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by David Christy
Spiritually oriented approaches to psychology seek to foster mental health and overall wellbeing using techniques derived from clients’ faith traditions (Richards & Worthington, 2010). Meta-analyses have put the efficacy of these interventions on par with secular approaches (Aten & Worthington, 2009; Hook et al., 2010; Post & Wade, 2009). Most of the research in this field has focused on interventions rooted in Abrahamic traditions or on increasing spirituality in general (Hook et al., 2010). To date, little scholarly attention has been paid to creating psychospiritual interventions suited to the needs of people practicing earth-based faiths.
Magic, as a Pagan spiritual and religious practice, has been written about extensively in popular literature, but little attention has been paid to it within the field of psychology. Yardley (2008) described magic as a spiritual practice Pagans use to create change in their lives. Yardley discussed the use of symbolic rituals as an aspect of this spiritual practice, but did not engage with the subject deeply. Scholars have discussed psychological mechanisms that may underlie the use of ritual as a healing practice (Anderson, 2010; Cole, J., 2004; Cole, V., 2003; Kwan, 2007; Parker & Horton, 1996; Turner, 1995). Few of these studies examined spiritual or transpersonal elements of these practices, and none explored the issue from a Pagan perspective. As a spiritual and religious practice utilized by Pagans, the phenomenon of magic deserves study alongside other transpersonal, spiritual, and religious phenomena.
This study is a part of the author’s broader research agenda, which focuses on creating culturally congruent psychospiritual interventions for people practicing non-Abrahamic faiths. This subject area emerged as a passion during my Master of Divinity training at Naropa University, where I was exposed Buddhist meditation and earth-based ritual as ways of enacting psychospiritual healing and growth. My previous exposure to earth-based ritual includes 3 trainings from two traditions: Dagarra, a West African indigenous faith, and the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, a reconstructed Pagan tradition.
This phenomenology assumes a constructivist philosophy of paradigm. Many authors have advocated taking constructivist approaches to working with spiritual and religious issues, especially when working with people from religious and ethnic minority groups (McCabe, 2007; Parks, 2003; Yeh, Hunter, Madan-Bahel, Chiang, & Arora, 2004). Harley (2006) discussed the need for health care models that embrace both paradigms, noting the biomedical model is “not well equipped to analyze the experiential or political dimensions of health, especially those of indigenous healing knowledge embedded in alternative epistemologies” (p. 436).
The present study seeks explore how Pagans use magic as a spiritual practice for their growth and healing, and further to describe the healing knowledge and epistemologies embedded within the practices.
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