I work for a church – your standard American Episcopal (really Church of England in disguise) mainstream Christian Church, and we do magic there. My job is not particularly magical – think contracts for weddings, workshops, recordings, and memorials, finding the microphone, locking up after the caterer has left. I got that job soon after joining the choir (I was a music major in college, and the choir is awesome). But we do magic there: we enact rituals of blood and wine, flesh and bread, our prayers are really spells, our psalms and anthems are enchantments, and sometimes we even call them incantations. Episcopalians are really Anglican Catholics, (that’s why you specify Roman Catholics) and to make up for the loss in status, they are often more magically catholic than the Romans, as the reputation for using “smells and bells” is not just a rumor. The charism of this particular church is enchantment through music – by some accident of construction, we have beautiful acoustics, a beautiful Danish pipe organ, we have American Bach Soloists as our Artists-in-Residence, we are the venue to many recordings (including one winning a Grammy), and did I mention that the choir is awesome?
Magic is the How of God. I’m currently in the middle of Liber Kaos, an explanation of Chaos magic, and its relationship to science, and it’s confirming my view that magic is really just the techniques and technology we haven’t invented yet (or think we haven’t, talk to a shaman!). The technology we use today would be considered magic a century ago. Think lasers – if that’s not Jedi magic I don’t know what is.
Religion is the set of stories, traditions, and peacekeeping morals we use in community to talk about how God does it (or is it, as in “I AM that I AM”). In the Episcopal Church there is less discussion of morals than there is about one’s relationship to God, and with this I keep coming back to the idea that we are “made in His image”. I think of Jesus telling the amazed disciples who witnessed his miraculous healings, “all these ye shall do, and more”. We’re meant to take God and Jesus as examples of what we can be and do. Here, I am embracing Martin Luther’s take on The Priesthood of All:
That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2[:9] says, “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom,” and Revelation [5:10], “Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings.”
Over the next four years, I’ll be making a twice-yearly migration to New Mexico, to study with author and Guatemalan shaman Martin Prechtel, at his school Bolad’s Kitchen, a kind of school for a new culture. He won’t be teaching us any witch-doctor stuff, however, as he says that even once someone has been healed, our culture quickly creates new illnesses in people, and that it’s our culture that needs to be healed. Our culture creates sickness, and war, and diaspora. Environmental activist Derrick Jensen gets into it with Martin in this most fascinating interview.
We’ll be learning to understand our grief as praise, and to learn to praise beautifully. The way you know you’re doing it well enough is when you’ve touched someone’s heart, and the tears drop. We’ll be learning to metabolize the beast that is this culture, to digest it and give birth to a new culture that celebrates life instead of death. We’ll be learning to turn our curses into blessings.
Charming Deb has issued a New Year’s Challenge, so 2012 is the beginning of that for me, my own Year of Enchantment, a year of enchanting for a new world, both personal and public. I’ll be enchanting for personal energy, with sound and herb magic for better sleep (tea anyone?), singing to the plants I’m growing for healthier cooking, and doing more of that cooking, which I’m already good at. I’ll be enchanted when I spend more time hiking and camping in Nature, which always boosts my energy. I’ll also be enchanting for Bees, growing them some tasty flowers, and possibly learning enchantment from them, both mental and mythical.
Public enchantments? Not sure how I’ll go about this, but my target is the Police. As Gordon got me thinking, the outcome of Occupy Wall Street will depend a great deal on whom individual police officers choose to protect and serve. At heart, I think I’m really an anarchist, and that a society that needs police officers is not one that protects or serves anybody, but I think that most officers want to be “good guys”, at least when they first sign up. I think being in that job changes a person, the way becoming a drug dealer changes someone – first it’s a prestige thing with your teenage friends, eventually you’re ready to kill to maintain your territory. The challenge will be disarm the police by touching their hearts, and I don’t think you do this by protesting, which is more an act of engaging them in conflict. Sure, the first thing any prophet does, before anything else, is to deliver a suitably loud set of lamentations, so that listeners understand the gravity of the problem. But then begins the trance, the delivery of divine words, the enchantment to look for and find something new (a star, a baby Jesus, a new morality, what have you). The lamentations are here, the enchantment is coming.