1) Discuss the importance of the action of the magico-religious function as it is seen within the context of general Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words)
The first function of Dumezil’s trifunctional hypothesis is where the magico-religious people, or priests, would be found. (Trifunctional Hypothesis) These people were a source of wisdom for the people of the culture. They were also responsible for helping maintain the cosmic order through proper sacrifice (Thomas). Sacrifices were especially important in ancient Rome also because a good deal of the population depended on the sacrifices on public holidays for the feasts.
The role of the magico-religious class of people was based on them having connections with the deities. They were also the ones that kept the calendars and declared or announced when the holidays and celebrations were (Pennick 27). Caesar alludes to this when talking about the class system in Gaul, “But of these two (noble) classes, one is the Druids, the other the knights. The Druids take part in all the sacred things, manage the public and private sacrifices, and interpret the holy things” (Winn 53).
[Introduction to questions two and three: As different Indo-European societies developed, the figure of the magician in those societies evolved in differing ways, for example: in Roman society the magical function evolved, it was divided away from the priestly function and regulated by a different set of laws while in the evolution of Gaelic culture the magical and priestly functions remained entwined within the same cultural functionary.]
2) Discuss your understanding of the evolution of the magician from early to late periods within one Indo-European culture. (minimum 300 words)
Probably the best culture to look at this will be the Greeks. In this culture we can easily see the change of the magician from a respected, even a deity, figure to the outcast that does illegal magical workings.
If we go back to The Odyssey we can see Circê who is described as a “terrible Goddess with lovely hair” (Homer 115). As we go further and learn more about her, we can see that she is a powerful sorceress as she is able make men act like animals, and pen them up (Homer 116). We are told though, that the way to defeat her is to feign a strike when she hits you with her rod and then accept her offer to lay with her (Homer 118). This gives us the idea that her rod is partly her source of power. Even so, Homer paints her as a powerful sorceress that needs to be respected.
We can now go a bit later into the Greeks and take a look at Medea. Towards the end of Theogony she starts to take on a big role. She is described as a woman of great beauty that needs to be won (Gantz 360). We do see her acting as a sorceress when she drugs the snake to help Jason and her escape with the golden fleece (Gantz 361). We also see her hands in the death of Pelias by her telling his daughters how to “heal” him when in fact it’s a sacrifice of a ram to kill him (Gantz 367). These events are just some of what she did that shows her as a sorceress. She is again a woman of beauty, somewhat like Circê, but she is now taking on a more evil, destructive nature, all for her own gain.
The last part of the evolution of the sorceress is exemplified by Lucan’s Erictho. She is described as a “superwitch” who lives away from town and in empty tombs (Graf 190). We can see here a connection with her powers with that of the dead. She is very much marginalized in the Greek society, as we see was the how the magicians in later times were treated. They were separate, powerful, and something to be cautious around, as a result, they were often not in towns.
So, we can see the evolution of the magician here from a divine figure, through the beautiful human, to the unattractive magician that is separate from society.
3) Compare and contrast the culturally institutionalized position of the magician within at least two Indo-European cultures. (minimum 300 words)
In the Roman culture, magic and magicians were very much separated from the common culture, and even forbidden. The magician was often located on the fringes of society. They were marginalized, outcasts, and looked down upon. In this society, silent prayer was not allowed. Who knows what you were praying for, or if you were working magic! We have in Cicero’s time laws forbidding the practice of magic, specifically book II of the Laws, “Let there be no sacrifices at night by women with the exception of those made for the people, and let them not initiate anyone with the exception of the traditional initiations for Ceres, according to the Greek rite” (Graf 59). Here we have non-public sacrifices, at night, being forbidden. Again, who knows what you were sacrificing for?
If we look at the Germanic/Norse people, we have a totally different view of magic. A great example of this is the völva. Here we have someone that is clearly defined as a sorceress. They were known as wise women and were respected, completely different from the Roman view. This was noted by Tacitus in his Histories where he talks about Veleda of the Bructeri and her extensive authority (Davidson 159). They were reported to be able to take animal shapes, astral travel, and even become invisible (Pennick 122). More importantly though they were, in many respects, the priestly people of the culture. They would run the important ceremonies of the culture. They did Seidr which is an oracular ritual where the seer (völva) would go into a trance and let the spirits talk through them. Unfortunately in Norway all this activity was outlawed in the 12th century (Pennick 117).
On the male side of things, we can look at the warriors. Here we have stories throughout the sagas where the warriors would put on skins of animals and change into that animal, or at least gain the characteristics of that animal. The Berserker is an example of men turning into bears, but there were others that turned into wolves and boars. This ability was gained through initiation (Graf 123). They were magicians, even if they didn’t think of themselves as one.
So, we can see that the Germanic/Norse people embraced magic in their daily lives much more than the Romans did.
4) Identify the terms used within one Indo-European language to identify 'magic' and 'magician' examining what these terms indicate about the position of the magician and the practice of his or her art. (minimum 100 words)
The Greeks clearly had words for magic and magician. Mageia was the act of magic as performed by the magos the magician. The term magos was originally used for a Persian priest or specialist in religion. As Herodotus said they were responsible for royal sacrifices, funeral rites, and divination and interpretation of dreams (Graf 20). This of course eventually became a negative title, as is shown by Clement of Alexandria:
Against whom are Heraclitus the Ephesian’s prophecies addressed? The wanderers of the night: the magi, the bacchantes, the maenads, the initiates – he threatens all these men with tortures after death, he threatens them with fire, for what men believe to be mystery initiations are impious rites (Graf 21).
Other terms were agúrtēs for the beggar priest, mántis for the diviner or seer. These were not really wanted around or accepted in society, as shown by Plato’s Republic where they would come up to the door, say they have the power to fix a wrong, and blackmail them if they didn’t let them help (Graf 22). Any way you look at it though, with the Greeks, they were essentially outcasts, and lived on the fringe of the society.
5) In Norse culture we see magic divided into two primary methodologies known as Galdr and Seidhr. Galdr is very much the formal magic of sound, word and poetry meaning literally to intone while Seidhr is the magic of the spirits and is used by the folk in their everyday lives to assist in their crafts and arts. Compare the methodologies of spoken word magic and spirit magic and discuss their cultural significance within at least one Indo-European culture. (minimum 300 words)
With the Norse, unfortunately precious little is known about the original use of galdr. What we do know though is that it was magic dealing with sound. In the Prose Edda there is a listing of various poetic forms, called the Hattatal, where we find the Galdralag, which is described as an incantation meter (Sturluson 220). We also have the terms for what we would now call magicians, galdrakona (galdr-woman) and galdramaðr (galdr-man), that are still words in modern Icelandic for magicians. The best we can truly figure out is that this was poetic based word and sound magic (Hunt-Anschütz). In modern interpretations it is usually spoken word using the runes. Sometimes, as I have seen from personal experience, it’s the singing of the runes.
Seidr is something completely different. Where galdr is the use of words, and what many of us would consider traditional magic via incantations and spells, seidr is dealing directly with the spirits. The practice itself tends to fall along the lines of what are considered Shamanic practices. The method of seidr was going into a trance and communicating with the spirits. This was often done as a prophetic rite to find out what was to come, or to find hidden knowledge (Davidson 160). More is known about seidr because there were historic accounts recorded by Tacitus in Histories and Saxo in History, along with many accounts in various sagas.
We do have a modern practice of seidr too thanks in large part to Diana Paxon. This style is keeping somewhat true to what the original form of seidr was. The seer goes into a trance and communicates with the dead, usually a dead seer. The participants are then allowed to ask the seer a question, and they will get an answer.
So, the two forms of magic are complimentary. The seidr was very much a respected type of magic in the Norse and Germanic societies. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about how galdr was regarded in ancient times. In modern days, both are common methods of magic, with galdr being similar to spell casting, and seidr being a method of communicating with the dead and getting answers.
6) Discuss the existence and relative function of trance-journey magic within at least one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words)
Seidr is a perfect example of trance-journey magic. With seidr, you have a seer that goes through a trance-journey. The seer would go into a trance and journey to get answers to questions from the spirits. This is very similar to modern Shamanic journeying, and a main reason why seidr is often called Shamanic (Davidson 160). As I’ve stated before, the seidr was a highly respected and highly important part of the Germanic and Norse culture.
We also see trance-journey in the myths and sagas. We see what can be interpreted as trance-journeying when we look at Hermod riding into the underworld to try to retrieve Balder from Hel. Another example is Thor’s journey to Utgard where he faces Utgard-Loki, a powerful Giant magician (Pennick 117). Overall, the trance-journey was a respected and important part of the culture and seidr has kept this practice alive and important in modern days.
7) Discuss the place of alphabetic symbolism (runes, Ogham, Greek letters, etc) as part of the symbolism of magical practice within one Indo-European culture examine how this alphabet may or may not relate to the earlier sound, word and poetic magical methodologies. (minimum 300 words)
According to lore, the runes were earned by Odin through sacrificing himself on the World Tree just to gain that knowledge. It was through this sacrifice that he learned the nature of the runes, and how to use them magically, and also for divination (Larington 34).
Runes are a great example of both something magical and practical. On the practical side, they were an alphabet, and we have examples of runic inscriptions such as the Golden Horns of Gallehus which have an inscription roughly translated as “I Hlewagastiz Holtijaz made the horn” (Golden horns from Gallehus). There are also inscriptions that are more magical in nature. Some of these are believed to be talismans for protection or similar functions.
The runes could be carved as spells. This goes hand in hand with galdr as this is the magic of words and sounds. An example of this can be seen through the runemaster Egill when he tells the story of coming to the aid of a sick person only to find that someone had inscribed a series of runes wrong in an attempt to cure them. He inscribed the correct runes, and the patient became well again (Pennick 197). This just goes to show the magical power of the runes.
All told, the use of runes is an extension of the earlier galdr, or sound based magical methods. The runes themselves have prescribed meanings. This is very obvious when we look at runes for divination purposes. With these meanings, we can further interpret the various rune writings we have. We can also use these meanings to create bind runes. These are a set of runes that are arranged to form new shapes and combine the effects of the runes for a new purpose. There are examples of this on various rune stones (Bind Rune).
In modern practice, we do all of the above. Bind runes are often used as talismans. Runes themselves are used for divination, as taught by Odin (well, ok, by Thorsson and others in modern practice). We still sometimes inscribe spells and incantations in runes, and, as was shown by J. R. R. Tolkien, we can still even use them for mundane writing.
8) Discuss three key magical techniques or symbols from one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words each)
If we look at the Greek, we can find at least 3 techniques of magic:
Defixiones are the curse tablets. The majority of the ones we have found are made of lead, and if not, of some other metal and often nailed to coffins or buried. These tablets were normally binding spells to bind the person’s will for some injustice or social abnormality they have done. Examples of why one would be bound are judicial, erotic, agnostic, slander, thieves, and economic reasons (Graf 120). Often, the tablet had the spell actually written out in full. Graf gives the generic formula of, “I bind A, his tongue, his soul, and the words he uses,” followed by a statement that they are bound and why they are being bound (Graf 122). Overall, these are some of the most common magic items that we have found, mostly because the metal doesn’t decompose.
Amulets are charms that naturally have, or have been charged with magical properties. These can be items such as stones, valuable items, or as simple as a piece of paper. The idea behind these charms is that they are magical items and just being in possession of the item you have the use of that magic. This magic can be used both by magicians and non-magicians which makes them even more valuable. Common purposes of the amulets were for luck, victory, or lack of failure. We even have papyri that describe amulets for sexual prowess and good looks (Graf 158). Amulets are still rather common in modern paganism and most semi-precious stones still are believe to carry magical properties.
Wax figurines are very similar to the curse tablets except are wax shaped in the form of humans. The dolls are declared to be a certain person, various symbols drawn into them, and whatever is done to that doll is done to the person. This could be the use of magic to harm them. Usually though, the dolls were physically harmed or bound. We have examples of dolls with various hole in them from nails, and some that were bound with iron. The dolls also sometime were physically mutilated. Part of what made these spells powerful was that they often contained part of the person that it was meant to represent (Graf 138).
9) Discuss the relative place and methodologies of magic within your personal religious/spiritual practice. (minimum 100 words)
Most of the magic that I do personally really falls under ritual magic. I’d be willing to say that the vast majority of my magical workings are done as part of regular rituals. The most common one would be working with the gatekeeper to open and close the gates, sometimes spectacularly. Also involved with ritual, at times I do trance-journeying although that is rare. I also make petitions to the deities (ie prayers) for various things, but that tends to be a rare event.
Outside of rituals, I also do Reiki which to me is a form of magic. This is often done through distance, and almost always for friends I am close to. I’ve also been known to pass attunements on to friends when they ask and are ready. Overall though, I don’t really do much magical working at all, and when I do it’s rarely for myself alone.
10) Into which basic categories would you divide magical arts and how do you see those categories functioning within the context of ADF? (minimum 300 words)
I personally see magic as being divided into two broad categories. Magic that has the aid of the deities and spirits has been called theurgy. There is also magic that comes from the person without the aid of spirits and deities, which Bonewits calls thaumaturgy (Bonewits 32).
Ritual based magic is something that most every one of us in ADF does. The core order of ritual lays out that we need to hallow and re-create our sacred center. We also need to open and close the gates. The hallowing and gate opening/closing is theurgic magic. Some of the most profound experiences I have had dealt with the gates opening in a very spectacular fashion. We can also include divination and omen taking under this heading since we tend to work with deities when doing that work.
During rituals, it is also common for participants to perform magic that needs the help of deity. A very common and relatively simple example of this is prayers for help with XYZ. We can also do thaumaturgic magic in ritual space and take advantage of the idea that when in sacred space, we are at the center of the Worlds.
Now person based magic to me is magic that does not require the help of deity. This is where the spells, incantations, amulets, etc. fall. This kind of magic is using energy that you (hopefully) control. As I said, this would be the spell magic that most people think of when you say magic. Also included here would be things such as Reiki where you are drawing on external energy for a specific purpose. In my views, most of the stuff that falls under this category tend to be personal things and often for one’s gain.
So, where does this all fit in ADF? We do the ritual magic on a regular basis, at least 8 times a year, and hopefully more often than that. We do have places in our rituals where we can do other workings and should be encouraging people to do stuff during them, within reason. We also have plenty of people that do magical works without the help of deity, probably most commonly being healing. From my experience though, not many people seem to do much outside of ritual, and if they do, they rarely talk about it.
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Thomas, Kirk. The Nature of Sacrifice workshop. 2007. <http://archives.adf.org/festivals/desert-magic/2007/Kirk%20Thomas%20-%2…;.
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