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Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology

RITUAL or CEREMONIAL or 'HIGH' MAGIC

While some form of ritualized ceremonial magick has been present in cultures going back thousands of years, most current practices have their roots in the middle ages or later.   Western Ceremonial Magick developed out of several sources:

Western Ceremonial Magick is a system of Occult belief based on three theoretical principles that have their roots in the Hermetic philosophy of vibration:
  • all things on earth emanate from the divine and carry properties of these emanations; that man is a micro-cosm of the divine;
  • things that affect the microcosm also affect the macro-cosm (the universe/divine),
  • and by influencing the micro-cosm, one also affects the macro-cosm. (see also AS ABOVE, SO BELOW)

Implicit in the doctrine is the notion that the universe exisis both on physical or temporal and spiritual planes, and that there exist other intelligences than those resulting from physical Incarnation.

Psychic correspondences exist between the macrocosm of the universe as a whole and the microcosm of the human individual.   These correspondences indicate that a principle present in the cosmos is also present in the human soul.   The properly trained magician will call upon the universal forces, whether from the outer cosmos or the inner man, and will add strength to his invocation according to prescribed principles, including characters, numbers, patterns, colours and other attributes which relate to the spiritual entity involved.

Accordingly, it is believed that the human entity is capable, subject to correct discipline and training, of anything through the strength of his or her own will.

That said, it is nearly impossible to define a set of beliefs that is common to all Ritual Magicians.   However, most accept Aleister Crowley's definition of Magick as "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will." Ritual Magicians are primarily concerned with "Transcendental" Magick (conciousness raising) rather than 'low', natural or Sympathetic Magick (folk magic designed to achieve worldly ends).

Many have likened Ritual Magick to Eastern practices - Dion Fortune, a 20th Century Magician, called Magick the 'Yoga of the west.'   One of the core beliefs in most magical Traditions is that diligent an applied practice will allow the practitioner to establish contact with one's genius, or higher self - sometimes referred to as the "Holy Guardian Angel."   The ultimate goal of Ritual Magick is likened to the Eastern Samaddhi - union with the infinite.   Magicians employ a hodgepodge of metaphysical techniques - many, like the Jewish Kabbalah, divested of their traditional dogmatic faiths.

It is generally held that there are two basic 'paths' in Ritual: the 'Left'a nd 'Right.'   These refer to the goal of the magician's spiritual work.

Left Hand Path philosophies all have an emphasis on freethought; not dogma or strict systems.   The "rules" in Left Hand Path religions are frequently seen as merely "guidelines".   The same attitude it applied to all knowledge, including that of the knowledge of reality and morals.   Subjectivism and relativism are almost universally assumed amongst followers of the Left Hand Path.

see also: HIGH and LOW MAGIC; MAGICK


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PLEASE NOTE:
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc



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