A Pagan Primer – 27


If spells really work, why aren’t witches rich?

Why don’t psychics always win the lottery?

Why do occultists have problems like everyone else?

Why do we get sick, have accidents and die?


These are questions often asked rhetorically, or with curiosity to many psychics, witches, occultists and new-agers. Sometimes it’s used to attempt to show that what we do isn’t real; to somehow “prove” that there is no real mystical energy behind our world. Indeed, if there were, and we could exercise some sort of control, then, necessarily, we’d have all that we wanted, or so the thinking goes.


It’s interesting to note though, that these questions come up in one form or another in almost any theological framework. They’re asked of Christians, Jews and Pagans alike. They’ve been addressed for thousands of years, with the story of Job being a classic example, up to modern times, once tackled by C. S. Lewis, in his book “The problem of pain”.


There are prosperity preachers in Christendom, and in more “New Age” thought such as “The Secret” and “What the Bleep do we Know?” But if this all works, should there really be poor and sick people of faith?


There really isn’t a single answer to these questions, nor are things always exactly what they seem. In point of fact, there are quite a few pagans and occultists who are doing quite well. Even among those who aren’t classified as rich, there are many pagans and occultists who are solidly comfortable. I know personally some who with quite modest incomes are living fairly well. It seems though, that among pagans, the distribution of wealth probably matches that of most of the population. So too, do other life issues such as relationships, health, and all that goes with being human.


But let’s look at our questions.


Why aren’t witches rich? Surely, if spells worked, we should be able to make our lottery numbers come up. Surely if we were psychic, we could pick the winning numbers out of the air. Shouldn’t “magical powers” give us the ability to become wealthy without work?


This question alone is far more complicated than it seems. I do know witches who’ve won surprising odds at scratch tickets and the like, but there are people who aren’t witches who have had streaks of luck. Anecdote really doesn’t prove anything.  If you see it enough, there might be something worth investigating, but “stories” aren’t “proof”.


Let’s for a moment though, assume that magic is real; that  people do have an ability to influence events, that we can use the laws of nature and bend things to our will, that we might be able to cast a spell and make our numbers come up when the balls roll out for the Megabucks.


If we look at what’s going on, we’ll soon recognize that thousands upon thousands of people are all doing the same thing. There are countless people with their own rituals of luck who are wishing and demanding of the universe that theirs will be the winning number. Some of these are probably people who have their own brand of magic. What we’re doing when we are trying to force or divine our own numbers is really nothing more than bringing in a few more bales of hay into the barn in which we’re searching for a single needle. There is so much energy involved that it creates a cacophony of psychic noise.


The effort that might be involved in generating a specific outcome when there is already a huge amount of conflicting energy might simply not be worth the effort. There have been witches who’ve struck it rich. Bunky Bartlet won the Maryland Lotter last year, and plans to open a witch school. There have been a number of smaller wins as well, and probably some that we haven’t heard of. But still, with all the conflicting energy around large amounts of money, and the slim chances, most witches don’t expend the energy on trying to get rich that way. Trying to pick the numbers out of all the noise that surrounds them is much like trying to read your cell phone or PDA in the full sunlight at noon. The information might be there, but there’s so much light, that the information on your display is lost.


In magick, we usually concentrate on the ends, our personal goals, rather than the means by which they are attained. It’s more direct, and less effort. We don’t need to worry about the details as much. Money is a tool. If we need money, it’s usually for a purpose, so the technique in magic is usually to concern ourselves with the purpose, rather than the details by which they might be accomplished.


A friend of mine was worried about how she might heat her house with the high cost of fuel this year. Someone gave her a wood stove. I fell into a decent down-town Dover apartment when I was looking for a place to live. Somehow, I always manage to keep a roof over my head and food in my cupboards.


I see though, many people who focus on the negatives in their lives. There are many with an attitude which will lead them to homelessness. Many don’t take advantage of what’s there, they have a defeatist attitude. Some of them are quite confrontational. Some are happy and content to settle for very little. Even if you profess to be a pagan, if you approach life with the attitude that you’ll only have bone soup after everyone else has eaten the meat, the chances are that you won’t be doing what it takes to insure that you do get a prime cut.


When it comes to illness, the first thing to recognize is that we are all here to eventually die. We didn’t come to the Earth in bodies that were designed for eternal use. As Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man put it , “The death rate is one per person”. While this doesn’t account for reincarnation, as far as our bodies go, it’s quite true. To come back, we need to die.


Illness actually serves multiple purposes. For some of us, it’s the mechanism by which we transition from this state, to another. Sometimes, it’s a challenge that we need to meet. For the Shaman, it’s a tool to become familiar with the other side, the wounded healer can better understand those in need of healing.


Death will almost always be traumatic, just as was birth. For most of us, there will be pain or struggle involved. It’s also our body’s nature to strive to continue. The instinct for self-preservation is a primal force that is imprinted on our brains. It’s the reason we pull away from a flame. But dying is a necessity, just as is birth.


What’s different with people of faith, is the way we approach illness and death. If we’re living a spiritual life, we know that death is approaching, at some point. We’re working on life, but becoming prepared for death. We’re striving to be as healthy as we can, but recognizing that illness and death will catch up to us at some point. We know that we make our own destinies, AND that in choosing to be human, we’ve chosen, at least this time, a mortal existence.


This doesn’t mean that as spiritual people we don’t seek health. We do. Our bodies were designed to combat illness. Our spirits do have certain control over our minds and bodies. Keeping our spirits and our minds healthy does help to keep our bodies healthy.  But we’ve made the choice to live a human existence on the Earth. This is a place filled with pathogens and UV light, and violence and chance.


What we’re able to do is to make the most of this existence. For each of us it will be different. Our spiritual outlook can make a dramatic difference in our physical existence. If we’re able to keep a positive spiritual outlook, we will have a positive effect on our physical existence.


Even if we become ill, our spiritual position will have a dramatic effect on how we handle that illness. Again, this is anecdotal, but generally, the spiritual people that I know are able to handle illness when it besets them.


I remember my best friend’s mother, as she was dying of cancer. Even in her illness, she remained steadfastly generous, kind, conscientious and caring. When she got a case of the “why  me’s”, she would become penitent, reminding herself that her life wasn’t all about her.


I remember my grandfather whose was dying. He had gangrene, his major organs were shutting down. As he lay in his hospital bed, he looked up at my grandmother and said “Ma, I’m going home”. The thing about spiritual people, people who KNOW that their bodies are but containers, vehicles which transport our spirits. We know that death is a transition, and while there might be some trepidation it it’s approach, it’s not the end. The trepidation doesn’t rise to the level of terror.


Pagans and occultists do experience the same troubles and hardships that everyone else does. But like all other truly spiritual people, we recognize that the troubles and hardships, while inconvenient or unpleasant, aren’t the final statements in our existence. We recognize that how we handle them is far more important than the immediate consequences.


All of us go through things. We experience illnesses, accidents, the loss of loved ones, but we also experience recovery, good fortune, and the births of children and grand children. Again, it’s how we handle these events that says more about us than what actually happens to us. We naturally admire those who handle things with dignity and with faith. Others, we tend to pity. Take the example of the person who finds himself unemployed and homeless. One might sit on a street corner with a cup, asking for money, and the other might be industrious, looking for work. Even to the occultist in such a situation, performing magick might be a part of the solution, but it’s not the entire solution. The magic leads to confidence; we’ve done something to start the change in the universe, and the rest of it will be going out into the world to see how that change will manifest.


In a spiritual existence, we know that good things are waiting to happen, and in expecting the good, rather than the bad, we’ll see the good. What we leave ourselves open to is what we’ll notice in our lives. It’s also what we’ll attract.


© 2008, Deirdre Hebert