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Author Topic: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic  (Read 3034 times)

feriseeker

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Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« on: May 10, 2013, 12:53:10 am »
not sure if the title is clear enough.
but, bear with me please.
so, i would like to know how many of you started doing generic magic (wiccan-contemporary witchcraft-neopagan magic) before starting to study folk magic.
and, if you've found folk magic as being more efficient.
the reason i bring this up is because ive come across some witches who have become very interested in folk magic, esp. hoodoo.
many have told me that when they did contemporary witchcraft magic, the spells never worked. they mention that this magic was never profound enough, and never went back to the source.
so, does this mean that some forms of magic are more powerful than others?
i like to think that the effectiveness depends more on the individual.

folk magic, esp. hoodoo has become so popular lately, of course, it could be because it is the flavor of the day and exotic.
and, i find that whereas folk magic practitioners gain confidence in the existence of magic, ive met more than my share of neopagan witches who...stopped believing in magic because it didnt work, sure, there could be many reasons for this, but, i wonder if this has to do with the lack of quality of magic in modern paganism.

can a spell or a chant  that is done once be as effective as a spellwork that is done in the trans-course of 7 days?

what do you guys think?
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 12:56:49 am by feriseeker »

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2013, 01:38:42 am »
Quote from: feriseeker;108271
not sure if the title is clear enough.
but, bear with me please.
so, i would like to know how many of you started doing generic magic (wiccan-contemporary witchcraft-neopagan magic) before starting to study folk magic.
and, if you've found folk magic as being more efficient.
the reason i bring this up is because ive come across some witches who have become very interested in folk magic, esp. hoodoo.
many have told me that when they did contemporary witchcraft magic, the spells never worked. they mention that this magic was never profound enough, and never went back to the source.
so, does this mean that some forms of magic are more powerful than others?
i like to think that the effectiveness depends more on the individual.

folk magic, esp. hoodoo has become so popular lately, of course, it could be because it is the flavor of the day and exotic.
and, i find that whereas folk magic practitioners gain confidence in the existence of magic, ive met more than my share of neopagan witches who...stopped believing in magic because it didnt work, sure, there could be many reasons for this, but, i wonder if this has to do with the lack of quality of magic in modern paganism.

can a spell or a chant  that is done once be as effective as a spellwork that is done in the trans-course of 7 days?

what do you guys think?

 
I couldn't say, as I learned folk magic first and neopagan magic second, but I will say that older folk traditions at least have more years of field-testing in them.  There's no reason a new spell couldn't work as well as an old one--hell, it could be better, especially for new kinds of situations older witches might not have anticipated--but the old ones that don't work don't last, so the set of old ones that're carried forward are more likely to be effective for what they're for.  It's like when people wax rhapsodic about the pop music of yesteryear--nobody plays the bad pop music of 40 years ago, just the hits, but meanwhile we're hearing all of the new songs, wonderful and awful alike.  A new song could be way more enjoyable or affecting than an old song, but if I have to pick a song I haven't heard yet or one that's stood the test of time, in a pinch I'm going to bet on the golden oldie.
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Jenett

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2013, 02:39:32 am »
Quote from: feriseeker;108271

and, i find that whereas folk magic practitioners gain confidence in the existence of magic, ive met more than my share of neopagan witches who...stopped believing in magic because it didnt work, sure, there could be many reasons for this, but, i wonder if this has to do with the lack of quality of magic in modern paganism.

 
I think there's different pieces going on here.

I've often described a lot of magical techniques like those children's games where you have a little ball bearing in a maze, and you have to turn the maze and move the corners up and down to move the ball into the hole.

Or, more simply: water down channels. The more water you have going, the more it wears a smoother channel.

And my theory is that using a system with weight behind it makes that easier to do - basically, it gives you more help doing that more easily and effectively and efficiently.

So how do you get weight? There's three ways, to my way of thinking:
1) Use a system or method that lots and lots of people who believe they work have used before.

This is why a lot of groups teach the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram even if they use very little else out of that system: it has so much effective weight behind it it just works in a lot of situations.

I think hoodoo is also in this category: there are a lot of pieces of traditional weight there, and if you line them up in the traditional ways, all that water runs downhill in the channels you've made and does what you think it will do.

2) Immerse yourself in a system to the point that its assumptions about the world are so much a part of you you dream in them and think in them. (Essentially: become fluent in a reasonably internally consistent symbol set.)

This is what a lot of generic Neo-Pagan magical stuff *tries* to aim at, but a lot of people end up at the language equivalent of tourist fluency - a little bit, maybe enough to get by, but not enough that it's a truly nuanced language.

And of *course* that doesn't work when you want to get beyond "Hey, I'd like to order lunch" and "Which way to the train station?" and "I would like to check into my hotel room?"

Where it's different, in my experience, is people in group work (especially initiatory trads who a) have mechanisms for this, and b) which tend to weed out the people for whom their symbolic language isn't a good fit anyway, but it can also happen in other groups) - once you have an internally consistent and nuanced magical language, and you have people who are fluent in it, a bunch of stuff suddenly clicks into place and has a lot of weight.

(This is part of why a lot of groups have an extended training period: it takes time to learn that language and internalise it, and apply it in the right settings, without having to think about it.)

3) In the absence of either of these, really strongly felt and focused emotion gets a lot done really fast.

However, most people also have not learned how to channel the energies of strong emotion, peel off the stuff that doesn't serve, and use the rest. (It's a bit like kayaking on a swiftly moving river, I think. It's not *just* skills, it's also experience, and being able to read the situation, and having enough experiences that are sort of like it that you can do rapid-fire comparisons and shifts and changes.)

And because of human biology, the overlap between 'likely to have massive surging strong emotions' and 'having the experience to ride them out and direct them in the useful ways' tends to be narrow than you'd think at first glance. (Because as we get old enough to have the experience, we're somewhat less likely - biochemically, at least - to have the super strong surge that's got that much pure weight behind it.)

Oh, I'll give an example here: I'm 37. I have a reasonable amount of experience in a bunch of things (including magic, relationships, human interactions, hard days, etc.)

About two weeks ago, I had a *bunch* of emotions surge for some complicated reasons. More intensely in a short period of time than the dissolution of my marriage. All that experience helped me ride it out without doing *too* much damage in the process. But it took pretty much all my attention and ability to do that, without having any to spare to send it somewhere else.

In another situation - and if I hadn't been sort of blindsided by a couple of pieces of it - I might have done something more useful with it. But y'know. Life. And art, in this case, kicking up some major stuff in some fascinating but not always pleasant ways. Riding out that kind of emotion is *hard*.

And at the same time, I *do* have enough experience that - in hindsight, I can think of things I could do with that energy and focus that would be useful, and if that particular feeling comes up, I am doing the ritual work tomorrow that gives me somewhere to funnel it. But at that moment,  I  did not trust my reactions, and I *knew* that was sensible, and I'm old enough to know that decisions made when I don't trust the outcome are not a good time to do magic.

So it all works out somehow.
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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2013, 05:59:55 am »
Quote from: Jenett;108279
So it all works out somehow.

 
Off-topic: Thank you for the lovely collection of lightbulbs, which illuminate a number of widely-disparate things for me.

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2013, 07:25:26 am »
Quote from: feriseeker;108271
what do you guys think?

 
I was just thinking about this, actually. I did simple, folk magic spells in my early teens before finding neo-Wicca, and I found them to be more effective than the more ritualized and prayer-like spells of neo-paganism. Maybe I just found it easier to focus on simpler spells and not have to worry about circles, the 4 elements, deities, and specific correspondences.

feriseeker

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2013, 10:55:05 am »
Quote from: Valentine;108277
I couldn't say, as I learned folk magic first and neopagan magic second, but I will say that older folk traditions at least have more years of field-testing in them.  There's no reason a new spell couldn't work as well as an old one--hell, it could be better, especially for new kinds of situations older witches might not have anticipated--but the old ones that don't work don't last, so the set of old ones that're carried forward are more likely to be effective for what they're for.  It's like when people wax rhapsodic about the pop music of yesteryear--nobody plays the bad pop music of 40 years ago, just the hits, but meanwhile we're hearing all of the new songs, wonderful and awful alike.  A new song could be way more enjoyable or affecting than an old song, but if I have to pick a song I haven't heard yet or one that's stood the test of time, in a pinch I'm going to bet on the golden oldie.

 
that makes sense. my background is also in folk magic.
i think there is also this bizarre way that magic is portrayed in neopagan books. either it is portrayed as something entirely psychological, or in a very discouraging tone. almost in a fearful manner. 'be careful!'
im not stating that one shouldnt take precautions but...do you see what im saying?

feriseeker

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2013, 10:57:19 am »
Quote from: Carnelian;108285
I was just thinking about this, actually. I did simple, folk magic spells in my early teens before finding neo-Wicca, and I found them to be more effective than the more ritualized and prayer-like spells of neo-paganism. Maybe I just found it easier to focus on simpler spells and not have to worry about circles, the 4 elements, deities, and specific correspondences.

 
yep, not having to worry with all of that, and cones of power, and...so many superfluous details.
the nice thing about folk magic is that it encourages individual prowess and confidence too.
you're less conditioned to believe that you need to work in a group in order for the magic to be effective.

feriseeker

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2013, 10:58:49 am »
Quote from: Jenett;108279

2) Immerse yourself in a system to the point that its assumptions about the world are so much a part of you you dream in them and think in them. (Essentially: become fluent in a reasonably internally consistent symbol set.)

This is what a lot of generic Neo-Pagan magical stuff *tries* to aim at, but a lot of people end up at the language equivalent of tourist fluency - a little bit, maybe enough to get by, but not enough that it's a truly nuanced language.

 
this is a good point.

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2013, 12:07:07 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;108284
Off-topic: Thank you for the lovely collection of lightbulbs, which illuminate a number of widely-disparate things for me.

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2013, 01:41:24 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;108284
Off-topic: Thank you for the lovely collection of lightbulbs, which illuminate a number of widely-disparate things for me.

Sunflower

 
Totally agreed!

The one thing I would add to Jennet's fantastic theory is the concept of personal 'fit'. I've been doing rootwork/hoodoo for a while - I discovered it through a friend who's a fairly advanced apprentice rootworker. The other form of folk magic I do (which combines rather well with rootwork) is saint 'magic' (probably better described as folk practices, rather than magic), of the type that's drawn from southern European and South American practices. Both types of magic 'fit' me. They fit the way I think about magic, and about the world. I have the kind of brain, or worldview, or whatever, that doesn't cope well with any magic that draws on ceremonial techniques, or which is overly complicated. The simplicity and practicality of folk magic *really* works for me.

Unfortunately, hoodoo and saint practices increasingly don't fit my religious worldview - they were a much better fit when I was a Gnostic/high church Christian type, since hoodoo is rooted in Protestant Christianity and, obviously, saint-based folk practices are Catholic. But working with them is teaching me some general and very useful things about folk magic, and about what I personally need in order to do magic successfully. (Which sounds very vague - but it's something I'm trying to figure out at the moment, and the ideas aren't entirely clear yet.)
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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2013, 01:52:51 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;108279
2) Immerse yourself in a system to the point that its assumptions about the world are so much a part of you you dream in them and think in them. (Essentially: become fluent in a reasonably internally consistent symbol set.)

This is what a lot of generic Neo-Pagan magical stuff *tries* to aim at, but a lot of people end up at the language equivalent of tourist fluency - a little bit, maybe enough to get by, but not enough that it's a truly nuanced language.

 
One of the reasons I was totally pants at Learned From A Book Neopagan Magic was basically trying to speak the language made me feel like a doof.

"I feel like an idiot doing this" is not conducive to effective magical practice.
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we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

feriseeker

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2013, 08:49:40 pm »
Quote from: Sophia Catherine;108326
T
Unfortunately, hoodoo and saint practices increasingly don't fit my religious worldview - they were a much better fit when I was a Gnostic/high church Christian type, since hoodoo is rooted in Protestant Christianity and, obviously, saint-based folk practices are Catholic.

that is not that big of a deal. you just separate this form of folk magic from your religion/spiritual path. besides, what matter is what works. there are even jewitches calling on saints and jesus christ.
also, you can always create your own form of magic. i mean, instead of practicing hoodoo, do hoodoo-inspired folk magic. strip it from its judeo-christian influences, play around it and see if you can create something that is still workable. just, out of respect, dont call it hoodoo.
now, i understand where you're coming from. im in the same boat, yes, some times i wish folk magic would be devoid of these influences, but, if it were, then...it wouldnt be traditional, you know? but another attempt to neopaganize things.

a general question, i looked at all of the threads and it seems that most people mention hoodoo when it comes to folk magic, does anyone have any book recs on european folk magic? that is, folk magic without african or native american influences?
yes, the term european folk magic is very broad...i find bits here and there from the villages but, living in a country where secularism is very strong, it is hard to find much info. i would like to get inspired. :)
so, if anyone know of any good books...let me know. thanks

ps. ive heard of good things of a book called witches all by elizabeth pepper.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 08:51:13 pm by feriseeker »

Jenett

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2013, 10:08:57 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;108284
Off-topic: Thank you for the lovely collection of lightbulbs, which illuminate a number of widely-disparate things for me.

 
You are very welcome! (and everyone else who found it handy.)

I've been mulling over it for a while, and this particular question just gelled a bunch of things.
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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2013, 10:51:50 am »
Quote from: feriseeker;108367


a general question, i looked at all of the threads and it seems that most people mention hoodoo when it comes to folk magic, does anyone have any book recs on european folk magic? that is, folk magic without african or native american influences?
yes, the term european folk magic is very broad...i find bits here and there from the villages but, living in a country where secularism is very strong, it is hard to find much info. i would like to get inspired. :)
so, if anyone know of any good books...let me know. thanks


 
What are you looking for? Folklore or more of a "how to"?

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Re: Folk magic vs. Generic neopagan magic
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2013, 11:24:26 am »
Quote from: feriseeker;108367
that is not that big of a deal. you just separate this form of folk magic from your religion/spiritual path. besides, what matter is what works. there are even jewitches calling on saints and jesus christ.


In principle, I agree that it should be entirely possible to separate out your religious/spiritual worldview from your magical practice - I think chaos magic takes that kind of approach. In practice, it's a bit more complicated than that. For example, the opinions of my deities are in the mix, not just my own.

Quote from: feriseeker;108367
also, you can always create your own form of magic. i mean, instead of practicing hoodoo, do hoodoo-inspired folk magic. strip it from its judeo-christian influences, play around it and see if you can create something that is still workable. just, out of respect, dont call it hoodoo.
now, i understand where you're coming from. im in the same boat, yes, some times i wish folk magic would be devoid of these influences, but, if it were, then...it wouldnt be traditional, you know? but another attempt to neopaganize things.


I don't wish it was devoid of those influences. Then it wouldn't be what it is. (And if I did wish it was, I'd be engaging in cultural imperialism - IMO.) In my experience, it's most powerful as it is, rather than trying to 'strip' it of the cultural background that is part of what makes it effective. I know that many people have success doing that. I just don't think I would.

An online friend of mine is a Braucherei. He has strong issues with neopagans who try to take God out of their charms and spells. Braucherei is Christian magic - you can't un-Christian-ize it, because then it becomes entirely different. And arguably, it's less effective as a result. Hoodoo's a little bit more complicated, because there are a lot of influences in there, including non-Christian ones. But I do feel, personally, that I need to accept it as is, or not at all. Not least because that's when it's most effective. That's less difficult for me than it would be for a lot of Pagans, though. I have a strong relationship with several saints, and I'm not opposed to saying psalms, addressing the Christian god (at least in vague, gnostic terms), etc.
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