Magic And Miracles (2)

I can’t say whether the above picture is genuine or whether it’s been altered, nor did I find any credits for the image. Probably fake if someone held a gun to my head and made me guess. It does, however, provide an example of a modern trend: the alleged return to pagan worship by various groups of individuals.

Return of the Hellenes devotees (photo not credited)

Let me offer a few examples. In Greece, The Return of the Hellenes “worships” the twelve main gods of the Greek pantheon and was founded by Tryphon Olympios, a philosophy professor. In Iceland, the Asatru Fellowship similarly uses members of the Norse pantheon. Both groups have revived certain rituals and traditions from these ancient religions, but they see their “gods” more as metaphors and ideals than as deities. Wicca not only features an odd collection of beliefs and practices borrowed from various sources but also shows what I would call considerable internal variety and inconsistency depending on where it is practiced.

Asatru Fellowship procession (photo by Eran Livni)

Some may see it as a matter of degree, but generally missing from the above examples are the true worship of supernatural deity and the adherence to historical canon and doctrine which are characteristic of major religions. These modern phenomena are more like a customized re-invention of older systems of thought, and they tend to cherry-pick various beliefs and practices. There is a modern tendency to go cafeteria-shopping for a religion that satisfies one’s desires and expectations, but this practice begs the question of how anyone can worship something they made up themselves. The same can be said for the redefinition of older faiths, the “now it means this” phenomenon.

apotheosis
Apotheosis of Homer by Jean-Auguste-Dominique- Ingres (1827)

I wonder how many people who refer to themselves as pagans have actually studied the pagan philosophers, learned the tenets of pagan religions, or even familiarized themselves with such works as the Edda, the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer, the Aenid by Virgil, or The Metamorphoses by Ovid. I’ve known a few people who have done these very things, but there are posers in any religion.

Ulysses_and_the_Sirens_by_H.J._Draper
Ulysses and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper, c. 1909
athena inspires odysseus for vengeance
Painting by Jan Styka in which Athena inspires Odysseus to take vengeance

Then, of course, there is the issue of intellectual sincerity. What do the adherents of these modernized, ancient beliefs actually believe? Are they  genuine, or  are they participating in pseudo-intellectual forms of cosplay? These are fair questions to ask anyone who professes a belief in the supernatural, myself included.

muse
The Muse (1895) by Gabriel de Cool

Perhaps this is what one of my former students meant when she said something like, “I wanted to deal with people who knew what they were talking about,” when explaining to me why she had decided against the Wiccan religion after looking into it. Let me add that I have had a number of students who were Wiccan and that we got along well. I found them to be creative, intelligent, and likeable people. Some were even very studious in learning more about their beliefs, and one of those later converted to Christianity. Please don’t think that I’m trying to be insulting or derogatory when I point out differences between modern religions and those which are more traditional.

herbert-james-draper-lament-for-icarus
The Lament for Icarus by Herbert James Draper

Next week, I’ll continue with a more direct discussion of what the title of this series actually means.

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8 thoughts on “Magic And Miracles (2)”

  1. I enjoyed this reflection – thanks. It made me think of the times I spent as a kid playing around the stones of Stonehenge (we lived nearby). This was long before they were fenced off. We were not allowed to touch or climb on the stones although some kids did. There were whispers about what went on at solstice but I don’t remember there being the gatherings that happen now.

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    1. You must have had an interesting childhood. I’ve been to England a few times, but I’ve never seen Stonehenge. I can tell from photographs of it that the picture at the top of my post isn’t it. The image had a photoshopped look to it.

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  2. I’d be careful around Wicca. The magic stuff is definelty weird and some may not even be that safe to be around. I used to have a guy in school who was part of a Satanic worshiping group. Sure, a different thing, but still a modern belief system and you never know what you get from those. Not telling to discriminate, just be careful.

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  3. I do not appreciate the Nudity you show on your Blog Robert , it is the same as Porn, just because it is called Art does not make it anymore acceptable, it pollutes those who view it. God covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness.

    In reference to God’s Miracles and Signs and Wonders today, as we read in the Scriptures which is all inspired by Him, He assures us they are a reality and yes my life very much testifies that they are and they were witnessed and documented and others can claim the same about their Miraculous Healing through God’s Love and Compassion.

    As for the Magic of the Occult, it is Deception and not real, the same as what is shown today as entertainment, they are tricks and delusion which are Man made no matter how real they appear..

    In Christs Name – Anne.

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    1. Anne, you are no doubt reacting to the picture by Frank Frazetta. I agree that it has a dark nature, and I included it as an example of what influences the culture around us. This is not the first time I have included artwork that is revealing. I approach this from the standpoint of recognizing that this type of work is out there, that people are viewing it, and that Christians do not have the luxury of remaining in a cultural vacuum. Rest assured, I will think about what you have said. Also, I have cleared this approach with my wife, and she views my posts. Concerning the issue of things occult and miraculous, please reserve your final judgment until after reading next week’s post. Thank you for your concern and for your honest communication.

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    2. Anne, I’m afraid I jumped the gun with the first sentence of my reply. I did not realize that this picture is in next week’s post instead of this week’s. I hope that it won’t dissuade you from reading the final installment of this series to see my overall intent. Take care.

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