Miracles or witchcraft

Nicole Hennessy

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about the difference between magic and the supernatural occurrences in holy texts, which are accepted as miracles.

I contacted many religious leaders and professors who either never got back to me, conveniently realized they had prior engagements just before our meeting or flat-out refused to speak with me.

The only person who would speak with me, a local pastor, was sure he was open-minded. He even spoke of conversations he had engaged in with African shamans, which I commended him for. But I think he was confusing open-mindedness with a willingness to listen.

Watching him squirm as I asked him questions regarding Paganism (an influence on early Christianity), I knew his answers would swerve around the point.

Well — they didn’t. His answers came nowhere near addressing any of my questions.

While the legitimacy of his assertion that the difference between miracles and divination is that miracles concern love and divination conjures self aspiration was legitimate, I still had a bad taste in my mouth.

One good point he made was that early Christians were referred to as atheists because the main religion at the time was Paganism.

The subjectivity implied by this statement convinced me that there is no way to differentiate between magic and miracles and that it is all based on what you are willing to believe.

Though all three of the patriarchal religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) forbid magic, attributing it to evil, all of their texts contain stories and beings in which it exists.

Angels, some who do things like affect the weather and predict the future, are present in all three of these religions’ texts. And the Quran includes Djinns (genies) who live in a parallel world and have free wills like humans.

Also, God himself is a supernatural being who is accepted as an omnipresent and often human spirit.

Other religions, like Wicca (a Pagan religion), which worships nature and all of creation, embrace magic.

A similarity I found between Wicca and the more traditional religions is that Wiccans contact their deities through spells in the same way that those of Abrahamic religions use prayer.

Wiccans practice witchcraft as part of their religion and the word Wicca itself is an old term meaning witch.

In early Christian terms, a witch was viewed as anyone who practiced any form of divination (foretelling the future through means such as fortune telling, palm reading or tarot) or anyone who possessed supernatural powers as the result of a pact with the devil (Satan).

Witches were often portrayed as women, who were thought to be the weaker sex easily tempted by Satan. The Bible mentions stoning witches to death, but does not bequeath the same punishment to the witch’s male counterpart, the wizard.

People have always tried to understand the universe and their place in it. And all religions and cultural traditions compile myth and mysticism to explain things we cannot in an attempt to help us relate to the world we live in.

For example, some Christians open the Bible at random and read the passage they land on believing that it is God’s guidance that leads them to it, Greeks read coffee grounds, Turks ward off evil with an amulet called the evil eye and Tibetan Buddhists use dice for divination purposes.

In Tom Robbins’ novel “Jitterbug Perfume,” one of the main characters, the Pagan deity Pan, begins to physically disappear because of a decline in Pagan beliefs. This could be seen as commentary on the legitimacy of things that people believe in and the fact that the belief itself is what makes them real.

Nicole Hennessy is a junior magazine journalism major and a features reporter for the Daily Kent Stater contact her at [email protected].