THE MEANING OF MAGIC

 

 

THE MEANING OF MAGIC.

 

We were at this party 

in one of those towering, modern apartment blocks,

and this girl told me she’d tell me

the Meaning of Magic.

Just then

someone started shouting,

“Quick! Come and see! U.F.O.’s!”

 so everyone ran to the windows

                                          to look.

Sure enough, there they were,

half a dozen flying saucers,

 shimmering

and swooping and looping in the sky above,

illuminated from below

by the city lights.

 

It was an awesome sight,

but, needless to say,

elsewhere military officials frowned

upon this “violation of the sovereignty

of our national airspace”,

and the next thing you know

missiles with American flags on them

were skipping and scudding their way towards us

from somewhere over the horizon.

 

One of the missiles

hit the base of the building

and it started to totter and tilt

with a terrible groaning of mangling metal

and crepitating concrete.

Breathlessly I braced myself

against the window frame

so I wouldn’t fall out,

and watched the land lean inexorably ever closer,

hoping

that the building wouldn’t totally topple over.

 

I found myself wondering

if I might somehow survive,

by one of those billion to one chances

you read about.

You know,

cradled in a cocoon

of twisted pipes and girders,

to be dug up days later

by amazed rescue workers.

  I also wondered how much this was going to hurt.

 

Finally, as the scene faded to black,

I realised, sadly,

that I never did get to learn

the Meaning of Magic.

 ********

*****************

 

Book review:

“GRIMOIRES- A History of Magic Books” by Owen Davies (Oxford Uni Press 2009)

 

“A book of magic is also a magical book”

 

A Grimoire is in essence a grammar of magic,

 

that is to say, it is literally a spell-book, teaching the ABC’s of magical proceedure.

While most of the spells, rituals & charms that have comprised the human magical tradition have traditionally been passed down orally, nontheless the grimoire also has a long tradition. The urge to commit magical knowledge to writing goes back to the cuniform clay tablets of ancient Sumer, and continues to this day with the mass publication of pulp primers for teen wannabe-wiccans and ambitious, go-getting third world hustlers.

As Davies observes, it has never been easier to acquire these “forbidden” texts. In an Age where child pornography and instructions for making plastic explosives or amphetamines are readily accessible via the glories of the internet, mere books of “occult” knowledge seem quaint and innocuous. Yet once upon a time, mere possession of many of the texts here mentioned would have been enough to condemn you to the stake and a fiery end.

Why did the medieval Christian Church fear such books? Essentially it was a matter of power and magical control. Religion and Magic are essentially the same thing. Religion is merely the State taking control of the magical process for its own ends.

This can be seen most clearly perhaps with the Roman State religion, essentially organised paganism, the state appointed priests conducting religious rituals on the states behalf. The Romans consistently banned and punished ‘renegade’ cults and free-lance magicians who operated for the benefit of mere individuals. Even Astrologers were frequently banished in purges, the state religious apparatus wishing to keep control of all augaries and prognostications. Don’t want any alternate realities popping up do we?

The Christian religion, after having been adopted by Constantine, became heir to the Roman state religion and its practises.  

 

Most of the more famous (or infamous.) renaissance and enlightenment era Grimoires give themselves an origin myth, creating a dubious heritage laying claim to great antiquity to enchance the authority of the books  claims. Most of these claims upon examination have proved to be spurious. Yet much of the content of these grimoires does indeed have an ancient lineage. Grimoires tend to be hotch-potch collections from different sources, and these sources often derive back to the ancient world.

Davies traces the European grimoire traditions back to the age of the Ptolemies and the library of Alexandria. There a great cultural cross-fertilization took place, between Egyptian, Greek, Jewish and Chaldean traditions. The Gnostic cults grew out of this milleau, and later had great influence on both European and Arabic magical thinking.

Its interesting also to read in this book how another great cross-fertilization of magical traditions occurred in the new world, when black slaves mixed European occult traditions with their own African traditions. The bizarre, top-hatted figure of Baron Samedi in Voodoo perhaps best symbolises this mixing of traditions.

Who knows what the Grimoires of tomorrow will look like.Perhaps some indication can be drawn from the little history of the Necronomicon, or, as it is sometimes called, “The Book of the Names of the Dead”.

Originally, of course, the Necronomicon did not exist at all, except as a figment of horror-novelist H.P. Lovecraft’s unspeakably lurid imagination. Fragmentary excerpts appeared in his Cthulu Mythos related short stories. Like the best of his stories, the “horror” of these excerpts lay largely in what was not said. That expressive trail of dots fading off…

In time Lovecrafts acolytes added to the Mythos, with further referances to the non-existant book. Of course interested readers often asked after the book that did not exist.

Like some unbending economic law, demand created supply and

eventually, sometime in the seventies as I recall, someone called Simon, put out “the first published edition of the Necromicon since Olaus Wormius.” Of course, it was a magnificent hoax. Interestingly much of this text was apparently based on recent archeological finds in Sumer, now modern Iraq. Translated cuniform rituals and so forth.

So now naïve young people can order the Necronomicon over the internet and invoke once more the ancient Sumerian Gods, who have lain neglected in the desert dust all these millenia.Hopefully they will be appropriately grateful for the attention.

The moral seems to be; All Grimoires are forgeries, and all of them are real.

Don’t you know its magic?

**************

The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet

and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists.

If that don’t beat all.

****************

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~ by reverendhellfire on December 19, 2010.

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