abracadabra, abrahadabra, amen, incantation, pagan, Pagan Blog Project, paganism, please, spell, witch, witchcraft
I no.1 – ‘Incantations’
Sorry for my absence last week. I’ve been laid off from my job, and also quite sick, so I wasn’t much in the mood to write. I’m still (mostly) unemployed this week, but feeling better about it, and so I’ve got a good post for this, week 2 (though my week 1) of the letter I for the Pagan Blog Project!
: a use of spells or verbal charms spoken or sung as a part of a ritual of magic; also : a written or recited formula of words designed to produce a particular effect
An integral part of many magical practices, incantations are the part of a ritual or spell that is spoken out loud and is often the ‘activation’ of the spell. These incantations can be in different languages, such as Latin or Greek, or in English, or gibberish; they can be verses, single words, or they can be rhyming couplets as seen in many Wiccan charms and spells; these incantations can be a tiny part of any spell, or can be the work of the spell in its entirety.
For a long time incantations always seemed like the work of stage magicians to me, but they really took on an interesting heft once I got older. I think that, being raised Catholic, I took for granted the power of things such as The Lord’s Prayer; the flow, the rhythm, the weight. Once I converted, I wanted to find similar poems and incantations but had a lot of trouble.
I have to say that my point of view on a lot of incantations or chants changed rather quickly, the day that I found out that a certain incantation wasn’t just for pulling rabbits out of hats!
Abracadabra is, in fact, one of the world’s best know, and one of the oldest, incantations! I found a few stories for its etymology, though the most common is the one found on Wikipedia which says that it comes from two Aramaic words: ibra (אברא) means “I have created” and k’dibra (כדברא) which means “through my speech”.
Its initial use was as a banishing charm. The word ‘Abracadabra’ was written on a paper in the form of a triangle where each successive line removes the final letter from the line above. The charm was worn on the person and used against malaria, fever, and any range of illness, as it was believed to also mean ‘to destroy the thing’. This may have been just an interpretation of the charm. If it meant “to create with my words”, by removing one letter at a time, you destroy the word, and thus the sickness? I’m just guessing.
In Crowley’s work, the word is transformed to Abrahadabra (for numerological reasons, as well as to include an epithet of an important deity) and was said by him to be the “Word of the Aeon, which signifieth The Great Work accomplished.” This meaning gives weight to its use as the final word in any spell work. It is the last word and the word at the end of all words, a powerful addition to the end of a ritual or spell.
That said, I asked some other people for their favourite words of power, incantations, or frequently used spells.
A coworker of mine, and former follower of Crowley, told me she found the invocations found in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram to be particularly powerful for her. The include the 4 names of Archangles and have a heavy ritualistic feel to them. She also suggested the prayer to the Lord of the Universe found in the Middle Pillar.
Another coworker told me that he prefered to write his own rituals and spells, and so classic ‘incantations’ weren’t a large part of his practice.
Ginandjack included some expletives, as well as “Amen” (which I liked), and “With holy dread”…I’m not sure about that last one, maybe he’d be kind enough to explain it in the comments?
And finally, Thiscrookedcrown had a similarly quirky list, though she included I word I don’t think many of us would even think to consider….. “Please.”
What about you, readers? What words do you find particularly powerful? What phrases, chants, prayers, or words do you fall back on regularly? Why are those ones important for you?
I use the rune of St Patrick when I need to perform some serious magic. I use it to protect myself and/or a space prior to dealing with something nasty. Let the power build with each stanza and then cast it outward at the end.
St Patrick Rune
Here at Tara in this Fateful Hour
I place all Heaven with its power
And the Sun with its Brightness
And the snow with its whiteness
And fire with all the strength it hath
And Lightning with its rapid wrath
And the winds with their swiftness along the path
And the sea with its deepness
And the rocks with their steepness
And the Earth with its starkness
All these I place
By God’s almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of Darkness.
A Changing Altar said:
Ginanjack also mentioned using bible verse and the like for his incantations.
If I understand properly, it has a lot to do with his ancestor veneration.
If I may ask, what path do you follow? Admittedly, I always find it a bit surprising when Pagans use Christian verse or imagery in their workings.
As a chaos magician I will use any paradigm that fits the purpose. I have no belief in any gods as described in myth, even christian/islam/judaic mythology. However they do serve as tools to focus my intent and direct my energy. For instance I could use Nemesis as a focus tool for a spell for divine retribution. However I have no belief in Nemesis as a Goddess just as an energetic state that I can use to effect my will. Likewise there are Christian passages that work for me too. In the case above St. Patrick’s rune is more of a shamanic boast. Look how it invokes a lot of the elements to weave a shield of protection. With the way I work the energies with each stanza I have been able to create a very powerful protection charm using the rune to focus my intent.
Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your rune with us. It is beautiful, inspiring and powerful. My incantation, if that’s what it can be called, is made up of three words “peace and serenity”.
A Changing Altar said:
I think that ‘peace and serenity’ would be more of a mantra. Less of a spell, and more of a wish, or affirmation. I don’t know that there is a huge difference between the two, but I don’t think they are entirely the same. However, that doesn’t mean those words are any less powerful!
You’re probably right, Ryan! Thanks for clarifying the terms for me.
Sorry I haven’t seen this sooner, I’ve been a bit preoccupied. I actually love this topic. Amen exclaimed loudly, with pride and conviction is one of my favorites. You know it’s a good incantation when a room full of Lutherans shout “Amen!” and you feel it! Yes, it is so! As per your mention of myself, yes, prayers are almost always just for ancestor veneration, but select quotes and bible passages are used as incantations to achieve certain ends or effects. Spell parts, if you will.
And lastly, you know that moment when you feel a shift in the surroundings? When your hair prickles and you get a flash of chills or a run up your spine? And you know, without doubt, that something or someone is with you, or you’re doing x,y,z correctly, or…. That is holy dread! And to harness all of that scared but exhilarated nervous energy to complete your goal is something I’ve been doing for a few years now. The word choice comes from Coleridge’s unfinished poem Kubla Khan. Anything else, sir?
A Changing Altar said:
I think part of the reason Amen is so powerful is because everyone knows it; no matter where you are, if you raise your hand and say “Can I get an Amen?!”, you know at least one person will respond. It is a word that means “the end”, “hell yes”, “thank you”, and “please” all at once. It is weighted with thousands of years of use.
“So mote it be” (the closest Pagan alternative I can think of) is cumbersome, and I find public rituals sputter and stall when people use it, because it never has that same humming conviction.
Holy dread makes more sense now, and I think I’ve got an idea of the appropriate time to use it.
Thanks for explaining so descriptively! 😉