As Pagans and Heathens it is perhaps too easy to presume that magic goes hand in hand with religion. Even atheist wiccans, pagans, heathens etc have some concept of deity and use that concept in their magical practice/s. However does that have to be the case, does magic have to be inseparably connected to religion or even more broadly – spirituality. Because of how Pagans and Heathens function in terms of praxis, even when not directly using deity in a magical practice, a religious or spiritual starting point is where much (if not all) magical practice starts. Perhaps spiritual is a better word for two reasons; historically the idea of people that can do magic outside of religious settings is not a popular one and the premise that all Pagans and Heathens are religious is somewhat flawed. Can magic ever be anything other than a spiritual art, or is there some manner in which magic can be a purely intellectual activity – the best answer is no, not really. The reason for this rests in the implicit understanding of magic form an intellectual standpoint and how current magical reflect a spiritual standpoint.
There are an incredible number of ways to go about doing magic, some that involve natural phenomenon, some that require certain tools or products, energy is something is as close to a ‘must’ as you can get, sometimes deity, sometimes a circle and very specific words etc. However, even though today we are millennia beyond the days when magic was the realm of temples, the actual doing of magic remains essentially a faith exercise. This is because, as much as I loathe the term, unverified personal gnosis exists. In order for magic to be, or at least for styles or approaches to magic to be, purely an intellectual activity there needs to be that certain knowledge that x + y with a hint of z will achieve the exact effect of ZXY. Although unverified personal gnosis, I really cannot express satisfactorily my distaste for that term, is just the best way of expressing this lack of certainty it is the reason why magic and spirituality are irrevocably intertwined. Magic, as it is today and even as it was in the past, fundamentally depends upon the faith of the person doing the magic.
To return to the opening statement however; Pagans and Heathens, by merit of unreservedly practicing magic, tend to be the largest group that practices magic and come what may Pagans and Heathens are primarily spiritual. There is an allowance to be made for those groups other than Pagan and Heathens, who might technically, practice a magical approach or approaches but aren’t encompassed by the Pagan and Heathen collective noun. Hinduism and Buddhism, certainly Japanese Buddhism, are likely examples of groups that practice something that could be described as magic but aren’t Pagan or Heathen – these other groups however are still religious or spiritual in nature and so their magical elements still stem from a spiritual, faith based, origin. This is what leads to unverified personal gnosis and the preclusion of intellectually understanding magic, because an intellectual understanding requires certainty and an almost formulaic approach far in excess of what is currently in use.