On Ritual Magic

Illustration by Alex Grey

We live in a Magical universe. The Magic that drives the universe exists within us. We are magical beings, a link in a vast chain of Magic.  Magic as a practice is a set of techniques that when performed correctly allows us to access or tap into a source of power that can cause internal and external changes. Every culture in the world has some system or form of Magic. In many cultures Magic has been prohibited, marginalized or scorned. In many cases, individuals who practice magic have been persecuted, sometimes to the point of death. Magic therefore tends to exist as an underground movement or subculture.

The form of Magic that is indigenous to the West is Ritual Magic, which has it’s roots in ancient Mesopotamian forms of magic and spirituality. Ritual Magic hit it’s high point in the form of Hermeticism and Neo-Platonism around 100 to 500 Common Era, after which it went underground due to persecution by Church and government.  Historically, Magic has been divided into two general practices: Theurgy and Goetia. Roughly speaking, Theurgy is concerned with using ritual and magic as forms of mystical practice (inducing higher states of awareness). Goetia focuses on working with spirits and using material objects such as stones, herbs and such to bring about changes in the objective world.
What is practiced as Ritual Magic today falls into three fairly distinct camps:

The first is the Traditional Magic based on the old Medieval and Renaissance period grimoires or manuals of magic, such as the infamous Key of Solomon. The Grimoires are the remnants of the earlier Hermetic and Neo-Platonic practices of two millenia  earlier, recast in Christian (and sometimes Jewish) forms.

The second set of practices can be termed Modern Magic (sometimes spelled as Magick) and are based on 19th century interpretations of the earlier Traditional Magic. Nearly all of this Modern Magick is based on the work of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a Victorian era magical society. Notorious occult bad boy Aleister Crowley, who himself matriculated from the Golden Dawn, developed a unique interpretation of this material, a variant which is fairly popular today.

The last camp or set of practices may be termed Post Modern Magic and includes Chaos Magic. This last set of practices downplays dogma and focuses instead on the refinement of technique and the development of individualized systems of magic. This type of magic draws widely from a variety of sources for inspiration such as modern psychological theory, Neuro-Linguistic Programing ( N.L.P.), cybernetics and systems theory. Anything and everything is fair game for use in Post Modern Magic.

Ritual Magic and Ceremonial Magic are terms often used interchangeably, and refer to the same type of practices. The difference between the two is that Ceremonial Magic is like the name implies, it relies on the performance of fixed ceremony, whereas Ritual Magic is based on the performance of rituals which most often change from working to working. Regardless of the specific type (Theugy or Goetia) and camp (Traditional, Modern and Post Modern) Ritual Magic is a powerful tool that can be directed towards personal transformation, illumination and the betterment of the conditions of one’s life. All one has to do is to put one’s foot in the road and commit to practice.


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