In the essay True Hallucinations, listed below, I approached the subject of our ancestors the cave people who created sacred temples in which were depicted animals, shamans and all manner of sacred imagery. Were the animals portrayed associated the hunting experience as archeologists have it? In today’s world that rings true; people have to work very hard to maintain a modicum of well-being for self and kin. One is reminded daily in cities and towns of what can happen if one becomes debilitated by the homeless with the their shopping carts and bedraggled appearance.
Our archaic ancestors’ perception of the world with its plentiful herds was undoubtedly less fearful and stress inducing than ours. They gave homage to the animals, understood as we are no longer able to, that a mystic bond connected them to the great and small creatures. They were able to communicate with them, share power. They undoubtedly performed impressive rituals paying homage to their brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom.
And what of the shaman in their midst? He or she was a medical doctor, a psychologist, a sage, a faith healer, a botanist, spiritualist, who through ritual and with the help of psychoactive plants entered into trance and was able to travel to other dimensions and connect with other beings to seek enlightenment.
That way of being, of apprehending life as numinous, the planet as directed by its own consciousness, self aware, moving with direction and purpose, and all of it interconnected is with us in attenuated form to this day. Think of the rituals performed in present day society. They are a way of bringing solemnity to occasions of importance, the marriage ceremony, the burial rites, bar mitzvah, confirmation. One wants to acknowledge a sacred commitment embarked upon or to seek guidance, direction, commitment.
Raised as a Catholic convent girl, I have experienced the power of ritual and its ability to bring about profound change. Ritual enhances personal power. From the beginning, in the beautiful Catholic Churches I attended as a small child, I did not believe. I could sense that churches themselves (i.e. the physical structures,) had power, and perhaps what the people did in them is what gave the buildings their aura. All religions hold a piece of the puzzle in some convoluted manner. People who believe in God and perform rituals can bring about magic just as well as a pagan. Repeating the many prayers of the rosary leads one to a trance-like state, or rocking back and forth like orthodox Jews while chanting monotonously ushers in a condition of hypnotic lethargy. One seeks to escape the confines of "reality," to achieve a connection with spirituality, the spirit world.
The most powerful rituals are those created and performed by the individual. It is essential in the making of magic to separate oneself from everyday cares, needs, desires, of conventionality and propriety, indeed to look on with disinterest at the very thing one hopes to achieve. In such a state, one is more open to the power dynamics of one's situation, a warrior poised to act in a heartbeat. It is power itself that will determine the outcome if one behaves impeccably, and it will be called magic.