Happy Woden’s (Odin’s) Day.
In the Pagan world, magic takes a lot of different forms. In my pagan world of the Asatru, with its Viking heritage, there is a belief in magic. It is full of shamanism as well as the simple idea of using consciousness to affect the world through the will of the practitioner. Because in Norse mythology everything has a spirit, then the issue was influencing the will of those spirits to line up with the will of mage. Most notably the magic of the Vikings seems to have focused on the idea of knowing and fate. For one to decern the fate of a person and thus decided the best course of action was the goal of Viking magic. This particular form of magic was called seidr. The Vikings had other forms but this seems to have been their magical passion if you will.
I freely confess, pagan that I am, I am skeptical of magic. It stems from seeing the value in science, but as some of the writings on magic point out, the end goals and means of science and magic are very different. I can get that, so I am not closed off to the possibility of magic. My problem is my own personal history as a Pentecostal Christian has soured me to the whole idea as what many times was considered ‘miracles’ was either very explainable as mass manipulation and psychology or straight up huckster fraud. The idea of the divine powers reaching into the lives of people I can accept, I just think that the people who claim to do this need to be scrutinized with a very skeptical eye.
So what about magic in the real world?
Time to Look Through the Eye:
“To see the truth, change one eye for another”
I can believe that the powers that might be would interact with the rest fo us humans. The question I have is whether this is necessary all the time. If in some ways this might be presumptuous on our part to even ask for it. I start the Pagan Pulpit out with the following paragraph:
We don’t pray here – we figure God, the gods, goddesses, or whatever powers that be either know already, don’t give a fuck, or are busy with more important matters than our petty stuff. We also kind of assume that they expect us to do stuff that we can do for ourselves and that we will do them ourselves and not be lazy. We also believe in being good friends, so we don’t presume on our friendship with the powers that be by asking them all the time for stuff while giving them nothing in return.
I want to tell you I sincerely mean this. I am not going to presume on any friendship and that includes the divine powers. Faith that they exist – yes. Presuming that they want to help me – no.
As I have meditated on this question of magic. my biggest personal struggle is that of prayer. Mostly, as I look at Chrisitan prayer, I see it is talking to one’s self and interestingly enough part fo the self that we actually define as God. You will find that Christians in general view this ‘God’ very differently. Everyone has their own very unique perspective on who this person is and interestingly enough shaped in each persons own image of what they want.
Prayer to me seems presumptuous in and of itself. But self-talk I see the need for as we all do it and those that pay attention to it often are more well adjusted. The real question I suppose is theological.
Theologically speaking, the question comes back for me as to whether the powers are benevolent, malevolent or indifferent to the whole question of good and evil. Why would they help us if we ask? Can they be trusted?
Even in the mythologies, I know those are good questions. Odin, for instance, has a higher purpose in mind and so will not hesitate to sacrifice you his devotee to that cause. Loki certainly can’t be trusted. Better not to pray at all and thus leave the whole magic of life to living as virtuous as possible for your own sake. Virtue has its own form of magic as do stories.
My spiritual side longs for what magic could do, but my skeptical side says better to leave it alone. To practice the more subtle magic of living life as a follower of the Nine Noble Virtues and to tell tales as a Skald. Bring the more common magic of virtue and story to people. To not presume on the powers that be, but rather be self-reliant and work hard to attain that I wish. Magic seems like a dangerous short cut.
I guess I can leave my fellow pagans with some questions. Is magic something you practice and why do you do it? Is my skepticism a good thing or a bad one?
For now, I will follow virtue and tell stories of life and the universe. It seems to be a safe path. I still don’t see a good reason to take the short cut of magic.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.