Scientific Witchcraft

There are many different forms of witchcraft: shamanism, voodoo, black magic, white magic, kitchen witchery, et cetera. As I wandered forward on my eclectic spiritual path, I came up with a method of coming up with a method for how to personalize and effectively utilize magic. I call it Scientific Witchcraft, and yes I made it up.

Scientific Witchcraft is the practice of using scientific processes for magical results. This means using observation, experimentation, and analysis. While sometimes this may include making hypotheses and testing results, more often it means using the knowledge gained through experimentation to create magic for specific purposes. In this way, it is more of a technology than a science. In fact, it is not a science at all in the true sense of the word (hence why the word “scientific” is used as an adjective to describe witchcraft and not the other way around). It is a magical art – it just takes a more scientific approach than other more spiritual or myth-based approaches. Yet it still has to do with magical results rather than physical results.

In order to understand this, we must distinguish between magical results and physical results. First of all, let me delve a little deeper into the word magic. As stated in a previous blog post, my version of magic is defined as 1) the invisible and ineffable source of energy in the universe; 2) the conscious mental, emotional, and spiritual engagement with the flow of various forms of energy; and 3) the process by which a person, creature, or thing can intentionally influence or be influenced by these energies in a physical or psychological manner.

The first definition is a bit abstract and requires a more in depth examination involving quantum physics, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, which I am not going to get into here. But if we can accept this definition as somehow true, then let us focus instead on the second and third definitions. A very basic way to understand these is to compare “magic” to “imagination”. Imagination is the formation of new thoughts, ideas, or associations (whether based on memories and sensations already experienced or born anew from the void) that are not immediately experienced by the senses. This is basically where magic, as we understand it, begins. It is the ability to imagine that something could be real and then use certain energies within nature in order to make it so. Sometimes this requires more imagination, more belief. Other times it requires specific materials and actions. Often it is a combination of both.

Now that we have a basic understanding of magic, let’s get back to distinguishing between physical and magical results. A physical result is the product of a combination or reaction of physical elements. A magical result is the situational outcome of the intermingling of various energies. For example, a physical result is soup when you cook vegetables in hot water for a long time. It is the chemical reactions within your body when you consume the soup that allow nutrients to disperse throughout your body and into your cells. In contrast, a magical result is the feeling of comfort that the soup has on your psyche. It is influence that the soup has on your overall health even days and weeks after you eat it. Psychology is really what connects the spiritual realm to the physical realm, because it allows magical and spiritual ideas and emotions (remember: imagination) to manifest physically.

Human psychology is very complex and individualistic. Some people feel more relaxed when listening to music while others feel more relaxed with silence. Some people are overstimulated more easily than others. Some people believe that symbols are arbitrary and useless and that illusions should be shed to reveal true reality, while others believe that rituals and stories (which are essentially symbols in action) can help us to connect more deeply with nature and our true selves.

Scientific Witchcraft is also very individualistic, as it is a process that the individual enacts in order to better understand oneself with respect to the universe. It is the constant learning, the trial and error, and the eventual application of knowledge and wisdom within one’s life. It is based on nature and fueled by love.

Just a moment ago, as I was writing this, my brother sat on the sofa, mentally and physically drained. He wanted to get up and do something productive, but decided that making coffee first would help to give him more energy. If he left it at that, he could have just made the coffee, his body waking up from the caffeine with no overt magical reaction occurring. (I would argue that even this is magical in its own way, but I won’t get into that as it is more clearly physical.) However, before he got up, he gently pet his dog and touched his forehead to hers, requesting that she bestow some of her vibrant energy onto him so that he could have the motivation to get off the sofa in the first place. Besides the potential “happy” chemicals in his brain as he made contact with a creature he loved, this verbal plea combined with the act of their two foreheads touching had no direct physical function to help energize his body, and yet this little spell did help him achieve the motivation to get up. He probably would have gotten up anyway, but this ritual added a boost that probably made the following activities less painful and more fulfilling, because they weren’t just for him, they were because of her.

That is what everyday magic is – using the properties of natural elements and beings for your mental, emotional, and/or physical benefit so that the results, otherwise mundane, will be charged with more of whatever energies go into them. Behaviors will be more aligned with goals, actions will be more effective, thoughts will be more focused, and life will be more enjoyable. Scientific Witchcraft is the conscious practice of learning about the best methods for each individual to achieve this within his or her or their own life, as a body within a universe and a universe made up of cells. It the process of experimentation and modification for the purpose of yielding certain results. It is also the active cultivation of a mindset that enhances awareness of oneself, and the active creation of an environment that enhances the flow of energy through the universe in harmony with everything else. It is the alignment of these, combined, intertwined, ever growing and evolving.

 

Note: I realize that most serious witchcraft is approached very much like the above, with experimentation, trial and error. I think the difference has more to do with the combination of magical properties and physical properties, not just within a ritual but within the function of the spell itself. I will get more into this concept later on.

 

Opening Up to Politics

I try not to get too political online for multiple reasons, but for months now I have felt a shift coming.

I always want to make sure I am listening to all sides of any argument. I believe that terrorism is born from feelings of oppression, and that the solution is not to shoot down the terrorists but to stop the oppression. However, in some cases this oppression is an illusion. What is feared is challenge to the status quo, challenge to what certain groups of people have been taught to believe is their entitlement (even at the expense of others, whether they realize this or not). Again, the solution is not to shoot these people down, it’s to shatter this illusion.

Right now we are facing many major disagreements as a nation. I see multiple sides calling the other sides wrong, and truly believing this. It is so hard to make others see your truth when they are so determined to make you see theirs. I used to think that everything could be true depending on your perspective, and while perspective does influence personal reality, it does not mean that, societally, this reality is just as correct as the one we collectively share.

I don’t want to ignore or rebuke someone’s beliefs, especially since these beliefs are what may be causing such hatred within and violence without. I do want to address them: What are the people I disagree with actually feeling? Why do they feel this way? How can I explain to them that they don’t have to feel this way, if only they shifted their perspective? That way, hopefully, no one would need to resort to violence. But then, I may not be able to convince them after all, just as they will not be able to convince me. We may just keep clashing until eventually someone gets hurt.

Opinions are valid to the extent that the person possessing them has a right to have an opinion. That doesn’t mean this opinion, or even the belief upon which it stands, is valid within the larger societal sphere. As a species, there are certain biological necessities for survival, but as a people there are other more intricate moral necessities that allow us to not only exist but to evolve culturally. These are what all people need to be aware of, to discuss, and to implement.

I want to be someone who listens to all sides, and who tries to understand, but I am realizing that ths is not enough. Listening and understanding are useless if I am not then applying this knowledge to help people, to take a stand and be able to defend it. I’m not going to stop listening, but I am going to start speaking up.

I always prefer to promote what I believe in rather than oppose what I disagree with – feeding the positive rather than dwelling in the negative. But you need both to have balance, and I am starting to understand that when it comes to politics. So from now on, I am going to do both, starting with this:

I oppose racism.
I oppose violence.
I support gender equality.
I support creative expression.
I oppose persecution.
I oppose the exploitation of people for financial gain.
I support the rights of people of color.
I support the rights of trans people.
I support the wellbeing of immigrants and refugees.
I support the protection of wildlife and wilderness spaces.

 

This is not a final statement, it is only the beginning. If you oppose something I support or support something I oppose, let’s talk – explain it to me. If you think I am being hypocritical at any time, let’s talk – show me. I’m open. I try to be as open as I can, so I’m no longer going to keep my mouth shut.

I am a woman, a United States citizen of Mexican, Native American, and European descent. I am a pagan. I am an artist. I am human. I love the United States for its many cultures, its art and literature, its colorful cities, and its beautiful land. But my loyalty to this country as a country is NOT as important as my loyalty to actual people, actual animals, and the actual world.

 

In Honor of Monkeys

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear someone refer to a chimpanzee as a monkey. It happens in movies, TV shows, books, and in life. It is rarely used as an intentional misrepresentation for ironic effect – most people are actually equating chimps to monkeys, which they are not. Chimps are apes, as are gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, and humans. This is a separate category.

Now, technically these categories were decided upon by humans (based on scientific processes), but there is genetic merit to them. All the apes mentioned above are more closely related to each other than any of them are to monkeys. Although there are hundreds of monkey species, all of these are more closely related to each other than any of them are to apes. These categories are fluid and there are still apparent “missing links” in genetic ancestry, but there is overwhelming evidence to denote that the taxonomic relationships in place are valid.

I think that many people actually realize this. Perhaps they call chimps monkeys out of pure cynical laziness. I think more often people just lump all non-human primates together into this perceived sub-human category. In either case, the error is inexcusable.

Another thing I hear sometimes is a person calling other people monkeys. This is used as a derogatory statement emphasizing the lack of intelligence that many people exhibit, similar to calling people “sheep” for being ignorant and easily manipulated followers.

What bothers me most about this is not its insult to humans, but its unfairness to monkeys. By claiming that humans who appear unintelligent or less evolved than they should be and equating this to being monkey-like is as unjustified as saying that humans evolved from monkeys. This makes humans out to be more evolved than monkeys when the truth is that both humans and each species of monkey are in a continuous state of evolution (albeit each at their own pace based on genetic and environmental factors). While apes did evolve from catarrhines, they did not evolve from modern-day catarrhines (Old World monkeys) but a common ancestor.

Each species of monkey has its own level of intelligence necessary to its survival, and this will either evolve as needed or lead to extinction in time. Such is true for every species. It’s okay to compare humans to monkeys in an intellectual and even philosophical manner. There are many lessons that we can learn and information that we can obtain by studying our primate cousins. But if we continue to view them as inferior versions of us or to view ourselves as (sometimes) superior versions of them, we’re not doing justice to anybody.

So in honor of monkeys, I will correct this verbal misdeed any time I hear it.

 

Defining Magic

There are many words in the English language that have multiple meanings depending on who is using them and in what context. One of the most ambivalent of these words is magic.

There are many definitions of the word magic, some of which have to do with tricks and illusions, others that have to do with apparently supernatural forces, and others that involve psychological or emotional experiences. I want to talk a little about all of these, how they are related, and how they are all essentially true.

The magic of magic tricks is basically a choreographed performance that creates the illusion that something unusual or even impossible is happening. What is actually happening is quite logical and well known to the performers. If seen from a different angle or from a wider focal point, the illusion ceases. This is similar to the idea of supernatural magic, because the word supernatural itself means anything that cannot be explained by the laws of nature, or that which is beyond nature, and therefore outside of our focal point.

From a scientific perspective, everything in the known universe is inherently natural and therefore abides by natural laws. We may not know or understand all of these laws, nor every aspect of nature, but just because we don’t understand it does not mean it is beyond nature or unnatural. So if we were to pair the concept of magic with science, then supernatural magic is basically another kind of illusion – not on a stage hidden by a performer, but in the universe hidden by our current limitations within the realm of scientific discovery and understanding. Perhaps what occurs when people witness strange and seemingly supernatural phenomena actually does have a scientific explanation, but we just don’t know what that is yet. Some people argue that in many cases these are illusions created by our own minds.

The human mind is incredibly powerful. Our brains are quite large relative to our body size, and we have evolved both biologically and culturally in very complex ways throughout the lifetime of our species. Many studies have been done on the impacts of thought and emotion on our physical bodies. This idea has also been practiced by spiritualists for millennia in the form of meditation, exercise, and healing. So although we still do not understand everything about the human brain and how it works to impact our thoughts, feelings, and even our bodies, we know that in many ways it can and does. We also know that each person’s perception is individualized based on nature (genetics) and nurture (social and environmental factors).

With this in mind, it is plausible that when a person witnesses or experiences a seemingly supernatural phenomenon, they are really either creating it within their own minds for some psychological benefit, or they are interpreting a more natural phenomenon as magical, again most likely for some psychological benefit. Whether this is a benefit solely for the individual or a capability that has evolved within humans for the survival of the species as a whole is a debate which I won’t get into at this time. What I do want to emphasize is that many people, regardless of their religious backgrounds or philosophical ideologies, have confessed to feelings of delight at the wonder and excitement of “magical” experiences.

This was not always the case, however. Historically, magic has been seen as the cause of havoc within certain societies. In some it is viewed as the work of demons or the Devil itself. In others it is the unnatural work of malevolent sorcerers and witches. Most modern witches profess that magic is really just a greater understanding of nature and using natural energies to attain particular goals. These contrasting ideas lead to a religious, philosophical, and scientific discussion which I don’t have time for here. The point is that magic has been viewed throughout history as all sorts of things – natural and unnatural, beneficial and malicious, a force that occurs on its own and an action that someone can perform, something which exists throughout the entire universe and an illusion which is created within our own minds. With so many contradictory definitions, how do we practically utilize such a word?

I will explore this topic in more detail in future essays, but for now I want to offer a simplified and broad definition which encompasses as much as possible: Magic is the invisible and ineffable source of energy in the universe; the conscious mental, emotional, and spiritual engagement with the flow of various forms of energy; and the process by which a person, creature, or thing can intentionally influence or be influenced by these energies in a physical or psychological manner. The idea of  consciousness and intent is one that I will elaborate on in future essays, and I may modify or add to this definition at some point, but it sets the groundwork for several subjects I want to write about that have to do with magic and magic-doing.

Arrivederci!

Just Friends

I’ve found that when it comes to men and women, and perhaps everything in between and otherwise, friendship is highly underrated. Several of my friendships have ended because the other person wanted a romantic relationship and I didn’t. They called this “more” and wouldn’t settle for just friendship. It was all or nothing, and they were the ones to cut it off in the end. (Shout out to the friends that didn’t scram when this happened. I love you guys.)

But is romance really “more”? I mean, you could say that a relationship is a friendship plus romance and sexual intimacy, making it “more” than just a friendship. But I’ve had friendships with hints of romance, and I’ve had friendships where physical affection was given with understanding of its intent. More importantly, I’ve had friendships that have been stronger and lasted longer than any of my romantic or sexual relationships have. And at this point in my life, those are so much more important to me than dating or even finding a life partner. Yes, I would like to be in a romantic relationship someday, and yes I entertain the idea of having a life partner, but I think that before either of those can really happen, I need to be in a good place within myself and have a good direction in life. And this all sounds like it would be so much more enjoyable with the support and company of friends.

Every friendship I have is unique, because every person is unique and so every relationship between two people is a unique combination. Some of my friendships are based on our mutual interests and goals, others on mutual appreciation and respect; some have withstood the tests of time and tragedy, others are only acknowledged when we’re around one another and otherwise not really thought about; some are more flirty and humorous while others are deep and profound. In every case, there is a mutual unspoken agreement between us: we are friends. That’s it. As long as we’re both willing to keep this statement true, things will be okay between us. That’s my belief. It’s only when that either becomes too much for one or both of us, or something mutually exclusive becomes more important, that that agreement is broken.

But having it be not enough?? That is where I simply cannot relate. If something needs to be changed – you communicate, you set boundaries, you make adjustments and see how it goes. Things will work out if you’re willing to try. Like I said, it’s only when things get to be too much for one person or both that the friendship has to stop or pause indefinitely. I’ve had friendships discontinue because of jealous girlfriends, lack of interest, overwhelming energies, differences in worldview, and decreased communication because one of us moved away or got involved in something that took up more of our time and energy. And this stuff happens, and it’s okay. Maybe it’s not forever and we can pick it up again in the future. Friendships don’t really die unless you kill them, and even then it’s possible to someday revive them. But when both people actually want to be close to each other, are willing to put in the effort, but one of them wants romance and sex and the other doesn’t… and that’s why the friendship has to end… forever… and they completely cut me off… sometimes blaming me or insulting me in the process… that’s what really stumps me.

And the reason I am writing about this is because it has happened to me MULTIPLE times. Like, the same exact thing. It makes me want to write all my friends and say, “You and I will never ever date – still want to be friends?” and see who sticks around. It makes me want to use a disclaimer every time I meet someone new. It makes me want to wear a sign on my shirt that says: “Friendship only, no dating, no relationship!” But of course I can’t do this, because I do want a relationship someday, and you never really know who it might be with no matter what you think you’re looking for at the time. And it’s not like I’m keeping people around just in case maybe someday we could be “more than friends”. No, I’m keeping them around because they are my friends and that’s what friends do! If you’re committed to friendship, then you know that will be there regardless of whatever else may (or may not) happen between you. I wish that was more important to people.

So please, let’s be friends.

Religious Eclecticism

I recently met a wandering Mystic Jew who teaches Qigong, Tai Chi, and mathematics. My preschool teacher was Jewish, my kindergarten teacher was Catholic, I had friends whose parents identified with various Christian denominations, Paganism, Unitarian Universalism, etc. I grew up in a very religiously diverse community, and as a result my own religious experience is very eclectic.

Religious eclecticism basically means taking ideas or traditions from a lot of different religions and implementing them into one’s own beliefs and practices. There are so many religions and spiritual philosophies in the world and they each have features that people find interesting or useful without the demand of adopting one completely. For example, I could have a Wiccan-style altar, meditate with a Tibetan singing bowl, pray to a Hindu god, and dance to Rastafari-inspired music. Many neopagans honor gods from multiple pantheons – Greek, Norse, Celtic, Hindu, etc. Many Christians, Muslims, and Jews recognize the validity of the other two, and some even incorporate indigenous pagan traditions into their practices. Some specific religious teachings do exclude even the possibility of integration with others, but most religions have a lot of overlap, both in their origins and in their modern manifestations.

Personally, I like to bounce around in between. I often converse with people from the perspective of their own religious faiths. I occasionally attend a church service, meditation circle, or holiday celebration of any denomination. I love reading texts of any faith or philosophy, and I still hold dear many of the religious stories, songs, and traditions that I grew up with. I celebrate Yule, chant the Hare Krishna mantra, pray to Artemis and Freja, take Communion, gaze lovingly at the Milky Way… yet I do not identify exclusively with one single religious faith. I’ve been continuously developing my own personal cosmology based on the ideas and feelings that resonate with me. Enter: science.

I am a strong supporter of science, and the more I learn about it the more I advocate for it. I do also believe in the compatibility of science and mysticism within the human experience. I harken to the enchantment of the cosmic mystery as seen through the lenses of cultural mythology and metaphysical philosophy. I find psychological solace in religious rituals. I believe in the possibility of other dimensions and the beings or spirits that may reside there. I follow the solar and lunar phases (these are actual events within the physical cosmos as seen from the perspective of Earth). I think in metaphors and find meaning and truth in stories and art. I live in constant awe of all the vast and powerful phenomena in the universe. I strive to connect with and relate to the forces of nature, sometimes literally and sometimes though their anthropomorphic and animistic representations (gods, creatures, spirits).

The cool thing about being eclectic is that it isn’t about knowing what is objectively true for everyone in the world, it’s just about discovering what works for you individually. What gives you that spiritual feeling? How do you define divinity? What is the best way for you to connect with it? How do you want to express yourself? There is no one correct answer for all people.

Whatever cosmic force fuels existence may or may not someday be comprehendible by humans with science, but as humans we not only have the ability to advance our scientific understanding of the universe, we also have the ability to comprehend abstract concepts, to use symbols and metaphors to explain the unexplainable, to tap into deep emotions and continually exercise our thought processes. This is what eclecticism allows us to do, not just in terms of religion, but with anything – literature, art, even science – to expand, to create, to make connections, and to explore limitless potential.

Humans are Animals

The title of this post should be an obvious statement to most of you. Humans are mammals, members of the Animal Kingdom. Our cells are animal cells and our DNA is very similar to the DNA of other primates, which are also mammals and animals. There is, however, this notion that humans are distinct from other animals because we have morality, abstract cognition, and the ability to use arbitrary symbols in place of objects or meanings. Yes, these things are true. Yes, these things may set us apart from other animals…

But all species have features that set them apart from other animals. Octopuses don’t have skeletons or shells, sponges don’t have tissues or organs, bats are mammals that fly, echidnas are mammals that lay eggs. All of these are interesting features that set these animals apart from most other animals. Perhaps one could argue that the human features mentioned above set us apart from ALL other animals, even more distinctly than they are from each other, but this has not been definitively proven, since there is still a lot of ongoing research into the behavior and intelligence of primates (monkeys, apes) and cetaceans (whales, dolphins) in particular.

Even if it is true that morality, abstract cognition, and the ability to use symbols are unique among humans, these are still just biological, neurological features of our species. That doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of it. Admitting that at the end of the day we are just animals doesn’t mean we should revert back to the “animalistic” instincts of eat, sleep, and reproduce devoid of these complex thoughts and abstract emotions — we can eat, sleep, and reproduce while constantly analyzing how and why, and when to make exceptions based on our moral compass. It doesn’t mean we’re not special. We are special. We are also animals. It’s okay to admit it.