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)
Georges Dumezil used the term “trifunctional hypothesis” to explain a theory on the tripartite division of ancient Indo-European cultures. Tripartition is defined as “the act of dividing or the state of being divided into three parts”
Dumezil used the term to describe societies that he believed were divided
into three separate functions: priests, warriors, and farmers (Momigliano
312). In this theory, priests were the group of
people who were responsible for the magico-religious actions of the
society. They would have been
responsible for performing celebratory rituals, rites of passage, and making
sacrifices on behalf of the group and individuals. The magicians were feared by the rulers and
philosophers of many societies because they were viewed as a danger because
they “threaten the just relationship that normally unites humans and the gods” (Graf 25)
However, despite their fear, the people would go to the priests or magicians when
they felt the world was uncertain and needed guidance, which made the magicians
a very important part of ancient Indo-European life. While in some cultures they were viewed as
outcasts, the importance of them in Indo-European cultures is apparent. The
Hittites viewed magic as a gift created by the gods and the practitioners of
magic belonged to a privileged caste of their own. The priests were also entrusted with secrets
intended to be passed down from generation to generation (Luck 13).
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)
Georg Luck defines magic as “a technique grounded in a belief in powers located in the human soul and in the universe outside ourselves, a technique that aims at imposing the humans will on nature or on human beings by using supersensual powers”
(Luck 33). In many Indo-European cultures, magicians
were seen as having a direct link to the divine. In some societies they were honored and
respected, while in others they were feared and viewed as outcasts. In ancient
Greece, the term “magos” was used to describe the art of magic. This term comes from the Persian culture,
where the word “magos” meant priest (Graf 20). The magos in Persian society were those
people responsible for making sacrifices, holding funeral rites, and performing
divination. In Persia, this group of
people was highly respected.
In Greece, the “magos” was treated very differently. The “magos” were grouped together with “ecstatic cults” such as the Bacchic cults, which meant they were viewed as “beggar priests”, like those seen in book 2 of Plato’s Republic
(Graf 21). While their talents were appreciated and used
frequently by many different members of society, they were definitely seen as
outcasts from the normal society.
These two cultures appear to be the extremes on either end of the spectrum when describing Indo-European magicians. Each culture has their own perception of magic and those who are able to perform it, even though the tasks they complete are remarkably similar.
3. Discuss the existence and relative function of trance-journey magic within at least one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words)
Trance was something that was practices in many different aspects of Indo-European cultures. Within the Greek culture, the most well-known trance usage was that of the Oracle of Delphi. In Delphi, divination was practices by priestess who sat on top of a deep crevice in the ground. The priestess would enter a trance state, which included extreme bouts of ecstasy and divinations that were spoken in an intelligible language
(Luck 37-38). No one knows exactly how these women entered
their trance state, but there are many theories including a simple ritual of
wearing special vestments, touching holy water, and intoxication from fumes
that were escaping from the crevice they were sitting upon.
The oracles of Delphi used trance as a way to connect to the otherworld in order to perform their divinations. Trance allowed them to change their state of mind to receive the messages they needed to pass on. I believe this type of trance can be useful in focusing energy and intent in order to achieve the results you desire. Trance also made the divinations seem more theatrical and interesting for those witnessing the event, which also helped to draw people to them.
4 Discuss the place of alphabetic symbolism as part of the symbolism of magical practice within one Indo-European culture. (minimum 150 words)
The Greek Alphabet Oracle is a method of divination that was used by oracles and seers. The information we have comes from inscriptions that were found in different areas of Greece. This method of divination is a type of lot casting where 24 stones are marked with a letter of the Greek alphabet
Each letter has its own correlations and meanings, which can be interpreted by
the seer. This method of divination is very popular in Indo-European cultures
and is quite similar to the Runes of the Norse and the Ogham of the Celts.
There are multiple ways to use the Greek Alphabet Oracle for divination including the drawing of a single stone, using a type of knuckle bone numerology to determine which letter is your answer, or using 5 dice to determine a number and choosing the letter associated with that number
(Sophistes). In each of these methods described, the
letter selected has a specific meaning.
That meaning is tied directly to the mythology and deities of the
By tying the divination to the cultural mythology it allows people to memorize the information more easily, but also gives them a much larger pool from which to draw information about the message that is being received. This could lead to diverse interpretations of omens and also made the system more flexible, which allowed for it to be used by a wider group of people.
5. Discuss three key magical techniques or symbols from one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words each)
Ancient Greece had a very large magical system that was used by priests, oracles, and magicians. Three specific types of magic in ancient Greece were katadeisthai, divination, and coercion.
Katadeisthai is a word, which translates to mean “binding”
(Graf 121). This type of magic is used in many different
types of spells, including judicial prosecution, erotic couplings, and many
other purposes. Judicial binding was done to make it so adversaries could not
appear in court, or so they could not speak. In some of these practices, dolls were created
to bind people together instead of keeping them away. For instance, a doll would be created to help
attract the “the object of one’s desire” with the help of a demon or other
spirit. This type of magic was frequently
used to overcome a feeling of uncertainty increased by that of a certain sense
of powerlessness (Graf 153-157).
Divination is the ability to obtain information about the future without one’s thinking of manipulating the unfolding of events
(Graf 158). It was often seen as a way of making contact
with a superhuman being in order to profit from the being’s knowledge. This type of magic was done in several
different ways. The first was direct
contact with the divinity without the use of meditation, which was called
direct vision. The second was divinatory
possession, which was using a medium that was in a trance to receive a
message. The third was divinatory
dreams. The final form was the use of
objects, such as a container filled with water or a lamp to interpret a message
from (Graf 197).
Coercion was a different type of magic, which used the coercion of a divine being in order to obtain an oracle or request from them. For example, a rite was done to call to Persephone. When she approaches a charm was used to extinguish her torches. A promise would then be made to relight the torches if she would grant the request of the practitioner. Another type of coercion that was used was “epanankoi” or verbal coercion
(Graf 224). Words were spoken, along with a special
ritual in order to try to coerce a change in the world or another person. The magician would draws a picture and wrap
it in cloth. It would then be either
placed in an over or above a lamp in order to enforce the message of the
Each of these types of magic had their own specific use within the Greek society, while having vastly different intents and methods. The diversity of the magico-religious practices within the Greek culture gives us a glimpse into the many different cultures that influenced them. We can see the impacts of the Egyptian and Persian cultures on Greek magical practices, as well as the later influences of Christianity when looking at how magic and magicians were perceived.
6. Discuss the relative place and methodologies of magic within your personal religious/spiritual practice. (minimum 100 words)
Magic is something that has never played a strong role within my own spiritual practices. I understand that it can be a useful tool, which can be used to influence and connect the world around me, and have used it to do both in the past. I have used divination to interpret messages both during ritual and when asking for advice. I have used prayers for healing and to connect with deities. I’ve also used trance work to explore the Enochian tablets. However, while I have done magical workings in the past, I view them as a method of exploration of the universe and myself and less as a tool for changing the world around me.
7. 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)
Roman Healing Rite
Carmen Auxiliare was a term used by Pliny the Elder. The description of this rite discusses the healing of a dislocation in the ancient Roman culture. This ritual explains how a dislocated joint can be healed by an incantation. In order to perform this ritual, you begin with a green reed that is four to five feet long and split it in half. Have two men hold it against their hips and begin the incantation as they approach each other. Wave a piece of iron over the reeds as the incantation is spoken. When the two halves of the reed are touching, take the reed in hand and cut the end to the right and left. Fasten the reed by a ligature over the dislocation or fracture and it will heal. They would repeat the incantation every day until the dislocation healed
My Healing Rite
Recently one of my grove-mates had to undergo a surgery due to pre-cancerous cells that were found in her body. She reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to do some healing work, both to help her surgery go well and to help ease her recovery. I decided to combine the method of verbal coercion and the dislocation healing described by Pliny. I made a small clay doll in preparation for the ritual. I then did a very quick COoR ritual and invoked Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine and healing and his daughter Iaso, the goddess of recuperation. I made offerings to them, and then proceeded to give my prayers to them to ask for the aid of my friend.
Asklepios, great healer, master of medicine,
and patron of doctors, I ask for your aid.
Tomorrow ________ places her trust in you,
and the knowledge of modern doctors.
Lead their hands, guide their thoughts,
and help her through this procedure.
Send your energy to nourish and heal her.
Iaso, glorious goddess of recovery,
and attendant of cures, and recuperation.
Please aid _______ in her recovery,
and help her to heal without complication.
Send your healing wisdom to her body,
So she can heal both seen and unseen.
Send your energy to restore her,
and bless her healing with peace.
8. 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)
Vedic Protection Rite
The Vedic culture has many different types of rituals in their practice, including domestic rituals performed in the home. The grihya rituals were one set of domestic rituals that were often done without the assistance of an official priest. One specific grihya rite was called “baudhyavihara.” Baudhyavihara was a protection ritual dedicated to the god Rudra. In this ritual, the home fire was built and kept, while a rite known as “salagava” was performed
(Sen 152). In this rite, a spotted cow was sacrificed to
win favor with Rudra and to avert evil from the cattle and fields of those
performing the ritual. Palasa leaves
were wrapped around the cow, and then it was roasted over the home fire. After the ritual, the palasa leaves from the
sacrifice were woven into a basket. The
basket was then filled with boiled rice and hung from a tree as a continued
offering to the deities to ask for their continued protection.
My Warding Rite
Warding is something that I do not have a lot of experience with. However, this year I was in charge of the local Pagan Pride Day event, and decided that it was important that I both cleanse and ward the space we would be holding our event before we began. I arrived at our location at sunrise and began smudging the entire park while chanting a brief Sun Devotional:
As the sun rises on this space, let it be bright and warm.
I call upon the ancestors to show us how to be brave in the face of adversity.
I call upon the nature spirits to show us how to be peaceful in times of hostility.
I call upon the deities to show us how to be wise and speak truth about our paths.
I then knelt at the entrance of the park and said a short prayer to Gaia to thank her for her land and to ask her to help keep negativity away.
Gaia, mother of all,
you who grant us nourishment and stability,
thank you for letting us use this beautiful space to gather and build community.
Please help us to maintain energy and keep the negativity at bay.
For all of your gifts, Gaia, we thank you.
9. 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)
Greek Purification Rite
The Greater Eleusian Mysteries were a set of rites dedicated to Demeter and Persephone and their journey through the cycle of the year. Each year the members of this cult would hold a nine-day festival. On the second day of this festival was a huge purification rite. All of the participants of the festival would walk to the sea near Athens in order to cleanse themselves in the waters. They also took a pig along with them on this journey, and cleaned the pig in the waters of the sea in order to make it ready for sacrifice. The participants would then make the journey back to Athens where they would use the pig as a sacrifice to the Gods as a start to their festival
My Purification Rite
Purification by water has always been my preferred method of preparing myself for a ritual. Most of my work is done alone at home, so I have written this purification rite as a way to prepare myself for a solitary ritual at my personal altar.
As I enter the sacred space, I light some sage and cense the area around my altar, using a similar chant to my previous warding ritual.
I call upon the ancestors bless this space, and grant me courage in my practices.
I call upon the nature spirits bless this space, and fill me with peaceful energy.
I call upon the deities to bless this space and show me wisdom on my path.
At this time, I then approach my altar and place both of my hands deep into the water and speak the following words:
The Eleusian Mysteries teach us of the purifying waters of the sea. The people of Athens would travel to the waters to cleanse themselves in preparation for their rites. Let this water represent the healing, cleansing waters of the sea, and help me to purify and prepare myself for the work I am about to do.
I rub my hands together, cleansing each and say:
Through the cleansing powers of the water, may my actions be just.
I then place my hands on my chest, over my heart, and say:
Through the cleansing powers of this water, may my intentions be pure.
Finally, I place my hands on my forehead and say:
Through the cleansing powers of this water, may my thoughts be true.
I then proceed with the rest of my ritual in whatever format it may take.
10. 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 have been vitally important during every step on my path toward becoming clergy, and magical working has been no different. Exploring my spirituality has given me the opportunity to discover my own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, which allows me to have a better understanding of myself. Magic further puts me in tune with the universe and allows me to connect to parts of myself that I may not otherwise have been aware of. Self-knowledge allows me to understand what types of magic works for me, and to see the effects of doing magical workings on me, even when subtle. Self-knowledge also allows me to be aware of my own limitations and to fully understand what my intentions for the work are.
Self-knowledge is also important because it allows me to have an understanding my current mental and emotional state. I have learned enough about myself to know that in certain frames of mind I will not be able to perform certain magical workings effectively. This allows me to have more successful results from my magical practices, and also helps keep me from getting frustrated when things don’t turn out the way I had anticipated them to.
Introspection, to me, is slightly different than self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is having the information on how your thoughts and emotions are processed, while introspection is the ability to look inside yourself honestly and understand what you find. Introspection is very important because without the ability to look inside yourself you can’t truly determine what your desires or intentions for a ritual may be, and they may have unforeseen consequences.
Self-understanding has been a life long journey for me. I’ve always known that every person’s brain works slightly differently, and wanted to know both how mine worked, and why it worked the way that it did. I originally began my college career with a desire to become a psychologist, and even though my career path changed, my fascination with the study has not. I have spent many hours reading and studying psychology to better understand why I am the way that I am. I have gone through therapy to learn more about myself.
At this point, I put my effort more into journaling, which allows me to explore my thoughts and emotions without the fear of judgment. I think journaling is a great way to garner self-awareness and to teach you to be introspective. In addition to that, I plan to continue working through the Clergy courses, because they all require a certain level of introspection and lots of self-awareness. I have learned so much about myself during this process and am very interested to see where things go from here.
Graf, Fritz. Magic in the Ancient World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Luck, Georg. Arcana Mundi. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2006.
Merriam-Webster. Tripartition. December 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tripartition>.
Momigliano, Arnaldo. "Georges Dumezil and the Trifunctional Approach to Roman Civilization." History & Theory 23.1 (1984): 312-331.
Sen, Chitrabhanu. A Dictionary of the Vedic Rituals. New Dehli: Concept Publishing Company, 2001.
Sophistes, Apollonius. A Greek Alphabet Oracle. 2005. August 2014 <http://web.eecs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/LAO.html>.
Struck, Peter T. Eleusis. 2009. December 2014 <www.classics.upenn.edu/myth/php/hymns/index.php?page=eleusis>.