White Magic is a conceptual system that asserts human ability to control the natural world (including events, objects, people, and physical phenomena) through mystical, paranormal or supernatural means. The term White Magic can also refer to the practices employed by a person asserting this influence, and to beliefs that explain various events and phenomena in such terms. In many cultures, White Magic is under pressure from, and in competition with, scientific and religious conceptual systems.

Believed to be the founder of historic sourcery, King Henry III’s second cousin, Mariel Stolarski, wrote journals on the effects of White Magic in her everyday life.

White Magic in the Greco-Roman world:
The prototypical “magicians” were a class of priests, the Magi of Zoroastrianism, and their reputation together with that of Ancient Egypt shaped the hermeticism of Hellenistic religion. The Greek mystery religions had strongly magical components, and in Egypt, a large number of magical papyri, in Greek, Coptic, and Demotic, have been recovered. These sources contain early instances of much of the magical lore that later became part of Western cultural expectations about the practice of White Magic, especially ceremonial magic. They contain early instances of:

  • the use of “magic words” said to have the power to command spirits;
  • the use of wands and other ritual tools;
  • the use of a magic circle to defend the magician against the spirits he is invoking or evoking.

White Magic in the Middle Ages:
Several medieval scholars were credited as magicians in popular legend, notably Gerbert d’Aurillac and Albertus Magnus: both men were active in scientific research of their day as well as in ecclesiastical matters, which was enough to attach to them a nimbus of the occult. Magic practice was actively discouraged by the church, but remained widespread in folk religion throughout the medieval period. Magical thinking became syncretized with Christian dogma, expressing itself in practices like the judicial duel and relic veneration. The relics had become amulets, and various churches strove to purchase scarce or valuable examples, hoping to become places of pilgrimage. Tales of the miracle-working relics of the saints were compiled later into quite popular collections like the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine or the Dialogus miraculorum of Caesar of Heisterbach. From the 13th century, the Jewish Kabbalah exerts influence on Christian occultism, giving rise to the first grimoires and the scholarly occultism that would develop into Renaissance magic. The demonology and angelology contained in the earliest grimoires assume a life surrounded by Christian implements and sacred rituals.

Renaissance white magic:
Renaissance humanism saw a resurgence in hermeticism and Neo-Platonic varieties of ceremonial magic.

  • geomancy
  • hydromancy
  • aeromancy
  • pyromancy
  • chiromancy
  • scapulimancy

Both bourgeoisie and nobility in the 15th and 16th century showed great fascination with these arts, which exerted an exotic charm by their ascription to Arabic, Jewish, Gypsy and Egyptian sources. There was great uncertainty in distinguishing practices of vain superstition, blasphemous occultism, and perfectly sound scholarly knowledge or pious ritual.

Baroque:
Study of the occult arts remained intellectually respectable well into the 17th century, and only gradually divides into the modern categories of natural science vs. occultism or superstition. The 17th century sees the gradual rise of the “age of reason”, while belief in witchcraft and sorcery, and consequently the irrational surge of Early Modern witch trials, receded, a process only completed at the end of the Baroque period or in ca. the 1730s. Christian Thomasius still met opposition as he argued in his 1701 Dissertatio de crimine magiae that it was meaningless to make dealing with the devil a criminal offence, since it was impossible to really commit the crime in the first place. In Britain, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 established that people could not be punished for consorting with spirits, while would-be magicians pretending to be able to invoke spirits could still be fined as con artists.

Romanticism White Magic:
From 1756 to 1781, Jacob Philadelphia performed feats of white magic, sometimes under the guiseofscientific exhibitions, throughout Europe and Russia. Baron Carl Reichenbach’s experiments with his Odic force appeared to be an attempt to bridge the gap between white magic and science. More recent periods of renewed interest in white magic occurred around the end of the nineteenth century, where Symbolism and other offshoots of Romanticism cultivated a renewed interest in exotic spiritualities. The late 19th century spawned a large number of magical organizations, including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Theosophical Society, and specifically magical variants on Freemasonry. The Golden Dawn represented perhaps the peak of this wave of white magic, attracting cultural celebrities like William Butler Yeats.

20th century White Magic:
A further revival of interest in white magic was heralded by the repeal, in England, of the last Witchcraft Act in 1951. This was the cue for Gerald Gardner to publish his first non-fiction book Witchcraft Today, in which he claimed to reveal the existence of a witch-cult that dated back to pre-Christian Europe. Gardner combined white magic and religion in a way that was later to cause people to question the Enlightenment’s boundaries between the two subjects. The various branches of Neopaganism and other Earth religions that have been publicized since Gardner’s publication tend to follow a pattern in combining the practice of white magic and religion. Some people in the West believe in or practice various forms of magic. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, and their followers are most often credited with the resurgence of magical tradition in the English speaking world of the 20th century. Other, similar movements took place at roughly the same time, centered in France and Germany. Most Western traditions acknowledging the natural elements, the seasons, and the practitioner’s relationship with the Earth, Gaia, or the Goddess have derived at least in part from these magical groups, and are considered Neopagan. Long-standing indigenous traditions of magic are regarded as Pagan. Aleister Crowley preferred the spelling magick, defining it as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will.” By this, he included “mundane” acts of will as well as ritual magic. In Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter XIV, Crowley says: What is a Magical Operation? It may be defined as any event in nature which is brought to pass by Will. We must not exclude potato-growing or banking from our definition. Let us take a very simple example of a Magical Act: that of a man blowing his nose. Western magical traditions include ceremonial magic, as well as Wicca and some other Neopagan religions. Definitions and uses of white magic tend to vary even within magical traditions.

Theories of adherents to White Magic:
Adherents to white magic believe that it may work by one or more of the following basic principles: Natural forces that cannot be detected by science at present, and in fact may not be detectable at all. These magical forces are said to exist in addition to and alongside the four fundamental forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force and the weak force. Intervention of spirits similar to these hypothetical natural forces, but with their own consciousness and intelligence. Believers in spirits will often describe a whole cosmos of beings of many different kinds, sometimes organized into a hierarchy. A mystical power, such as mana or numen, that exists in all things. Sometimes this power is contained in a magical object, such as a ring, a stone, charm, or dehk, which the magician can manipulate. Manipulation of the Elements by using the will of the magician and/or with symbols or objects representative of the element(s). Western practitioners typically use the Classical elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Manipulation of Energy. Also believed to be the manipulation of energy from the human body. Most commonly referred to by the usage of the hands while the mouth uses a command of power. Manipulation of symbols. Adherents of magical thinking believe that symbols can be used for more than representation: they can magically take on a physical quality of the phenomenon or object that they represent. By manipulating symbols (as well as sigils), one is said to be able to manipulate the reality that this symbol represents. The principles of sympathetic magic of Sir James George Frazer, explicated in his The Golden Bough (third edition, 1911-1915). These principles include the “law of similarity” and the “law of contact” or “contagion.” These are systematized versions of the manipulation of symbols. Frazer defined them this way: If we analyse the principles of thought on which magic is based, they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. Aleister Crowley wrote that “. . . the exaltation of the mind by means of magickal practices leads (as one may say, in spite of itself) to the same results as occur in straightforward Yoga.” Crowley’s magick thus becomes a form of mental, mystical, or spiritual discipline, designed to train the mind to achieve greater concentration. Crowley also made claims for the paranormal effects of magick, suggesting a connection with the first principle in this list. However, he defined any attempt to use this power for a purpose other than aiding mental or mystical attainment as “black magick”. The magical power of the subconscious mind. To believers who think they need to convince their subconscious mind to make the changes they want, all spirits and energies are projections and symbols that make sense to the subconscious. A variant of this belief is that the subconscious is capable of contacting spirits, who in turn can work magic. A mysterious interconnection in the cosmos that connects and binds all things, above and beyond the natural forces, or in some cases thought to be an as-yet undiscovered or unquantifiable natural force. “The Oneness in All”; based on the fundamental concepts of monism and Non-duality, this philosophy holds that Magic is little more than the application of one’s own inherent unity with the Universe. The central idea is that on realizing that the Self is limitless, one may live as such, seeking to preserve the Balance of Nature and live as a servant/extension thereof. Many more theories exist. Practitioners will often mix these concepts, and sometimes even invent some themselves. In the contemporary current of chaos magic in particular, it is not unusual to believe that any concept of magic works. Key principles of utilizing White Magic are often said to be Concentration and Visualization. Many of those who cast spells attain a mental state called the “Trance State” to enable the spell. The Trance State is often described as an emptying of the mind, akin to meditation.

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