Similarities Between Christian Sacraments and Pagan Rites

Similarities Between Christian Sacraments and Pagan Rites

Author:   Angelique Soleil   

Magick was first spelled with a “k” by Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) to differentiate between religious magick, and the stunts and illusions performed by stage magicians. Crowley was the leader of a cult called Ordo Templi Orientis, but is better known for his time with The Golden Dawn. Crowley says, “Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” (The Sidereus Foundation)

There is another part to this definition that will have to be added in to make a usable definition for this article. Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will and the Will of Deity. Since we are talking about religious magick here, there must be some sense of a divine being in our working definition. There are practitioners of magick who believe that magick comes from within, not from a deity. In this case, I would say that their “deity” is the life energy within themselves. Deity comes in many forms.

I would first like to pause and make it clear from the start that there are many movies out there about Pagan rites (The Craft, a movie about 4 teenage girls that dabble in magick comes to mind first) that are highly inaccurate. Since that movie came out, I can’t count how many people I’ve had approach me asking if I’ll help the “call the quarters.” Movies like that make real practicing Pagans look bad. When you think of magick, don’t think of movies or TV. Remember that those are not real.

I used to sit in church and feel inspired. When I was young, I saw the magick of God in the church in the faces of the people around me. I felt it in the air around me. I was a child then, so naturally I felt bored, but I can still recall feeling something there. I won’t deny that there is some kind of magick involved with the church experience, even if people don’t want to call it that.

I haven’t been to church in fourteen years. As I grew older and kept returning to church, week after week, year after year, I felt the magick slipping away. I knew it was time to move on. I needed to find magick again. I took my Bible and my thirst for spiritual fulfillment, and walked away.

Since it had been so long, I had almost forgotten about the magick of the church. But when I take a step back, I can’t help but see that there is magick on both sides. It’s easy to see that Pagans have magick in their spells, blessings, coming of age rites, and Sabbats, because Pagans will openly call it Magick. The Christians, however, simply choose to call their Magick by different names: prayer, Communion, Baptism, holidays, and other holy sacraments. All of these involve some kind of ritual and divine power, whether from within, or from an outside source.

As I study the differences between the Christian world and the Pagan world, I see that Christians and Pagans will debate and battle about this topic, and there are some from both religions on each side. Many Christians argue that magick is wrong, immoral, and satanic. Many Pagans say that Christians use magick too, to try and put both religions on a more equal base. Some will say that magick comes in many forms. Some Pagans will even say that Christians do not use magick, and to say that prayer is the same as a spell is an insult to both religions.

I have a friend who is a very strict Christian, and whenever something went wrong, or she felt scared, she would pray. In her prayer, she would put her hands together, with clasped fingers, bow her head, and close her eyes ask God to help her, or guide her. She would begin with a phrase such as “Dear Heavenly Father, ” or “Dear Jesus, ” speak her wishes, and then end with “in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” It is systematic, ritualistic, and it is used to request something of a higher power. Is it magick?

Marina Patelos, a member of the Greek Orthodox church in Albany, NY, says “for your average person a ‘Hail Mary’ or an ‘Our Father’ wouldn’t count [as magick] because most people just say the words and never really stop to look at what they’re actually saying. But if someone’s praying for, say, their mother not to die of cancer, then yeah, that could count.”

Shirley Oscamp-Colletti, a United Methodist Minister who has been with the Church of the Wild Wood for the past 10 years, says that prayer is a form of magick “If I use your definition. Prayer is a form of connection with an inner or outer deity. Prayer connects with God; some say it is to accomplish a goal. I say it’s more to open yourself to possibilities. The highest form of prayer is to focus on a person and allow the divine light to that person, so the goal is to bring the divine light into that person or situation, not that you want a certain thing to happen.”

I used to find a lot of magick in Communion when I was finally considered mature enough to take it. There was no real class or preparation for it at the Calvary Baptist Church in Springfield, Vermont, but when a person reached the age of 12 they were expected to sit through a whole service instead of attending junior service in another room, and were offered Communion.

The lights in the church were dim, I remember, but sunlight shined brilliantly through the stained glass windows on either side of the room. Each window depicted a different Bible story in symbols and color choices. They were the most beautiful things about the church. Small clear plastic cups that resembled test tubes filled with grape juice would be waiting in circular holders on the backs of the pews next to the hymnal pockets. The pastor would speak the same words ever communion service as bowls of bread were passed around the church and people took a piece out for themselves.

“And Christ said, ‘take, eat. This is my body, ’” the Pastor would say, and everyone in the church would eat their piece of bread. The same pattern was followed with the grape juice, and then everyone would gather in a circle around the pews and sing. It seemed like God was there at those moments when we all held hands and sung together.

I have learned that the little Protestant church that I grew up in was a little different from other churches. Some use wafers instead of bread, and drink wine instead of grape juice. Some churches see this as a symbolic ritual, and some others see it as literal. “According to the Greek Orthodox Church, ” says Patelos, “the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ.” This means that “The Holy Spirit” changes the food into the blood and body of Christ. “[This] happens at the part of the blessing where he (the priest) holds up the chalice of wine and says ‘this is the blood of Christ’, in Greek, and then holds up the bread and says ‘this is the body of Christ’ and crumbles it into the wine, ” says Patelos. This sounds like a magickal transformation to me. “Although most of the people at my church would sh*t a brick if someone suggested that, yeah, I would [call it magickal, ]” Patelos says.

Colletti says that Communion is symbolic. “The other interesting things about this in the Methodist church, we don’t use wine. Methodists have been involved in the prohibition movement.” They do this out of respect for those who can’t drink. “We didn’t want them to not take Communion, ” she said.

”I do Communion very informally, ” Colletti continued. “If you’ve been to church there are words in the Hymnal that you’re supposed to read, but I speak more from the heart because I feel that is what the meal is supposed to be a time for people to come and share a simple meal together. My Communion is very earthy. When people in my church come up, they give hugs to me and the person that helps me serve, so it’s a very connective thing, and I like that. People come up out of the pews. I also often will tie it back to Jesus eating with his disciples and the meals that he shared and that’s when people let their hair down and get close to each other. Part of what Communion is about is to break down the barrier.”

“There are two sacraments, ” Colletti says, “[and] the other is Baptism. It’s initiation. The Baptism sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an outward and spiritual grace, so it’s kind of enacting something that’s already happened, which that might be where one of the difference is. When you’re talking about Magick you’re creating magick to make something happen, where as Christian magick, if you want to call it that, is an expression of what has already happened, rather than asking the divine to do something for us, and that’s Methodist through Shirley’s eyes. Catholics [say that] if you don’t have a baby baptized it’s bad. We believe babies are a part of God. Basically showing it’s bringing someone into the Christian church. It’s dying and being brought back to life in the traditional sense.”

Baptism is when a person chooses to accept God, and they are dunked in water to show that they trust God, and to represent dying and being reborn. Catholics do not completely submerge a baby when they baptize him/her; they only pour water over the baby’s forehead.

Catholics aren’t the only ones who baptize babies. “Our kids get completely dunked, ” says Patelos. “For Orthodox it’s Baptism, Chrismation, first Communion and Confirmation all in one go. After you go through that, you’re entitled to all the Rights in the Church.”

The way I see it, Baptism is very much like a cleansing in Paganism. Water washes away negativity and cleanses both physically and spiritually. This cleansing can be used for tools, as well as for initiation. There are many different ways a Pagan can use water to cleanse. Sometimes different oils or herbs can be mixed in, as with the Orthodox Baptism to add blessing properties. Often salt will be added to the water, which makes it holy because salt is part of the earth. Another common additive is rose oil for both its blessing and cleansing properties. A tool that will be used for magickal rituals can be dunked into a goblet of water and left in the moonlight overnight to be cleansed. Some initiations use this water and its additives to draw a pentacle on the forehead of an initiate. Many rituals will vary from tradition to tradition, making it impossible to cover all of them.

Pagans have their form of prayer in spells. I will reiterate that spells will vary in many traditions. Some will be the simple lighting of a candle and wishing. Some will involve chanting or poetry. Some will involve knives, wands, pentacles, circles of candles of every color shape and size, robes, and a script. It just depends on who you’re working with. I prefer the simpler rituals.

I take a candle of the appropriate color (different colors mean different things) , carve what I want down the side with my athame (ritual knife) , such as “good health, ” or “confidence, ” carve the first and last initials of the person who is to receive these things on the bottom, cover the candle with ashes, and light it, letting it burn all the way down. I will frequently sit in front of my altar (usually a table decorated with a cloth, statues of Pagan gods and goddesses, candles, and ritual tools, such as that athame) and think on this act and its results, but I usually do not incorporate words into the spell. I can’t remember where I picked it up, but it is the one spell that has worked for me consistently for the last dozen years.

“I feel that a prayer works the opposite way, ” says Salgamma, in her article “Magick Vs. Prayer” for The Pagan Library, an online Pagan journal. “The prayer is a request to effect a change in the ambient energy and invoke God. This change in energy is slower because it is ‘diluted’ in the surrounding energy and depends solely on faith (‘I believe it will happen, so it will’) .”

I have read of a Wiccan ceremony that may somewhat equate to communion. In the “Cakes and Ale” (Or “Cakes and Wine”) ceremony the bread represents the body of The God, and the wine (red) represents the blood of the Virgin Goddess. The cake does not have to be cake. It can be bread or something else as long as it has been blessed for the purpose of this ritual. Wine can be replaced with juice if necessary. This is a ritual to give thanks to the God and Goddess. After a poem of thanks is recited, all who participate partake of these symbolic food items, and leave what is left as an offering to the deities.

It seems to me that the Sacraments that I’ve covered above all have a Pagan equivalent. Baptism is a cleansing; Communion and the Cakes and Ale Ceremony are symbolic of taking in deity (deities) ; and a prayer is a spell. I have participated in most of these rituals (save the cakes and ale, but I’ve done similar things as well) at various times in my life, and I will say that there is something magickal about all of them.

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Fact Sheet on Crowley

by Mandrake

‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’

Aleister Crowley (Edward Alexander Crowley) was born 12 October in the same year as the foundation of the Theosophical Society (1875), at Leamington Spa at 11.30pm. He was therefore a Libran with Pisces moon and Leo rising. Contrary to popular legend, he died on the 1st December 1947. A review in Cambridge University magazine Granta of 1904 provides some guidance on the pronunciation of the great man’s name: ‘Oh, Crowley, name for future fame!/(Do you pronounce it Croully?)/Whate’er the worth of this your mirth/It reads a trifle foully.’

The myth of the magus has grown to prodigious proportions in the half century or more since the old man’s death. Crowley is now firmly established in the popular mind as a folk hero (or anti hero?), transmogrified to an icon on a spectrum somewhere between ‘the sandman’ (Clive Barker version) and ‘the gringe’.

To many, Crowley’s magick (I am using the archaic form of the term as popularised by AC for technical reasons), provides a neat dividing line between some kind of urban high magical tradition and the supposedly more earth centred styles of neo-paganism. The truth is, as always, a lot more complex. Crowley’s magick draws all of it’s power from nature, see for example an ancient Egyptian formula: ‘so that every Spirit of the Firmament and of the Ether: Upon the Earth and under the Earth; on dry land and in the Water: of whirling Air; and of rushing Fire and every spell and scourge of God may be obedient to Me.’ (1)

Crowley spent all of his moderately long life exploring countless dramatic astral and mundane landscapes in search of gnosis. It’s a shame he wasn’t a good enough travel writer to communicate fully in his many books the real majesty of nature. He seemed to go everywhere, from the deepest jungles to the highest mountains of the earth. An account from Jan Fries’ book Visual Magick, amply demonstrates that Crowley never quite lost the taste for the great outdoors and the spirits of nature. In 1925 the mage took the leadership of the ‘Fraternitas Saturni on a long walk up the garden path and into the forest. Whenever Uncle Aleister noticed a remarkable plant, stone or tree, he graciously lifted his hat to greet it. This bizarre behaviour apparently astonished his fellows. Some novices, we are told, dared to whisper “What is the master doing?” “The elemental spirits of nature have come to see the master” was the reply “and Sir Aleister is acknowledging their greeting.” The whole incident including a rather nice ritual is to be found in an article on ‘Pentagramme Magick’ in Praxis (1963).

Towards the end of his life Crowley began to lose interest in the Ordo Templi Orientis and other organisations he had fashioned as potential vehicles for the dissemination of the great work. He met Gerald Gardner and together they may have devised a plan to transform the OTO into a more popular witchcraft cult. Gardner duly bought a charter and rose rapidly through the grades, even travelling to America to meet other OTO initiates. Fred Lamond, one of Gardners first acolytes, recalls that American adept Jack Parsons looked very favourably on the idea of a new witch cult. If Crowley had lived long enough to complete Gardner’s training, modern paganism would undoubtedly look quite different, but that’s another story.

(1) From Liber Samekh, as adapted by Crowley from an ancient Hermetic fragment. The cosmology of the Egyptian original made no sense to Crowley’s teachers, hence his slight paraphase – the original reads: ‘so that every daimon, whether heavenly or aerial or earthly or subterranean or terrestrial or aquatic’.
Crowley Today
Aleister Crowley may have died in 1947, but his influence is still very much felt by the magician of the 1990s. The CD soundtrack The Beast Speaks sold 8000 copies since its release in 1993, and the paperback edition of Crowley’s Confessions was number two in Virgin Megastores top ten books. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the magician of the nineties is a slavish follower or member of some mind bending cult. Crowley’s word was Thelema (The Crowleian pronunciation is Theh-LEE-mah, the accent bewatching on the vowel of the second syllable, Greek speakers ay the accent should be on the vowel of the first syllable for it to be pronounced right….ThEH-lee-mah) – which means [free] Will. Those who choose to follow this magical path aim to de-condition themselves, to develop independence of spirit and ultimately to become their very own self. One of the many attractions of Crowley’s type of Magick, was this advice to follow one’s own way and create your own life style. You don’t need a priest or a judge to tell you how to act – work it out for yourelf.

As part of the process of developing self knowledge, Crowley advocated the practice of Magick. This he defined as ‘the science and art of causing change in conformity with will.’ The history of magick is the history of human beings. Many of the things that are now labelled ‘culture’ began as experiments in ritual and magick viz. drama, music, art, dance, philosophy and poetry etc., etc. Magick has played a role in many key moments of our history, for example during the fourteenth century, it was the philosophy of the Renaissance. In our own time, many modern art movements have been driven by magical ideas, for instance, the first abstract painting was made by the Theosophist Kandinsky. Magick is a valuable and reputable activity to undertake.

Crowley’s Books

Whatever else one can say about it, magick certainly is not a mass activity, neither is it a spectator sport. Magicians are in many localities in a minority of one and have to teach themselves the skills traditionally part of the art viz. trance, divination, invocation and creative imagination. The solitary magician gathers most of his or her information from books and Crowley made a substantial contribution to the vast number of books on the subject. Most of his books are now in print, something like 100 titles. The secondary literature of commentaries and studies, as one might expect after more than 50 years, is very extensive indeed. However there is no need to read everything the master wrote. There are a handful of key texts that should give you a good grounding in the man and his magick.

Sadly, there is still no really objective biography of Crowley. The standard biography is John Symonds’ The Great Beast, (lastest edition of which is entitled King of the Shadow Realm) which records all of the salient facts but is very hostile to Crowley’s ideas and therefore gives a lively but unbalanced picture. Jean Overton Fuller’s Magical Dilemma of Victor Neuburg is slightly more objective and written with much inside information. A modern attempt is the late Gerald Suster’s Legacy of the Beast, which is too short to cover all the facts, and too sycophantic -nevertheless, it is not without value. Gerald Suster also wrote Crowley’s entry in Dictionary of National Biography – Missing Persons (OUP 1993) which is also worth a read. Incidentally, 1993 was also the year in which Crowley made it to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for the first time with his motto ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.’

Several newer biographies have recently appeared, two in particular are worthy of note: Martin Booth, A Magick Life and said by some to be the best of the whole lot: Do What Thou Wilt by Lawrence Sutin for St Martin’s Press.

There is a 2004 reissue of Megatherion by Francis King, published by Creation Press, which was originally published in 1977 under the title The Magical World of Aleister Crowley. There is also an excellent study of Aleister Crowley’s followers in America during the Golden Age of Hollywood, entitled The Unknown God, W.T. Smith and the Thelemites by Martin P. Starr, published in 2003 by The Teitan Press, Inc.

The modern generation of Thelemites, admires something in the spirit of Crowley rather than the word. He could be a interesting writer but as is often the case, the present day re-working of his material is often easier to follow and less peppered by some of Crowley’s offensive cultural baggage. Writers such as Jan Fries in Visual Magick and Jack Parsons in Freedom is a Two Edged Sword, seem to have a better understanding of the magical philosophy for which Crowley was a conduit. However, you will undoubted want to make your own mind up in this, so apart from biography and if you have the stamina his massive autobiography, and the following are Crowley’s principal works.

1. Magick – alternatively called Magick in Theory and Practice -or Book Four. This is his textbook of magick, leads the reader from basic yoga techniques through Golden Dawn type ritual to his own unique gnostic rituals, many of them with veiled sexual content. But beware, this is not a book for the beginner and you might do well to ask a more experienced magician to suggest a study plan for it beginning with Liber O, or even look at some of the secondary literature first. For example see Lon DuQuette’s The Magick of Thelema or Israel Regardie’s Middle Pillar, Eye in Triangle, and others.

2. The Book of Thoth, along with the tarot cards of the same name, is his brilliant study of the tarot, difficult to follow in parts if you have no familiarity with his ‘Thelemic’ imagery, but well worth persevering with. The tarot deck he created with English ‘surrealist’ Lady Frieda Harris, is fast becoming the most widely used esoteric tarot deck in the world.

3. 777 and other Qabalistic Writings. A essential summary of his symbol system, which also contains a reprint of Mathers’ instructional essay on Qabalah.

4. Holy Books of Thelema – all brought together under one cover, including Liber al vel Legis – Book of the Law. The mystical poem that formed the core of Crowley’s magical system. ‘Delivered’ to him by discarnate entity Aiwass during one of the most important mystical experiences of his life.

Crowley’s People

There are a small but growing number of groups, based in this country that work with Crowley’s ideas. The following list is not exhaustive, but gives some of the main contact points. It is recommended that you do not atttempt to join all of them at once.

OTO This stands for Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of the Eastern Temple). A magical order, based on eastern eroto-gnostic techniques, some derived from Tantrism. Existed, long before Crowley came on the scene but soon became the principle vehicle for his magical work. Has undergone a big revival over the last ten years. Perhaps it is fortuititous that the OTO split into several rival tendencies following the death of Crowley’s successor, Karl Germer. Many magicians feel that magical orders, structured on medieval lines, may not be the appropriate vehicle for Thelema. But as things stand the aspiring candidate must make a choice after investigating and weighing up what both groups have to offer, if anything. In England there are two main groups claiming title to Crowley’s mantle: In other parts of Europe and the world, other OTOs exist and can claim priority. There are currently legal threats flying between these groups, so I hope I get it right.

i. OTO ‘Caliphate’ – BM Thelema, London WC1N 3XX – International HQ: Postfach 33 20 12 D-14180, Germany. More ‘traditional’ if it can be termed so. Uses original OTO Masonic style rituals and charges annual subscriptions and initiation fees.
ii. OTO ‘Typhonian’ BM Starfire, London WC1N 3XX. Ruled by famous occult scholar Kenneth Grant, whose book Aleister Crowley & the Hidden God, revolutionised the understanding of Crowley magick. Ditched the old Masonic style rituals in favour of the syllabus very like the Argentinum Astrum, i.e. individual graded magical practices leading to adeptship.

Non OTO Thelemic Groups
Apart from the ‘OTOs’ there are a number of ‘new wave’ magical groups and orders that are trying to refashion the occult community on more ‘rosicrucian’ lines, which seem more in tune with modern needs. Strict hierarchies, authoritarianism and obscurantism are definitely out. An honest attempt to build a fellowship or sodality of magicians is on the cards. Amongst these are:

Golden Dawn Occult Society
PO Box 250, Oxford, OX1 1AP. (email C/O Ogdos@mandrake.uk.net or http://www.uk.net/ogdos.htm. Offers a foundation course in magick and other training to associate members (associate membership is £5 pa.). Is part of a growing network of individuals and groups throughout Britain and all over the world. Online newsletter

Chaos Magic and the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT)
C/O, BM Sorcery, London WC1N 3XX, Another important new style of magick that has developed out of the Thelemic one. Other influences include new physics and European shamanism.

The Kaula-Nath Community (including AMOOKOS). C/O PO Box 250, Oxford, OX1 1AP. East- West tantrik groups, founded by Dadaji, one of Crowley’s disciple’s in the 1930s who, on the master’s advice, went to India and became a sadhu. A unique blend of western occultism with authentic magical Hinduism. Has an older equivalent of Crowley’s ‘Law of Thelema’ – viz: svecchacara – ‘the path of ones own will’.

Crowley and the Media
There has been precious little media attention to Crowley, there is still no film or documentary devoted in entirety to Crowley’s life. This situation is changing slowly. In year 2000, BBC Scotland made a short documentary about Boleskine, Crowley’s house on the banks on Loch Ness. The show was called The Other Loch Ness Monster, but the BBC have so far refused to show it outside of Scotland. Channel Four have filmed a more thoroughgoing documentary although broadcast has again been delayed due to editorial difficulties. It will eventually appear as part of a series dealing with occult themes. BBC Modern Times are currently filming a fifty minute piece on serious magick, which will include a fair amount of material on Crowley. There are been one or two short radio pieces and an interesting stage play by Snoo Wilson some time back. Snoo Wilson appeared in a fifteen minute broadcast for UK’s Channel 4 (text reprinted in Thelemic Magick I fromMandrake of Oxford.) Snoo Wilson’s Novel I Crowley, has been published to critical acclaim and should go into production as a feature film. It is based on events at the Abbey of Thelema in Sicily.
Obtaining Useful Books etc
Books by and about Crowley are now widely available in UK booksellers such as Waterstones, Borders, Ottakar’s etc. The best selection is still to be found in specialist bookshops such as the world famous Atlantis Bookshop, 49a Museum St, London WC1, and Watkins Bookshop, 19 Cecil Court, London WC2 4EZ, as well as several others throughout the UK. However, if you don’t live in London or getting to a bookshop is difficult, there are several good mail-order suppliers, including Mandrake of Oxford (mandrake@[removeme]mandrake.uk.net) which is run by and for working magicians. Information is available here on local stockists and sometimes links if you prefer to deal with a bookseller in your own country.

Advice on titles and merchandise is freely available from the Mandrake website clickhere

Love is the law, love under will

Fact Sheet © Golden Dawn Occult Society, PO Box 250, Oxford, OX1 1AP.

For more info please contact OGDOS C/O Mandrake@mandrake[removeme].uk.net

Similarities Between Christian Sacraments and Pagan Rites

Similarities Between Christian Sacraments and Pagan Rites

Author: Kaya DeDanu

 
Magick was first spelled with a “k” by Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) to differentiate between religious magick, and the stunts and illusions performed by stage magicians. Crowley was the leader of a cult called Ordo Templi Orientis, but is better known for his time with The Golden Dawn. Crowley says, “Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” (The Sidereus Foundation)

There is another part to this definition that will have to be added in to make a usable definition for this article. Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will and the Will of Deity. Since we are talking about religious magick here, there must be some sense of a divine being in our working definition. There are practitioners of magick who believe that magick comes from within, not from a deity. In this case, I would say that their “deity” is the life energy within themselves. Deity comes in many forms.

I would first like to pause and make it clear from the start that there are many movies out there about Pagan rites (The Craft, a movie about 4 teenage girls that dabble in magick comes to mind first) that are highly inaccurate. Since that movie came out, I can’t count how many people I’ve had approach me asking if I’ll help the “call the quarters.” Movies like that make real practicing Pagans look bad. When you think of magick, don’t think of movies or TV. Remember that those are not real.

I used to sit in church and feel inspired. When I was young, I saw the magick of God in the church in the faces of the people around me. I felt it in the air around me. I was a child then, so naturally I felt bored, but I can still recall feeling something there. I won’t deny that there is some kind of magick involved with the church experience, even if people don’t want to call it that.

I haven’t been to church in fourteen years. As I grew older and kept returning to church, week after week, year after year, I felt the magick slipping away. I knew it was time to move on. I needed to find magick again. I took my Bible and my thirst for spiritual fulfillment, and walked away.

Since it had been so long, I had almost forgotten about the magick of the church. But when I take a step back, I can’t help but see that there is magick on both sides. It’s easy to see that Pagans have magick in their spells, blessings, coming of age rites, and Sabbats, because Pagans will openly call it Magick. The Christians, however, simply choose to call their Magick by different names: prayer, Communion, Baptism, holidays, and other holy sacraments. All of these involve some kind of ritual and divine power, whether from within, or from an outside source.

As I study the differences between the Christian world and the Pagan world, I see that Christians and Pagans will debate and battle about this topic, and there are some from both religions on each side. Many Christians argue that magick is wrong, immoral, and satanic. Many Pagans say that Christians use magick too, to try and put both religions on a more equal base. Some will say that magick comes in many forms. Some Pagans will even say that Christians do not use magick, and to say that prayer is the same as a spell is an insult to both religions.

I have a friend who is a very strict Christian, and whenever something went wrong, or she felt scared, she would pray. In her prayer, she would put her hands together, with clasped fingers, bow her head, and close her eyes ask God to help her, or guide her. She would begin with a phrase such as “Dear Heavenly Father, ” or “Dear Jesus, ” speak her wishes, and then end with “in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” It is systematic, ritualistic, and it is used to request something of a higher power. Is it magick?

Marina Patelos, a member of the Greek Orthodox church in Albany, NY, says “for your average person a ‘Hail Mary’ or an ‘Our Father’ wouldn’t count [as magick] because most people just say the words and never really stop to look at what they’re actually saying. But if someone’s praying for, say, their mother not to die of cancer, then yeah, that could count.”

Shirley Oscamp-Colletti, a United Methodist Minister who has been with the Church of the Wild Wood for the past 10 years, says that prayer is a form of magick “If I use your definition. Prayer is a form of connection with an inner or outer deity. Prayer connects with God; some say it is to accomplish a goal. I say it’s more to open yourself to possibilities. The highest form of prayer is to focus on a person and allow the divine light to that person, so the goal is to bring the divine light into that person or situation, not that you want a certain thing to happen.”

I used to find a lot of magick in Communion when I was finally considered mature enough to take it. There was no real class or preparation for it at the Calvary Baptist Church in Springfield, Vermont, but when a person reached the age of 12 they were expected to sit through a whole service instead of attending junior service in another room, and were offered Communion.

The lights in the church were dim, I remember, but sunlight shined brilliantly through the stained glass windows on either side of the room. Each window depicted a different Bible story in symbols and color choices. They were the most beautiful things about the church. Small clear plastic cups that resembled test tubes filled with grape juice would be waiting in circular holders on the backs of the pews next to the hymnal pockets. The pastor would speak the same words ever communion service as bowls of bread were passed around the church and people took a piece out for themselves.

“And Christ said, ‘take, eat. This is my body, ’” the Pastor would say, and everyone in the church would eat their piece of bread. The same pattern was followed with the grape juice, and then everyone would gather in a circle around the pews and sing. It seemed like God was there at those moments when we all held hands and sung together.

I have learned that the little Protestant church that I grew up in was a little different from other churches. Some use wafers instead of bread, and drink wine instead of grape juice. Some churches see this as a symbolic ritual, and some others see it as literal. “According to the Greek Orthodox Church, ” says Patelos, “the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ.” This means that “The Holy Spirit” changes the food into the blood and body of Christ. “[This] happens at the part of the blessing where he (the priest) holds up the chalice of wine and says ‘this is the blood of Christ’, in Greek, and then holds up the bread and says ‘this is the body of Christ’ and crumbles it into the wine, ” says Patelos. This sounds like a magickal transformation to me. “Although most of the people at my church would sh*t a brick if someone suggested that, yeah, I would [call it magickal, ]” Patelos says.

Colletti says that Communion is symbolic. “The other interesting things about this in the Methodist church, we don’t use wine. Methodists have been involved in the prohibition movement.” They do this out of respect for those who can’t drink. “We didn’t want them to not take Communion, ” she said.

”I do Communion very informally, ” Colletti continued. “If you’ve been to church there are words in the Hymnal that you’re supposed to read, but I speak more from the heart because I feel that is what the meal is supposed to be a time for people to come and share a simple meal together. My Communion is very earthy. When people in my church come up, they give hugs to me and the person that helps me serve, so it’s a very connective thing, and I like that. People come up out of the pews. I also often will tie it back to Jesus eating with his disciples and the meals that he shared and that’s when people let their hair down and get close to each other. Part of what Communion is about is to break down the barrier.”

“There are two sacraments, ” Colletti says, “[and] the other is Baptism. It’s initiation. The Baptism sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an outward and spiritual grace, so it’s kind of enacting something that’s already happened, which that might be where one of the difference is. When you’re talking about Magick you’re creating magick to make something happen, where as Christian magick, if you want to call it that, is an expression of what has already happened, rather than asking the divine to do something for us, and that’s Methodist through Shirley’s eyes. Catholics [say that] if you don’t have a baby baptized it’s bad. We believe babies are a part of God. Basically showing it’s bringing someone into the Christian church. It’s dying and being brought back to life in the traditional sense.”

Baptism is when a person chooses to accept God, and they are dunked in water to show that they trust God, and to represent dying and being reborn. Catholics do not completely submerge a baby when they baptize him/her; they only pour water over the baby’s forehead.

Catholics aren’t the only ones who baptize babies. “Our kids get completely dunked, ” says Patelos. “For Orthodox it’s Baptism, Chrismation, first Communion and Confirmation all in one go. After you go through that, you’re entitled to all the Rights in the Church.”

The way I see it, Baptism is very much like a cleansing in Paganism. Water washes away negativity and cleanses both physically and spiritually. This cleansing can be used for tools, as well as for initiation. There are many different ways a Pagan can use water to cleanse. Sometimes different oils or herbs can be mixed in, as with the Orthodox Baptism to add blessing properties. Often salt will be added to the water, which makes it holy because salt is part of the earth. Another common additive is rose oil for both its blessing and cleansing properties. A tool that will be used for magickal rituals can be dunked into a goblet of water and left in the moonlight overnight to be cleansed. Some initiations use this water and its additives to draw a pentacle on the forehead of an initiate. Many rituals will vary from tradition to tradition, making it impossible to cover all of them.

Pagans have their form of prayer in spells. I will reiterate that spells will vary in many traditions. Some will be the simple lighting of a candle and wishing. Some will involve chanting or poetry. Some will involve knives, wands, pentacles, circles of candles of every color shape and size, robes, and a script. It just depends on who you’re working with. I prefer the simpler rituals.

I take a candle of the appropriate color (different colors mean different things) , carve what I want down the side with my athame (ritual knife) , such as “good health, ” or “confidence, ” carve the first and last initials of the person who is to receive these things on the bottom, cover the candle with ashes, and light it, letting it burn all the way down. I will frequently sit in front of my altar (usually a table decorated with a cloth, statues of Pagan gods and goddesses, candles, and ritual tools, such as that athame) and think on this act and its results, but I usually do not incorporate words into the spell. I can’t remember where I picked it up, but it is the one spell that has worked for me consistently for the last dozen years.

“I feel that a prayer works the opposite way, ” says Salgamma, in her article “Magick Vs. Prayer” for The Pagan Library, an online Pagan journal. “The prayer is a request to effect a change in the ambient energy and invoke God. This change in energy is slower because it is ‘diluted’ in the surrounding energy and depends solely on faith (‘I believe it will happen, so it will’) .”

I have read of a Wiccan ceremony that may somewhat equate to communion. In the “Cakes and Ale” (Or “Cakes and Wine”) ceremony the bread represents the body of The God, and the wine (red) represents the blood of the Virgin Goddess. The cake does not have to be cake. It can be bread or something else as long as it has been blessed for the purpose of this ritual. Wine can be replaced with juice if necessary. This is a ritual to give thanks to the God and Goddess. After a poem of thanks is recited, all who participate partake of these symbolic food items, and leave what is left as an offering to the deities.

It seems to me that the Sacraments that I’ve covered above all have a Pagan equivalent. Baptism is a cleansing; Communion and the Cakes and Ale Ceremony are symbolic of taking in deity (deities) ; and a prayer is a spell. I have participated in most of these rituals (save the cakes and ale, but I’ve done similar things as well) at various times in my life, and I will say that there is something magickal about all of them.