Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Issue of Magic In Modern Hellenism

One of the most controversial issues in the modern Hellenic community is the use of magic, especially among Reconstructionists. Generally, the practice is not accepted as part of the religion. The general belief is that magic is hubris because it's an attempt to manipulate nature and/or usurp the will and power of the Gods. The problem with this statement is that it's extremely rigid, and anyone who practices magic knows that the Art is anything but dogmatic. 

If you read Greek Religion by Walter Burkert, who every Hellenist I know would classify as a scholar on ancient Greek religion, he references numerous practices of magic in ancient Greece. Now it's also true that not all forms of magic would have been accepted by the ancient Greeks, but it is nevertheless dishonest to say, There was no magic in ancient Greece, because there was very distinctly. It's just that many of us in the Hellenic community may not consider it to be magic. Definitions are critical. To some people, you have to cast spells in order to practice magic, while to others, a simple prayer is a spell. So when we pray to the Greek Gods, they would consider that to be spellcraft. To others, they might consider an oracle to be magical or even a witch, whereas Hellenists would probably see them as mystics, but also without realizing that the magical community would also consider mysticism to be magic. Some might even consider us to live in a magical world where everything is magic period. But anytime you choose to equate something with negative things, you're always going to think it's bad. If you recognize the great diversity in magical practices, and understand there are countless ways to do them, it's not rigid to you anymore.

The way I see it, we all have our own energies, given to us by the natural state of being human, that we can use for the betterment of our lives. We are able to use our bodily and mental energies in many ways to improve ourselves, both magical and mundane. And if something can be used for good, it must come from the Gods in that purpose. If we are to condemn the use of our own energies; we are to say that our very existence is an affront to the Gods, and that we are therefore naturally damned, and such is not a Hellenic belief. Obviously, there would be right and wrong ways to practice magic in a Hellenic format. Anytime you try to usurp the will of the Gods, overrule or control them, that would be wrong. But as I have said, magic does not have to entail that, as there are many forms of magic.

I myself would define magic, at least in part, as the following:

Working your energy with help from the Gods, and the humble power of yourself, in a consensual relationship, to achieve a positive goal.

Now, probably a lot of Hellenists would say, That's not magic, that's mysticism, which is perfectly fine in Hellenism. But again, definitions are what make the difference. Different people would classify my definition in numerous ways. There is no one and only meaning of magic. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,


Dylan said...

The topic of Magic in Hellenismos is interesting. Having once been a Wiccan, I understand Magic, at least on a base level, even though I never saw a need for it, even as a Wiccan. The problem here is solely with the definition of Magic. Most adherents of Hellenic Traditionalism would say, just like you said, that the practices falling under Mysticismos are natural parts of Hellenismos. Mysticismos would be things like divination, as well as anything else that is the work of the Gods. The important part is that it is the work of the Gods, not of men. Men can use their minds and bodies to forge their own path on the tapestry of Fate, but Magic (as it is generally practiced in the Neo-Pagan community) tends to blur the line between Faith and Hubris, and sometimes falls on the more Hubristic side of things. Where Hubris comes into it is when you "invoke" the Gods or even "work with" a Deity or Spirit. Those terms insinuate that the practitioner is superior to or on equal terms with the being in question. That is Hubris; men are Mortal, we are not superior to, or equals of, the Gods. Also, using our "energies" has always been a strange concept to me. Even as a Wiccan, I would ask the Goddess for aid and make a token offering of thanks. To me, Magic has always been the domain of the Gods, and a witch is just a conduit for Their energies, directing them in the way that the Gods allowed. Just thinking about this stuff affirms to me that Magic (under the stupidly vague Neo-Pagan definitions) is unnecessary, at least from my perspective. If you think you cannot do something alone, with mind and muscle, then you pray to the Gods and make offerings that they might assist you. If you succeed, make an offering of thanks, thus building the Kharis that is the basis of Hellenismos. The Gods help those who help themselves. If I'm coming off as rude, I'm not intending to be. I fully respect any who practice Magic; people's personal practice is their own business. I'm just trying to offer my perspective. I remember your clashes with Tim Alexander's group, and I think that, on this subject and others, you both misunderstood each other. I hope that I'm not doing the same. :)

I'm posting this here on your personal blog and your YouTube video in the hopes of increasing the possibility of a response. I'm very interested in a civilized debate on the issue. :)

Chris said...

You're not coming off as rude at all Although, I wouldn't agree with your definition of invoke. Invoke simply means to call with earnest desire, or to make a supplication of prayer according to the dictionary. I've even seen it in the Orphic Hymns. It doesn't mean to demand or control, although I can see how the sound of it would make people think that. However, the meaning is actually very humble.

Chris said...

I very much appreciate you taking time to comment on my blog. It means a lot to me to hear from my readers, whether they agree or disagree with me on something. I am sorry I didn't approve your comment earlier, but for some reason, it sent the notification for approval to my old email address. Thankfully, I happened to check it.

Most Read Posts