Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 19, 2013

Addendum to the previous…

In further moon-related news and thoughts (apart from tomorrow being an “original blue moon,” which you should look up if you don’t know what it is already)…

I had a dream the other night which I can’t quite remember now, but there was a phrase in the dream which I do remember, and have had some interesting thoughts on since then: “Stealing the Moon.” I looked this up when I was awake later, and it turns out it’s a book, which is feminist fiction that has a somewhat intriguing premise based on a “curse” on all womankind placed by Akhenaten. Not quite what I had in mind, but whatever floats your boat…

But, what I thought about immediately is the practice, particularly associated with Thessalian witches in the ancient world, of “drawing down the moon.” This is a set of terminology that is nearly inextricable from modern paganism, particularly in Wicca and religious witchcraft; it is a ritual that is done in many covens on a regular basis; and it is also the title of Margot Adler’s important book on modern paganism. However, the modern “drawing down” ritual/practice and the ancient one is entirely different, in that the ancient one seems to be mostly connected with lunar eclipses, it has nothing to do with “aspecting” or being possessed by a deity (lunar, goddess, or otherwise), it probably has more to do with trickery and “stage magic” than it does with a religious practice, and it is pretty nearly universally execrated, even by other fellow polytheists. So, I’m sort of intrigued that it is a practice that has been heavily and enthusiastically “adopted”–or, at least the terminology has been adopted for it–while the techniques itself have not, and the contextual dislike for it has not been acknowledged nor properly addressed or reclaimed in anything from modern paganism, at least to my current knowledge.

So, if you see the moon, don’t steal it–we need it. ;)


Responses

  1. I’ve recently begun reading Sandman for the first time, and it was there that I first encountered the Thessalian witch Drawing Down the Moon, and it was much as you describe, stealing it from the heavens for a spell and creating all sorts of havoc in its wake. The only “evidence” that I’ve seen of the drawing down ritual is a drawing of a picture supposedly from a Greek vase (published in Margot Adler’s book, but probably available elsewhere, I’m not sure) that I can’t seem to find an original photograph for. Can you point me in the direction of some actual information on the subject? I’m curious to know.

    • Daniel Ogden’s books, including Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds, and Night’s Black Agents, both have quite a bit in them, and that same picture, if I recall, is in at least one of them. Check my bibliography page for further details on those…

  2. Stage magic seems to have gained a bad reputation, but my impression was that it was originally used to dramatize subtle states and influences, like we use special effects in movies to enhance suspension of disbelief. So, for example, a magician might actually be presenting a spell for healing which would look like pretty much nothing to the client. As a result, the client might normally feel cheated, since he can’t see any effect. However, if the magician performs some stage magic and seems to remove “elf-shot” or a worm from the body of the client, then the client feels more satisfied with the magical effect.

    Which is totally tangential, but I saw you denigrating stage magic in relation to something magico-religious. ;) Though I have since explored the idea in various contexts, I first happened on the concepts that led me to this idea in Robert Anton Wilson’s novel Masks of the Illuminati, in which [SPOILERS FOLLOW]Aleister Crowley uses various stage magic practices to effect the enlightenment of a young Victorian gentleman.[END SPOILERS]

    So, it seems to me that the Thessalian witches might very well have been using stage magic to help dramatize an abstract magical state.

    • I didn’t mean it at all pejoratively; and, I quite agree with using stage magic as “mood/atmosphere enhancement” for rituals…

      But, so many people (Crowley, of course, included!) had such a bad view of it, and so many modern “magickians” (which I insist on pronouncing “ma-JICK-i-ans” just to spite them!) do as well, that I thought I should add that in to point out the rather big double-standard on such things.

  3. […] you know from the two posts yesterday, the moon has been on my mind of late…tonight, it’s not only full, it’s […]


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