Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Natural Magic - Why Witchcraft Wasn't Always Evil

Back when I hung around on pagan forums, back when I was a schoolgirl reading books on occultism and witchcraft (yes, yes, no wonder those horrible people at school thought I was a witch, even when I wasn't) -- I noticed there seemed to be some fashion of whining about victimization of Executed Witches of the Past, with claims that they were just practicing "herbal healing" and other helpful works and for some reason the mean old Church/Men/Ignorant Scientists couldn't fathom it.

In fact, the historical records of executed witches never accuse them of herbal healing (though they do mention herbal poisoning, occasionally.) Actual medical doctors until the beginning of the 20th century often relied on herbal medicine as well -- that's just about all the medicine there was, so nothing about it was inherently "occult." Entities like Mother Bombie, the Cunning Woman of Exeter, and other Wise Women of record indicate it wasn't all just some random sexist thing going on, to say any woman who knew this stuff was a "witch" while men were respected to do as pleased. (Also note: men were tried and executed for witchcraft as well.)

As it was, the Europeans understood there to be two kinds of magic: black magic, the evil or heretical practices usually associated in classical tradition with witches and devil-worshippers; and white magic, also called Natural Magic, which was the predecessor of what we call Science. It included arts like alchemy, cosmetics, optics, brewing and other useful things, as well as some of what we'd now just think of as magic. The Petit Albert is a good collection of Natural Magic or White Magic. Another example of the workings of Natural (White) Magick is here:

“To know any part of Silver mingled with Gold. Take a perfect Balance, and put in one Scale of any metal. In the other as much of the same metal, but the purest of its kind. And when the Scales hang even in the air, put them into a vessel full of water, and let them down under water about half a foot. Then will it be a strange wonder, for the Balances that hang equal in the air, will change their nature in the water, and will be unequal. For the impure metal will be uppermost, and the pure will sink to the bottom. The reason is, because pure Gold compared, with that kind, is heavier than all impure Gold, because pure Gold takes less place. Wherefore it will weigh heavier by the former reason. If then we would know how much Silver is in the Gold, put as much pure Gold in the other Scale, as will make the Balances equal under the waters. When they are equal take them up, and the weight you added under water, will be the weight of the mixture. If you would know how much Gold is upon a vessel Gilded. Put the cup in one Scale, and as much pure Silver in the other, that the Scales may hang equal in the air. Then put them under the water and the vessel will sink down. Put into the other Scale as much pure Gold, as will make them equal under water. Draw them forth, and that is the weight of the Gilt of the plate. You shall do the same for Silver, Brass, Iron, white or black Lead. But would you know whether in money, Brass be mingled with Silver, or coin be adulterated with Copper. Put the money into one Scale, and as much of the finest Silver into the other. Balance them equal. Then up them under the water. The money will go down. Add as much Brass as will make the Scales equal, then take them forth. And it will be the weight of the mixture. Now will I set the weights of metals, how much they weigh more in the waters, then in the air, whereby without any other experiments we may know mixtures. An Iron ball that weighs nineteen ounces in the air, will weigh fifteen in the water. Whence it is that proportion of Iron in the Air to the same in the waters, is fifteen to nineteen. A Lead bullet of the same magnitude, weights 31 ounces in the air, in the water but 27. A Marble bullet little less for bulk, weighs 7 in the air, and 5 in the water. Copper weighs 16 in the air, and 12 in the waters. Silver weighs in the air 127, in the waters 113. Brass in the air weighs 65 Carats, and one Grain, in the waters 50 Carats and two Grains. Crown Gold in the air weighs 66 Grains, in the waters 62. Gold called Zechini in the air weights 17 carats, under water 16 Carats. Turkish Ducat Gold weighs in the air 34, under water 32. Common French Crown Gold weighs in the air 67, under waters 60. Common Crown Gold of Hungary that is old,in the air weighs 17, in the water 16. Crown Gold of Tartary weighs 16 in the air, and 14 under water."
Much as with modern magic -- in my view -- it was a phenomenon where what we consider "science" didn't entirely understand the reason for it, but the act itself contained nothing supernatural.

And classically, that is the difference between white and black magic -- black magic was unnatural. White magic was all in tune with God's normal working.

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