Are Prayers and Spell-Casting the Same?

Via Brittney, I find Jeffrey asking

In a recent conversation, a new acquaintance of mine said something to the affect of, “Religion only divides the spiritual, but it is all the same essence.” She meant that whether you call yourself a Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, etc, we’re all talking about the same essence.

Personally, I call that essence “God” and believe with every fiber of my being that he is Love.

So what do you think? Is a Wiccan’s spell and a Christian’s prayer really the same thing? Why or why not?

I’m going to take a crack at this and answer no. A Wiccan’s spell and a Christian’s prayer are not the same thing. For starters, we can know this based just on how offensive Wiccans find it to be prayed for and how shocked an appalled most Christians would find it to have a spell cast on them, even if it were for their own good.

Christians pray to God for a lot of reasons, but let’s say that we have a friend who is sick.

Christians pray to God for healing for that sick friend. But it is God who must do the healing, if that is in accordance to His will.

A polytheist such as myself might pray to some other god, but again on the belief that the god is the one with the power to do what ordinary humans cannot.

A spell doesn’t need divine interference. I could right now cast a spell on my sick friend and, if my will was strong enough and my power strong enough, I could, presumably, heal her. No god needs to be involved in that. Now, I could involve a god, asking that god to strengthen my spell with his or her power, but that’s not necessary.

I think what’s going on here is a two-fold problem. One is that Wicca is, for all practical purposes two religions. There’s the folks who follow a specific path that can be traced back to Gardner, who, though not traditional Witches, seem to have a spark of the ancient and dangerous about them. Perhaps it comes from standing too close to Crowley at parties, I don’t know*. And then you have the “Wicca” as put forth by authors like Silver RavenWolf, popularized by “Charmed” and “The Craft” and practiced by, primarily, young women who eventually grow out of it and either return to Christianity or move on to more hardcore paganism.

The only people who could, in good conscious, call a spell something akin to a prayer are either folks who are trying to simplify matters in order to keep Christians from freaking out, or folks who really don’t understand yet what a spell is or how to works. So, when I read a self-proclaimed Wiccan describing a spell as, in part, “a set of prayers,” I assume she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Again, a prayer is asking for the intercession of the Divine to do something you can’t do. A spell is a means by which you can do something that, obviously, you can do.

But let’s take a close look at the second assumption there: “She meant that whether you call yourself a Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, etc, we’re all talking about the same essence.”

Is this true? I guess it would be nice if we could boil all spirituality down to being basically the same thing, but again, when folk say that, I assume they either are trying to make life easier for themselves or that they just don’t know a whole lot about other religions.

Again, to go back to what I know, I’m a polytheist. I believe that there are a lot of gods and that, though some of them are clearly just different names for the same gods–Goden, Wotan, Odhinn, etc.–Odin is not Zeus, even if they both have bushy white beards and sit at the heads of their pantheons. And neither of them is Ganesh. What is the common essence they could be reduced to?


Not really.

In order to find some commonality between the three, you have to stretch the notion of who they are so thin as to practically lose it.  It’d only be worse one you started adding other gods in.

I think that’s my problem with these kinds of discussions.  The people involved mean well and wanting to find some way for us all to feel ecumenical and good about how we’re all just putting different wrapping paper on the same spiritual present is sweet, but it’s just not possible.

All spirituality doesn’t fit in the same framework.  More specifically, it’s not all Christianity in disguise and I guess that that’s my main problem.  To say “Personally, I call that essence ‘God’ and believe with every fiber of my being that he is Love“sounds to me like saying “at heart, you all believe like I do, you just don’t know it.”

But I do know what I believe and I have, in the past, believed something else, and I can tell you they’re very different and not really compatible.  That doesn’t prevent me from getting along with others, but I think saying they’re all the same at heart is simplistic to the point of being insulting**.

Anyway, it’s an interesting question.  And my answer probably points to my impatience with a certain strain of Wicca.  Hmm.  I’ll have to think on that some.   I don’t think of myself as having some kind of anti-Wiccan bias around here, but maybe I do.

*Joking! Just joking.

**Even though I hope it’s clear that I don’t believe anyone’s being deliberately insulting.

Let’s All Pray


My littlest nephew is back with the recalcitrant brother.  He, apparently, was all excited to tell his dad about how he got to watch while the police searched his mom’s car.

I bet this will be one of those awesome situations where we just pray that my nephew magically comes to live with my brother forever and ever without a damn adult in the world doing anything to insure that happens.


Fuck it.  It upsets me to talk about it.

Check Here to See If I’m Ordering You Around

David Maddox is talking about this cool art show being put on at Twist in the Arcade.

For our 1st Birthday, Twist Art Gallery announces a call for your small art! We are having a mail-art show this August. If you can make it and mail it, we will show it.

Deadline: Postmarked by July 15th

Theme is Summer

Mail to:

Twist Art Gallery

73 Arcade

Nashville, TN 37219


Email Twist

Your art will be shown in a gallery show August 4th through 26th, 2007.

I think it would be awesome if

a. The Butcher sent something, either one of his little wire dudes or a particularly summery wax piece.

b.  Shauna over at O Pish Posh should for sure send a photograph of her circle people doing something like having a picnic or going on an adventure in the yard.  Her circle people pictures are so damn awesome.

c.  Chris Wage, do I even have to order you to send one of your fabulous photographs?  Because I will, if I have to.

Does anyone know?  Does it have to be able to get to them via a first class stamp?  Or just through the mail?

I would love to go to a show and see one of the Butcher’s pieces.  That would be so awesome.