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IS HERBAL MAGIC SUPERSTITION?

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From: eballard@sas.upenn.edu (Eoghan)
Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.lucky.w,alt.magick.folk,alt.magick,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.religion.orisha
Subject: Re: Amulets and Talismans (was How do you make a Talisman?)
Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2000 09:52:25 -0500

Superstition, by the books, is any practice or action or
belief that is held unthinkingly and practiced without
rational consideration. It is not a belief that is held
without ritual form, as indeed most superstitions involve
some form of ritual action, such as walking around ladders,
etc.

By definition the use of various plant, animal or mineral
substances found in nature and presumed to have innate
powers of their own without further preperation is not
superstitious. It is a rational practice based upon the
foundation of the understanding of the natural world to have
its own powers and energies which the person can make use of
without the need of further enhancing them. One can of
course argue that by combining various substances unaltered
into a packet or bag constitutes a form of alteration, but
that is belaboring the point.

I would further argue that while I have not looked too
closely at Middle Eastern or far Eastern practices, at least
the Native American system does exactly the same thing as
the African. In most Native American belief systems, the
various animals and other natural objects have their own
spirits and either the spirit of this power visits one
spontaniously in vision and then gives or causes the
individual to find a symbol or object that contains their
power which is kept without further "Empowering" or
"charging" it. This notion is a patently European idea, in
my experience and one that is fairly recent at that. It
seems to me to come straight out of Christianity.

The ancient Celts for example always viewed the most
powerful objects and forces to belong to unchanged nature
and not to manmade objects. Totally manmade objects, such as
swords might need to be charged, but if you found a staff of
a special wood that was discovered in a sacred location,
nothing more needed to be done to empower it. In fact, human
tinkering was more likely to lessen its effectiveness than
otherwise.

Eoghan

Tata Nganga Ensasi Calunga Ensulo Quimbisa

eballard@sas.upenn.edu

Eoghan Ballard
Center for Folklore & Ethnology
University of Pennsylvania

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