Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Magic -- Why?

This isn't a thread on the sorts of operative magic that are normally discussed here. Rather, I'm hoping to discuss WHY people seem to find a belief in magic a necessity in the modern era.

Any of us who has been to a chain bookstore in the last couple of years and looked at the shelves that are devoted to books concerned with the "occult" cannot help but have noticed the large number of books that were obviously targeted at "ordinary" readers, especially books offering spells to fix all sorts of problems in people's lives, from relationship problems to job difficulties. (I am attempting here to draw a distinction between books written specifically about magical religions like Wicca on the one hand, and more general books that simply read like a cookbook full of spell recipes which do not have any specific spiritual or religious connotation, but simply focus on showing people how to work a spell, and it is this latter group to which I am referring.)

Given that the the conventional wisdom says that all of this is naught but the rankest form of superstition in this modern Age of Science, one has to wonder why there continues to be a general interest in this sort of thing amongst the general public. (I infer the existence of a generalized interest in magic by the fact that publishers are obviously selling enough of these types of books to keep printing them, which would NOT be happening if they weren't being bought by SOMEONE.)

In an abstract of a paper which he delivered at a conference in 2002, Ronald Hutton noted that much of the focus of historical pagan religious activity was directed toward propitiating a nature that often seemed menacing or hostile and which was totally incapable of being influenced by merely mortal efforts.

Is it possible that the function of magic within the human worldview/psyche is to provide us with the perception that we are able to influence events that would otherwise be totally outside our control?

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