Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Real Witchcraft - The Old Way

Elie writes in The Wizards & The Jews:

I believe those authorities who prohibit reading Harry Potter in particular, while allowing secular books in general, are severely misinformed.

The apparent grounds for this prohibition is the tacit assumption that the Harry Potter books depict - or even promote - the type of witchcraft/sorcery that is forbidden by the Torah (Exod 22:17, Deut 18:10). The Rambam explains that the Torah's forbidden sorcery is a form of idol worship, since it inevitably involves calling upon demons and other evil powers. And in fact, this form of witchcraft can certainly be found in the pop culture landscape; e.g., Dr. Strange, Charmed.

But as even the casual Potter reader knows, the witches and warlocks of Harry's magical world do not call upon the forces of darkness, nor does their sorcery have anything in common with religion. Rather, magical folk and "muggles" (non-magicals) are born that way.

Unfortunately, alot of people are severely misinformed about witches and witchcraft - this includes some novice and/or undeveloped witches, who in the craft some refer to as "fluffy witches". I numbered among the severely misinformed at one time.

As Elie noted later in the entry regarding the witchcraft of Harry Potter, true witchcraft is about training and using, in more specific ways, the inner powers we have had all along. Similarly, we are not "granted" such powers through our spells; rather the spells are ways of focusing those powers.

As Avraham Abulafia has written, "every soul is a witch" (or a wizard or warlock, in a male's case). Witchcraft is a method of spiritual development and of training and directing the "powers" (whatever they may be) which may arise naturally out of the course of that development.

While Wicca may be a religion, witchcraft is not. There are many kinds of non-Wiccan witches. Many non-Wiccan witches also practice forms of other mainstream religions, Judaism included, in parallel with his or her witchcraft. Some non-Wiccan witches are completely secular and practice no religion at all. Again, witchcraft is not a religion, even though Wicca is a religion developed by some religiously-inclined witches as an alternative to traditional mainstream religion. I think it's legitimate for witches to do this (make their own religion).

I like the analogy Elie also makes between witches and the hidden mutant community of Marvel Comic fame. Indeed, this is an apt description of the real "communtity" of witches. I also agree with the analogy Elie made between the community of witches and the community of the Jewish nation. Both are communities made of people with "magickal" destinies.

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Dov said...

I think that Jewish perspectives on witchcraft are more complex than any one commentary's opinion, since Rambam and Ramban give very different explanations that reflect very different understandings of the spiritual universe.

That said, it's not necessarily prohibited to read books about people doing things that Jews are prohibited from doing. We can enjoy the books and learn lessons from them even if it would be prohibited for us to engage in the same magic ourselves.

author of Harry Potter and Torah

Liorah-Lleucu said...

As you say, Jewish perspectives on witchcraft are complex and not unitarily understood. Witchcraft itself is complex and not a homogenous method of practice. There are many ways to be a witch and to practice witchcraft. While some of those ways may be prohibited, I don't accept that all of them are. Moreover, from what you write, I gather that you accept as prohibited whatever your rabbi tells you is prohibited. I don't. While advice I may consider, the final decision of what I do and how I practice is mine and mine alone. I am a Jewish witch and I intend to remain one. Importantly, my witchcraft practice is neither prohibited by Torah nor idolatrous. I reject the designations of closed minds against me.

Dare to be true to yourself.