I have several blogs that I enjoy reading on a regular basis; one of these is Nimue Brown's blog on her Druidic path. Yesterday I read an interesting post by her about Druidic Magic where she suggests that magic doesn't play a big role in Druidry, which focuses more on learning to see and understand the patterns than to directly influence them. My own view of course is utterly opposite of that, as I see magic as a key aspect of Druidism, but it was intriguing to read her point of view. Contemplating her words has me reflecting on my own opinion, what shapes it, and why I can't imagine changing it.
From a historic perspective both mythology and comments made by Greek and Roman authors support the importance of magical practices to the ancient Druids. Beyond that when we look at the ancient pagan world we see magic everywhere, from daily household protection charms to spells to curse or subdue an enemy. This magic seems to have been so integral to people's lives that even after converting from paganism much of the magic survived in folk practice; we can see a multitude of examples of this in the Carmina Gadelica as well as different books looking at Irish folk belief like Lady Wilde's Ancient Irish Charms and Superstitions.
From what I've gathered in my studies magic was a utilitarian tool that was applied to anything and everything by those who used it. Like any tool one had to know how to use it but there did not seem to be any idea of reserving the little magics for extreme situations. One of my favorite examples of this is a curse tablet found at the site, if memory serves, of Sulis's shrine where the writer asks that a curse be placed on whoever stole his cloak. When we look at the charms and spells in the Carmina Gadelica we see folk magic for a variety of life issues, from protecting cattle to getting butter to churn properly. From this observation I've come to approach magic in the same way, as a useful tool that can and should be used to help in my life. Rather like indoor plumbing, if its there why not use it? The same rules apply to using magic as would apply to using a physical object, that is using it properly, cautiously, and with an understanding of its effects.
Of course many people living in a modern first world country have lost touch with this interweaving of magic charms and spells into daily life. Some people see modern magic as superfluous, others see it as tampering with the natural order, and still others don't believe in it at all. Our modern world with its hectic modern life and somewhat jaded approach to things has relegated magic to primitive superstition and naive wishful thinking. Among modern pagans specifically we see magic as a niche practice, something that specific religions, like Wicca, do but that many others - including the majority of Heathens and Druids - do not do and do not have any interest in. I, obviously, am an exception to that, but to many magic in paganism is just not important, or even something to be spoken against. I would never argue that any one should learn or practice magic if they don't want to but I wish that more people were open to the beauty of it and accepting of it in others.
Call me old fashioned, but to me magic is intrinsic in every aspect of my life. I can't imagine Druidism without magic, or even Irish paganism for that matter. I say a blessing charm over every meal I cook, whisper protective prayers over my children before they leave the house, give my family medicine along with healing spells when they are sick. There are also the greater magics when needed - the fith fath, the Druid mist, and such - but its these little daily magics that are part of my life morning and night. If my life is a song that I am singing as I go, then magic is the constant tide of breathing that underlies each verse and chorus. And I wouldn't want it any other way.