There was no need for a term like ‘magical thinking’
in the Golden Age of Man...
There was only genuine everyday magic and mysticism.
Children were not mocked or scolded in those days
for singing to the rain or talking to the wind.
PART 1: THE TRADITION OF MAGIC
Traditional “magic”, often spelled “magick” to differentiate it from stage magic or prestidigitation, has been around from the earliest days of tribal man and as author Daniel Pinchbeck contends, magic is still “afoot in the world” today.
(The words sorcery and wizardry are also commonly and incorrectly used, especially within the fictional Harry Potter lexicon and the world of Dungeons and Dragons, though the actual historical usage of these particular terms generally applies to those working in the more scientific arena of alchemy rather than to those who practiced the art of magic.)
But, what exactly is “real magic”? There is much debate as to the true essence of magic, but a general consensus of opinion is that it is the process of transforming energy into physical reality, and as writer and shaman Alan Moore theorizes, a form of communication with the universe...
"I tend to see magic, in a way, as a kind of language. I think, unsurprisingly, the gods of magic ARE the gods of language. And magic is, in a sense, a kind of language with which to read the universe. It’s a language of symbols with which you can extract meaning from the most mundane things. And in fact it’s that aspect of magic that I find myself attracted to."
Magic has been a part of the story of mankind from its earliest days, found in the symbols, pictures and language of ancient tribes and societies. If we are to cast any light on the origins of magical thought we have to go down into the darkness, deep into the ancient caves and look upon the prehistoric cave paintings. There we find recorded the images drawn by early humans. When we go down into those caves today with our floodlights we see them as works of art. But those ancient “artists”, deep in the earth, working by the dancing light of their fires, were really creating works of magic.
These ancient drawings were of the animals that the early humans not only hunted as food, but also venerated as spirits, and their presence of in the land meant the difference between life and death to the people. In time these early humans came to associate the appearance of these animals with the changing of the seasons, and in time the seasons with the movements of the Sun and the Moon and with this association came the awareness of the cycles of Nature. Before long early humans began to comprehend that there was something big, something “magical” going on and with that awareness came a desire to be a part of and to perhaps be able to recreate (and even control) that magic.
In reverence of Nature’s wonders the ancients told stories and painted pictures of the strange, mystical events they experienced and they sang and danced in celebration of these wonders. More importantly, in creating this art of myth and legend, as expressed within ritual, they sought to create a “language” through which they might be able to communicate with these magical forces of Nature, in much the same way that the shaman would later be responsible for doing for the tribe.
There is some confusion as to what magic actually is. I think this can be cleared up if you just look at the very earliest descriptions of magic. Magic in its earliest form is often referred to as “the art”. I believe this is completely literal. I believe that magic is art and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness. The very language about magic seems to be talking as much about writing or art as it is about supernatural events. A grimmoir for example, the book of spells is simply a fancy way of saying grammar. Indeed, to cast a spell, is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness. And I believe that this is why an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world that you are likely to see to a Shaman.
~ Alan Moore ~
The shaman's goal, as is the magician's, is to align themselves with the forces of Nature and of Spirit that we can neither understand, nor control, from the perspective of our fragil reality in the material world. The shaman must be able to live astride two worlds; the world of perceived reality and the world of intuitive reality. The shaman actualizes this duality of existence by venturing into what is called the "shamanic state of consciousness" or the "shamanic ecstasy" and it is during these cosmic journeys that the shaman will travel to other spiritual realms, encountering the people, animals and spirits that inhabit the mystical realms of the Universe and in doing so, the shaman creates an act of magic within the boundaries of these two realities, much as the magician does within the rituals of magic.
Part 2: The Principles of Magic
Part 3: The Science of Magic