The HPedia: Magic

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Magic is common in Contemporary Paganism, especially Wicca and Witchcraft.  It may include practical effects, such as attracting wealth or love, as well as more mystical effects, such as drawing closer to a deity or spirit.  Correspondingly, a distinction is often made between these as “low” and “high” magic, respectively.

The effects claimed for magic often fall well outside what can be justified in a naturalistic context, due to a severe lack of reliable evidence.  However, some definitions seem to leave more room for naturalistic interpretations.  Take, for example, Dion Fortune’s famous definition, reworked from an earlier definition by Aleister Crowley:

Magick is the art of causing changes in consciousness in conformity with the Will.

If “consciousness” and “Will” can be understood without any supernatural or paranormal connotations (which may or may not have been Fortune’s intent), then it easy for a naturalist to see magic as including such consciousness-altering intentional activities as meditation, ritual, visualization, and so on.

The word is often spelled “magick” to distinguish it from common stage magic, following a trend started by Aleister Crowley.

Spells are sometimes called “workings.”

Lupa has offered a critique of poor attention paid to research methodology in “proving” magic.

Check out other entries in our HPedia.

12 Comments on “The HPedia: Magic

  1. I like it, though I would avoid using Crowley’s name primarily. Even if people DO know about him, they will most likely have a misconception. Try mentioning him among other authors who gave their own definitions (and there are many, and the definitions are similar which will only prove how everyone thinks alike when it comes to this subject). Also, I wouldn’t put “attracting wealth and love” at the beginning of the sentence because it only seems to encourage the stereotype of magick being used for personal (and often selfish) interests. They have to be mentioned, but I would elaborate a bit more if I were you 🙂

    Maybe even addressing such issues as visualization and intention in magick, magick in ritual work etc.

    Hope you don’t mind the constructive criticism 🙂

    • Those are just the sort of comments needed – thanks!

      Would it be better if the sentence were re-arranged to put mysticism first and attracting wealth and love second?

      • It would sound better, yes. But there’s still a lot missing in my opinion but it all depends on how much info you want to give out. If you like we can discuss it over e-mail 🙂 and you can have a look at my blog to see how I wrote about magick (maybe you’ll see what sort of things to avoid haha) though it’s in Croatian and can be translated only by Google Translate :/ that’s not very good. But we can have a chat and sort it all out if you like 😀 I’m always happy to help.

  2. B.T.: I think you should include more from your Witchvox article. Or at the very least provide a link to it.

      • “Magic: A Cornerstone of Pagan Identity?” I also think some of the arguments you make in “Are the Gods Natural?” apply just as we’ll to Pagsn rationalizations of magic.

  3. Witch’s Cat wrote:
    >If you like we can discuss it over e-mail 🙂 and you can have a look at my blog to see how I wrote about magick (maybe you’ll see what sort of things to avoid haha) though it’s in Croatian and can be translated only by Google Translate :/

    I’ll take a look. Link to a specific blog post please?

  4. Also, I think some good points are raised by John Beckett, Lupa, and Yvonne Aburrow in their respective recent posts:

    “Bad Science Makes Bad Religion” by John Beckett

    “The probabilistic nature of subatomic physics is no more proof of the efficacy of magic than are the anecdotes of the times my spells have worked. […] Claiming scientific backing or proof for spiritual ideas where none exists isn’t just bad science, it’s also bad religion.”

    “The Dangers of Talking Plants” by Lupa

    “[…] our spiritual beliefs are largely subjective, and not provable in the same objective, measurable way that the effectiveness of antibiotics or explorations of the Large Hadron Collider are. You can’t measure the existence of a god or spirit […] and there are no peer-reviewed, well-constructed scientific studies that undeniably prove the objective effectiveness of magic.”

    “What is magic and how does it work?” by Yvonne Aburrow

    “So if magic does effect change in external reality, how does it do that? This is usually the point at which people get a bit hand-wavy and start talking about quantum mechanics and “energies”. […] the problem is, the more people try to use science to justify their belief in faeries and energies and the like, the more ridiculous it sounds. Most of the time, it’s just a misuse of the scientific terms (especially if it involves the word quantum).”

  5. The corresponding article in the actual HPedia (see the dropdown menu under “About”) has been updated thanks to suggestions. Thank you everyone!

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