“Magic, at its core, is about manipulation and directly attempting to make something happen. Whether it’s to heal or hurt, bind or repel, create or destroy, magic is a process by which the manipulation of either the spiritual or mundane world occurs.” – page 60 “Hellenismos Today” by Timothy Jay Alexander.
He goes on to say that Pagans show great hubris in believing they control or hold power over anything, and that everything happens as part of the Gods’ will.
I have to start off saying that I enjoyed (and devoured) his book, and I’ve started reading “Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos” as well. But that said, I have to point out a few flaws in Mr. Alexander’s arguments (and writing…)
First, I can’t stand when someone repeats the same argument point over and over. On several occasions (as in mentioning the hubris of Pagans), he makes a point only to repeat it word-for-word on the next page. Having someone help edit his work may have avoided that issue. He also makes an unfortunate habit of claiming no disdain for a group (Pagans, Christians, etc.) only to turn around and bash said group for the next two pages. He comes off as the type of person who, in a face-to-face conversation, would make me walk away to avoid bumping into the brick wall of his “authority” over and over… and over… and over…
But the quote above had me thinking… how would I defend myself from such a claim? Can I? I spent my lunch break (and laundry time after work) examining my personal beliefs and practices, and I have a rebuttal.
As a Pagan, I do practice magic, though rarely. I find that prayers come first, because often I’m not in need of something specific (“I need money to get that operation.”) so much as something for my general well-being (“Please help me make tomorrow a better day.”) But I do practice magic, hubris-free.
Mr. Alexander says that a Hellenismos will write down a prayer, read it aloud to their deity, burn it, and then burn some incense or other offering in honor of that deity. In doing such a devotion, they please that deity and often it will in turn grant their desire (if reasonable… and yes, I know using “it” to talk about deities might feel weird… but it’s unisex!).
My personal belief is as such: When I cast a spell, I pull together my personal energies and those of elements around me and send them out with my desire. Often, my spells include a prayer to a deity; as I’ve always been most attracted to the Greek pantheon, it’s usually a Greek god or goddess. I also light incense, or a candle, as a focus and as a carrier to send my energies out to do their task.
But in my personal beliefs, we all send energies toward “the Universe” (capital U) with the understanding that It will determine what’s best for the good of all and grant us success or failure as necessary. The Universe may even let something bad we’ve cast fall back on us, as a lesson. But when the Universe is capitalized, it is like the Ultimate Divine Source. We cast our energies out to the Source with our intentions, when the Source sends back the results (success, failure, karmic ripples, etc.).
And when you or I use a specific deity’s name in our spells and prayers, we are essentially asking that particular deity to take notice. (In this, I agree with Mr. Alexander that Pagans as a whole often fail the gods in using them for a spell because they fall into a useful archetype.)
So, all in all, I guess I’m saying that my spells may be more empowered than a Hellenismos prayer, and I may be more focused than theirs. But I believe the Gods (whichever you believe in, all as One or as individuals) determine our magical “power”. They would not let us overpower Them; They are Gods. Duh. It’s not hubris to think that I’m an empowered worshiper, free to make moves with the essences around me and in me, to try and achieve what I desire. My gods will stop me or teach me a very painful lesson (or both) if I overstep. And I acknowledge that. If anything, I am empowered by my gods.
For anyone interested in modern Greek religious reconstruction, Timothy Jay Alexander’s books are a good place to leap from. His book for beginner’s is better than “Hellenismos Today”, as the first is like a rough draft version of the second (as though he published one, felt it was lacking in information, and went back for a second edition). And you’ve been warned, you prideful Pagans, that you’re full of hubris and need to be more respectful. /glare/
5 thoughts on “Magic is about manipulation?”
I think magic and spellcasting are two different, but not necessarily separate, things. Yes, we all have free will, and if you’ve read Aleister Crowley’s definition of Will, then you may see how Alexander’s quote is fairly accurate. Express your will, whether by sweeping the floor, uncrossing your legs, or engaging in a ritualistic ceremony, and that is magic.
I do not, however, think that our own will holds less power than the gods’. It is sort of impossible to disentangle these wills from one another- in fact, I think our will and the will of the gods are one and the same. But, for instance, if I want to sweep the floor, then I sweep the floor- rarely does a god’s will stop me. I can control things like that just fine!
Oh and… hi 🙂 Found your blog randomly on my desktop today. Have a nice day!
I’ll admit that I can see why he made the point. However, there are many different types or paths of magic use, or spellcasting/spellcrafting out there. To lump it all together and label it “hubris” is just, well, rude! LOL! I’ve always been a bit grumpy about labels, because they’re both useful and damaging. I’ll never use the label Hellenismos, because  most people would stare blankly at me if I did and  I fit into the more free-form label of “Pagan” (insert general qualifiers like “eclectic” or “Wiccan-influenced” or “kitchen witch”).
Labels are useful, but I know what you’re saying. Labels confine, and only when we can see the world without them do we understand them more honestly.
well, he is not the main authority on hellenismos and of course there are some discussion about his views, don’t think we all think magic is hubrys, jus’t the one that uses the gods (not that they can be used, but the intention behind the magic).
really liked the post.
Thanks! I know he’s not the main authority; unfortunately, he’s the only author that’s clearly written about Hellenismos (at least at Hastings). I can see how magic that calls for inserting a “love goddess” or a “warrior god” into said spell and randomly asking/demanding them to do A, B, or C for you is worth ridicule. But there are also those who will meditate with several “love goddesses” until they find one that’s willing to participate and THEN they do their spell. They’re still calling on a random, possibly non-affiliated (as in, not usually worshiped by them) goddess, but they’ve done so after respectfully approaching said deity. If you read his books, he kind of has a tone that lends to defensiveness from someone (i.e. me) who self-defines as “Pagan”. He comes off as a bit judgmental, especially when he’ll start off saying “Now, I don’t have any personal problems with Christians, but…” and then goes on for PAGES about why Christians suck. I’ve read two of his books and found the same tone throughout. The information’s a great start, but ugh, I’d hate to have to deal with him in person! If you know of a good website or forum to do further research, or if you’d like to just randomly have an email discussion about Greek religion and such, let me know. I’m always open to new avenues.