Anne Severn Williamson is an author, blogger, and lover of magic and horses. She has kindly offered to share her knowledge of the history of magic for those who write (or read) fantasy.
Roots of Magic, by Anne Severn Williamson
Candles and potions, cloaks and daggers, rings and chalices … the trinkets of Hollywood hocus-pocus dazzle the imagination in numerous contemporary novels for Young Adult and Middle Grade readers. Objects that fly through mid-air and disappear into nothingness captivate the imaginations of many writers as we hunt for our favorite pens and turn on our laptops. Have you ever wondered what were the cultural roots and lost mystical practices behind these fancy devices of witchcraft and wizardry? A thorough investigation through the pages of history and mythology plunges us into the depths of the evolution of the human psyche and early Goddess and Druidic traditions. The roots of magic run deep. They are steeped in the worship of the Mother Goddess and crowned with fertility rituals that clocked the order of the seasons. The study of magic was shrouded with carefully guarded secrets concerning Universal truths, such as were taught in the Ancient Mystery Schools of early Mediterranean civilizations. Most significantly, the roots of magic were encoded with morally binding tenants that ruled the practice of the Craft, both today and in pre-Christian cultures.
One of the primary understandings, arguably magic’s fundamental principle, is that physical reality is created from the intentional or inward plane of the psyche. In other words, transformations that we can see, hear, taste, and touch, first stem from a thought-form. Creative visualizations manipulate objects and outcomes in time and space; hence wands, lighted candles, or circles of stone are symbols of sacred intent used to fulfill and enhance the wishes of the practitioner of ceremonial magic. The Ancients understood the power of symbolism, talismans, sound, and ritual. Even the bards of old were infused with training to influence the thoughts and feelings of their listeners, in order to bring about specific responses. Magic was consequently taken seriously, and its use was guarded by priests and priestesses who “kept it hidden, and kept it safe” from irresponsible followers.
Overlooked in modern cinematic entertainment is the most important teaching, known as the Wiccan Rede, or rule of wise and necessary guidance: “Do as thou wilt, and ye harm none.” The roots of magic were extremely ethical and binding, in that each participant was strongly cautioned to be ever mindful of the impact of their actions, especially in the Circle of Time. The Universe never overlooked wrongdoing. The completion of each intention set forth in ritual might require several lifetimes, but the energy of symbolic practices, once put into place, always returned to the sender. Beginning students of magic were taught to respect the world around them and to respect themselves. The “harm none” warning included the practitioner and the natural environment. In today’s fantasies, dark lords and evil enchantresses grasp for power and wealth, but a well-trained wizard or High Priestess really would know better than to send bad energy forth. The “Law of Three” or “Three Times Three” guaranteed their triple demise in the grand scheme of the Universe.
As monotheistic religions came into conflict with Goddess centered worship, the ancient roots of magic were buried deeply beneath misunderstandings and ignorance. Gradually, the inherent ethical practices of older traditions came to be associated with very unwholesome, even demonic figures. In truth, there was never a wicked deity in the Nature-based societies. The Horned God was simply the male counterpart to the cyclical Goddess of the Moon. His appearance was based on hunting and harvesting traditions, hence his association with stags, goats, and bulls. The belief that all magical practitioners were inherently evil choked out centuries of mystical traditions.
As social history unfolded, Nature came to be viewed as something to be conquered, rather than revered. This conquest led to many of the environmental practices that are crushing the world community today, including the concept that the Earth is able to absorb infinite pollution and unchecked population growth. The Ancients understood that what goes around, comes around. Once the Circle was replaced with the double-edged Sword as the representative icon of human progress, the impulse to check destruction and greed was broken; for a straight blade does not bend back to its sender. Rather than bringing the male and female symbols of the sword and circle together in peace and pleasure, the warring religions that rose out of many of the Mesopotamian and Indus river valleys, tore the God and Goddess apart. Goddess worship, and the wise practices of the Craft, were trampled in the wake of armies and fanatics.
Will Hollywood ever remember the Wiccan Rede? That remains to be seen. Writers of adventure fantasy, however, may come to explore the older traditions and the tools of the trade with a greater level of respect and understanding. The magic of the Ancients was real, because it was shaped in the Mind, forged in the Will, and sent forth in the Circle. Do the traditions endure today? Most definitely, since the rise of Pagan practices and the study of Nature based traditions is increasing worldwide at an unprecedented rate. Fantasy is still a viable literary genre for an ever expanding global audience. The roots of magic run deep … as deep as can be imagined … and they were ethical roots indeed. It is a pleasure to review and re-teach the ancient tenants that bound the Priests and Priestesses of old to a life of service for the prosperity and protection of all.
Anne Severn Williamson is the author of The Fairy Lore of Ghost Horse Hollow, a nine part novel series dedicated to world conservation and peace. The Holly King, Part I of the First Triad, is available through popular online bookstores such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Please visit her Web site: http://www.ghosthorsehollow.com/ to see the book trailer, which is also available on You tube. Anne’s regular notes appear on ghosthorsehollow.blogspot.com. The Ghost Horse Hollow series is structured around Celtic traditional holidays beginning with the Winter Solstice Celebration. The adventures unfold in the Appalachian wilderness one hundred years in the future during the aftermath of global climate transitions. Anne is currently seeking an agent or publisher to develop the publication of her series. Anne and her husband Jack Williamson raise and train the remarkable, blue-eyed Ghost Horses near Valentine, Montana. The horses have been registered to match the fantasy characters throughout the adventures. Please enjoy and share their “Galloping Enchantment for the Earth!”
Thank you, Anne!
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