Magic, Religion, and Reality Part 1 – The ‘Big’ Questions


I recently received an email from someone asking me (or rather, themselves it seemed) some really hard and honest questions. (Alas, their email address bounced. If you’re reading this, you-know-who, that’s why I haven’t responded!)

Then I was catching up on Arnomancy’s latest episodes on Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy (which I highly recommend) in which host Reverend Erik L. Arneson gave his listeners an assignment to ‘define magic’.  Finally, my witch dad (aka, my initiating High Priest) gave me a (half-serious)  homework assignment to explain to a reader my ‘understanding of magic, including its relationship to deity, if applicable.’ He added that I should assume said reader had ‘read literally nothing about magic’.

Anyway, I’ve decided to address the questions in a series of posts because I can’t word-short. Besides, why give one really strong, coherent answer, when I can give several long, rambling, ineffectual one? (Nailing it, Witch Dad!)

So here we go:

What’s magic?

What’s religion?

And what’s, you know, really real?

Distillery in the Orkney Islands
Distillery in the Orkney Islands

Obligatory Disclaimer

Before I go on it’s necessary to give you the ol’ “All opinions are those of the author solely and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Wica or its members.”

If you ask these questions of a hundred Wiccans, you’ll get a hundred answers. I know that’s a lame, escapist response, but it’s important to reiterate. What’s more interesting to me personally, however, is that if you ask a hundred magicians, or a hundred theologians, or a hundred religious studies scholars these questions, you’ll also get a hundred answers. But there will be crossovers. 

Why is this last point important? Because everything I’m going to write in the next series of posts is based on my own current working understanding of things. My answers to these questions were definitely different from the past. And they’re bound to be different in the future. 

Is it because I’m a flip-flipper? No. 

It’s because life is winding and interesting, and life experiences change our understanding of the world around us. Sure, I could settle into a dogma. But I’d prefer to avoid that. So for my sake, I hope my answers do change with time – it’ll be a tacit reflection of my evolution as a person living in this world and interacting with others. That probability is wicked bitchin’, IMHO.

But there was a time, for sure, when I needed the world to exist in a certain way, and religion, magic, and reality had very fixed and inflexible definitions. The harder challenge, now, is to be open-minded to my past experiences with these things. Because who knows? Maybe I’ll become (paradoxically) fixed again someday! Who knows. It’s all jake. 

Distilling caju apple liquor
Distilling caju apple liquor in Mozambique.

What do you think? Write it down. It’s valid and historically important.

If you haven’t spilled your own ink on these questions before, it’s worth taking a moment to do so. (Or at least sketch a few notes.) The ideas of others can be influential, that’s neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad. But keeping your own ideas in mind can help you hear nuances in the answers of others you might have missed otherwise. It’s a way of priming yourself for engaging with a text. As the disclaimer hopefully gets across, I’m not an ‘expert’ – I’m just one more person jotting down their experiences. I’m an expert on myself and my own lived experiences so far, certainly. And you are the expert of you. But hopefully, we’ll both grow a ton more in this life! And written reflections are nice tools to help with that process. So, as the good Rev. Erik prompted his listeners, I’ll prompt you as well to take a few moments to just write down in a few words: 

What is magic?

What is religion?

And how do you know something is real?

Next up: What’s magic?

Home whiskey distillery.
Consider how distillation is both a ritual, religious, secular, secretive, occult, alchemical, magical… There are many things that blur the boundaries between ‘ordinary’ life and the magical, if we choose to look at them from that vantage.

3 responses to “Magic, Religion, and Reality Part 1 – The ‘Big’ Questions”

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