Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some magic


By magic I don’t mean divination, astrology, alchemy, spirit mediation or necromancy, conjuring tricks (slight of hand, misdirection, illusion), but the use of invisible forces to influence events. Control them, one cannot.
To acquire knowledge, power, love, or wealth; to heal or ward off illness or danger; to guarantee productivity or success in an endeavor; to cause harm to an enemy; to reveal information; or to induce spiritual transformation… that’s magic.
It starts with charms for protection, things one takes a fancy to as bringing ‘luck’ – be that just a better mood, more self-assurance, or just some kind of placebo effect. This can soon graduate from a lucky shirt or rabbit’s foot to charms for charisma, good business and safety from a river’s many hazards. In many places charms, tattoos and shrines are used to propitiate local spirits, to attract what’s good, deflect what isn’t wanted, pacify the uncontrollable and keep ‘channels of communication’ open. Sometimes people get power-hungry; then metaphysical poisons might become used, for murder and betrayal.
‘Things which take care of’ - sacred things used for protection, include Thai Yaan protective configurations, including round yaan to make a face of the Buddha or some older, animistic power (in Brahmin Tradition, a face of Brahma). Triangular yaan represent the Buddhist Triple Gem of PraPutta-jao (Buddha), PraTamma (darmma) & PraSongk (clergy), or, in Brahmin Tradition, the three Lords of Heaven (Shiva, Brahma & Vishnu). Four-sided yaan are made for evoking the elements earth, water, air and fire. Other yaan are of angels, kings, monks, hermits and mythical animals from India’s Himapant forest (which only the enlightened can enter): kinnari and kinnorn (or kinnara, upper-half man, lower-half birds), nok sariga paradise birds, yahk giants, and sing lions. These yaan were usually topped with graceful zig-zag spiral lines, called unaalom, similar to the rasamee flames put above Buddha image heads. Both represent the attainment of enlightenment.
After objects and drawings come sacred alphabets and chanting of mantra prayers (in Thai, Pra Kataá or Api-maha kataá). And tattooing or inscriptions on paper, rolled and inserted in a tubes to be carried, or consumed (on rice paper used in cooking, or on bread, a spring roll, or inscribed on a piece of fruit or carrot). Spells can be written on paper, then put in liquid (usually water) until the ink dissolves, and given to someone to drink (though most inks are harmful!), and water is often believed able to carry prayer, power and blessing.
There’s Celestial Magic (astrological forecasting), Contagious Magic (belief that objects once in close contact remain linked; that influence can be obtained through a rite over a fingernail, hair clipping, personal possession or even a portion of excreta, to gain supernatural influence over the original possessor - also intended victim; that intimate contact which ended long ago can be suggested, successfully, to retain residual effect - materials once intimate in contact are often felt to continue to act somehow on each other, responding resonantly to events significant to the other, even at great distance after a long time…), Sympathetic Magic (or mimetic magic, arising from the belief that like causes like), Image/Imitative Magic (like Voodoo dolls), Defensive/Protective Magic, and Sexual Magic (including, but not restricted to, magic of expressed desire). Chaos Magic focuses on mechanisms of belief, holding that the process of belief rather than the object of belief is the critical element in magic; it’s believed to expose danger, but also to be extremely destabilizing for those who need to perceive the universe as an ordered and meaningful place. A universe filled with plots, traps and transcendental desires might allow one to turn evil back on itself, by stressing adaptability, and change, as a reflection of the true nature of reality.
To use magic well, one must learn of spirits and of souls, of mind and heart, feelings and mentality... that desire both creates, and is created by, social setting; that likelihoods can be rearranged, and sleep and dreams, arousal, digestion and vigor affected, using items associated with, or symbolic of, what is to be manipulated. To better understand us versus them relationships. To use Symbolic Mimesis, the principle of imitation, in which one mimes or imitates a desired action, usually in combination with Sympathetic Magic, with items symbolic of the object of the spell or closely associated with it (or associated with the powers involved or invoked), to carry out a spell. And how a spirit doctor (shaman) must manipulate the memories, moods, motivations, attractions and propensities of those involved in any effort or endeavor he becomes involved in, to reinforce or disrupt patterns and parameters.
Like can always be made to at least seem to affect like; effect to resemble cause. Stars, epic events and weather can often be shown parallel to temporal, transient events occurring now.
Onomatopoeia, and choosing words because they sound harsh or smooth, heavy or light, repetition of sounds, as in rhyme, alliteration, and echoing, can make for powerful suggestiveness. Shortening myths into synopsis for analogy and to show precedence (for example, “As You, exalted Deity, once did this, so, for my prayers, give aid and now do this other, similar, act...”), can have utility, as can using circumlocutions and euphemisms, building power and energy with language by inducing a light trance in both reciter and audience. So also can using a question-and-answer formula (each question concerning a part of the spell: “Will such-and-such come to pass?” answered to affirm what is desired: “Yes, this will come to pass.” Or, “Will So-and-So do this?” “Yes, So-and-So will do that” - where So-and-So is a person, or spirit or deity invoked; this assertion that the goal of the spell will be carried out, or that the object of the spell will cooperate, like a naming, at least seems to affect what is referred to…).
One interesting thing is how, for love magic, certain plant material is placed under the tongue – inserted only just before approaching the loved one, to obtain a magnetic, hypnotic power. The supplicant must avoid talking to anyone but the intended, as to talk to anyone else could too easily lead to getting sidetracked and wasting the power. On meeting the object of desire, love must be expressed: with explanation, entreaty and description of what is wanted. If the magic – and sentiment – is strong enough, returned feeling will occur.
If a verbal approach isn’t possible, the plant materials can be put on a fire, the smoke from which will be breathed by the loved one (but again, one must be careful of other people!), or placed where that one will walk barefoot.
Any of these actions should be done with the appropriate incantation, as:

Love magic, your power is great.
Be in my service; I will be in yours.
Act as I will direct, I entreat you -
And know your servant to be obliged, and faithful.
Go and enter the heart of (intimate and specific name),
To join our thoughts, our feelings, and destiny.
Let us come face to face, and bosom to bosom.
Hear my magical language, know my aspiration,
Let my love be manifest, allowed and embraced.
And I will remain forever, your servant, servant to love.

Self-hypnosis was an important part of this, the main thing even – how one might actually change things – for a perceived better – by deluding oneself…

Performing the rituals and affirmations, chanting or reciting, using god-names with proper vestments and amulets, or doing divination, witchcraft and, for the adept, totally mysterious phenomena like shape-shifting, exhibiting natural symmetries or turbulence, and transferring energies (vital essences) involves a force increasing, being reinforced, made more powerful - by interaction between natural juxtapositions.
Shaman-magicians sometimes produce magical effects through control of hypnotic states, mind-reading, mental suggestion, association of ideas and other, similar processes (involving terms like telepathy and soul-vitality). Self-discipline increases spiritual power; inner strength (“divine-energy”) enables an individual to control himself, other people, and environment. Power is accumulated and concentrated through asceticism. Magic means manipulating the spurs and triggers necessary to provoke desired outcomes, by manipulating behavior tendencies like inclinations, preferences, attitudes, perceptual limitations... increasing propensities, building tendency to confidence and conviviality, or to confusion and mayhem. For to feel confidence, to act with confidence, works better, is more operative, than to have doubts, confusions, anxieties and other less desirable traits; and, as many have found, confidence can be given at least for a while. Accoutrements can be used, or not used, as applicable to circumstance.

In traditional, agrarian villages, men and women exist in largely separate spheres of activity, with social organization directed towards maintaining this dichotomy. Marriages are agreements between patriarchs (and maybe matriarchs), and there is little divorce. Desire, as ever, is mostly the want for more: food, attention, opportunity and access. And access to opportunity for more attention and food will always be enticing to the deprived – be it physically, socially or emotionally… Learned social strictures usually retain great force – but, sometimes, homosexuals, especially those who find that they must seek a whole new support-base to survive, and successfully do, discover themselves able to utilize much more imagination than their generally more socially accepted (by society at large, anyway) peers. And they’re generally able to be much more imaginative than workers in rice-fields, shops, factories or delivery services!
Becoming able to entertain as an illusionist helps…


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