I haven't posted a serious essay like blog in a while, and this one has been on the back burner for a couple weeks. Today we talk about religion vs. magic or more truly magicians. Sorry about the length.
We will start with magic first, as most likely, it came first. Even back in the paleolithic era and possibly before man has been doing some sort of magic. Spurred on most likely by the formation of nightly dreams in early man. Another possibility is that an early human had a near death experience and being self revived brought back strange visions and was forever changed. We can take the following two guesses because the shaman an early magician/priest (although their were big differences between priests and shamans.) only became a shaman after a great illness or near death experience from which they returned. The thought was that now this person had gone through death and found his way back he/she now had the power to do it again and help others on their travel through death. Also the change in perspective gave the shaman a distant aloof aire, which supported ideas that he was "half in this world and half in the other."
When we look at cave paintings there are some deep within the cave, which you must travel down dark paths and ancient stone corridors. Here you have pictures of animals early man hunted for game. While beautiful in their own right they were not seen by the "clan" but the shaman would probably have lived in those back caverns. Here he would practice a sympathetic magic, drawing game near, speaking with the gods of the animals and possibly influencing the animals for a successful hunt. In a way these paintings would be the first sigils used.
The shaman had to make his own way, none could guide him but the spirits and gods themselves. He was an outsider and only called for in times of trouble or need. We will see the influence the shaman has on magicians later.
Religion would grow thousands of years later from the shaman. When villages began to organize around 10 thousand years ago the shaman would now have begun to be a mostly ritualized being. They would perform ceremonies instead of going into trances to help the dead find the next world or heal the living. Also the ancestor spirits of early man or familiar spirits were becoming tribal gods of great power. Offerings and sacrifices were made to appease the gods of the crop, land and sky. Eventually cities grew from villages connecting and becoming urban. The first civilization sprung up in Mesopotamia which is now Iraq/Iran in between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Civilization started mostly because these villages began to work together to create dams and levees to irrigate crops. With Kings, early laws and society forming quickly from these small villages the shamans probably got together as well as the shamans gods and spirits. We now have the first pantheon. As man became civil and abide by laws made by the king the shamans now priests spoke of laws as well from the gods. Probably having to do with offerings, rituals and sacrifices. The priest would also help society run smoothly attending births,funerals and advising royalty on the nature of the gods and what they demanded. Over time dogma was created and adhered to. Mankind much like the wild animals man was taming became tamed and domesticated as the gods and priests became spiritual shepherds.
Magicians would probably be priests with a little more free thinking then the rest. They would also be educated learned men. Possibly priests who had an ecstatic experience at some point. Either way they could do things the priest had long forgotten when they were shamans. They were also better off then shamans because of education and a clever mind. However they were probably lonely souls. They could use the foundation of their religion but most likely the other priests would either shun them or mock them behind their back in fear. However I am sure if the magician played his cards right he was considered a master priests above all the others. Capable of miracles and feats that astounded others, even the clergy themselves.
Through the ages magicians and religion have been close friends. It is only recently the mage has separated himself from the cultures religion. This of course has brought more woe to the independent mage. Without structure or support a mage must quickly develop his own or be lost in madness, repression or deny his very essence. If the mage does find his own way as the shaman of old did then problems will be few. There may always be a divide between man and the mage. While other professions can profess their work freely and gain pride from their craft a magician works in secret and speaking of their work could brand them lunatics or outcasts. This is not to say magicians are naturally outcasts. Many magic workers blend in well among people because they have such varied interests as to divert the topic away from their occult interests.
Religion is not bad or evil in essence. It brings man together and gives them an internal support system as well as an outer system of relationships and support of the society. Without religion mankind in general would be lost on a sea of faer and chaos. Even those who profess agnosticism or even atheism have a belief structure "explains" things to satisfaction. Science has renamed the gods but they are still there, just unpersonified. I do believe if all religions every where on the planet vanished suddenly, within a short time new different religions would arise to take their place. Many having elements of the gone and forgotten religions they stood in for. Of course over time religion like water can stagnate. All things get lost in time. Mankind I think is on the verge for a new religion. The old is dying away. What this religion is I could not say, but I have some ideas. I will tell you this:
Mankind will lose faith in current religions which are popular but fading now.
They will seek answers with meaning and relevance in their lives and they will not know where to look.
The world will be a much different place then it is now.
Some intuitive,clever people will step in with revelations that all mankind will accept like cool clear water in a hellish desert.
The cycle will roll on.
The magician/shaman is the carver of belief, the messenger of the gods and the eventual priests who will serve obidiently to these new forces, this so mankind can interact with the divine without the trouble of constant devotion and training.
In conclusion I have reason to believe magic and religion are twins. Religion invariably tries to make things happen by begging the gods for support. Magic on the other hand is the practice of working with the gods to get the job done. I guess my complaint on religion then would be, it is the whiny twin.
Now a lot of the preceding was rolling around in my head, however the book I just finished "Secrets of the Magical Grimoires" by Aaron Leitch sharpened and filled in some gaps. Give that book a look-see.