Wicca and Witchcraft and Prayer (oh my)

I have some questions for those of you who practice witchcraft (not just Wiccans).

  1. I have heard magick referred to as “prayer with props”. If this is the case, why bother with the props? Why not just pray directly?

  2. Do you feel that the “props” - such as the rituals - give your request for divine intervention greater emphasis?

  3. Do you feel that Christians should regard magick as having genuine power? And, if so, is the reverse true - do you regard Christian prayer as having genuine power?

  4. How does one differentiate between “black” and “white” magick?

  5. There seems to be a move to “mainstream” witchcraft - resulting in books espousing it as “hip” and “cool” (such as a book called, IIRC, “A Witch’s Journey”, the author of which temporarily escapes me). Do you see this as positive or detrimental?

  6. Wicca only - would you agree that the emphasis on the Goddess is a form of sexism, albeit of the opposite sort to that found in many other religions?

Please note: these questions are not intended to offend, in any way. Also, so you know where I’m coming from - I am a 17 year old male Christian with no intentions of converting, but with a strong desire for knowledge of the beliefs of others.

Jonny T.

I can’t speak from a Wiccan’s viewpoint because I am not one. But with regard to point #1, one man’s prayer is another man’s magic.

I’m not sure that a line can easily be drawn between prayer & magic, and both use “props”. Walk into any church and you’ll see people thumbing through their spellbooks (“bibles”) mumbling their incantations (“prayers”), clutching their talismans (“crucifixes/rosaries”) and perhaps even making use of potions (“holy water”). Some fundamentalists might even insist that they really do drink blood and eat flesh during communion. It all sounds pretty ghastly to somebody coming from a neutral (unfamiliar with and therefor not biased towards any particular religion or supernatural belief) position.

What is the purpose of (Christian) prayer? Most people would answer that it’s to (1) bring before God, as He calls us to, our needs and wants, worries and concerns, etc., but (2) more importantly, to conform us to His will and empower us to do it.

The most lucid explanation of spellcraft I’ve ever read was by SqrlCub, and it said in essence that he practiced it in order to equip himself to deal with the world, by conforming it to his will to the extent possible and by conforming his will to it where necessary.

Okay. Least you’re being reasonable about it :). By the way, I am, for all intents and purposes, an ex-or-non-practicing-I-haven’t-decided-what-I-believe-and-might-be-going-back-to-Christianity 18 year-old female witch. But I’ll try to help you anyway.

Well, generally it is thought that the “props” help us to focus our intent and thoughts towards the goals which we have in mind, and to help us to better understand what it is that we want, and what we need to do (physically, mentally, and spiritually) in order to get it. By the way–not every magic practicioner (I refuse to spell it “magick” because I think it looks stupid) believes that magic is “prayer with props.” I do, however.

Nope. I just thing that it feels right to me. It pretty much just helps me focus, and therefore the divine intervention might be more directly attuned to what I want, but that’s it.

Nope. I just think they should leave me the heck alone when I do it. And I think that Christian prayer has genuine power, and though I believe that most would agree with me, there is by no means any consensus in this area.

Black magic is harmful and manipulative, either to one’s self or to others. A “make so-and-so love me” spell would be considered “black” because it attempts to override someone else’s free will. A “give so-and-so a wicked bad case of piles” would also be considered “black” for good and obvious reasons.

There’s a thread on this very subject in the Pit, but it was cut off in the middle of the Great Purge. Sometimes, it pisses people off because any “hip” religious movement, whether it be Wicca or Christianity or Goat-Worship, will invariably attract those who are more interested in the image the religion presents rather than the religion itself (this is also true of secular groups). In Wicca, these “new recruits” tend to be teenage girls who’ve watched too much WB/UPN, and think that being a “witch” would be “cool.” (I quote witch because they have odd ideas of what a witch is, sometimes). Other times, they’re somewhat depressed semi-sorta-not-really Goth chicks who want to do some “dark mojo.” I am, of course, oversimplifying. in time, however, those who are truly interested in the religion stay, and those who aren’t move on to something else. It’s annoying, yeah, but. . .shrugs. The more the merrier.

This is one of my major beefs (is that the plural? or is it “beeves?” Whatever.) with Wicca and much of the Neo-Pagan movement. I definately think that it is sexist. However, I think that people can worship a diety of whatever the hell gender they want; I just choose not to have the belief.

Believe me, your questions are incredibly respectful compared to some of the skata out there. Glad to (attempt) to enlighten you.

Actually, Attrayant, “fundamentalists,” or those evangelical Christians who are commonly referred to as such, believe quite the opposite–communion is a symbol, nothing more.

OTOH, you’re probably thinking of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

Here’s my two cents, as a Pagan (but not Wiccan) High Priestess.

Basically, you get out of magic(k), and prayer, what you put into it. If I take the time to research and gather the right herbs, get out all my nifty sharp things and fiery things, jot down some incantations and purify myself with a ritual bath before I do my work, the time, effort, and energy I have spent preparing as well as doing the work itself will be reflected in the outcome. If, on the other hand, I just haphazardly throw something together before wandering off to play Planescape: Torment, I get out of it what I gave, which wasn’t much.

This is not to say complexity = efficacy, potency, or properness. If I just make a wish and throw a penny into a fountain, or cross my fingers for luck, or light a candle and let it burn while I do my homework, that can be just as powerful as an hour-long ritual as long as I really mean it. I need to focus when I throw the penny, and will my wish to come true (within reason, of course). In fact, to paraphrase one of the local witches, “If you can’t do it naked in a bare concrete room, you’re not doing it right.”

I regard magic and Christian prayer as much the same thing, but there are those who disagree with me.

“Black magic” and “white magic” are just terms, in my opinion. The basic rule of thumb is that if it harms someone in any way, (or even really influences them without their permission) don’t do it. Calling harmful magic “black” just gives it a powerful name, which makes it alluring to some people.

Wicca as a “trend” is a big issue in the community. While people are able to learn about and explore Wicca who might not have previously been able to, many people are drawn to it for all the wrong reasons. Those for whom Wicca is a hobby, rather than a faith, are usually called “Crafties” among my crowd, after the movie “The Craft,” which led to a lot of black-clad, look-at-my-angst teenagers getting into magic to be cool, cast love spells, and get revenge on their enemies. And, as with any minority group, this is the element of our community that most people see – the part that least represents the community as a whole.

(If you want to see this dichotomy in detail, find a group of Pagans of various ages and ask them about Silver Ravenwolf, the highly controversial author of books such as “Teen Witch.”)

As said before, your questions aren’t offensive at all. When you spend so much of your time dealing with ignorance and religious bigotry, it’s gratifying to see someone who is just honestly curious. :slight_smile:

Not all prayer uses props. There are no props at all in Islamic prayer, only words and actions.

And Muslims don’t bend anything to their will or bend to anything’s will except the will of God.

I think prayer ‘works’ and magic ‘works’ but are you only looking for material results, in this world, in the here and now?

Why talk to the organ grinder, when you can talk to the monkey?

**Jonny T asked:

I have some questions for those of you who practice witchcraft (not just Wiccans).

  1. Wicca only - would you agree that the emphasis on the Goddess is a form of sexism, albeit of the opposite sort to that found in many other religions? **

While certainly there are some groups of Wicca that focus exclusively on Goddess worship, the majority of Wiccans (at least in my experience) worship both God AND Goddess. In that context, neither is seen as being “higher” or “supreme” to the other, but rather they share a dynamic balance of power.

While Gardner and his first groups apparently focused more on Goddess worship, usually with a male consort, Wicca as it has grown and evolved thru the years seems to have moved toward a duo-theism rather than another brand of monotheism, but with a female at the top rather than a male.

5. There seems to be a move to “mainstream” witchcraft - resulting in books espousing it as “hip” and “cool” (such as a book called, IIRC, “A Witch’s Journey”, the author of which temporarily escapes me). Do you see this as positive or detrimental?

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, people can write on whatever subject they want. But I personally feel this comes very close to proseltyizing, a practice that I abhor.

4. How does one differentiate between “black” and “white” magick?

Magic, in and of itself, has no “color” to it. It’s not black or white or red or rainbow-colored. What’s important is the INTENT behind the magic, the directive force of will. Think of it this way, what color is electricity? Then consider; the same electricity that powers an iron-lung can also be used to electrocute a person.

3. Do you feel that Christians should regard magick as having genuine power? And, if so, is the reverse true - do you regard Christian prayer as having genuine power?

I believe Christians should respect other people’s rites and rituals the way other faiths grant their rites and rituals respect. Yes, I do believe that Christian prayer is genuinely effective, it can affect the real world around us.

**1. I have heard magick referred to as “prayer with props”. If this is the case, why bother with the props? Why not just pray directly?

  1. Do you feel that the “props” - such as the rituals - give your request for divine intervention greater emphasis?**

Props, yes, but props with a purpose.

First, a few words. I’m sure there are those who think my belief in magic and its use is outrageous and stupid, if not downright delusional. That’s fine, you’re free to believe whatever you want. I’m simply explaining my beliefs to someone who asked a sincere question. If you want to flame me for my beliefs, take it to the Pit.

Back to props. The driving force behind magic is emotional intent. The props help the magician raise and focus his emotional energy. That’s why things such and incense, music, certain types of clothing and staging are used in many rituals, they help raise and focus the the emotion state of the magican to carry out his “spell.”

Here’s a simple example. I have a special robe that I wear only during rituals and rites. It’s a simply T-tunic, given to me as a Yule gift my a former High Priestess many years ago. There’s nothing inherently special about the fabric or its make, in otherwords, the robe itself isn’t magical. Because I only wear it at specific times, in my mind I associate it with doing only rituals and rites. Wearing that robe reminds me, subconsciously, that I’m entering a special state of mind, the time to preform rituals and magic. It helps me move into a “magical” state of mind.

I hope that answers your questions.

I have nothing to add except that Dragonblink: you have impeccable taste in entertainment :).

Many thanks for the informative replies. Greatly appreciated :).

Attrayant: while prayer and magick do have a lot in common, I wouldn’t quite go as far as you have. A Bible - or other book, for that matter - isn’t a necessary part of prayer, as most of the prayers I see in church are spur of the moment. Ditto for crucifxes and rosaries, and I don’t recall ever seeing holy water used. shrug

Angel: I agree, “magick” does look odd - I just use it to differentiate between the religious sort and the sleight-of-hand sort. Much like Christmas (religious holiday) and Xmas (secular holiday).

Thanks again, all,
Jonny T.

The question which springs to mind {and this goes for Christians as well} is, is there any empirical evidence that all of this hocus pocus {or hoc est corpus} actually does anything? I`m a 35 year old white male resistentialist, for the record.

But it does use more than that–the direction of Mecca, times of day.

That’s certainly not what most people consider “props”, of course. But still, it seems to me that they’re certainly ritual components. In the more ceremonial ritual of magic(k)(q)®(pat pend), physical props are also ritual components.

No. Your point? ;).

It’s faith, not science. I could tell you about the times that I honestly prayed (I have always done more straight praying than magic) for something and had it happen. But that wouldn’t qualify as empirical evidence, no doubt.

What magic and/or prayer definately DOES do is improve the mental state of the one praying. And, really, that’s half the battle right there.

That depends on what you would count as “empirical evidence”. Anything can be given a million different explanations, and all of them probably wrong.

For example: before her wedding, my mother (for reasons I won’t go into here) had trouble getting white boots. The problem was that she needed to have them made to order, and one leg was 3 inches (IIRC) too short. A month or so later, after much intensive prayer, she had the leg measured again and found that it had somehow grown the necessary length, and so she got her boots for the wedding.

Now, I put this down to the power of prayer. You would probably put it down to a freak medical occurance, or coincidence, or one of many other - entirely plausible - reasons. Am I right? Are you right? Who can say?

Jonny T.

I dont wish to hijack your original thread, Jonny, and we can take this elsewhere if you wish, but with the greatest respect I have difficulty taking this kind of anecdote seriously as evidence for anything. I havent picked up the paper yet today, but if yesterday was any indication its a fairly grim catalogue of violence, hatred, cruelty and stupidity: and in the midst of this, God cares that your mothers shoes fit? If He does exist, He has a lot of explaining to do.
The standard riposte is that His ways are unknowable, which leads us into a neat little circle: if your mothers shoes fit, its evidence that He exists; if they dont, its evidence that His purposes are veiled from us. It`s bulletproof, undisprovable, and thus worhless as a serious explanation for anything.

You make a very good point, albeit one which shows the problem of circular logic in the debate of the existence of a deity.

Non-believer: X can’t be the work of God because that would mean there would be a God.
Believer: But X has to be the work of God, because it proves that there is a God!

Ad nauseum.

Basically, it all comes down to belief. A hardline non-believer* refuses to believe X is the work of God. A hardline believer* refuses to believe it is anything else.

Jonny T.
*I am using “believer” and “non-believer” here in a non-religious-specific sense. It could be a believer in Christianity, Wicca, Islam, the Hindoo Howdoo Hoodoo Voodoo Man of George Formby, etc.

By the way, the only reason you have heard it referred to this way is because someone was trying to explain it to you using Christianity as the measuring stick. In other words, it is just as true to say that prayer is “magick without the props.” Why eliminate the props? Why not just use them?

Non-believer: X can’t be the work of God because that would mean there would be a God.
Believer: But X has to be the work of God, because it proves that there is a God!
This points up the treacherous ambiguity of the word “believe”: your interpretation seems to be the faith-based one of “accept without evidence”, ultimately the cornerstone, or in fact the definition, of “faith”: you believe in God because you believe in God.

I prefer the word “accept”, which has a more provisional nature: I accept that the world is round, but that`s not a matter of faith - it can be demonstrated empirically, but if you could provide more convincing evidence that it was in fact flat {which seems unlikely}, I would alter my views quite happily. Thus does knowledge progress, where faith stagnates.

“X cannot be the work of God because that would mean there would be a God” is a misstatement of this position: it begins with an a priori assumption that God does not exist, which is not the case at all.

I would restate it as {assuming X is the phenomenon we are trying to account for, and that X itself exists: for the purposes of this debate, lets take X to be "the universe exists"} "What is the best explanation of X? What is the best explanation of the existence of the universe?" Note here that were not discussing the purpose of the universe, since that would beg the question that it has one - another a priori assumption, and a different debate entirely

“There is a God” is one hypothesis, “God made the universe” is another: as explanations for the existence of the universe they are insufficient because they lead us to the circular position of the believer, as you so lucidly stated above: “X must be the work of God because it proves there is a God”

I reject the existence of God because it`s an unsatisfactory explanation for things, and for no other reason. Resistentialism, on the other hand…

Speaking of which, what do people think about Idries Shah’s claim that Wicca is partly derived from Islam?

According to his book The Sufis, the origin of Wicca, centuries ago, is traced back to the ‘Anazah tribe of Arabia. (The same tribe that gave rise to the Saudi clan, the present Wahhabi rulers of Saudi Arabia. Talk about bizarre juxtapositions!) The word athame (Wiccan ritual dagger) comes from Arabic al-dami ‘the bloody one’.

I saw that book Teenage Witch in Barnes & Noble. The cover illustration looked exactly like an outtake from that movie The Craft. Author trying to cash in on a fad? Nah.

Is there any proof that it doesn’t?

Seriously, though, magic, prayer, religion, faith, etc. are all highly personal things. You believe magic is hocus pocus and doesn’t do anything. And you know what? You’re right. There isn’t a spell in the world that would work for you, nor a prayer either. You have no reason to believe in something that seems to you to be a steaming load of crap. You’re welcome to this; in fact, it’s hardly any of my business what you believe or don’t, as long as it’s what you want.

Magic is mostly, as Terry Pratchett put it, headology. A friend of mine once came to me, rather sheepishly, and said he’d been having very bad luck recently, and thought that he had been cursed. Instead of agreeing or disagreeing, I asked instead why he thought he had been cursed, and by whom. Why did he think he was having bad luck? Was he having problems with someone? Had he done something he regretted? Had he tried talking the matter through with the person? At the end, I told him to burn some pine needles, and that would clear him of any curses. Now, the smoke of pine needles is said to remove negativity (source: Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs), but analysing the situation may have been what pulled him out of his bad luck. Or perhaps just being told by a serene, understanding High Priestess known for herbal knowledge that he’d be fine snapped him out of it. Or, perhaps he was cursed and the smudging took it away. Does it matter?

Part of the power of magic and prayer is the feeling that you’re doing something. This can be dangerous, when people leap to a magical answer for a problem because they don’t want to deal with it normally. (Cast a spell to protect you from your drunken boyfriend? Why not just call the cops and/or try to get him to Al-Anon?) Spellcasting is not only an extension of the will to try to influence probability and outcomes, but a proactive state of mind. Praying for a deathly sick friend feels a hell of a lot better than standing around, unable to do anything.

Also, there is the point that “If you believe, no proof is necessary; if you do not, no proof will ever be enough.” Can I convince you, tetsusaru, that magic works? Of course not. You will always find something that disproves it. You see what you want to see. Will you ever convince me that my magic is no more than superstitions and hand-waving? No. I will always see something that proves it. Belief (or lack thereof) defines reality.

(Incidentally, Terry Pratchett’s books contain a number of excellent insights into witchcraft; the other quote that comes to mind is something like “Three witches make a coven; two are just an argument”)