, Pagan & Witchcraft

Definitions of Wicca, Pagan & Witchcraft

 
 
Wicca: A modern Pagan religion with spiritual roots in the earliest expressions of reverence for nature. Some major identifying motifs are: reverence for both the Goddess and God; acceptance of reincarnation and magick; ritual observance of astronomical and agricultural phenomena; and the use of magickal circles for ritual purposes.

Wicce: Synonymous with Wicca. In some circles, Wicce is used for women and Wicca is used for men.

Witch: A practitioner of folk magick, particularly that kind relating to herbs, stones, colors, wells, rivers, etc. It is used by some Wiccans to describe themselves. This term has nothing to do with Satanism.

Witchcraft: The craft of the witch – magick, especially magick utilizing personal power in conjunction with the energies within stones, herbs, colors, and other natural objects. This belief system also has nothing to do with Satanism.

Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Paganism: General term for followers of Wicca and other magickal, shamanistic, and polytheistic Earth-based religions. Also used to refer to pre-Christian religious and Spiritual belief systems.

The Journey of a Wild Witch

The Journey of a Wild Witch

Author: Eilan

It has been eight years since I first discovered Witchcraft in a spiritual context. Prior to this Magick was very much alive in my life as I was lucky enough to have been born into a family that understands the spiritual dimension of life. My family also had the insight and experience to see and live this dimension in their everyday. In truth there is no difference between what is conceived to be ‘spiritual’ and that which is apparent and ‘mundane’. It is all one. This is my truth and my wild way.

I am an initiated Witch and Priest of the WildWood Tradition of Witchcraft. This means a great deal to me, as I am also a ‘co-founder’ of the original Mother Coven, based in Brisbane and initiated at Samhain (April 30th) 2006. Our ‘tradition’ and way of living the Craft is deeply interwoven with what many people call ‘shamanism’; derived from the Siberian Tungus word for their medicine people – saman. Mircea Eliade, the late Romanian historian, described shamanism as a “technique of ecstasy” and my coven has come to define Witchcraft as an “ecstasy-driven, Earth-based, mystery tradition”.

Our (and all Witches’) rituals and methods of practice allow us to transcend the illusion of separation and therefore to dissolve the ego and actualize the freedom that lives in the heart of all things. I often call and relate to this ‘All’ as the Great Mystery. The beauty of being a Wild Witch is that nothing is absolute and I have come to realize that all of Life is a holy continuum, which constantly seeks to express itself through diversity. Through expression comes manifestation, which allows us to experience Beauty through Perfection (the world in which we live) and then once more we come to the Wholeness of Unity and the cycle repeats itself.

We are born into a plural world of many and pass into the One only to yearn to divide ourselves once more to grow, deepen and enrich our understandings and experiences of that subtle/overt thing – the Great Mystery.

My coven’s tradition has developed and evolved around this wild-trance-dance-of-wonder. The only consistency between our covens is that we honor and acknowledge our heartland the WildWood, keep holy our covenant with the Sacred Four (the Weaver, the Green Man, the Crescent-Crowned Goddess and the Stag-Horned God) and that we remain open and receptive to personal/group gnosis and to Awen (the divine flow of inspiration) . Other than this there are some structural similarities regarding dedication and priesthood and inner and outer courts.

Essentially however we are wild Witches who fly in the face of authority and seek the wilderness underlying the apparent ‘civilization’ of things. Nothing can be tamed, for the wild is free and the free is divine! As we say in the WildWood – “we have actualized our radness!”

What do Wild Witches do? First and foremost – we live! We breathe, we sleep, we eat, we drink, we sing, we dance, we make love, we scream and we spend time sharing presence and being with our loved ones. ‘Being’ is an important principle to consider. To be is quite simple but so many people find themselves distracted by the “this and that” that they leave ‘being’ behind and pursue illusion instead.

This isn’t the same concept found in various Christian philosophies which espouses a “Satan’s fault!” message when sheep stray from the flock so to speak. Witches understand self-responsibility and are aware of action, reaction and consequence (the Threefold Law) . Why not exist in euphoric awareness of self as Self – the animate Cosmos? You are not only a cell within a larger body of universal wholeness; you are whole and thus a perfect embodiment, expression and reflection of the Great Mystery whose cause, undercurrent and outcome is Life.

When we free ourselves from the illusion of past, present and future and surrender to the Flow of the Continuum (the spirals, the wayward ins and outs, the labyrinthine, serpentine undulations of fate becoming) we make real for ourselves the state of being known commonly as “here and now”. This seems to constitute location and time, however it simply addresses the emphasis of indwelling consciousness regardless of where you are and what frame of time constrains it.

There are moments in my life, which I refer to as ‘Nostalgic Rites’. They are pure, simple, soothing, knowing moments that are like the punctuation points in a flow of sentences. They are the markers and the thresholds that appear along our paths when it is time to pause, reflect and feel. I have them often enough in my life to understand their imminent message of timelessness, peace and overwhelming Love! For what I have learnt above all else thus far is that dwelling within the chaos in the cosmos is the peace which neither subsumes or overrides it, but embraces it and lets it be. Chaos is what happens naturally when the undifferentiated potential becomes “this and that” and peace is the understanding that this is the way of Life. All of this is wild; we dwell in a far-reaching, limitless wilderness.

In a recent priestess training session with two beautiful women from my coven I asked both of them to divulge their feelings and reflections of the journey toward their priestesshood, as they are nearing to the ‘end’ of the beginning – Initiation. One of the women honestly came out and said to us that she feared for us (the other priestess-in-training and I) because we are on the top of the mountain, but because we are risk-takers it is inevitable that we will fall.

I had to stop and wonder in that moment why anyone would not want to fall. In fact I also wondered whether it had occurred to her that surrounding the mountain were vast forests, plains, rivers, deserts, tundra, bushland, seas, oceans and lakes; not to mention all of the beings who inhabit these places.

For me the mountain is not the point. It is part of the whole Great Mystery, but the journey does not lead to a single place; in fact the journey doesn’t really lead anywhere. There is no aim to my wandering, to my blissful dance through the wilderness – I simply embrace every experience because it is worthy of it and I laugh, smile, cry, choke, rage, relax, love, ***, change, grow, and a million other things that I couldn’t possibly articulate or fathom for the purposes of this article.

The other woman, who knows me very well, and is one of my closest friends, then turned to me smiling and said, “You are so glib!” She then went on to explain that it was the “natural, offhand ease and articulate fluency and flow” of how I expressed my truth that made me glib in her opinion.

It wasn’t a criticism on her part, merely an observation. I think it is actually quite accurate. I have such ease and flow in my expression because I don’t have to think too hard about who I am or how I feel because I am and I feel in the “here and the now”. I live and I am, and in my experience Life itself is glib.

To my fellow journeyers of the wild way who know in their hearts that they are heading nowhere, anywhere and everywhere – may you dance the Wander with all you are. My deepest well of love to you all!

The Wanderer

The sages say that samsara is to wander, to pass through,
I say samsara is to know the way and dance it.
To dance is to live, and to live is never “to pass through”;
Dance doll – dance and light up the stage…

Then they came with their wrought-iron weapons
And they pierced my soul, and looked for the mark.
I sang to them to soothe their battered spirits.
They sunk their swords in harder, my heart is in shreds.

The blood ran dry and the old seas heaved
And there in the darkest hour all was forgotten,
And tattered clothes were left in tatters,
And the ashes were left in mounds at the pyres.

Is it a fact that when we are lost we wander?
Is it true that when we are in love we dance?
Or do we dance when we are lost?
And do we wander when in love?

Samsara, O holy wheel of Life,
Keep turning, I want to stay.
I don’t want nirvana in clouds far away
For I feel it already…here.

The Wanderer – the Fool?
I don’t mind, I don’t mind being;
For all the pain and suffering and the attachment to desire
There is a keenness that is not worth losing.

I want to live,
I want to wander if that’s what it takes,
But through all this I will dance
And I will dance because I love.

– Gede Parma, 2007