by Victoria S. – Approved on 19 November, 2019
1. Discuss the importance and actions of the magico-religious function as it is seen within the context of general Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words)
Throughout documented history, we see evidence of magic in several different cultures. In Babylon, Egypt, and Greece, magicians were often astrologers. Some worked on predicting the future of king or country, and others performed astrology for an individual. The Egyptians took the documentation of astrology from the Babylonians and created a system. The Greek magicians then adopted this system. Throughout history, Astrology was generally learned from books and took many years of study, so the practitioners tended to be specialized magicians. (Luck 372-373).
In other cultures, magicians were seen exercising their magic in battles. In stories from the Norse, we see magic being used to offer the enemy armies to Odin to ensure success in the battle (McCoy “Gungnir”). We also see druids and druidesses performing magic in defense of the Isle of Anglesey “with hands uplifted, invoking the gods, and pouring forth horrible imprecations” (Tacitus Loc. 5632).
In Ancient Greece, we also have a lot of evidence of curse tablets with the purpose of binding. These rituals included incantations and the use of images made of wax (Graf 118).
We also see some less violent and more positive uses of magic through the healing and improvement of crops. We have the records of a freeman, C. Furious Chresimus, who was accused of using magic to increase the productivity of his fields. Chresimus defended himself by saying that he worked harder than his neighbors (Graf 62-65). The fact that the accusation was made means that the act of magic was considered possible.
In the book “Lacnunga,” there are many different Anglo-Saxon charms, including one to fight a sudden stitch and the Nine Herbs Charm to heal illness (Grattan). These charms are Christianized, but they are believed to be from pre-Christian time.
Overall, magic was not generally encouraged, but it was accepted when it was in-line with the religion of the state. When Christianity came to Rome and England, the charms and curses continued to be used but were either hidden or adapted for the new religion.
2. Identify the terms used within one Indo-European language to identify ‘magic’ and ‘magician’ examining what these terms indicate about the position of the magician in that society and the practice of his or her art. (minimum 100 words)
Magic is a complicated topic in the ancient world. In Arcana Mundi, Georg Luck points out that “one person’s religion may be another person’s magic.” We can see situations in the Bible where the stories describe miracles that would have been called magic if they were done by someone else. For example, Moses’ battle with the Magicians of the Pharisee’s court could easily be a battle between two sets of magicians (Luck 177-178).
There are a number of different words that were used for Magic in the Greek culture. The word phármakon is often used to refer to good magic. Helen uses a phármakon for healing. The herbs that undo Circe’s transformations in the Odyssey are also referred to as phármakon. The word also refers to medicine. Epaoidé is also used to refer to magic in both positive and negative perspectives (Graf 28-29).
The word mágos, the basis for our modern word magic, originated from Persia and was used to refer to the priests. These priests were revered in their homeland, and often considered experts in their art. Over time, mágos became used for magicians in Ancient Greece (Graf 34).
Luck describes two types of magical work – theurgical and goetic operations. Theurgical magic is magic that is used in a religious context – either for some religious purpose or with the “revelation of a religious character.” Luck does point out that the actual procedures of Theurgical practices are similar to that of “vulgar magic.” Goetic magic, also called “vulgar magic,” is magic that is done outside of a religious sphere. Interestingly, philosophers who were interested in magic say that they were doing theurgical magic, while the lower classes did goetic magic (Luck 51-52).
Many Greek cities created laws against “black” magic, and Plato proposed harsh punishments for those practicing magic outside of the polis. There are, however, a large number of curse tablets found near Athens, so the people were still doing magic, even if it was considered illegal (Graf 25).
It seems that magic that was done in a religious context was not considered “magic” and was acceptable. In the defense of Apuleius, he mentions that many actions could be considered magic but are not necessarily so. These actions include the making of offerings, making a sacrifice, praying silently, and writing a wish or desire on a statue (Graf 82). All of these are also actions that are mentioned as part of rituals in the various documents that we have on magic.
From these statements, we can suggest that the magicians of Ancient Greece were honored if they worked within the religion of the state, but had to work in the shadows if they were outside of that.
3. Discuss the existence and relative function of trance-journey magic within at least one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words)
Trance journey is common in Anglo-Saxon magic. In A Handbook of Saxon Sorcery & Magic, Albertsson talks about how some wyrdworkers use trance or “traveling ‘between the worlds’” to communicate with spirits. The “wiglere” are magicians who induce trance through a process called “seething” in order to gather information through communing with spirits or through the Wyrd (Albertsson Loc. 3903).
This use of trance for information gathering is also seen in the Norse histories. Gundarsson discusses the use of trance by the völvur to reach out to the spirits in the Otherworld through the practice of seidr (Spae-Craft, Seiðr, and Shamanism).
In modern practices, we find magicians using trance for journeying through these practices as well as some modern interpretations of shamanism and trance-work.
4. Discuss the place of alphabetic symbolism as part of the symbolism of magical practice within one Indo-European culture. (minimum 150 words)
The ancient Druids used their writing system, Ogham, in divination. The symbols of the Ogham were engraved on yew rods, and the rods were drawn to determine the Omen. This method was used to find people or to determine the route that invaders may take (MacCulloch 248).
The surviving Ogham inscriptions are made up of names and determination of land ownership, so we know that the writing was also used in a more mundane fashion. However, we have references of people using Ogham for a variety of mundane and magical uses (McEwan).
There are also some references of Ogham being used in magical contexts. For example, the tale of the Cattle Raid of Cooley tells us about how Cúchulainn left a wooden hoop, on which he had carved Ogham, as a warning for the army of Connacht (Ellison 114).
Within today’s practice of the Celtic Hearth Culture, Ogham is often used in divination and magical workings. Ian Corrigan has shared a way of making sigils using the Fionn’s Window (Corrigan 236-237). The Fionn’s Window is a symbol that comes from the Book of Ballymote.
5. Discuss three key magical techniques or symbols from one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words each)
In the Anglo-Saxon culture, magic is used in a variety of ways. Among other methods, they used runes, verbal spells, and herbcraft.
The runic letters have been evidenced on physical tablets as well as through the stories that we have remaining. The three rune poems have survived. Each rune poem provides different ways of looking at the meaning of the runes from the Icelandic, Norwegian, and Anglo-Saxon cultures. Tacticus also described the procedure of casting logs by marking symbols on slips of wood and casting them before reading the meanings of the casting. While we don’t have any evidence that these markings are the same as the various Futhorc symbol sets that we are aware of, we do see that the casting of lots with symbols is historical. Today’s Anglo-Saxon magicians will often use the Anglo-Saxon runes for divination (Albertsson Loc. 1006 – 1037).
Anglo-Saxon magicians will also use galdor, or spoken spells, as part of their workings. A magician who specializes in this form of spells is called a “galdre.” Most of the verbal charms that we still have are from the ninth and eleventh centuries. Early galdor spells were done in a narrative style. The spells use mythologically-related stories to describe what should happen. For example, in the Nine Herbs Charm, there is a story about Woden carving runes into some slips of wood and throwing them at a serpent. The serpent, representing the disease, then shatters into multiple pieces. This story describes what will happen to the disease as a result of this spell. In addition, linguistic techniques such as alliteration and rhyme were used in the original Anglo-Saxon charms that we still have. (Albertsson Loc. 2978 – 3280)
The last of the three Anglo-Saxon methods that I’m discussing is the use of herbs, or Wortcunning. Wortcunning was used both in herbal magic and in healing. In fact, the early Saxons didn’t really differentiate between these two uses. Wortcunning could be used for prosperity, empowerment, protection, or healing. We have stories that show herbs being used in flying ointments and love potions. The Saxons viewed herbs as entities with their own awareness. In the Nine Herbs Charm, the poem addresses each of the herbs as if they could hear the poet and as if they have the ability to take action (Albertsson Loc. 3338 – 3355). Today, magicians will often work with plants and plant spirits to assist in their magic.
6. Discuss the relative place and methodologies of magic within your personal religious/spiritual practice. (minimum 100 words)
Much of my practice is focused on building relationships with the various spirits and beings with whom I work. To build these relationships, I make offerings at various times throughout the week – sometimes at my altar, and sometimes outside.
I have started doing a daily divination practice, where I ask for guidance to help me through that day. I am making a record of the divination so that I can go back and see if any specific messages were trending or repeating.
When I have a specific need, I also create a magical working for that need. For example, when I was job hunting, I did a series of candle spells to help attract the right opportunities for me and to help me notice those opportunities.
1. Healing Work – Provide and explain one example of healing magic from an Indo-European culture, and write an ADF-style healing working based on that example. (min. 150 words for example explanation)
The Anglo-Saxon charms include a Charm against Swelling. This charm uses a technique called counting (Young). In this technique, the spell starts with a larger number and reduces it down to smaller numbers until the numbers are finally reduced down to zero. In the Anglo-Saxon charm, the caster starts at the number nine and reduces down to ‘disappear’ the focus of the charm at the end of the charm. The Romans also used a charm against malaria that used a similar reduction technique, starting with the word “abracadabra.” I have used a similar approach in this spell created to help get rid of the common cold. Since the cold causes a lot of fluid buildup, I have leveraged the association of the sea with Njord. Njord was known to have nine mothers, but very little else is known about Him from the lore. I have worked with him and have my own personal gnosis that leads me to believe that He is appropriate to work with for this spell.
This spell is designed to help reduce the liquid generated by the common cold and reduce it to nothing.
Nine was the number of Njord’s Mothers
Nine is the number of waves of water,
Then the nine becomes eight
And the eight becomes seven,
Then the seven becomes six,
The six become five,
The five become four,
The four become three,
The three become two,
The two become one,
The one becomes nothing,
And the fluid is gone.
2. Warding Work – Provide and explain one example of warding or protection magic from an Indo-European culture, and write an ADF-style warding working based on that example. (min. 150 words for example explanation)
The “Sith Galdor” charm was found in an eleventh-century manuscript. This chant was used by travelers to protect them in at the beginning of a journey. The version that I used comes from a re-interpretations of the chant by Diana Paxson in her book “Trance-Portation” (Paxson loc. 487). It is not a surprise that the chant has a Christian aspect as it was found in an eleventh-century manuscript. The charm uses the image of a sphere – a typical shape used by modern magicians for protection. The charm first asks God to protect them from “horrors that haunt the night,” as well as injury and insects.
The word “Sig-“ is an old English word for victory. The charm then calls for victory with word and work, as well as with magic – with “galdor.”
The charm that I have created below adapts this chant for modern travel by plane and working with current polytheistic deities instead of the Christian God. Keeping with the Anglo-Saxon nature of the charm, I have rewritten this chant for Woden, the wandering Old Man, to protect me as I travel by plane for work.
[With your finger or a wand, draw a circle around you. Imagine a sphere, not a circle.]
With this sphere, I guard me round,
By Woden’s will, protection around.
Against the horrors of fear and flight,
Against crying child and restless night,
Against shared ills and flu,
And all the things we hate to do.
Sig-galdor I chant, a sig-rod is my stay,
Work-sig, word-sig ward today.
No weather or turbulence threaten me,
Protected from ills will I be.
I bid Woden, protection give,
Guarded so, I shall live.
3. Purification Work – Provide and explain one example of purification magic from an Indo-European culture, and write an ADF-style purification working based on that example. (min. 150 words for example explanation)
In Germany, there was a tradition of “Carrying Out Death.” During the late Winter/early Spring, young people create a puppet or doll of twigs and cast-off clothing and cloth. The children or young people would then carry the doll out of the village or town and cast the doll into the water, thus purifying the village and protecting it from sickness and disease. In Bohemia, the doll is burned instead of drowned (Frazer 286-288). This ritual leverages the use of a poppet representing sickness to be removed from the village. They take cast-off items and turn them into offerings that are drowned or burned rather than re-using the material.
I’ve adapted this ritual to one that can be used to protect a household from sickness or disease. It can also be used to take disease out of a household where it exists. In this ritual, you create a doll that represents the household. Since it can be challenging to get twigs in urban environments, I have taken inspiration from hoodoo practices and create a poppet of cloth, stuffing it with cast-offs from the household. The poppet could be drowned in a body of water, burned in a fire, or (taking inspiration from hoodoo again) taken to a crossroads far away from the home to remove the negative energy from the home.
Do this spell at the end of Winter in your local region.
For this spell, you will need to craft a rough doll to represent sickness that will be removed from the household. You can create this doll from straw, sticks, cloth, or whatever material you can obtain. Dress the doll with some cast-offs or items from the household that you want to get rid of, or that symbolizes sickness (tissues are a great idea).
Determine how you will get rid of the doll. If there is a stream of moving water near you, that might work. Otherwise, you can burn the doll on the edge of your land or property, or remove it to a crossroad far away from you.
Once you have created your doll and determine how you will get rid of it, open your sacred space. Hold the doll in front of you and tie a black thread or yarn around the doll. See death and sickness being trapped in the doll. Now take the doll to where you will get rid of it, chanting the following as you go:
“We carry Death out of the home,
The New Year we welcome in.
Dear Spring, we bid you welcome,
Green Grass, we bid you welcome.”
(adapted from Frazer 288)
Discard the doll as you have previously determined. Once it is drowned, burned, or tossed into the crossroads, turn your back on it and return home. As you return, chant the following:
“We have carried death out of the home,
We welcome health and the New Year.”
Return to your altar and close your sacred space.
4. Introspection – Having done the above work, provide detail of your understanding of why self-knowledge and introspection are critical for working with magic and how you intend to pursue your own course of self-understanding. (min. 350 words)
Self-knowledge and introspection are critical to working magic. In the creation and casting of a spell, we need to know why we’re doing the spell and what the desired outcome is. We also need to make sure that we are focusing on the desired outcome. If, for instance, I’m working a spell to find a new job, but I’m currently depressed and focusing on how bad my current job is, I am unlikely to find an excellent new job. I may find a new job, but it will likely be a bad one.
To understand my state of mind as I’m doing magic, I need to be able to understand myself and how my mind works. For example, I know that listening to upbeat music can help to lift my mood and refocus my attention in a more positive direction. By understanding how I can alter my mood, change my focus, and focus my attention, I can make the magic more robust and intentional.
In the past, when I have worked magic, I found that I need to focus on the outcome, not on all the potential issues, or even what the process to get to the outcome is, to have the spell work. If I focus on the process, I may find myself doing the work, but the outcome is no more assured. Understanding myself also helps to make sure that I’m asking for the right things. When I’m doing a spell for a new job, for example, what am I looking for? What kinds of things or situations will make me happy? What are the critical components for that next job? By taking the time to understand these things, I can craft a spell that focuses on what I want and need.
My personal work into self-knowledge and introspection didn’t result from my interest in magic but from an interest in ridding myself of depression. It started as a focus on understanding why I was depressed and what kinds of things would help me to feel better. I was able to find some bandaids, but the real understanding came after I started seeing a therapist. As I continue down this path, I continue to see the therapist occasionally as well as invest time into podcasts and books that talk about the human psyche and how we work – both magical and not.
I don’t think that we ever totally understand ourselves, or at least that I won’t ever fully understand myself, as I’m changing and adapting as I discover more about who I am and what I need.
Albertsson, Alaric. A Handbook of Saxon Sorcery & Magic: Wyrdworking, Rune Craft, Divination & Wortcunning. Kindle ed., Llewellyn Publications, 2017.
“The Book of Ballymote.” Edited by Robert Atkinson, Book of Ballymote, NY: AMS Press, http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/celtic/jce/ballymote.html.
Corrigan, Ian. Sacred Fire, Holy Well: a Druid’s Grimoire of Lore, Worship & Magic. ADF Publishing, 2009.
Ellison, Robert Lee. Ogham: the Secret Language of the Druids. Kindle ed., ADF Publishing, 2007.
Frazer, J. G. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Kindle ed., Enhanced Media, 2017.
Graf, Fritz. Magic in the Ancient World. Translated by Franklin Philip, 5th Printing ed., Harvard University Press, 2002.
Grattan, J. H. “Three Anglo-Saxon Charms from the ‘Lacnunga.’” The Modern Language Review, vol. 22, no. 1, Jan. 1927, pp. 1–6., http://www.jstor.org/stable/3714060.
Gundarsson, Kveldúlfr. “Spae-Craft, Seiðr, and Shamanism.” Hrafnar, hrafnar.org/articles/kveldulf/spaecraft/.
Luck, Georg. Arcana Mundi Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts. 2nd ed., Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
MacCulloch, J.A. “The Religion of the Ancient Celts.” The Religion of the Ancient Celts Index, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/rac/.
McEwan, Emily. “The Ogham Alphabet.” Gaelic.co, 25 Apr. 2018, gaelic.co/ogham/.
Paxson, Diana L. Trance-Portation: Learning to Navigate the Inner World. Kindle ed., Weiser Books, 2008.
Tacitus, Cornelius. The Complete Works of Tacitus. Digireads, 2013.
Young, Karl. “Seven Anglo-Saxon Charms .” Karl Young Home Page, http://www.thing.net/~grist/ld/young/ky-chrm.htm.