Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"I find you, Lord, in all things and in all
my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life;
as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small
and in what is vast you vastly yield yourself."

"I wonder..why, if we have effectively banished the word demon, we are still so demon-haunted."
~Kathleen Norris

I am in love with magic. Its presence in the world fascinates and inspires me. I love to find it hidden among the trees or flickering in the votives. I love the sacramental magic that leads me to decorate my altar with beads and flowers, or offer my icons silk and herbs. It is my love of magic that encourages my love of the woods and stream that make up my homestead, for there is an inherent magic in the elements of nature - one reason the church has never abandoned their use: flame, water, salt, and oil.

Magic itself is not witchcraft - it is merely the activity of the supernatural on nature; because the supernatural includes both the Divine and the demonic, magic includes both as well. The Divine, "God-magic," is acted out in a special way in the sacraments, particuarly the Eucharist - when God becomes bread and is consumed. But God-magic is not limited to the sacraments: it is there in our saints, our beads, candles, incense, and prayers. In God-magic we entreat, and He chooses, to act in the world for the Good. It is a blessing that ripens in each recipient.

I can't discuss magic without addressing witchcraft, or demonic magic. Witchcraft is the attempt by an individual to manipulate the supernatural to accomplish his will. The use and promotion of witchcraft is always at odds with divine magic because witchcraft creates in the practitioner a troubling state of both vunerability before the powers he seeks to control without understanding, and power over those he seeks to act upon but not love. Acting upon the will of another is reprehensible. It is something God Himself refuses to do, and whenever man seeks to dominate or direct his fellow man he is denying that individuals personhood and setting himself up as an idol.

Witchcraft also creates a mistaken understanding of how we ought to relate to one another. In witchcraft (even that which avoids dealing in domination) man still imposes himself on another. He "acts on" rather than entreats - demands rather than desires - and this destroys him.

The line between God-magic and witchcraft appears thin at times; especially times like these, when the demonic is so comfortably incorporated into popular culture and the belief in demons is so easily cast aside. It is necessary for us to immerse ourselves in goodness and beauty, becoming so familiar with it that evil, in comparison is easy to see and reject. Otherwise, we lose the distinction between ritual prayer and ritual spells, and the darkness of the latter overshadows and impairs our ability to see clearly.


  1. Fascinating, start to finish. Thank you for this beautiful explanation.

    Do you have texts you recommend for the study of some of these ideas? I'm suddenly thinking that my back-burner novel might benefit greatly from an understanding of such things (not to mention that I myself might.) So much of it is almost entirely new to me. Silk and herbs before icons? I'm thoroughly curious about the meaning of gifts like that.

    I feel so strongly about the Church's position that the physical realm matters. Sacraments and sacramentals and the emphasis on respect for the body matter greatly to me. Paganism attracts me, but it appears cut loose from safe moorings. Thus, my gratitude for a Church that holds clear value for both natural and supernatural and keeps both tightly bound to matters of love and truth.

    Your explanations about the difference between God-magic and witchcraft are some of the best I've ever heard. I especially love your last paragraph.

    Okay, I think my comment is longer than your original post now... can't wait for more of this. :)

  2. I'm so glad you liked it, and that it made sense to you. Paganism is beautiful, but it's baptised and perfected in Catholicism.

    As for books, well, thats a bit difficult, a lot is what I've absorbed from family, and from life in general, but there are some great books that give glimpses: Divine & Human (Tolstoy), The Book of Hours (Rilke), The Cloister Walk (Kathleen Norris), Russian Folk Belief (no idea, non-fiction)..lots of old fairy tales. I hope that at least gives you somewhere to start :)

    As for the silk & herbs. Icons like to be draped with fabric, and its a tradition to drap them in nice fabric. I like to use silk, to dress them well. If I have herbs that relate to a particular saint, I like to hang them beside him, if not, I stil like to give herbs - especially if they're blessed - to the saints as an offering. Different herbs have different meanings too, and in praying for something particular, the herb can act as a continual prayer. Maybe I should make a post on this aspect as well, because this response is getting pretty long :)

  3. Thank you! I should really finish reading The Cloister Walk, which I've been working through slowly over several years. And I'll have to look up the others as well.

    I've heard of roses before statues (wanted to give Mary one on my wedding day, and held off only because my Protestant relatives and friends would have been confused and offended), but didn't know that about draping icons in fabric. That's intriguing. Herbology is an interesting subject as well, and if you write a post on that sort of thing, I'll be glad to read it. :)

    Thanks again for posting all this!

  4. "God-magic" needs to be used in a poem somewhere.

    As with the entreating and the acting upon, bad magic assumes that the source of power is from a person, and not given to him by God. That can be pretty dangerous. And the Enemy loves to feed on it, I bet.