The Genius Of Magic

So Saturn squaring my Moon in the 9th house has turned the upcoming Sorceress Astro-Report into a labyrinthine vortex of research. I’m not satisfied with the usual definitions of anything. A few years ago I might have been content with info from Wikipedia, Crystalinks, my Women’s Encylopedia of Myths & Secrets, and what I remembered from a lifetime of reading myth/magic.

Now? I have made notes from books like Astral Magic In Babylonia and its painstaking deciphering of multiple texts and inscriptions.My spreadsheets compare things like constellations, priestess techniques, cuneiforms to runes, and the thousand names for Mercury. It’s deranged enough to qualify as a mood disorder but my dreams are sensational.

You know how studying some things robs them of the thrill? The genius of magic is that seeing it through academic optics makes it more satisfying. Magic* is the most ancient thing going and always the most contemporary.

Anyway, I have some observations:

(1) When applied to magic, the ‘cultural appropriation’ argument is a bit yesterday. It comes from genuine horror at how indigenous cultures had their lands stolen and their spiritual practices outlawed, then exploited. In New Zealand, for example, the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907 forbade Maori medicine and spirituality. Tohunga’s literal meaning is “a person skilled in reading signs”:

It encompasses an array of shamanic and healing perspectives. Banning an entire belief system doesn’t, as we know from the example of witches, work too well. So it’s easy to see how people are angered by seeing these meaningful, recently illegal, symbols suddenly the new cool thing sported by people who actually don’t give a s**t about any of it.

But magic is built on layers and layers of corresponding concepts; themes echo over time. I’m not offended if someone thinks the name Draco is purely the name of a Harry Potter character but if the Inquisition or persecution of Celtic Pagans was more recent, I probably would be.

But the real point here is that the symbols, deities, and concepts from your core ethnic group – your ancestral heritage – are more potent for you. And they all go back to Ancient Babylon anyway.

(2) It’s shocking how much the influence of Christianity pervades writing about magic. It’s understandable when you’re reading a Victorian archeologist’s thoughts on the ‘Heathens’ or the Catholic Encylopedia’s bone-chilling take on Gordiano Bruno. But when a piece starts out being about “druids” or “moon magic” and degenerates into angelic charms to ward off the Fae/protect against evil, it’s weird.

Or it’s a quasi-Christian Law of Attraction rave with a few mentions of witchy deities and then the promise of access to an entirely benevolent Universe if your mindset is positive enough. It’s eerily similar to the old Christian concept of keeping your thoughts ‘godly’ so you did not manifest bad things.

There are also a plethora of magical ritual recommendations that are like Church ceremonies with a few names substituted and some patchouli thrown around.

(3) The “technology of sorcery in the ancient world” – as my new fave book puts it – was not madly sexist or anything ist. There were priests and priestesses, Gods and Goddesses, deities who were gay or transgender, and so on; the magical texts reflect this. But from around 400BC, two new concepts emerge: Yin (aka female vibe) as a lesser, weaker, darker, or even ‘abysmal’ force and left hand/anti-clockwise anything being demonized.

And you still read it today, as if either is the way it’s always been. Interestingly, the clockwise direction was said to be better as, in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s Sun-wise. If you face the East, the direction that the Sun rises, it travels to the South, which is your right hand. I’m developing a line of thought on this.

(4) You don’t need to be overly concerned about having – for example – medieval styling or accessories for spells and rituals. Of course, if you want them, go for it. But if an ancient priestess of Babylon or a Celtic druid time-traveled to the 21st Century, you can betcha they’d be delighted with gas lighters and apps that let you confirm the star you’re gazing at. And, if you’re psychic, you can scry from television static just as readily as you can from an officially sacred mountain lake.

(5) I put this in the Daily Mystic email for Monday but awareness of Space Weather is the coming thing. I was reading about Solar Minimum and had to keep checking I was still on a science site. Short version: During all of April, Earth was bombarded by a lot more cosmic rays than usual. Less Solar Wind, more electrons and lightning – what are the effects of all this on us? And what is the relationship to astrology as we know it? I think it’s linked to the Jupiter and perhaps the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions. I am on it!

(7) Finally, when you read a heap of old texts about magic, you see how artificial and pointless the division between astronomy/science and astrology/magic is. Contemporary scholars and anyone in recent eras cannot study the pre-Monotheistic eras without a working knowledge of magic because it was woven into everything. It still is, of course.

And if you want a little touch of old Babylonian thought, I was reading about Lunar Mansions – vis a vis my Moon in the 9th House – and found this beautiful line from an ancient astrologer: “What a star has wrought, a star will undo.” If you felt you’d been copping the adverse side of a planetary influence, you’d do various rituals or meditate on the nature of that influence.

*In this context, I’m meaning magic as astrology, divination – particularly of dreams, rituals or spells, plants used medicinally as well as metaphysically and reverence for the old gods.


Image: Remedios Varo – Icono

54 thoughts on “The Genius Of Magic”

  1. I’m not sure I’ve ever commented in the many years I’ve been a member. If you only knew how timely this is for me. yeowza! Thank you.

  2. **But the real point here is that the symbols, deities, and concepts from your core ethnic group – your ancestral heritage – are more potent for you. And they all go back to Ancient Babylon anyway**

    Unless i am somehow misreading this, I disagree – they do not all go back to Ancient Babylon. Most cultures around the world have magical symbols, deities & concepts that well predate the Ancient Babylonians whose culture was only around from 2300 BC; & some predate by thousands of years such as Aboriginals, African cultures, Siberians, etc. There is cave art with ancient magical symbols dating to tens of thousands of years ago, and megaliths and menhirs with magic symbols all over Europe (& that i have a personal resonance with) that predate Sumerian or Babylonian civilizations, so i don’t understand your statement.

    1. Sorry, I need to phrase this better – it was more a freestyle rant (as in a blog post) than a thesis (see earlier response) or long article. And the Babylon comment was a flip throwaway. Astrology – as I know it – all comes from Babylon – also Egypt/Mesopotamia, etc. But yes, of course, geomancy and Stonehenge, etc all referenced Solstices and so on. And this!

      So after the final in my CV-19 series, my next post will be about Dating A Leo – Dos, and Don’ts lol

      1. Saturn is now opposite my 9th House Moon, so i may be having a hard time in discerning or digesting sudden flippant throwaway comments about cultural appropriation given the incendiary times we are living in. So forgive my need for clarification. And to tell you the truth i would be thrilled to know more about the Dos & Donts of Dating a Leo…. though i would prefer to know more about Aquarius.

  3. murasaki muenja

    I love what you write, Mystic, and I’m grateful for you, but what you wrote in (1) made my stomach drop.

    I’m studying to become a craniosacral therapist right now and have been studying the history of Osteopathy which is where this healing practice is rooted. It was founded by a white settler man named Andrew Taylor Still in the 1800s. He lived among the indigenous Shawnee who were the original stewards of the land which the settlers named “Virginia.” They showed him their spiritual healing practices which became the basis for what he would later call Osteopathy, which would later make him a man of immense power and influence. Andrew Taylor Still was an educated man. He knew what violence and trauma do to bodies, to people. He was even an abolitionist. Yet he did nothing while the people who showed him what would become his life practice were violently driven out of their lands.

    In fact, he desecrated their ancient burial grounds, dug up the bodies of someone’s ancestors, and studied their bones.

    Many healing practices originate from Osteopathy, like Craniosacral therapy and Polarity therapy. These are practices trademarked by wealthy, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual white men and have become huge industries. Today, most practitioners of these healing modalities are also wealthy, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual white men and the beneificiaries come from the same background. Meanwhile, the descendants of the indigenous people who were driven out of their lands, who remembered these spiritual traditions for centuries, live with the consequences of ancestral trauma caused by white settlers today, yet do not have access to those healing practices because they have been dispossessed of it along with their land.

    There are thousands upon thousands of examples like this. There’s not a single particle of the United States which is not touched by this history. I’m Japanese and also experienced the real harm of white people turning the spiritual traditions of my culture into a fad and/or profit. I’ve experienced trying to find the symbols, deities, and concepts of my ancestors in order to heal but not being able to because it has been erased by colonization. The point isn’t that colonial theft, violence, and dispossession is some fucked up thing that happened to people a long time ago. The point is that there are people being harmed by this history, today. Real, living breathing people who are alive just like you and me.

    So saying something like “And they all go back to Ancient Babylon anyway,” in the context where people without any awareness of history or their position in the global geopolitical power map are entering into cultural spaces which do not belong to them and causing real harm, is irresponsible and perpetuating historical injustice. Please think about the consequences of saying something like that.

    Yes, “cultural appropriation” as a term IS a bit yesterday. Let’s stop using euphemistic terms and call it what it is: settler colonial violence and theft.

    And please don’t interpret this post like I’m on some high-horse. I’m saying all this as a settler on indigenous lands. My god, my people are responsible for some of the worst colonial violence in the history of the world. Yes, magic is genius. Magic can transmute oppressive realities into life-affirming worlds. But we don’t get there through magical bypassing.

    1. Wish Upon a Star

      mm I am also interested in studying cranial sacral therapy. I was not aware of these facts but now I am. Thanks.

      One day I was watching a cs teacher demonstrate something on you tube. He was using a dummy baby and female skeletal pelvis to demonstrate something about birth. I don’t know why but I didn’t like the way he was handing the bub. I was angry.

      Now I know why I was angry.

      1. Wish Upon a Star

        Just read something about Stills and the Native Americans. From the NA’s point of view. Very enlightening.

        Need to digest this.

    2. Thank you so much for this – I feel like I may have made my point clumsily. I was trying to say that cultural appropriation or awareness of origins/truth and so on are valid – but that style of call-out where people criticize someone online for saying they like dream-catchers is unhelpful.

      And I did not know that about osteopathy! A craniosacral person I saw said there was evidence the practice was “ancient” but I did not think beyond that. And I agree with most of what you say – I appreciate you making this argument so eloquently. But how does the average person who is interested in these old concepts of healing, magic, ecology, etc navigate it? I know someone who is of Tohunga heritage and wants to study it – it’s a calling for her – but what she calls “political Maori” is really against it – their stance is that accentuating the “woo-woo” aspect of the culture undermines their gains in politics, commerce, law etc.

      1. The danger in terms like “political Māori” is that it assumes there is one type of “political” Māori and further reduces the stereotypes you are inadvertently, and unintentionally, promoting. “Dusky maidens”, “happy horis”, and “radical Maoris” were the three main stereotypes perpetuated by colonial powers, that still persist in today’s media – it’s worth being mindful of this. There are many iwi and many views by individuals within those iwi, and hapū, just as there will be many descendants of tohunga, and they may have wildly differing opinions to your friend also.

        What i see in Aotearoa/NZ is a gradual but steady rise in (genuine, respectful) interest in Te Ao Māori (spiritual worldview), rongoa (healing), Māori astronomy, and Maramataka (lunar calendar) which is becoming increasingly more widespread, appreciated, and integrated here. And not, to my knowledge, as cultural appropriation by pākehā… Which is not to say that cultural appropriation doesn’t happen (ta moko and haka being the most common and contentious examples of it globally) – but rather that this revival/reclamation is led by Māori practitioners and generally under fairly strict tīkanga (protocol). “Woo-woo” is not a term i have personally seen associated with the re-emergence of Māori spiritual world view – that’s not to negate your friend’s experience, but one person’s experience does not a thesis make.

        The Tohunga Suppression Act was real, obviously, as was the suppression of language, the theft of land, the stealing or forced adoptions of children, and attempted genocides. This is the same story of cultural erasure executed as part of the colonial project everywhere – Australia, Ireland, USA, Canada, and so many more places besides. Add in capitalism and mainstream New Age spirituality, and bam, cultural appropriation is born, with a bindi on her forehead and a tribal arm tattoo.

        I appreciate the point being our need to reconnect with our own spiritual heritages, but it’s a dicey subject to be making generalisations about whilst the conversations are very much live, charged, and ongoing in ‘post’-colonial countries such as Aotearoa/NZ. Australia has its own stories too no doubt. (Fun fact: in NZ schools we were taught about the horrific colonisation of Australian Aborigines whilst in Australian schools, i have been told, they were taught the same about Māori in NZ… It was only last year that Jacinda Ardern’s government introduced a curriculum change to include the teaching of NZ’s history in schools from 2022. The Treaty of Waitangi (Tiriti o Waitangi) was signed in 1840…).

        Disclosure: Saturn is squaring my moon also (and does so natally), and opposing my natal 9th house Saturn, hence the – yo-facts! – response. It’s a sensitive, multi-faceted, perhaps triggering, subject and needs to be viewed as such, imo…

        Re Space weather: Neptune & Uranus! Oceans of solar winds fritzing our energetic circuits… We are like walking electrical storms. There’s something else Neptunian going on…revealed in point 6, written in invisible ink for the initiated. 😉

        1. “does not a thesis make.” It’s actually not a thesis! It is a blog post. And people judging blog posts as if they were supposed to be a thesis is why I veered away from ‘complex’ topics a few years ago.

          As for the political Maori thing, that was not my term. I was quoting someone else’s anecdote about their feelings. I actually thought woo-woo originated from the old state of Wu in China, which became synonymous with magic for various reasons.

          And, actually, I have had a post on Maori and indigenous astrology in draft form for over a year – I haven’t posted it in case it is somehow offensive, or wrong.

    3. I did not understand why you cannot find information on Japanese spirituality. I assume you are looking for it in Japanese and in national sites? When i want to read about Norwegian old religion the only real place to look is in books, at the university library ( some of the most famous deities have ok pages on Wikipedia in norwegian, bit most dont) Or you have to talk to somebody who knows. You cannot expect to find good things free online and written in english about old norwegian land based beliefs, ( why would there be) you might find something in Jstore, but that will have an academic distance. Also, in old traditions, information is given in trust and through actions person to person. Not online.
      Of you can go to Japan, that might be the best way to learn.

    4. Of you are Japanese decendant but have lost your language, i think you can still learn a little if you show up. If you expect to get information in english, about Japanese old beliefs while sitting in Virginia, you might continue to be dissapointed.

      ( Americans often annoy me when they expect the whole world to speak to them in english, and are not able to have a conversation in any other language. It is a very humbeling experience to speak a language you have not grown up with. Any person who speaks more than one language knows that, and is respectful. English speaking people, not so much. So if you dont speak Japanese you should learn it. Then you can write about japanese spirituality yourself one day. In a good way.)

    5. Wish Upon a Star

      I am on pain medication for surgery so excuse me if I am off with the pixies. But I need to ramble on.

      I thought about your comments this arvo and was impressed with your articulation and integrity.

      It feels like bad juju to study this art without honouring or acknowledging its origin. Or to study it at all. In Australia our aborigines have managed to keep their healing sacred and secret. To learn it would seem so contrived.

      Maybe Stevie Wonder was right when he sang Superstition.

      “When you believe in things that you don’t understand”

  4. I love all of this! But I’m really drawn to the no 5 point which I read in Monday’s daily too
    On Saturday here in paris there was a 3 hr lighting storm and we’ve had high winds ( Paris is not a Windy City ) and the temperature dropped to an icy 13deg on average ftom May 9-11 so please more info about this earth crossing some magnetic polar sheet
    Is this like getting a surge of electric shock to “re boot the magnetic earth fields and therefore our own magnetic field (?? Ps I’m
    Also Scorpio ♏️ x

  5. Re: “…the clockwise direction was said to be better as, in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s Sun-wise” back in those days I wonder if the privaleged, educated and holders of magical knowledge even knew of the Southern Hemisphere. Nowadays down South, we cast our Sacred Circle following the path of the sun from East to North, West to South and the four directions and the four aspects that are Gaia are honoured in ritual, Earth, Sea, Sky, Fire. And perhaps in our more (potentially) enlightened, informed and tolerant era, we understand that all lifeforms deserve respect as we are all linked to the same magical circuit.

  6. 1. Love love love the image 2. Sooo excited for my report 3. Those cosmic rays are f with my work mob big time 4. Why am I using numbers like MM? 5. I was initiated in Reiki in 1996 and we were taught that secret powerful symbols were used to alter our energy field so I held them in esteemed devotion thinking IF I did the 3rd Master’s course they would be revealed, Well they are plastered all over Pinterest now, I can’t look.

  7. Have you got to the part about child sacrifice ? The Babylonians were quite keen on the idea. In fact human sacrifice played an important role in many pre monotheistic cults. Even the Vedics of northern India were still murdering ? Ummm disposing ? Of millions of unwanted newborns, usually females until the British imposed penalties for the practice.
    I suppose what I’m saying is that pre Abrahamic religion had a brutal side.
    In fact the key turning point in the change over from Goddess rule to God rule (monotheism) was the story of Abraham who was about to sacrifice his first born son Isaac on Mt Moriah ( the same place as the wailing wall is today ) when he was told by angelic entities that the satisfaction of the gods was no longer dependent on the sacrifice of the first born. A ram 🐏 trapped nearby replaced Isaac and a new paradigm began in the history of religion. The same paradigm that created the foundation of western religion and magic. This ‘magic’ borrowed much from the Babylonians and dumped some of the more brutal / blood based practices.
    The takeover was not a quick one but once Moses introduced the Ten Commandments the Abrahamic view of how society should be structured became the basis of all laws that we currently live under. The idea of ‘do not murder’ seems a strange thing to have to enforce but it was written as a law in a time when murder, slavery, human sacrifice etc were not considered crimes.
    It’s all very well to venerate cultures like the Babylonians or the Egyptians but if those cultures were with us today, well let’s face it most of us would be slaves, temple prostitutes, etc working for the religious leaders and wealthy.

    1. Nice text! Is it really true? Was it common to sacrifice your first born? Was the story of isac the rule not the exeption at the time?
      In Norway archeologists keep finding childrens corpses and skull pieces built into the foundations of houses. For protection? We dont know of they were from slaves or the family of the house

      1. No Isaac was the exception. His fate was specifically recorded as being different from the common practice. Abraham was born into Chaldean society. He revolted against the practices of his father and moved to Canaan. In Canaan also first born were sacrificed to Moloch, the god of fire. There are many references to the story of Isaac and the relationship of this story to human sacrifice.

    2. Hang on, slaves tick. Working for the religious (science) leaders, tick and the wealthy, see above, tick. Errrrrr me thinks little has changed in so many ways.

      1. Surely you don’t see our lives as similar ? Most in the West are enslaved by their own hand. We have the choice. The main sickness in today’s society relates to consumerism and Christian work ethic.
        People complain about this but I believe most have a choice.
        More importantly we can learn about magic, astrology, mystic traditions when in ancient days this knowledge was kept secret by small circles of powerful people.

    3. “The Mists of Avalon” and “Harvest Home” by Thomas Tryon (sp) touch on human sacrifice- for the land and the group in times of crop failure and famine. The prom king and queen were on deck in case of catastrophe.

      Many Celtic prayers appease gods of the hearth. They just swapped Mary and the son for Brigid.

  8. Awesome post. Currently redecorating and have been inexplicably drawn to the Red Cross of the Knights Templar and have been thinking of getting a rug made. Not sure my Islamic friends would approve and might just be the ancient equivalent of the Confederate Flag lol!

    1. I visited the castle that was once home to these knights. Was long time ago and not at the time across the history of their activities. Crusades would make sense. Should look into..

    2. Wish Upon a Star

      My ancestors are Maltese. We have this cross on our flag. Interesting connection. Interesting history.

  9. Am reminded of the water going down the bath tub clockwise and counter clockwise in each hemisphere of the earth. While more antidote than fact apparently. But, the weather patterns do change with hemisphere. Here’s a quote from scientific America. “ The Coriolis force accounts for why cyclones are counterclockwise-rotating storms in the Northern Hemisphere, but rotate clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. The circulation directions result from interactions between moving masses of air and air masses moving with the rotating earth.”

  10. Crystallised future

    Damn Mars in Virgo aye Mystic. It can drive into drilling down so hard on a subject that the original task gets waylaid, sometimes into oblivion!

  11. I’m especially enraptured when you talk history, Mystic! There’s so much of interest here. I agree – I don’t think you can understand astronomy, or science, without understanding about magic. Interestingly, both are about reading the signs really – about noticing, observing. With science being more concerned with what’s noticeable by the eye, without paying attention to what can be sensed through other senses, which is limiting really. Or so my ramble bamble mercury conjunct mars in sagg is pondering this morning…😆
    Other random musings – I love the meaning of Tohunga. Everything is in reading the signs, really.
    And I wonder exactly what happened in 400BC with this concept of yin/weak energy?! Would love to hear more.

  12. Totally fascinating and something that has peaked my interest all my life, sex religion, ritual it’s all there and the gay transexual element too in the deeper belief system of so many ethnic peoples, so little research and mostly deeply hidden by – yes – the Catholic Church, suppression keeps the power in their realm. Just imagine the books and other writing they must hold in the Vatican Library.

  13. I’ve always thought that some of the rituals I’ve read in books for performing magic are a little to fussy. It has seemed to me that most of our ancestors wouldn’t have had the modern tools these books advise to use. It would have been the things in nature they found around them to use or made by their own hands. This thinking may have something to do with me being a cap and accessing old magic as per my new daily mystic has been advising me about off late.

    1. PS love the research you are undertaking into these things. If i could make a living at it, i would be a archaeologist and old book researcher and be lost in what i find for years.

    2. Wish Upon a Star

      Agree Maeve.

      The Magic is in the spontaneous moments and enjoying/feeling them.

      I don’t think magic needs too much rehearsals or perfection.

      1. Wish Upon a Star

        Magic : freesion and ritual go together like a horse and carriage.

        Neptune and Saturn come together for a feast and in the afterglow of food and wine they remember, despite their differences, that they are very old friends.

        Gee I really had to express that.

        1. I really love this Neptune Saturn statement wish. I have them trine in my chart, with Eris-MC making up the third point of that fire trine. Thank you for showing me a path I needed to remember

  14. I can’t even… I am still thinking through everything you wrote. This is giving a shape to so many thoughts and insights I’ve carried for a long time! It also sounds like you are getting a deeper taste of scholarship and blending it with intuition (which, as an academic, they claim NOT to do but repress that they do in the name of objectivity). I wish you the very best in this pursuit, but do recommend occasional breaks to not fry your beautiful mind!!

    1. Love this! I think it might depend on the field of academia as much as anything else. Intuitive leaps are definitely ok! But if it’s going to be published or relied on as a source of info for others then it needs more support than a statement that begins something like, “I reckon that…” ..but! Being very clear about our own position within this “objectivity” is kind of key innit! To misquote an anthropologist somewhere, objectivity is boolsheet. (But we can try, as long as we try to be awake to our position and blind spots) Or a quantum physicist: The particles change depending on the observer. Hehe. (Also totally acknowledging that most culture and religion is basically a bunch of people getting together to say “I reckon that…” And no one getting a word in otherwise for a few centuries, as MM mentioned actually lol. so)
      I agree important to have breaks so as to restore mind chemistry every coupla days.

  15. Such fascinating stuff.
    My dreams have gone totally nuts in the last week or so.
    Also turned bed from North to East yesterday, will see if I notice a difference,

  16. Ooh. Also. Re: point 4. Yes. I’m super opposed to magic hegemony blah. Like, privilege hello? If a voudou priest can scry from friggin chicken bones then afaict, a $90 obsidian orb is not compulsory to see into someone’s soul. Like, maybe for some idk but don’t assume that it’s like a shopping list item ya know

  17. I came across this awesome book (haven’t actually read it yet) written by an Italian researcher who spent a lot of time in the south of Italy, it’s about magic as a system of knowledge. I haven’t read your whole post properly yet so I don’t know if it relevant but is Ernesto de Martino, Magic: a theory from the south. It has a foot firmly in academic realm but hey 9th house

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