Words of Power

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Words of Power

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The words of a chant or spell can imbue the magician with feelings of power and, by so doing, can help generate that power into reality. In themselves, words can be a means of emotional control over persons and events. The foundation of successful spell-casting lies in the power and mystery of "the word." Jack Kornfield says, "In ancient cultures, shamans learned that to name that which you feared was a practical way to begin to have power over it."

In medieval times, it was believed that some words were so powerful that they should only be pronounced in exceptional circumstances. Because of their power, they should only be used with appropriate caution and preparation. The word Tetra-

grammaton, considered to be the ineffable name of God, was such a word and has come to be regarded as the most powerful word in ceremonial magic.

The pamphlet Tryall of Witch-Craft (London, 1616) says, "Galen writeth that a certain Sorcerer, by uttering and muttering but one word, immediately killed or caused to die a serpent or scorpion; Benivenius in his De Abd. Morb. Caus., affirmeth, that some kind of people have been observed to do hurt, and to surprise others, by using certain sacred and holy words."

Eliphas Lévi said, "In magic, to have said is to have done; to affirm and will what aught to be is to create." These are the two necessary ingredients of magic— the strong belief/desire, willing that it be so, and the right words. Finding those words is usually either a question of trial and error or discovering previously effective, time-tested words.

According to the Book of Genesis, "God said, `Let there be light,' and there was light. . . and God said, `Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters,' . . . And God said `Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear' . . . and God said `Let the earth bring forth grass.'" All these things came to pass because God said them. According to the Old Testament, God created the world with words he spoke. In magic, exactly the same thing is being done: using powerful and appropriate words together with a concentration of power. (It doesn't matter that we are not as powerful as God, since we are not trying to create a whole world!)

Words of power, especially when in the form of chants or spells, must also be spoken rhythmically, with a heavy, sonorous beat. This can have a hypnotic effect and can lead to ekstasis, the necessary rising state of excitement and "getting out of oneself."

Egyptian texts report that the priest magicians of ancient Egypt used foreign words for their magical workings. Herodotus, the earliest Greek historian whose words have come down to us, says that magical chanting by the Egyptian magicians is what enabled them to lift the great blocks of stone with which they built the pyramids.

In magic, the words themselves must be spoken in a particular way. They must be spoken with authority and familiarity, which is one of the reasons why modern-day magicians have little success using ancient Latin, Greek, and other mystical texts that they do not fully understand. It is useless to repeat magical words of power parrotfashion, or phonetically, in the hopes that they will be as effective as they were for the mighty magicians of the past. If you do not know what the words mean, you cannot put the necessary feeling into them, and the magic will not work. Yet the very opposite is true when dealing with writing words of power. In order to use written magic words of power, it is most effective if you are not familiar with them.

When making magical tools, they must be marked or engraved at the time of consecrating them with a word or words of power to make them potent. The very act of making the tool (wand, athamé, sword, for example) puts something of yourself into the object. The Melanesian word for this "power" is mana. But to increase mana, it is common to inscribe the instrument with specific words of power, and these are usually in one of the alphabets of ceremonial magic.

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In the Middle Ages, ceremonial magicians would spend years perfecting the art of conjuring spirits or entities who would, when conjured, do their bidding. The magicians kept notes of their experiments in books known as grimoires. These books would have been written in Latin, Greek, Hebrew or whatever was most familiar to the particular magician. Some sections would be carefully written in one of the so-called "magical alphabets," such as Theban, Malachim, Angelic, Passing the River, Robatian, or Enochian. The reason was two-fold: first was secrecy. The magician did not want his many years of hard work to be available to anyone who gained access to the book. But the second and more important reason was the power of these words when written in those alphabets. They made the book itself powerful and were the letters used when making such things as talismans and the various instruments of his art. The less familiar the magician was with the alphabet he used, the more powerful it was, for it meant that he had to concentrate on every stroke of every letter. In this way, his energy, his mana, was going into what he wrote.

So in speaking the words of power used in magical operations, it was necessary to be familiar with them, and to be able to place the necessary emphasis where needed. But in writing the words of power, it was equally important to be unfamiliar with the construction of the letters.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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