Witchcraft and Prayer

Jrohr states that: "Magick to a witch is the same thing as prayer to a Christian." Then Jrohr goes on to say "A witch would use magick in the form of a spell or a circle to focus the power of mind that is within us all."

mMgick is not the same thing as prayer! Prayer is not used to focus the power of mind that is within us all. Prayer is sent to outside forces. The benefits are attributed to whatever god or gods the supplicant believes in. It is also used without much hope of success. It is considered "God's will",no matter whether your god is benevolent or a zealous tyrant. I'm speaking in general about religions, not just Christianity.

If a ritual (such as the one's described) were being used to augment the psychic abilities of us all, given that they exist, I fail to see in what way it would be related to prayer, religion, or any sort of spirituality.

If a spell or circle were being used to achieve the desired results by calling on gods or goddesses in a carefully proscribed way, intending to enforce their aid, willing or not, to enforce you will, I would not call that prayer either.

I have read The Mists of Avalon. I thought it was a very interesting book, both for her ideas on religion and feminism. I think it helps make witchcraft very attractive as a religion. But is it really a religion? Is it a science based on natural abilities? What is the role of magick in witchcraft?

Many people object to witchcraft from a religious point of view. It doesn't fit their beliefs or cultural biases. Others object to it from a scientific point of view because they don't believe in magick. Is a belief in magick necessary to embrace witchcraft as a religion? Is a belief in religion (i.e. faith, mysticism, enlightenment) necessary for the practice of the craft (magick)?

What the Occult is (or may be)

As a practicing witch (and I do need the practice!) I simply cannot allow a charge (as I saw it) of Satanism to go unanswered. I don't know if the guy was trying to be funny or what, but it did get some discussion going, so that's something.

What I was trying to get at (reading it back) was just how little the occult has to do with religion. Most of the occult is tied up in religious beliefs, true, but then so was most of science back before the Renaissance and Copernicus. Before then, the greatest.

If we begin to treat the occult the same way we would treat investigations into physics or biology, then we Parapsychologists are studying occult and psychic phenomena, and coming up with some very interesting results. True, they have not been able to definitively prove or disprove anything, but please keep in mind that they are working under a tremendous social attitude that "there's some reasonable explanation for all of this." I think, that given the nature of this particular conference, we can make the assumption that occult and psychic phenomena exist, and can be worked with at a practical level, and there for we can go from there. (Something I picked up from religion class, to keep people from nit-picking over minutiae, you list your assumptions at the top of the page.)

So there we are. The occult exists. The next step is to come up with a satisfactory definition. To me, the occult consists of the entire set of ritual and ritualized behaviors intended to promote a particular psychic or psychological result. This can range from ritual magick (Beltane gatherings and the Catholic mass) to personal rituals intended to help you get through an ordeal (sports figures preparing to go into a game, or me preparing to receive a shot.). to receive a shot). These rituals (for lack of a better word, forgive) result in a change in state, of the people involve as well as possibly a d and possibly in the world around (if such was the intent.)

That may not satisfy you. Remember that at this stage, definitions are a highly personal thing, rather like your own personal philosophy. I also write this under trying circumstances (a friend is loudly championing her views as I type).

A word about bookstores. Remember, bookstores cater to the public, and try to keep anything controversial off the shelves. Unless they are occult bookstores, do not trust the subject headings. Be careful what you buy. Flub and Bunnies, Shirley McLaine is next to The Necronomicon is next to 1,400 Ways to Read Your Future in an Ordinary Deck of Playing Cards is next to — You get my meaning. Your best bet is to find a book someone else has read and liked and to special order it. It may be more expensive, but you know what you are getting.

It seems that throughout history different words have been given meanings that are not really what they mean. The word "occult" is one of them. The word as Jezebel pointed out means "hidden" or "secret". In fact early Christianity was an "occult religion" (I find it interesting and sad that a religion that was so persecuted in its infancy has turned around and in its power persecuted other victim of bad press. The word "witch" and "faggot" are other examples. Did you ever wonder where that word fag come from? Well its because they used to burn the homosexuals before that witches (hence "flaming faggot") To a Brit the word means " a small thatch of kindling" I could go on but I will spare you all. Please keep in mind that language is a powerful thing.

Enough of my babblings end note. I personally hope for the day when people can reach a level of open mindedness that no positive religion must be hidden or secret and must spend all this time and energy saying what they are not.

By the way speaking as a future librarian, most bookstores need to have an intensive course in cataloging. I, who can find my way around Watson with no problem get lost at Town Criers!


I hope this helps to clarify a few points. Magick to a witch is basically the same thing as prayer is a christian again evidence of language. A witch would use magick in the form of a spell or circle to focus the power of the mind that is within us all. For example I have an object that when I feel some real negative energy I concentrate that energy and "put" it into the object then I ground out the object, another example is the burning of Love letters after the relationship has gone away. This is a way of purging the focusing. What I want to stress is that Wicca is the religion and witchcraft is the practice. A good book to read is Marion Zimmer Bradleys The Mists of Avalon. It is basically a retelling of the Arthurian Legend though the eyes of the women. It gives a good feel of the spirit of Wicca and its conflict with the church (notice I said church not Christ) In fact Morgaine says: "I have no quarrel with the Christ only his priests." Please keep in mind that the book descriptions of the rituals are what it might have been like in the 6th century Witches celebrate the holidays in a more modern manner. Just as the Christians celebrate edited versions of the original mass.

What Occult is

I don't think that I can leave Jezebel's basic assumptions unchallenged. I don't think that they are the minutiae but rather the basics of this discussion.

I still think that you are stirring religion, mysticism, parapsychology, and magick into one large cauldron of ideas and beliefs. It's rather more clear to me that your definition of "occult" is closer to my definition of magick. I'm not at all sure that you can give magick the categorization of a science.

Let's start with parapsychology. Parapsychologists do not consider their field as having anything to do with the occult. They feel the same way about being confused with magick or witchcraft (or ufology or cryptozoology or fortune-telling, etc.) as witches do about being confused with Satanists. They're having a difficult enough time being accepted as a legitimate science as it is, due to the subjective and elusive nature of "psi" and it's inability to be reconciled with what we know to be true of "normal"

Their are three main areas of paranormal study. Informational psi (telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, retro-cognition), expressive psi (psychokinesis and related effects) and survival-related experiences. These are rather arbitrary divisions since it is often impossible to determine which category of psi may be in effect.

If we have the given that people have psi experiences in all cultures and that they are a common and normal part of human experience although difficult to understand, it still requires a large conceptual leap to conclude that one could influence their world through the use of magick or ritual.

Witchcraft also has much to do with religion. Many religions have promoted and accepted the inborn psi abilities of people, often without the trappings or belief system associated with ritual magick. In fact, one anthropological division made between magick and religion is the idea that religions use Prayer (politely asking the god or gods to intercede on their behalf) and magick uses ritual designed to coerce or persuade the gods to act (or, if you prefer, the universe to change itself to suit you.) Either way, both of these things are quite different from the idea that people can sometimes know or do things in ways that are as yet inexplicable, but will someday be known.

If you accept the presence of psi as an innate human ability, it still doesn't prove the existence of any god or gods, the efficacy of magick or magickal laws or rules. It doesn't justify one belief system over any others although I can understand the temptation to point to PK and say, "See, people can move things with their minds, therefore magick works." What would be a good example of proof that their is something to "the craft" in witchcraft? I don't know. Maybe Jezebel or Jrohr can answer that. Does the acceptance of the existence of magick justify a belief in witchcraft as a religion? I don't think so. I think that is an entirely different concept. If witchcraft is a religion at all, a belief in magick would just be another part of that religion, although it may be necessary to it.

What Do We Worship?

No, we do not worship Satan! The occult (the word means "hidden") was a perfectly legitimate field of study among the Magi before and during the Renaissance. But with the birth of "science", notably physics and chemistry (from alchemy), the study of the occult fell into disfavor because it couldn't be "proved" in the same way that the "hard" sciences can. Remember, the driving quest of the alchemists was to discover how to turn lead into gold. That is now possible. It's not easy, but it's now possible. the study of the occult has been revived and renamed "parapsychology", and there are serious, documented cases of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, the existence of ghosts, etc. So there is some scientific (unless you don't consider psychology to be science) evidence of "supernatural" phenomena, which may prove to be a set of very natural occurrences after all.

If you are studying the occult as a non-scientist, you are probably studying ways in which a person can expand her own psychic powers. Religion has little to do with it! Admittedly, the Christian church attempts to discourage people from experimenting, but the Jewish tradition has a splendid tradition of occult study in the Caballah. It is important to realize that the occult is a tool by which many things can be accomplished. The occult is not evil in and of itself! A hypodermic needle, for instance, can cause great harm, by being used to inject poison or intravenous drugs (and helping the spread of such diseases as hepatitis and AIDS.) But a needle can also be used to inject vaccines, and antibiotics, and none considers banning needles simply because of the potential harm they can "do". The same is true of the occult. It is not the fact of its use that is important, it is rather the use to which it is put. An evil action is an evil action, whether it is by spell or by physical means. The Wiccans have but one law: An it harm none, do as you will. The Wiccans are also great users of positive magick.

For a good, non religious look at the occult and its potential, I suggest Marian Weinstein's book Positive Magic. I found it at Adventure here in Lawrence, and I understand it can also be gotten through Lamplighter Books.

What is the "Occult"?

I'm sorry, Jezebel, but your reply to "guest" left me a bit confused. Are you trying to define occult ,or defend and rationalize belief in the paranormal, or give a discourse on the ethics of the use of ritual magick?

It seems to me that there are several issues here (admittedly, none of which have anything to do with devil worship). "Occult" is a very catch-all term. It seems to have been used for everything from The Necronomicon to Shirley McClaine. (Have you ever looked in the "occult section" of your local bookstore?")

I’d really be interested in seeing more conversation on these subjects.


Well, Melisande beat me to it — I too felt that Jezebel had magick and the occult confused. The occult concerns those forces/phenomena not explained by science (if/when they are explained they won't be "hidden" anymore, right?). Magick is the ritual manipulation or use of these forces. Psi is a group of related forces (which may or may not be used in a magickal sense). Religion is not necessarily associated with any of the above. however, belief in "supernatural" forces is just that, belief, and if you believe that when you practice magick, you affect people/the world about you, then you are accepting belief in these "supernatural" forces. I feel that this belief presupposes a "religion" of sorts, i.e. if you hold an unfounded belief (not supported by science) then you have "faith" and "faith" begets "religion". So, can there be such a thing as an atheistic witch?

Go ahead, blast away. This was intended to provoke some comment! All of the above represent my own opinions which are subject to change without notice.


There is a world of difference between a little inspection and outright dissection. It seems to me that people must have "proof" in order for something to be considered valid. That is the point that I am trying to get across. Education is a good tool for showing people every side of an issue. But if their faith (not some half-baked preacher) tells them that something is wrong or right that also is valid. The issue is freedom of choice (sound familiar?) Although this person may feel one way, he/she has no right to impose that on another person. The country that we live in is based on the separation of church and state. Period. Is a person truly believes that witches are evil and after been presented with our point of view still believes this that is his right. But that person does not have the right to take the freedom from another person I guess that what i am trying to say in a long-winded fashion is tolerance is needed on both parties. Why can't we live and let live as long as there is no harm being done.

Religion vs Prayer vs Magick

I, and several other posters, have thus far been playing in the shallows of this interest area; I'm not the only one who's been avoiding the deeper issues here set afloat. I understand the relevance of getting the basics out in the open, where we may discuss them; I admire honest curiosity; and I respect most sincerely the desire to understand each other's points of view. So: All right, Melisande! I'll swim out to meet your questions trusting to some of that faith in Providence that I'll not stray too far off the course of logic nor yet be caught by the undertow of over-reaction. But help me out if I start to stray too far from solid ground, hey?

Jrohr is quite right in pointing out that language is a powerful tool. It can be a powerful nuisance also, at times. I doubt that any two or three of us share precisely the same definitions — both in denotation and connotation — for any randomly chosen set of words. That is in the nature of human thought, and thus of human language; and I think it is no bad thing, in itself. I would find it very boring to see the world always through the same eyes as everyone else, with no more sudden surprises nor the delicious strangeness of another's way of seeing. I've always preferred predictability in moderate doses only. Generally our definitions have enough common ground that we can communicate well enough; when we fail to quite understand what is meant, we certainly ought to ask! And indeed we have some slippery terms before us — religion, magick, prayer. I've thought on my own meanings for these, and reached somewhat of the premises and beliefs underlying them. I do feel them to be separate and different things. Sam, your input regarding faith, belief in the unreproducible and unprovable, strikes a very loud chord. And by my definition, to be 'religiously' scientific is to accept the results and some of the method of science on faith — as those who believe that psi cannot exist 'scientifically', considering not the difficulties of proving a negative hypothesis. But to me faith is a necessary but not sufficient condition; I've put off entering this discussion largely because the other half of my understanding of religion is difficult to articulate. To me, religion must have also an element of worship, of appreciation or love for the object of that faith, removed from all expectations of gain or profit. Prayer can be an act of worship — but "Oh Deity or Deities, in your infinite wisdom and grace and general wonderfulness, could you possibly assist your humble servant?" is not in that category, while "Hey, nice universe you got here, God(ess)(es), really awesome work, like wow" is.

Prayer to me is essentially an attempt to communicate with the object of faith and worship. (By the bye, I'm sorry if 'object of etcetera' is beginning to wear on you all, but I do believe that the object of worship and subject of religion may take any number of forms for any number of people.) Prayer can attempt to communicate only faith or worship, or it can attempt to communicate a desire or request. But as a purely communicative, not an active, phenomenon, prayer cannot guarantee results, nor promise miracles. If there really are a bunch of Christian pro-lifers out there praying for the death of a pro-choice judge (I read that somewhere, but I've no idea if it's a real-world example), they may be disappointed if s/he doesn't die off soon, but it is an outcome they are prepared to accept.

Magick, on the other hand, is an attempt to do something. A properly structured spell performed under the right conditions is expected to have certain results. Granted that there's more art than science to it, it has still that element of expected repeatability, and of action. Magick may certainly have a place in religion, and it may play an important role. For example, when a clergy member of a faith that takes the literal view of the sacrament of the Eucharist performs that rite, he or she is indeed performing a magickal act. I'll grant you freely that I have my doubts about the cookies and grape juice really truly transubstantiating themselves into flesh and blood, and frankly I'd not care to partake if I did believe it. (Just squeamish, I suppose!). But that's not the issue. The issue is that it is real to the person doing this, and that he (or she) expects it to happen — nay, knows that it will happen, if the thing is done correctly. The rationale for this expect ability can vary — to said clergy member, it's a matter of right, and a promise made, and a covenant agreed to. All perfectly reasonable reasons to expect it to work, in the framework of that belief.

It can just as well be rooted in a belief that the operator is exercising some natural ability, just as s/he might push a car or dial a telephone on a more mundane level — although in the latter case, the magick need not be part of a religion. (By this definition, psi may be treated as magick — my apologies to any parapsychologists out there, in advance!) It could be derived, to the practitioner, from a bargain or from some aspect of the laws of the universe that allows him/her to coerce a power to act. I follow beliefs that do somewhat concern me regarding the source of the expect ability in magick; but we should perhaps discuss that separately, if anyone wishes to, after we have agreed on definitions of terms. The current point, for me, is that the rationale behind it doesn't make it magick; it's the presence of that rationale, whatever it is, combined with the fact that the operator expects results.

Now, then. Here are my definitions, and several of my precepts, as best I understand them. What do the rest of you think concerning them? Do you differ on some points? Which ones, and why, and precisely how? Do you feel that I've missed something? And again, where, in what manner, and why? Do you found your definitions from other lines of thought entirely? Once more, what are those lines of thought, exactly how do they treat the subjects to hand, and why do you feel that way about it?

Whether you agree or disagree, I would like to read of it. I would like to know if we are stymied by essentially different views on how the world works, or merely each by our own assumptions of what the other means. If any feel threatened by this invitation to investigate further, my apologies: I intend none, nor do I perceive any in this request (or Melisande's, or Sam's). The one who does not care to examine his beliefs is trapped is as narrow a world as he who declines to dream of anything intuitive and unreproducible in his philosophy: a world view that can't stand to be looked at once in a while makes a very poor window indeed to view the world through! Some of you have said you are active in Wicca or the craft; I'm curious to know if you were raised in the craft? If not, what belief system did you grow up in? Didn't you look at those beliefs, new and old both, before you chose your path? Don't be afraid to continue thinking, then, and to continue to examine what you believe and why.


I really must stick to my statement that a spell is very much like a prayer. The diffusion of stems from magick bringing about an altered state of consciousness. I would not say that they are identical. Each form fits the needs of the population that uses it.

There are some who say that science is a religion. If I could answer why people need that facet in their life i would win the Nobel, I can answer only for myself. Why must we dissect things in order to understand them? I have seen more things torn apart because of human fear. Why can't we as Starhawk says: "Dare to dream the dark." Living in such a technological and hard scientific world (as I sit a terminal) I find some solace in that there are things that man can not define to his (or her) satisfaction. Thus perhaps the basis for the place of religion.

Magick vs. Prayer

One of the questions brought up on MagickNet was the difference between magick and prayer, and how this ties into the scheme of things in general. Well, I feel that prayer and magick are only loosely connected. In prayer, a person pleas with their deity for assistance. Energy wise, the person praying is asking that something be changed, and believes that the request will result in a change.

In magick, we use our inner energy, combined with earthly and elemental energy and Deity energy, and send this forth do accomplish the goal of our spell. I think it's like "breaking" in the game of pool. We are controlling stick (our spell), while we gather the energy to push the stick/spell. Our Cone Of Power is like the cue ball, and the racked balls are the target, which effects a change (breaks, or the goal of our spell) from the force of our energy. There may be a point where prayer becomes a type of magick (or, a psychic event) if the person knows of the personal energies involved, and releases them with the prayer.

I feel that a prayer works the opposite way. The prayer is our quest to effect a change in the ambient energy and invoke God (using the Christian form). This change in energy is slower because it is "diluted" in the surrounding energy and depends solely on faith ("I believe it will happen, so it will").

Am I out in left field or just being redundant? I forgive if I'm "running at the mouth". Now I'll try and tie in Parapsychology. magick and psi are very closely related in that (aside for leaving out the 'k' in magicK) the same form of energy is used. It's just on a different 'frequency'. When I do an object reading or empathic reading on someone/thing, I'm receiving a type of energy. When I send a Cone of Power, I'm using the same type of energy, but on a (higher?) wavelength and with greater force and higher power. Grounding negative feelings is an example of converting one form to the other. Auric healing is the opposite. So, I feel the energies are inter-changeable. I ask, as Elisabeth has, "What do you think of this?" As someone stated before, the definitions we are trying to define and clarify are our own, much like our beliefs — our own. We are trying to find, I believe, common ground between the nuances of our definitions and beliefs.

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