Ceremonial Magic

What Is High Magic?

Wiccan Altar
Kam Abbott/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Definition

The term ceremonial magic can refer to many schools of magical theory. The practice of ceremonial magic is highly ritualistic. It stresses complicated and specific words, designs, and gestures and is based on a sophisticated system of correspondences. It is practiced only by the highly educated, as they are the only ones with access to the complex lore as well as the time to devote to it.

Correspondences

Correspondences refer to links between objects and ideas, with the basis often being elements and astrology. For example, the element of fire represents life, light, warmth, vigor, energy, activity, and so forth. Various stones, metals, plants and other objects are considered strongly associated with fire (often because of a reddish color, a natural brilliance, etc.) and, thus, are useful in working attempting to attract fiery influences.

Read more: Planetary Correspondences and Occult Cosmology
Read more: Elemental Correspondences

Spiritual Purpose

Ceremonial magic generally has at least some degree of spiritual purpose. Thus, it is often synonymous with "high magic," as opposed to low magic, practical magic, or folk magic.

This means that ceremonial magical rituals are generally not about simply attaining some sort of specific goal. They are meant to bring the magician into tune with high planes of existence, communicate with angels or other spirits, to purge negative influences and attract positive ones.

For these reasons, ceremonial magic also often involves various purification rites prior to beginning.

Religions

Because ceremonial magic is spiritual, different forms are generally associated with specific religions. Western ceremonial magic is strongly rooted in Judeo-Christian beliefs, accepting a single God and the existence of angels and demons, often using Hebrew words and letters, incorporating Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah, and so forth.

Thelema has its own system of ceremonial magic.

Wicca borrows aspects of ceremonial magic such as circle casting, ritual purification, and some basic correspondences, such as associating elements with cardinal points.

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a 19th-century ceremonial magic society, broke up over many different issues, including religious orientation. Many members were Christians, and they objected to the pagan influences some other members were interjecting into their system.