White Magic, ritual and religion:
Viewed from a non-theistic perspective, many religious rituals and beliefs seem similar to, or identical to, magical thinking. Related to both magic and prayer is religious supplication. This involves a prayer, or even a sacrifice to a supernatural being or god. This god or being is then asked to intervene on behalf of the person offering the prayer. The difference, in theory, is that prayer requires the assent of a deity with an independent will, who can deny the request. Magic, by contrast is thought to be effective: by virtue of the operation itself; or by the strength of the magician’s will; or because the magician believes he can command the spiritual beings addressed by his spells.
In practice, when prayer doesn’t work, it means that the god has chosen not to hear nor grant it; when magic fails, it is because of some defect in the casting of the spell itself. It is no wonder that magic tends to be more formulaic and less extempore than prayer. Ritual is the magician’s failsafe, the key to any hope for success, and the explanation for failure. A possible exception is the practice of word of faith, where it is often held that it is the exercise of faith in itself that brings about a desired result.
Varieties of white magical practice:
The best-known type of magical practice is the spell, a ritualistic formula intended to bring about a specific effect. Spells are often spoken or written or physically constructed using a particular set of ingredients. The failure of a spell to work may be attributed to manycauses,such as failure to follow the exact formula, general circumstances being unconducive, lack of magical ability or downright fraud. Another well-known magical practice is divination, which seeks to reveal information about the past, present or future. Varieties of divination include: Astrology, Augury, Cartomancy, Chiromancy, Dowsing, Fortune telling, Geomancy, I Ching, Omens, Scrying and Tarot. Necromancy is another practice involving the summoning of and conversation with spirits of the dead (necros). This is sometimes done simply to commune with deceased loved ones; it can also be done to gain information from the spirits, as a type of divination; or to command the aid of those spirits in accomplishing some goal, as part of casting a spell. Varieties of magic can also be categorized by the techniques involved in their operation. One common means of categorisation distinguishes between contagious magic and sympathetic magic, one or both of which may be employed in any magical work. Contagious magic involves the use of physical ingredients which were once in contact with the person or thing the practitioner intends to influence. Sympathetic magic involves the use of images or physical objects which in some way resemble the person or thing one hopes to influence; voodoo dolls are an example.
White Magical traditions:
Another method of classifying White magic is by “traditions,” which in this context typically refer to complexes of magical belief and practice associated with various cultural groups and lineages of transmission. Some of these traditions are highly specific and culturally circumscribed. Others are more eclectic and syncretistic. These traditions can compass both divination and spells. When dealing with magic in terms of “traditions,” it is a common misconception for outsiders to treat any religion in which clergy members make amulets and talismans for their congregants as a “tradition of magic,” even though what is being named is actually an organized religion with clergy, laity, and an order of liturgical service. This is most notably the case when Voodoo, Palo, Santeria, Taoism, Wicca, and other contemporary religions and folk religions are mischaracterized as forms of “White magic”. Examples of magical, folk-magical, and religio-magical traditions include:
- Ceremonial magic
- Chaos magic
- Hermetic Qabalah
- Zos Kia Cultus
White Magic in animism and folk religion:
Appearing from Maori tribes in New Zealand to rainforest tribes in South America, bush tribes in Africa and ancient Pagan tribal groups in Europe and the British Isles, some form of shamanic contact with the spirit world seems to be nearly universal in the early development of human communities. Much of the Babylonian and Egyptian pictorial writing characters appear derived from the same sources. Although indigenous magical traditions persist to this day, very early on some communities transitioned from nomadic to agricultural civilizations, and with this shift, the development of spiritual life mirrored that of civic life. Just as tribal elders were consolidated and transformed into kings and bureaucrats, so too were shamans and adepts devolved into priests and a priestly caste. This shift is by no means in nomenclature alone. While the shaman’s task was to negotiate between the tribe and the spirit world, on behalf of the tribe, as directed by the collective will of the tribe, the priest’s role was to transfer instructions from the deities to the city-state, on behalf of the deities, as directed by the will of those deities. This shift represents the first major usurpation of power by distancing magic from those participating in that magic. It is at this stage of development that highly codified and elaborate rituals, setting the stage for formal religions, began to emerge, such as the funeral rites of the Egyptians and the sacrifice rituals of the Babylonians, Persians, Aztecs and Mayans.
The word magic ultimately derives from Magus (Old Persian magu), one of the Zoroastrian astrologer priests of the Medes.