I was surprised that I have gotten some emails since I went “live” and just thought I would answer the questions here. Yes, I am still pulling in posts from both of my old blogs, and it takes a bit because they must be reformatted to this latest version of WordPress. No, I am not going to pull them all in. For now, at least, I am going to leave the NSL website as my “work” blog.
Finally, I heard from a couple people who think that I should be capitalizing on my “witchy aesthetic” and writing more about magic. About that…
First, if I have an aesthetic, it’s dark academia, but I am not the kind of person to brand myself just to draw attention. Secondly…there were no witches in Ireland. Irish service magicians drew their otherworldly knowledge from the Fae. I wouldn’t be writing anything “witchy” anyway. If you need a reminder of what the term service magician means, it’s here.
It’s frustrating to me that just because I am knowledgeable about cultural folkways people want to label me that way. This whole website is kind of me pushing back against the idea that using herbal remedies is inherently witchy.
You can engage in ritual without practicing magic. My stress busting ritual in which I put on some relaxing music, light some candles, run a hot bath, add infused oils and bathe has not a blessed thing to do with magic.
There are certainly ritual healing specialists who mix magic with their herbal remedies, in every culture. Service magicians often perform ceremonies using plants. They utilize the power of performance and ceremony to create in those watching a mental predisposition towards healing. I am not the first person to wager that these folk were aware of and purposefully cultivated their image in a way that drew attention to themselves and respect for their knowledge. In the Lacnunga post I mentioned a couple who had clearly become known in the 1930’s for their abilities.
Many have written them off as charlatans, but to the skeptics I suggest putting aside the idea that they were just doing it for the money and at least consider the idea that they did it because they realized that they were improving health outcomes in their customers by using those skills. Let’s also remember that no one cosmological belief is more valid than another.
Some of you may be aware of Paul Grossman as the researcher who finally put the faulty physiology that is used to support polyvagal theory to rest. He is the Emeritus Research Director of Psychosomatics at Universitätsspital Basel. (It’s a terrible shame that word psychosomatic has become seen as being dismissive when what it really speaks to is the interaction between the body and the mind and how that impacts our health.) Grossman has aptly summarized the way that ritual is a valid method of improving well-being.
Improvements in psychological wellbeing don’t rely very much at all upon the method (or, perhaps, ritual would be a better word) chosen: improvement has more to do with having some ritual one believes in, a practitioner of it who seems competent to the client, a joint plan and goals, and maybe most importantly an atmosphere of trust and compassion.Paul Grossman Universitätsspital Basel
Ritual healing specialists can tick all these boxes as surely as a therapist. What I don’t understand is why people get upset when I make statements like this and see it as discounting magic. Compassionate service magicians have learned to connect with their clients on a deep and meaningful level. I don’t care what they choose to call that connection.
Some ritual components of early service magic such as the Anglo Saxon and Gaelic charms, crossed over into popular practice and I will undoubtedly mention them at times. It’s worth pointing out though that this took many forms. Some practitioners chose to associate their magic with the Fae while others asked for the blessing of St. Brighid or a Christian deity and those people’s beliefs should also be respected.
Irish and Scottish Gaelic charms were an enchanting mishmash of pagan and Christian beliefs and I truly prefer to see them left in their original form. Take the following blessing from Mackenzie’s Gaelic Incantations (1868):
Gu’m beannaicheadh Dia mo shùil,
’S beannaichidh mo shùil na chì;
Beannaichidh mise mo nàbuidh,
’S beannaichidh mo nàbuidh mi.
Let God Bless my Eye,
And my eye will bless all I see,
I will bless my neighbor,
And my neighbor will bless me.
Christian era Irish mourners fearful of attracting little minions  who would whisk the soul into hell might offer you this blessing:
Go mbeifeá ar neamh leathuair an chloig sula mbeidh a fhios ag an diabhal go bhfuil tú marbh.
May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you are dead.
I see no reason to muck around with making those “witchy” when there has already been an unseemly amount of “re-paganization” of things that were more than likely never pagan to begin with. I think the world could use more people going about bestowing protection on one another. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blessing, a charm, or a spell.