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Thaumaturgy Lesson 1: History and Types of Magic

on Mon 21 May 2018, 11:35
Lesson 1: History of Modern Thaumaturgy (or: How We Got Here) and Types of Magic

Thaumaturgy: from Greek θαῦμα thaûma, meaning "miracle" or "marvel" and ἔργον érgon, meaning "work" is the capability of a magician or a saint to work magic or miracles.

To be a Thaumaturge is to learn how to shape reality. No prior experience is required, but it is definitely helpful, as this track represents a lifetime of knowledge and should be considered something of a "crash course." A Thaumaturge never stops learning.

A word before this first lesson: Nothing is an absolute. Many examples throughout the class series are given as broader examples only, not as the end-all-be-all of a category of information. There will be other information not present in these lessons -- that is for the student to explore, such as by asking questions, or through future lessons, or by independent study. This is a framework of knowledge, not every thread of a complete tapestry.

How We Got Here

Magic, and the use thereof, are of course very ancient. Humanity has always explored the natural, and the supernatural, since its inception. Shamanic practices and connections to something bigger and outside of the self can be seen depicted in cave paintings, earthworks, and petroglyphs around the world, in every culture.

This track will attempt to straddle the worlds of secular mechanical magic techniques (such as ingredient-based spellwork) and the spirit realm that includes deities, guides, angels/loa, nature spirits, and other powerful non-human entities that can assist our workings.

But the question remains: How did we get here? What types of magic systems and techniques have survived to the present day that we might reflect on and learn from? Here are perhaps the most useful examples for our purposes:

Western Ritual Mysticism

Most who will be entering this track are familiar with the Western mystery traditions, such as Wicca, Druidry, Heathenism, Thelema, OTO, Golden Dawn, Rosicrucians, Masons, and so on. These all stem from a similar source, that of Western European ritual traditions and techniques.

Most of them have not been handed down unbroken, and many are reconstructions based on surviving grimoires, folk magic, and borrowed information that has been either adopted into the Western framework (as with the Rosicrucians, who use extensive Egyptian symbolism) or completely reinterpreted into something new (such as Gardnerian Wicca).

Common elements of this family of paths include casting a protective circle, calling on guardians and deities from on high to come down and assist with workings and hear prayers, levels of initiation (including High Priest/ess positions) and life/death mysteries. Often there is one supreme being/creator/god/source, or "God" has been divided into a binary male/female pairing.

Disadvantages: Teachings and beliefs can be quite rigid; Groups can be exclusionary; Spellwork techniques can be overly mechanical in some systems and neglects supernatural assistance; Some groups claim false histories and unproven pedigrees

Advantages: Strong ritual and spellwork structures create repeatable results; Formulaic spells are easy to follow; Readily available information; Some information does go back to at least the 17th century; Taps into older energies and powers; Many systems assume, encourage, and train members to improve their personal power and psychic abilities


Native and aboriginal peoples who are still deeply tied to their ancestral lands practice nature-based spirituality and magics. They have links to the plants, animals, stones, land, and skies of their places, and often identify with these natural elements daily. Often they have spirit guides that come from these sources, and can even be divided into groups or clans based on these aspects. For example, even in one tribal village there might be individuals from the Coyote clan, the Otter clan, the Eagle clan, and so on.

They do not "worship gods" per se, as "god" is all around them. The earth, sun, fire, and water are all sources of life, and the powerful beings they work with are deeply respected spirits. The supernatural world is very close to the surface in these cultures, and is honored, feared, respected, and deeply acknowledged.

There is some overlap with many modern neo-Pagan paths that deeply honor the Earth, animals, plants, movements of the heavens, and so on. Druidry and Wicca are two such examples that recognize nature powers and hold festivals that mark the equinoxes and solstices, as well as harvest and fertility festivals.

Disadvantages: Often tied to specific places or must include natural areas to be effective; Practitioners can feel cut off when in urban environments; Works better in a group/culture; Appropriation from other cultures is common; Important ritual/power objects may not be legal for everyone to own; Some practices may be dangerous if attempted alone

Advantages: Not overly complicated for the most part; Daily practice doesn't require lots of props; Most people recognize the solstices and equinoxes; Personal power objects may be found almost anywhere as gifts; Most people don't think twice about jewelry or tattoos that depict animals, plants, or other natural power symbols

Shamanic Trance

Related to many nature-based paths is shamanism, and especially trance work. However, there are other spiritual and ritual frameworks that use trance, including the Sufi faith. The "Whirling Dervish" is the Sufi mystic who closes their eyes, puts one hand up to God, the other down toward Earth, and spins in place to channel this energy and achieve an altered state of consciousness, sometimes for an hour or more at a time.

Drumming is another method for allowing the mind to detach from the physical realm and explore other planes. The most effective way is for a knowledgeable teacher or ritual partner to use the drum beats to guide the participant, so that the traveler may simply relax, let go, and journey as needed. When the traveler hears the beat change, they can ride it back home again.

The deepest and most dangerous of the trance techniques uses mind-altering substances. This is never to be attempted alone, even by the most experienced travelers, and should only be done in the presence of a trained supervisor to monitor the process. (This course will not be covering this topic.) In many cultures, one is not considered an authentic and true shaman until they have had a major transformative and/or near-death experience, so that they have seen and understand how to navigate the other worlds, including the gates of the dead.

Disadvantages: Can be extremely dangerous; Best practiced with the help of others; Ideal circumstances are quiet isolation for complete focus; Some methods rely on mind-altering drugs

Advantages: Doesn't require a lot of equipment; Powerful way to get information via other realms and to contact spirit beings; Can bring deep inner peace and tranquility


Working directly with the light-energy of the divine spark can be a very powerful experience... if the mage knows how to do it properly. There are established frameworks for this type of energy manipulation, with Reiki perhaps being one of the most well known and easily accessed. Others are Tai Chi and Qi Gong, which are excellent for helping new practitioners to sense and manipulate the energies around them.

Some of the "light" paths can swing over too far into equating "light" with "good" and "pure" and rejecting anything that seems "dark" to the practitioner. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes. As a result, there can be a lack of understanding of any other forces beyond the arbitrary category of "light," because of the refusal to learn about them. The lack of understanding causes fear, which causes them to avoid the information, which causes the lack of understanding.

As practitioners delve deeper, however, the raw power of manipulating the energy of the universe becomes its own path and shows its own way. The judgments of "light" and "dark" fall away, and the energies simply are. They are raw materials for the user to shape and direct as they will (ideally for the greater good).

Disadvantages: New mages are often taught to fear anything not of the "light;" Some practitioners are judgmental of the "purity" of others; It can be difficult to find the right teacher; Not all people can sense the energies enough to manipulate them

Advantages: Simple to manipulate once the techniques are learned; Very powerful with few/no tools needed; Can be used in conjunction with all other magic techniques; Most people have a positive view which makes it safer to talk about; Can bring inner peace


Probably one of the closest things to an unbroken magic tradition is the spellwork of ordinary people. Nana's Hoodoo may bring weird looks when she sprinkles some kind of dark powder across the back porch, but these ingredient-based techniques have proved effective since time immemorial and are often handed down through the generations.

These techniques use ordinary materials for the most part. Because folk magic and spell work exists in every culture on earth, the ingredients and language can be extremely regional. "Van van oil" sounds exotic, but the main ingredient is the herb vervain, the name having changed as it passed through several languages and dialects.

Because this type of magic is results-based, it's highly customizable and adaptable, and substitutions can be used to get the same results (depending on the spell). Ingredients and methods of casting can be modernized to work in city environments, such as keeping restaurant salt packets in your pocket in case you need salt on the go, or calling upon the personified soul of a particular city for assistance.

Disadvantages: Relatively narrow focus on spellwork for simple results; Some recipes are inaccurate or unreliable; Often spell ingredients are regional based on the spell's origin; Can be harder to mesh with other practitioners in a group setting; Not a complete belief system

Advantages: Most spell ingredients easy to obtain; Can often be done with whatever's at hand; Flexible and intuitive; Gets fast cause-and-effect results on specific targets; Almost anyone can design and use an effective spell


This is a broad category and includes any belief system that relies on worship of or devotion to a higher being for its power, and the higher being bestowing that god-power onto the supplicant. Belief systems such as Vodou, Kemetic, Judeo-Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Santeria, and many of the Western spiritual traditions use this "drawing down of divine power" as the engine for their workings.

Trance work is an aspect of many of these systems, as the "holy spirit" takes over. This can involve things like full blackout situations where the worshipper has no memory of what happened, speaking in tongues, being "horsed" or ridden/possessed by a godform, or ecstatic visions.

Less invasive techniques include results-based prayer work (similar to folk magics) and devotional acts to draw favor and keep the higher beings closer to the priest/ess.

Disadvantages: Many people have a mental block around organized religion due to abuse; Some possession rituals can be dangerous; Some people are unable to handle or control their experiences which impacts their daily functioning; Cultural appropriation can be a problem with some systems; Cultural reconstruction-based systems can be inaccurate and can have a modern filter applied to them

Advantages: Can be very powerful; Humans have been observed to possess supernatural abilities while possessed or in ecstatic trance; A direct link to divine power; Popular systems have their own collective power from the number of worshipers which can be drawn from; Much lore is easy to obtain


This group of magic methods is not for beginners, as they all deal with absolutely dangerous elements and beings. Mistakes can (and will) be made in the other paths, but those mistakes are much more likely to turn lives upside down, or even result in death, in the "left hand paths." The term comes from older language that equated left-handedness with "sinister" or negative forces.

One of the biggest problems with some (not all) of these paths is that they teach that the practitioner's own ego and power are what actually fuels interactions with divine and supernatural beings. That these beings are little more than puppets who only come to life when the mage's energies fill the empty shell. This hubris is carried over into the types of work done, such as only focusing on the mage's selfish desires, and collateral damage to innocents is just the price to get what they want.

That said, there are many ways that these paths are helpful and useful. Not all of them are just magical masturbation -- and speaking of sex magic, that is one example of an energy-raising technique that some other paths won't touch. The "gray" practitioner is not shackled by rules like "do as ye will but harm none" if it becomes necessary to bind someone so that they don't hurt others. Sometimes "harm" is necessary, as a doctor must cut away a tumor with a knife to save a cancer patient.

The techniques in this group of paths can be extremely effective if done with caution and a realistic understanding of the practitioner's actual ability to control these often unpredictable energies. Getting cocky is what causes messy problems that others then have to clean up after, and sometimes the results can never be undone.

Disadvantages: Can be more dangerous than other paths; Can be highly ego-based inflate the practitioner's ego unrealistically; Can get out of control quickly (especially due to an inflated ego); Often deals with unpredictable, deceptive, and highly volatile entities who are not well understood; Can cause collateral and/or permanent damage

Advantages: Can be very powerful when done in a safe manner with proper precautions; Encourages "outside the box" thinking; Draws from a variety of sources; Makes use of techniques that other systems downplay or forbid; Many powerful entities with a “bad rep” may actually be beneficial to work with once understood

Avoiding False Teachers

One final topic before moving on to the next unit is how to avoid false gurus and potentially dangerous teachers. What it really comes down to is ego, power, and control. These warning signs are easily found on websites about how to avoid controlling, narcissistic leaders, and should be carefully considered whenever dealing with a new teacher.

Do they set themselves up as the Sole Authority on a topic? Do they demand obedience with punishments for those who disobey? Do they isolate you from trusted friends and family? Do they claim divine authority over you? Does their behavior change (nice/mean) depending on who is present? Do they use gaslighting, follower grooming, or other manipulation techniques? Do they play favorites with some while other people are demonized? These are just a few of the red flags to watch for.

The bottom line is that teachers are there to teach, not control. Questions should make a teacher happy because you're excited to learn more. Questions should not make a teacher angry or make them feel "attacked." If something about that teacher feels off or wrong... it probably is. Trust your intuition. Keep yourself safe. You'll know when you've found the right teacher for you.
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on Fri 01 Jun 2018, 13:55
The origins of shamanism dates to around 40’000 years ago and spans across many cultures Across the globe. It has been Practiced by Native Americans in north and south America which is perhaps the most commonly Associated group which the Practice of Shamanism however Evidence of Shamanism can Also be found in Scandinavia, Russia, Serbia, Africa, China as well as many other countries Across the planet. “Most Sources Indicate that the word ‘Shaman’ stems from the Evenki language of the tungus tribe in Serbia roughly translated to ‘one who knows’ or ‘one who is excited” (Book quote)
So what is Shamanism?
Communication with spirits though entering altered states of consciousness to communicate with spirits to enter other worlds common themes also include possession by a spirit.
Shamans commonly act as a bridge between the human and spirit realm communicating with the spirit realm then relaying information back to their community
Spirits may also aid the shaman in Healing Divination
Sickness is often thought to be caused by a benevolent spirit or in some cultures the loss of one’s soul (some cultures also believe we have many souls) Often a shaman’s patient will be healed by banishing this spirit from them from within the spirit realm this power is frequently given them by their guides. Shamanic healing can also be herbal based not just spirit based and many shamans have a vast knowledge of natural healing techniques
Guides many shamanic groups work with guides whether they be animal or ancestral (Who often guide the shaman in the spirit world through journeying) Spirit guides are an ever present and defining feature of Shamanism
Trance work
The foundation of a great deal of shamanic practice trance Is used to contact the spirit, realm perform ritual, receive messages from spirits and in divination/prophecy. A large amount of techniques is used to enter trance such as drum rhythms, Meditation, dance and though not a requirement but frequently used for intense work the use of Hallucinogenic drugs
How does someone become a shaman?
Though inheritance, through shamanic linienge, through overcoming a mental or physical illness or by many years of training or a combination of the above.
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on Sat 02 Jun 2018, 14:43
"Shamanism" is an umbrella term for something existing in many parts of the world[1], describing not a religion but rather a practice which may be used both within and without religion. A Shaman is "a person believed to achieve various powers through trance of ecstatic religious experience"[2], and what exactly they can do varies from culture to culture; from spiritual healing to communication and/or travel to other spiritual worlds and realms. 
Shamans traditionally have the ability to achieve various states of consciousness with the purpose of focusing their awareness into other realms and worlds -- a form of meditation known in some parts of the West as "journeywork". This can be used for a whole host of things inclusing enlightenment/spiritual knowledge, divination, healing the sick and guiding the souls of the deceased.[3]

[1] "Shamanism" by Christa Mackinnon

Healer-Advisor Raven Elliot Balmore

Zomopɛngwimɑnowɛb’ɪkɛninɛskələstɹəlungbɑrotɹotadandɛlɑnas || Adoptive cousin of the Prydonian Chapter || Houses Aesculus and Lungbarrow || they/them ||
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Re: Thaumaturgy Lesson 1: History and Types of Magic

on Sat 02 Jun 2018, 15:27
A bit short, but well-researched. Your sources are very good. Thank you, Raven.
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Re: Thaumaturgy Lesson 1: History and Types of Magic

on Sun 03 Jun 2018, 15:26
My assignment for Lesson 1 follows; I wish to extend my profound gratitude to instructor Wilmarpetralontrokuman for graciously granting my request for an extension on the assignment.

Shamanic Trance Research Summary

The term shaman is used to refer to the practitioners of a wide range of traditional magical practices across a variety of different cultures and dating back quite far in human history; the diversity of persons and practices that can be included in a discussion of Shamanism can make it difficult to clearly define the term. A shaman might engage in divination, healing, or other magical acts that bridge the divide between the physical and metaphysical realms. Shamans have been important cultural figures throughout much of history and held a prominent role in many societies where they were respected for their wisdom and the assistance they could provide during life events such as births, coming of age ceremonies, weddings, and ensuring a smooth passage to the afterlife for the dying or the departed (Harvey & Wallis, 2016). It is generally agreed, however, that Shamanism is a religious practice that emphasizes entering into altered states of consciousness, often referred to as a trance, in order to interact with the beings and energies of a supernatural plane or spirit world and to channel that energy to perform various works in this plane of existence (Harner, 1980).

Shamans may be called to their practice through signs appearing in their dreams or their powers may be inherited, as in some societies where the descendant of a currently practicing shaman may know from a young age that they will train to take on the role. Either way, training typically takes years. It is common for many shamans to have undergone an initiatory experience involving great difficulty such as a period of grave illness or psychological turmoil (Walsh, 1990).

Shamanic practice covers a wide variety of activities but the trance or other altered state of consciousness is generally a central component. This may be achieved through use of substances that alter one’s mental state or through drumming or the making of other sacred music to induce the trance. The shaman, once in the altered state of consciousness, is able to travel to and throughout another plane of existence, often called the spirit realm, and to interact with the entities resident there. In this way they can gain and relay knowledge from the spirits, request their aid or the cessation of alleged activities of malevolent spirits believed to be negatively impacting the physical realm, or in some shamanic traditions even channel a spirit which wishes to interact with the physical realm (Harner, 1980).
Shamanism has been the subject of a great deal of interest and many works of scholarly research, of varying quality and cultural sensitivity. Shamanism has interested and influenced practices of other spiritual traditions, such as neo-paganism, and certain shamanic practices may have even found their way into aspects of contemporary psychology. The practice of shamanism has attracted much notice, and a great deal of both admiration and derision. Cultural insensitivity and appropriation is a particular concern when it comes to people interested in incorporating aspects of shamanic practices into their own spiritual paths, because it is popular yet can be quite misunderstood (Boomer, 2015). Most people have at least heard of shamanism, although as is often the case when something enters the pop-culture mainstream there have of course been misconceptions and stereotypes about it. In fact, this was precisely the reason I chose the topic: everything I previously knew about shamanism really barely scratched the surface and I could tell, even with my very limited knowledge, that much of what I had heard was biased towards the sensational.

Boomer, B. (2015, October 1). SHAMANISM: APPROACHING INDIGENOUS WISDOM WITH CARE AND RESPECT. Retrieved from Society for Shamanic Practice:
Harner, M. (1980). The Way of the Shaman: A Guide to Power and Healing, Harper & Row Publishers, NY 1980. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.
Harvey, G., & Wallis, R. J. (2016). Historical Dictionary of Shamanism. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Walsh, R. N. (1990). The Spirit of Shamanism. New York: J.P. Putnam and Sons.
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Re: Thaumaturgy Lesson 1: History and Types of Magic

on Sun 03 Jun 2018, 15:35
Excellent work, and well-researched. Thank you.
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Re: Thaumaturgy Lesson 1: History and Types of Magic

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