Sunday, August 4, 2013

Impiety and Magic

This whole 'magic is hubris' bullshit needs to stop.

Seriously, I have seen it tear apart group after group, get people's feelings hurt and just destroy harmony and the notion that we might be able to talk with others in an open and honest way. It drives people away and scares them off for a start, and all of it is entirely unnecessary.

The folks that I see often claiming that 'magic is hubris' usually have one thing in common. They either came to Hellenismos after a stint in practicing Wicca or look up to/heavily admire a person who has done so. It seems to me that many of those folks who rail against magic so hard are the kind of folks who are trying to put as much distance between themselves and their Neo-Pagan background as possible. They seem to be terrified that Hellenismos might somehow get lumped in the Neo-Paganism (surprise guys, it already is by outsiders) and as such rail against common elements in Neo-Paganism, especially the over-emphasis on magic. It seems to me that they have something to prove, so they try to prove it by bashing on 'magic-users' and 'rooting them out' from Hellenismos like they are some kind of Athenian Inquistion squad.

Firstly, whether or not someone is Hellenic is not contingent upon whether or not they practice in magical acts or arts. Individual practice is not really that relevant to the 'classification' of the person. Are they performing the household rites? Yes? Are they performing them in the traditional format? Yes? Are they following some sort of lunar calendar, be it reconstituted or directly drawn from? Yes? Do they honor all the Olympians? Yes? Okay, as far as I'm concerned that person is pretty damn well into the "Is an adherent of Hellenismos" category. The general rebuttal to this assertion though is "well magic is impious! You can't have an impious practice and be a real Hellenist." Now, I'm going to call that bullshit spewing from your mouth and break it down for you right now.

I'll pull this post since he pretty much just regurgitated the most common arguments that I see people spew.

He first asserts that magic is a way that a person attempts to exert and force his or her will on the Gods and cosmos. Firstly, seeing as I've talked to and am friends with a number of these 'magic users' I can pretty much tell you right now that the very statement that they are trying to 'force' the gods or cosmos to do ANYTHING is bullshit, at least when the individual in question is a polytheist. Generally I have seen them try to get a particular god's assistance in this or that (much in the same way that your typical Hellenist might try to get a god's assistance by petitioning them). When they don't 'invoke' or 'invite' a God for the spell, they generally say that they are sending out energy into the world to help them achieve their goals. This is not an act of 'manipulation'. These people also don't think that they are somehow better than or above the gods. They know the gods are greater than they and they will admit to that in a heartbeat. The notion that they think they are above the gods is a disgusting straw man.

However, our lovely Flemish friend also seems to think that the Gods are in control of every little aspect of the universe as he says:

"Magic is seen as a way in which someone, man or women, attempts to influence the Gods or the kósmos based on ones own will and power, by means of sympathetic or other connections. It constitutes a manipulation by means of which one seeks to impose ones own will on the Gods and kósmos, and attempts to subject them to ones will in order to achieve a certain goal.
Quite obviously such an attitude is utterly unacceptable in Hellenismos. The Gods are the fundamental powers that cause, keep, sustain, harmonize, transform, etc., the kósmos, and they are far beyond human understanding. None can ever completely understand their entire being and greatness. The thought that a mortal even could ever manipulate the Gods or the kósmos in such wicked ways is beyond ridiculous, this preposterous attitude places oneself above the Gods who cause our very existence!"

which is all fine and good I suppose, but such a view necessitates a few things. He either has to think that all other pantheons are 'false' to some degree or the other OR he has to admit to there being a 'universal pantheon' of gods that expresses itself in each culture. Folks who adhere to the first viewpoint I have nothing to say to. Folks who adhere to the second can't possibly claim that magic is impious as there are MANY cultures throughout history and even in the world today that practice some form or the other of sympathetic magic or other variants who are considered perfectly pious, and wonderful folks, and apparently their gods don't give half a damn about it. From the stance of the universal pantheon then, we can conclude that the 'impiety' of magic is simply a human construct, one which the gods don't care about, and thus practicing magic is not in of itself impious.

He then goes on to say:
"Others within the (neo)pagan movement claim to “work with” the Gods to help the kósmos or fate unfold, when they practice their magic. From a Hellenic point of view this is only marginally better than the previous attitude, in that one doesn’t place oneself above the Gods. But one does place oneself on the same level as the Gods. Which is only marginally less preposterous."

Hold on there buckoo, step back and have a cigarette. I don't think 'working with' someone places yourself on the same level as them, last I checked just because I am a co-worker with my manager doesn't mean that I see myself as equal to him within the company. Working with also automatically has implications of hierarchy, but does not implicate status IN the hierarchy. The dribble that he spouted is yet another example of a fallacious strawman set-up by a person who refuses to think about things and who only wants to spout what he has heard others tell him.

For modern day persons and their magical practices it seems that it is not an act of manipulation or coercion, deception or force. It is simply something that is done, a variant on prayer and ritual, and honestly when you stop to think about it is something that is very difficult to define. They are not impious folks, and I'm sure that if the Gods had a legitimate problem with them practicing magic as well as being a Hellenist, they'd let them know about it.

One last quick note, magic is not an intrinsically Hellenic practice, really and truly. However, just because it is not *intrinsically* Hellenic does not mean that a Hellenist can't practice it. Hellenismos is not a religion in which the actions of the individual are the sole criterion for 'belonging'. It is, as I stated before, a household religion, and thus by performing the household rites and observances in the traditional fashion (or as close to it as you are able to get) you are clearly a Hellenist. Personal non-Hellenic practices should be a non-issue. If I choose to divinate by orthinomancy or by casting lots or by using the tarot is of no concern to you. Two of those are traditionally Hellenic, one is not, however it is an individual and personal choice. If someone was a Hellenist for 25 years, if someone erected an altar to Zeus and Hera and built them a temple, if this someone suddenly decided that they wanted to use the tarot for their own *personal and private* divinatory sessions would you suddenly throw your hands up in the air and shout "YOU AREN'T A REAL HELLENIST!". I wouldn't. So it goes for magical practices.

And to pre-empt certain objections, no I don't practice magic. I just would like to see us stop devouring, berating, and driving away good and pious people because they have one personal practice that is 'non-traditional'. I'll bet you dollars to donuts we ALL do something that is non-traditional, because last I checked we aren't having processions to Mount Olympus.

We have two choices my fellow Hellenists.
Grow the hell up or we die.

Pick one.

1 comment:

  1. Conor O'Bryan WarrenAugust 5, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    Test comment one two

    ReplyDelete

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A young man living in North Texas. He is an actor, a Hellenistos, and a proud member of Hellenion.