“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/