Saturday, October 18, 2014

Culture versus Magic

Readers! It's been a long time, hasn't it? As usual, I've been a busy bee with a variety of projects and tasks. Among other things, I've been learning a new language, learning to play guitar, working on my health goals, busy at my job, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!

In my magical practices, my routine stuff, the foundation of my efforts, was dropped early this year when I broke my wrist, but over the summer I picked it up, kicked it up, and managed to make it more into a daily thing, as it should be. The boost to my skills has been helpful in many cases, and making a daily practice an actual daily thing is pretty rewarding.. I still have some struggles with my practice overall, but it comes into play more due to a burden of variety.

See, modern magic has become such a melting pot of disparate sources, from a myriad of traditions and even cultures. To a wide extent, one can even say that many systems of magical practice are intrinsically linked with the cultures they arose from. Many of these, such as Quimbanda, Vodoun, Lukumi, Conjure, and more are religions in living cultures, but they do often have a sorcerous aspect to them.

Combined with the melting-pot nature of modern magic, that is where things get complicated...and seriously ugly. Especially with the African Traditional Religions (ATR's: Lukumi, Quimbanda, Vodoun, Santeria, etc), entering them in-depth requires initiation. To me, an outsider, this entails knowing and entering a community and culture that you may or may not have connections with, developing relationships with that group of people, then gaining training and eventually, initiation. This could take years, but then of course this is a living culture you're dealing with.

When it comes to the more magical paths, such as Conjure and other forms of folk magic, many of those factors come into play as well. Especially in regard to Conjure, even more factors complicate things.

With topics like folk magic, people get very defensive about their practices. Honestly, it's something I've never understood. Despite what some magical practitioners will claim, we're not Gods in any objective sense. Aside from the avoidance of sharing magical knowledge with people who will do the practices injustice, the defensiveness has never made much sense to me.

It's understandable when it involves a living least, if that culture has not abandoned the magical practice that's tied to it. For example, because so many in African American culture had moved away from it, Conjure wasn't so well known until certain folks researched it and started publishing more info about it. With Conjure's growing popularity, correspondence courses have come up, and more and more teachers have come into the public sphere.

Of course, Conjure is not the only form of folk magic out there, but it has so many aspects that make it extremely usable in addition to it's down-to-earth nature that it shares with most folk magic. And so it has generally been more popular than, for example, European folk magic. On top of that, information on has been more readily available thanks to the research of many people.

But it seems to me that this is where the ugly part comes in. Conjure is profitable. I would almost say that magic is more popular today than ever. Providing Conjure or general magical services and supplies can be pretty profitable as well. People paying for courses, supplies, books, workshops, and more bring in the  $$$.

And certain big names in modern Conjure thrive off of this, and so they get intensely defensive of their material. Sure, copyright should be protected...but if Conjure comes from a culture, how can you copyright that? In either event, the past couple years of witnessing things in Conjure online has been eye-opening in the worst way.

Near-endless drama. Big names in Conjure seem to want to control who can and cannot learn this incredibly useful and powerful magical system. Money exerts its influence, as usual, and this occult of personality brings about near-endless fighting. Just when you think it has died down, leaders in the community, along with their followers, come out with more psychosis-driven BS in their personal wars to "guard" what they feel is a part of them. Dossier files are kept on everyone, personal and credit card information is shared, individuals play both sides and act like they are hurt by having introduced person A to person B. 

Every now and then, I've witnessed some 50-something root worker or witch talk about how much it "hurts" to share information that they're lording over, or have that info pirated (which makes me question why they put it out there in the first place). I mean, really? It hurts you, psychologically damages you, to share information about some woo-woo that cannot be scientifically proven nor disproven? If THAT hurts you, you're a pretty fucking weak person to begin with. Sorry, some tough truth there, but truth it is. Radical idea here: Maybe you should calm down and shouldn't have put that information out there to begin with. Especially if it is stuff that *you* learned from other people that you've shared as though it was your own. You cannot sit there and be a gatekeeper of something that was not yours alone to begin with, and acting like a psychopath will not change that. And all that, over some unscientific woo. (Granted, I believe in that unscientific woo, but that's beside the point)

Because, like it or not, that's what it boils down to. In the eyes of skeptics, for example, all this drama and infighting is about...well, not much. That kind of puts it in perspective for me, and that's why I'm willing to share my knowledge in most cases. Sure, it's individual prerogative to protect one's original material, developed from one's own practice and research, and also to capitalize on it. But at least do so without the pretense that what you're guarding is some earth-shattering secret. People have delved into these things, researched and learned before, these "elders" are not the first nor the last to do that.

Recent events in the Conjure and the Witchcraft communities have had me thinking. Between the greedy, psychopathic "elders" of some of these communities and the intense culture warriors who turn practical magic into something about culture and finding yourself (and leaving out a lot of focus on results), for me it gives rise to a question: Is this really the price one has to pay to learn practical, effective sorcery? In modern day, that answer is no in most cases because of the sheer amount of info available online for free. But let's be real, learning magic *only* from the internet is a really half-assed way of learning it, and in my experience almost never results in a solid practitioner, in no small part thanks to the twisted, watered-down bullshit that dominates. Instead you get people who go on forums asking for handout info ("how i burn candle i very intrsteded i don't kno spelling nd grmmr") without doing their own research. Maybe because of laziness, or not knowing where to turn, or because they don't like to read for whatever reason. They will learn some of the shittiest theory (like only doing magic if it isn't for personal gain, the "Universal Threefold Law" that's total bullshit and in no way universal, results not being important, magic being all psychological, etc), and consequently end up being the most annoying, lowest common denominator.

Of course, writing that, I know I'm going to offend someone who has learned mostly from the intarwebz. But honestly, if I cared about every other person's opinion on the internet, especial if they're magical practitioners, I'd never write, so fuck it.

In a way, I see it as that usual suppression of magic, but through the guise of concern over culture and finding one's roots. I guess I just think that practical magic, while it can help, isn't necessarily the best way to get in touch with your origins, lineage, ancestry, or whatever else one uses to justify their own existence in this world.

If you feel you need to connect with your cultural roots, get into the culture, interact with the communities. Do all that, by all means. But it's not like you have to base your magical practice on that alone. Use it to work your will in the world and help shape your life into what you want it to be. THAT is where magic is strong.