30 Days of Paganism: Beliefs – Magic, spellcraft, mysticism etc

First off I want to make the point that, while magic and spellcraft seem to go together logically in my mind, mysticism is an entirely different ball game. I see the first two as an attempt to marry the internal will with the external world, whereas mysticism is the attempt at communion and union with the Divine (however one’s particular worldview defines it). I do not think magic and mysticism have to necessarily be mutually exclusive, but they are definitely not synonymous.

I have a long history of dealing with mystical experiences. They are second nature to me. I will never forget the religious studies course I took on the subject, and the realization that some people have their entire lives changed by just one mystical experience, and some spend the rest of their lives trying to reach another. I was the quiet one sitting on the sidelines who struggled not to have such experiences. Feeling completely at one with everything, and the total breaking down of self in the face of it all.

The bulk of my religious practice nowadays pretty much centers around mysticism. Merging in and out with the Divine to the point that half the time, I do not feel separate or distinct from it. I do not have to work so much to reach the communion; I have to work to stay grounded and centered here.

Magic and spellcraft, however, I fight fiercely with. My brain constantly tries to tell me they do not exist. Whenever I read on the subject, my brain tells me it is all so silly and ridiculous, and would I not feel completely absurd engaging in it? It is stupid. Do not waste your time. It is just a child’s game, nothing more.

Z has said he has no idea how I can possibly deny the existence of magic and spellcraft. It is not as if we have never done rituals or spells. It is not as if they never worked. In fact, the few times I have actually dipped my toes into the water, I have been met with pretty quick and noticeable results. The problem for me is not a fear they will be unsuccessful. The problem is I am terrified they will work.

I still am having a very, very hard time feeling like I am allowed to have wants, hopes, dreams, and desires. Growing up, we did not have much money. The bigger issue was that the strain financially fell too much upon my sister and I. Instead of being shown how good we had it – a solid roof over our heads, enough to eat, clothing that was not threadbare, and even toys – there was constant strain and constant talk about lack.

Our house was broken into at one point, and everything down to the food in our freezer was stolen. A few months later at a flea market, I found a necklace that looked a lot like one of my favorites that had been taken from me, for five dollars. I asked my mother for it. She started to tear up and say how we could not afford it, and that would have been okay. Except it went on further than the necklace into our very security and how that necklace would cut into my family’s ability to pay bills, even though she had just purchased a four-dollar snack. She wound up buying me the necklace later, anyway. I never wore it. Seeing it made me feel sick to my stomach – because I had this necklace, my family was no longer able to pay bills, and we were no longer safe. I still feel deeply guilty to this day, and this was far from an isolated incident. Having any kind of want or preference still makes me feel like a total burden, and I feel unworthy of even basic things like shelter and food.

Even now, after writing that, I feel physically sick and upset. Z has been working with me a lot, especially this past year, to help me get over those feelings of guilt and unworthiness. He spoils me when we share things like food and drink, by choosing the ones he knows I prefer. He spoils me with gifts – not just the bare basic versions of things like shoes, but versions he knows will make me happy. My current household has a gross income less than the household I grew up in, but I feel more wealthy than I have ever felt before. And this has been extremely hard for me to grapple with. After 25 years of guilt for needing and having anything, positive things like gifts or even having my wants acknowledged as perfectly okay, is very stressful and jarring. It is unfamiliar, and I am having to completely shift the entire way I see the world and how it works.

So how am I supposed to embrace magic, a system with an emphasis on working to attain one’s wants, when I struggle terribly to admit to myself I prefer bubblegum toothpaste to mint? I feel way too small and insignificant and unworthy to take even small steps towards getting what I want.

And so, instead of facing everything I just wrote about and working through my issues, my brain takes the shortcut: magic cannot possibly exist.

It is a good thing I am working on ignoring lizard brain. Baby steps and all that.

(As a side note, I love my bio-mother very, very much, and realize she was doing the best she knew how to do at the time. But as I am learning, that does not mean that I cannot be hurt by my past.)

About Reconstructing the Labyrinth

Hello! My name is Bri, and I run the blog Reconstructing the Labyrinth. I am a pagan who works primarily with the Minoan pantheon, of which I believe myself to be an incarnate member. I am also genderqueer, pansexual, and demisexual. I have a wonderful, loving partner. I am a mixed-media artist and writer with a great fondness for plaid and amaretto-flavored coffee.
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2 Responses to 30 Days of Paganism: Beliefs – Magic, spellcraft, mysticism etc

  1. hexeengel says:

    Do you perform magic and spellcraft specifically for personal gain (i.e. financial/material gain), or is it for some other, “greater good/higher purpose?” Would realizing that distinction be a helpful step? (But, of course, you are worthy of your hopes and dreams and wishes coming true, but my point is that, even as Godkin, there are likely things that you want that are different than what the Universe wants.)

    Also, isn’t “marrying the internal and external” simply another way of saying “communion with the Divine?” Can’t blurring those lines between internal and external, micro- and macrocosm, be seen as another method of Divine communion? Magic/spellcraft and mysticism may have different methods, but isn’t the end goal the same?

    • Currently I have been working on magic that falls into your category of “personal gain”. I do not think trying to create the divide you are speaking of would help me, because compartmentalizing like that has not been good for me in the past (and I have been doing a lot of work with Z and Dionysus and a few others to stop doing that). I think the most helpful thing I can do is just trying to build up some more sense of self-worth. Plus I am iffy on the whole “personal gain” terminology, anyway. I do not want a bunch of stuff for the sake of having stuff. I just want enough to be able to get by so I can put emphasis on the more important things without having to spend so much energy trying to just barely make ends meet.

      If by “marrying the internal and external” you mean the internal core self with some kind of external Divine something, maybe, but I do not see the Divine that way. But that is not what I was talking about. I was saying the internal will with the external world. I do not think doing a spell to help one acquire a new job or some cash is the same as communion with the Divine. I think it can be a means of eventually getting there, (i.e. not having so spend so much time to gain finances to simply live, freeing up time for more spiritual pursuits), but is not the same in and of itself. And people’s end goals may definitely be different, there. Some people may not be interested with communion like that at all, and that is okay. Just not the same.

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