Big T, little t

One of the more interesting concepts I got out of RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults) was that of Big T-little t. Don’t worry, this isn’t mathematics. The T stands for Tradition. And goodness knows, the Catholic Church dosen’t hold with that (please note-I’m not being serious. I mean really, it’s the Catholic Church). Tradition is a huge factor for people around the world. It shows up in cultures, societies, and religions. In RCIA they talked about Big T being those traditions that do not change, those practices or beliefs that are immutable. Little t stands for those traditions that do, have, or can change.

For example: that Catholics take communion has not changed but how they take communion or what is allowed as part of communion has changed. I was taught to hold out my hands, right hand over left, to accept the wafer and then put it in my mouth. I was told chewing was permissible. If I wanted to I could hold my hands over my chest and open my mouth for them to place the wafer into my mouth. It used to be that the wafer was always placed directly into the mouth and that one was to allow it to dissolve on its own. Also, communion wine is a little t. At my old parish the women that took care of the alter cloths got tired of getting red wine stains out and they changed to white wine. At least this is what I heard- third hand at least- as to why we didn’t use red wine. This can also be seen in the wider Christian practice as many churches use juice instead of wine or even juice like product (I’m refraining from a kool-aid joke. I’m not that horrible a person.)

Why talk about this concept? I’m going to start with an anecdote. I was at a youth group meeting in a parish far away from the one where I was baptized. I ended up explaining this concept to the group because during discussion several of the young adults got caught up in “why doesn’t the Church just tell everyone to do it like X”. I do not recall what exactly they were getting caught up on. The priest seemed to be struggling to find the words to explain to them that that the specific way of doing it was not the point. This differentiation between static and dynamic traditions allows for differentiation between regions and cultures within the Catholic Church. This was what some of the members of the group were missing the point about. The intention of the tradition does not always translate everywhere and to everyone in the same way. If the tradition is made static you risk losing the intent in the long run. And, at least to me, religion is in the intent. Otherwise it is just empty or automatic gestures.

I know interpretations on traditions factor heavily into my practice. Where I think a tradition comes from along with what I consider to be it’s intent and purpose factor into how or if I choose to go along with it.

Another big reason to talk about this concept is that I don’t think many people think about traditions enough. They take them at face value. “Because it’s tradition” is a phrase used to explain away or justify a lot in life. But if you don’t assess your individual, familial, community, cultural, and religious traditions periodically you get stuck. It used to be accepted tradition to leave newborns to die of exposure, to cut off hands for theft, to throw people into prison for debt, to hang or burn those accused of witchcraft. Among other traditions. Only when people assess traditions in light of current situations and in terms of their intended purpose and impact can they determine if a tradition will allow people to flourish, if it needs modification, if it is still fulfilling the desires of a deity, or if it is time to let it go. In religion especially people tend to get caught up in the minutiae as being Big T. I believe that most deities, however, are more focused on the larger picture. It’s the why we are doing, not as much the what, that is the point. Yes, as people, we establish ways of doing things to fulfill what we or what the Gods consider important whys. But so often we end up losing the why and cling to the ways, to the traditions, when they no longer fulfill their original intention.

If you have a question or if you need some clarification feel free to leave a comment!

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Magic and Me

In my first post I talked about how divination, magic, and energy work fit into Christianity. For this post I’m going to talk about what this means for me in my practice.

Divination wise I primarily use two techniques. First is with bibliomancy: divination with the Bible. There are different ways to do this, I generally use a random number generator to indicate what book to look at. Then depending on the book, I may use the random number generator again to narrow it down further. Sometimes I have a specific question in mind with this technique but often it is done with more of a mindset of seeking what God wants me to think about. I used it for a specific question when I was contemplating the old practice of libations and offerings that were done in the Old Testament. I wondered if God wanted libations from me. I prayed about it and thought about it. And for the next three days, my randomly generated readings included an emphasis on libations and offerings. At that point, I went with yes. Now a few times every month, or whenever I get the urge, I offer a libation to God of red wine. I also frequently burn incense for the Trinity as an offering.

The other technique I use for divination is tarot. Unlike many tarot readers though my deck is specifically dedicated to the Christian Trinity. I pray to Him about a question or situation and ask that if it is His will I will be granted some clarity with the reading. Sometimes I do a weekly draw asking about what I should be aware of for that week. Sometimes I do multiple cards, asking other questions like what I need to be focusing on or what God wants me to do that week.

Magic is one thing I do not practice much. I have done one spell in regards to health. I do not endorse, under any circumstances, doing magic instead of going to a doctor. But I knew enough about the situation to know that the doctors would tell me I had been foolish (I had) and that all they could do was wait and see. I did a spell to support my body healing. I asked a friend more versed in Christian based magic than I for advice. The spell involved an index card with my name on one side, my specific request on the other. I grounded and centered myself next. I placed the index card under a red candle holder with a small green candle in it, the colors for healing and associated with specific Christian angels for healing. I read out loud the verses from psalms she recommended and prayed. Then the candle was lit and I let it burn all the way down. It worked. My body healed for which I am very grateful as if it had gotten worse it would have meant surgery.

I do a lot of energy work. I pray regularly. Both quick prayers-like for patience or strength-and longer communing prayers. I described this second style of prayer to a friend once and she said it sounded rather shamanistic. I always thought of it as a form of visual meditation. I am more likely to have a bit more of a back and forth in this form of prayer. I’m not talking about hearing God speak in terms of a voice in my head. Ideas, inclinations, maybe a fleeting emotion. Sometimes my goal in this is not a conversation as much as to feel a connection to the Trinity.

Other forms of energy work include warding my apartment. I created a few of them with slightly different intentions, tied them to a decorative cross on my wall, and handed the reins over to Jesus. This was after an overnight guest that was more sensitive than I had an encounter with a less than friendly spirit. It flat out ignored me in my room and focused on her in my living room. I am not so sensitive but thought it would be a wise idea to ward my apartment anyway.

I also utilize an amulet, a crucifix necklace that I made. It would work as an amulet whether or not I did anything intentional with it energetically because of the centuries of belief that have been poured into the shape. I also try to remember to cleanse it regularly and charge it with the intention of helping to shield me in my day to day life.

The Eucharist is another instance of energy work. I ground and center and use prayer and energy to bless the wine (and wafers, when I have wafers). In this case, I channel the Trinity’s energy into the wine and wafers before consuming them. This would be an instance of me being different from most Catholics. According to the Church, I cannot do this myself.

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Overall, I feel like these practices have brought me closer with God and strengthened my relationship with the Trinity.

Christian…Magic?

Defining terms is important. Magic to me means the intentional raising and focusing of energy for a specific goal. Magic can include spells, charms, incantations, or longer rituals. Energy work is the maneuvering of energy for a specific goal. Some examples of energy work are shielding and warding. Divination is the utilization of one of many tools to communicate with spirits in an attempt to bring clarity to a question or situation. The purpose of defining these terms is for me to explain why I see all of them included in Christianity in their various forms.

There is a common conception that Christianity contains none of these practices and that they are in fact considered taboo. The Bible says as much, right? Go ahead and google it, there are numerous lists that refer to the various passages of the Bible that condemn such practices. Of course, that would be ignoring the various places that don’t condemn the practices. I recommend that you google that as well. There are ample cases of casting of lots in the Bible, this is a form of divination- using a tool to divine the will of God. There are other cases in the Old Testament that cover different types of divination that were approved by God. Why the contradictions? Largely it seems to be context. Overall it seems that specific forms of magic and divination were not supported. Human sacrifices, working against the benefit of others, and the utilization of spirits other than God stand out as common themes. Although in some cases it seems that cursing was allowed if it was using God against a non-believer.

This common idea of taboo also ignores the traditions of Conjure, Ozark Mountain Magic, Braucherei, Appalachian Granny Magic, or Espiritismo. These are all Christian magical practices that are in use today.

And for those who are going to brush those off by saying that many do not practice those paths consider a few other things. First, the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church. The Church in this case believes in transubstantiation. The wine and wafer become the body and blood of Christ in essence if not in taste and appearance. Other Christian belief systems, like Lutheranism, believe in consubstantiation. This is the belief that the substance of the wine and bread exist at the same time as the blood and body of Christ. And how does Christ get into the Eucharist? I consider this to be energy work done by the clerics working with God. Exorcisms, though not as commonly done in these modern times, I would consider a form of magic. Faith healing-popular in some Protestant practices- I would consider magic. Prayer, depending on who is involved and how it is done, can be seen this way as either magic or energy work. Blessings on a home done by a lay person or by clergy are a form of warding-energy work. Crosses and crucifixes can help shield an individual or a space as they are amulets. They can be even more effective when utilized intentionally.

Why isn’t magic, energy work, and divination in these forms acknowledged in Christianity? That answer is fairly straight forward. Power dynamics. And I am not dumping on Christianity. Religious persons holding close to the vest practices that give them an edge has been in play likely since cultures began. In some ways it makes sense. Do you really want just anyone trying to perform an exorcism? Not likely. There is training and practice needed to channel the energy of a deity into wine and wafer to change them to hold a divine essence.

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