1. Prayer is Energy work. Modern day clergy of many religions provide their flock, parishioners, congregation, whatever it is called, with access to divinity. Although each person is admonished to lead a “Godly” life, the primary focus of worship tends to be through large group ceremonies where a leader, priest, channels the prayers and energy of that congregation through themselves and off to whatever the focus of the prayer was. I personally feel that this channeling through a third party, as a required step and mindset, dilutes the efficacy of that energy somewhat. However, it does not differ substantially from the Wiccan coven practice of channeling or focusing energy through a high priest/ess. And even though many are not aware of it, there is strong, statistical, scientific proof that prayer is incredibly effective when used for healing the ill. This study simply looked at the survival rate, and healing speed among people who had been prayed for, all other factors being the same, and those who had not been prayed for. The energy is the same in prayer, or healing spells, which is a strong indicator that Wiccan magick provides the same power - a power that is effective and measurable by contemporary science.
2. Spells are Energy Work. Such energy was always amongst us. It is only in the last few hundred years that we have had the technology to document and examine these energies and their effects. In the past there tended to be an individual who was more gifted than others in interpreting and understanding such things. These folks probably devoted time to things such as herbal remedies, and as their healing skills improved, they were able to devote more time and thought to it. People were willing to trade these healers, treatment for food, and over time these people became specialists in their discipline - whatever that entailed. Perhaps reading omens, herbal preventatives, cures, etc. And these folks also had the knack of knowing what would happen. Whether it was early psychology or a good guess, their reputation made them into the Village Wise Woman - the Country Sage. Sometimes these folks skills combined with an inheritance of knowledge from their ancestors, provided them with a powerful knowledge of people, healing, and energy use. These were truly the witches of renown. Powerful people, but without today's communication ability, their influence tended to stay local, only effecting their village or county. Their skills also included various forms of divination, but not usually religion as such. That was left to the Church which was a powerful and distant force. And religion was best left to the priests and ministers of that church, since it was punishable by death for commoners to have read the bible.
1. Even the Christian church, which condemned magic as a devilish art, was also filled with magical beliefs and practices. Magic was legal in Roman times, and this tolerance continued on for many centuries. Sir Walter Raleigh praised said magic, “bringeth to light the inmost virtues, and draweth them out of Nature's hidden bosom to human use.”. The nobility - including princes of the church - supported court magicians, astrologers, and diviners who helped them conduct their affairs. Scholars carefully classified different types of magicians, as if to distinguish the heretical from the acceptable. (The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, p 566) Although the Christians had the most documentation, almost all cultures had their version of magician or magic workers.
3. Shaman/ka - Other cultures less effected by the power of the formal Church included the interpretation of the god's will among their skills. These indigenous cultures labeled their healing and magick specialists Shaman or Shamanka. In tribal cultures almost everyone had a specialty that made up their part of the entire survival of the tribe. It tended to be those persons who were marked special who became the voice of the Gods for the tribe. Again, these persons had the time to learn, or just think a lot about, the nature of reality, illness and the Gods. In shamanic experience, when one is in non-ordinary reality things will seem quite as material as they are here. ….. All the phenomena that just as real as they do here if it is an extremely clear shamanic journey. But the shaman does not view these non-ordinary phenomena as mental in the sense that they are regarded as a projections of one's own mind. Rather, the mind is being used in order to gain access, to pass through a door into another reality which exists independently of that mind. Usually, the shaman views the universe itself of the ultimate reality. In many shamanic cultures there is preoccupation with the idea that there is some spiritual being who is either in charge of the whole show, or who once was but is now permanent vacation. Most shamans seem to believe that this universe is “just the way things are.” We are given the fact that there is a universe where everything is alive, that there is an interconnectedness of all things, and that there are hidden purposes which we can attempt to investigate to some extent through shamanic methods. So, as one gets involved in shamanism and thus keeps seeing, interacting, and talking with spirits, one quite naturally tends to believe in their existence. And those who continue doing shamanism will most likely also start to believe in the existence of spirits. Of course, more supposedly “sophisticated”: religions may then be built upon that base. I think it is noteworthy that modern physics seem to have elements of animism. Some physicists today are like animists in that they believe everything which exists is alive. It is the sense of our unity with a living universe, the feeling that we are all just parts of that greater life, which is basic to animism.” (Shamanism, compiled by Shirley Nicholson, pp4-5). In some cultures being crippled, having seizures, having mental problems, etc. marked one as being closer to the gods or perhaps having been called by the spirits, and thus a good candidate for the shamanic path. These people freely mixed together the concepts of both the Gods and magick. Their mythology made their gods a part of their everyday world, and allowed for a rich mix of customs, responsive to the tribe's situation and needs. The shamanic tradition focuses of the strengths and aspects of various natural forces within our world, and uses inner journeys of the shaman to bring those truths for use by the shaman's social group.
4. Ceremonial Magick is an area of study that demands much discipline of its adherents. We tend to differentiate its practice from that of the religious magicks that Witches, Pagans and Druids accomplish, primarily because of the Pagan emphasis of calling energy through the gods and the planet. Ceremonial magic has its own pantheons, and although my understanding is minimal, there is much knowledge that must be acquired, memorized, understood and properly applied. Golden Dawn is one of the best known organizations dealing with ceremonial magick.
Books You Might Enjoy:
Andrew Lang - Myth Ritual And Religion
Sir James George Frazer - The Golden Bough A Study Of Magic And Religion
Al Selden Leif - Pagan Potions Brew Magic Formula