Monday, February 7, 2011

Spelling as writing AND magick

I was thinking about magick this evening. I don't know what started me thinking about it, but in particular I was thinking about how most of my Pagan friends assume that I'm a witch. I don't mind this assumption, but it's not true. I did get my feet wet in witchcraft, but I left it behind when I discovered shamanism.

Then I started thinking about a book I've been reading for school, Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. In particular, I remembered the following paragraph:

"Perhaps the most succinct evidence for the potent magic of written letters is to be found in the ambiguous meaning of our common English word 'spell.' As the roman alphabet spread through oral Europe, the Old English word 'spell,' which had meant simply to recite a story or tale, took on the new double meaning: on the one hand, it now meant to arrange, in the proper order, the written letters that constitute the name of a thing or a person; on the other, it signified a magic formula or charm. Yet these two meanings were not nearly as distinct as they have come to seem to us today. For to assemble the letters that make up the name of a thing, in the correct order, was precisely to effect a magic, to establish a new kind of influence over that entity, to summon it forth! To spell, to correctly arrange the letters to form a name or a phrase, seemed thus at the same time to cast a spell, to exert a new and lasting power over the things spelled."

So basically, to write -- to spell out words -- is to cast a spell, according to Abram.

I remembered this, pondered it a little, and then I looked above my altar and...oh, wait. Yeah, um, there's something over my altar that may constitute as "spelling," in both senses of the word. It's something that's left over from an activity that a chorus I used to sing with did.
1) Everyone got a marker, and a piece of paper was taped to their back.
2) Find someone, anyone, and write one nice word describing that person on the paper on their back.
3) Repeat step 2 with as many people as you can until the evil director tells you that you've had enough fun and to get back to your places on the risers.
4) Get the paper off of your back (possibly with the help of a riser buddy) and see what people have written about you.
I still have that piece of paper. Here are some of the words on it:

* studious
* helper
* cute (four people wrote this! lol)
* brave
* smiley
* confidence
* great
* good kid
* dedication
* ever present
* energy

There's good energy in this piece of paper, and I look at it when I begin to lose confidence in myself. I remind myself that those are words that people wrote (or "spelled") on my back, and that they chose those particular words for a reason.

And I have to ask myself, is this spelling as writing and as magick? Do I need to reassess whether I am still a witch? Hmm....

By the way, Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous is a wonderful book. If you're interested in a philosophical discussion about the relationship between humans and the rest of the universe, you might want to take a look at this, especially if your spirituality/religion is nature based or if you are interested in such paths. It's a tough read, but very worth it. (And if you get bogged down in chapter two my advice is just to skip it.) I also discuss other aspects of this book in my book blog, and may have a book review up soon.