Making Magic?

I’ve written a few times in the past, either here or on The Lotus Pond, about how Wiccans seem to disagree amongst themselves about whether or not they perform magic. I usually say that I am not a witch because I do not perform magic, meaning I do not cast spells. But, there are those that make the argument that Wiccan ritual practice, specifically Circle casting, is a work of magic, and therefore Wiccans can be seen as witches. Without getting into the whole Wiccan/witch debate, I thought it might be interesting to figure out if casting a Circle really is working magic.

After reading Ronald Hutton’s long discussion about the definitions of magic and religion in his book Witches, Druids, and King Arthur, I’ve finally found definitions of magic and religion that make sense to me. So, I am defining religion to be the act of praising or worshiping deities, or asking them for favours. Magic, on the other hand, is manipulating supernatural powers to achieve one’s Will, often involving threats or entreaties to deities or other beings.

So, with those terms defined, I believe it is safe to say that the meat of a Wiccan ritual, where the Lord and Lady are honour and the Sabbat or what-have-you celebrated, is clearly an act of religion. The Circle, on the other hand, involves the cleansing and setting apart of the ritual space from the ordinary world. The practitioner is focusing their Will on this task, and using powers of one sort or another to fulfill it. Often the Elements, either themselves or embodied in spirits or other beings, are asked to be present and to help with the creation of the Circle. So, it would seem that the casting of the Circle is a magical act performed in a religious situation.

So, perhaps I do work magic, but that still doesn’t make me a witch.