The Magical Art of CorrespondencesThis is the outline of a workshop Passion and *Diuvei organized at CoG Merrymeet '95. Our purpose was to encourage people to focus on the underlying theory of "correspondences" -- which we believe is the basis of magic itself -- rather then simply accept by rote what authors and teachers have told them.
CORRESPONDENCES COMMONLY OCCUR in everyday life, though most are unconsciously perceived and many, negatively used. Especially on a cultural level, they shape the way people think:
ABOVE = HEAVEN = MALE = SPIRIT = GOOD
- E.g. as Wiccans we are all familiar with this little table of correspondences which many Christians and New Agers take for granted:
below = earth = female = body = bad
WHAT ARE CORRESPONDENCES? WHY do we use them?
- They are links that unite seemingly disparate realms. E.g. legs and lungs = fins and gills, linking terrestrial and aquatic realms; brilliant Sun = glittering gold, linking celestial and mineral realms; earth/water/air/fire = solid/liquid/gas/plasma = physical/emotional/mental/spiritual, linking elemental, material, and human realms.
- They are a window on the structure of the cosmos; a lens between the macrocosm ("as above") and microcosm ("so below"). By using correspondences one can access, study, and manipulate the realm of Ideas, archetypes that determine the nature of reality (cf. laws of physics; Aristotle's categories). Unitive Ideas (archetypes) = Spirit "above"; Categorizing and collating systems (correspondences) = Mind "mediating between"; Differentiated Things (reality) = Matter "below".
- Divinatory systems are especially powerful tools in finding and analyzing correspondences, e.g. numerology, astrology, Tarot, runes. What do they have in common?
- Number is important on a structural level (4 suits, 12 signs, 3 rune-rows)
- Each component within them is distinct; no accidental overlap
- Each component is a glyph for an archetype -- more than words can convey
- Based on arrangement of a limited no. of glyphs -- ordering and re-ordering of same components. Like life itself -- "the more things change.."
- Theory of correspondences is based on analogical reasoning, which seeks similarities of pattern -- a "right-brain" approach (artistic, poetic, holistic) -- rather than "left-brain" cause-and-effect reasoning which scientific materialism insists is alone valid. Paradigm shift from one to the other occurred between end of Renaissance and beginning of Age of Enlightenment, and is linked by some scholars with witch-burnings.
TABLES OF CORRESPONDENCES:
- Origin of many seemingly arbitrary spells (eye of toad, etc.) may lie in correspondences. E.g. planetary metals and colors often appear in older spells. An interesting example from Agrippa of planets = animals: Mole (Saturn), Hart (Jupiter), Wolf (Mars), Lion (Sun), Goat (Venus), Ape (Mercury), Cat (Moon)
- Tables are like opinions -- everybody's got a different one, it seems. Often conflict.
- Generally one underlying root category structuring (dominating?) the rest -- e.g. if 7-fold, usually the seven visible planets (the ones used in planetary hours); if 4-fold, usually the four elements; if 2-fold, often a "good/bad" or "superior/inferior" polarity, as in first example. Often this is result of 2-dimensional straitjacket of conventional tables, which are organized as simple grids.
- This can violate integrity of systems being correlated, even lead to prejudice (as in "black = dark = evil").
(Example: Why did Newton establish the colors of the rainbow as 7 in number? Color theory tells us that the spectrum is basically 6-fold: 3 primaries + 3 secondaries. Why did he add "indigo", which imbalances the system? Biographers say his alchemical theories led him to associate spectral colors with tones of the modern musical scale, hence 7. Ironically the older, Renaissance scale of 6 notes -- the "hexachord" -- would have been a much better fit.) When using a table, consider -- how much does author know about the various systems being correlated?
- Best to be able to construct your own, based on your magical and divinatory system. Fit it round runes if you use those, astrology or Tarot if you use them. 4 or 5 Elements alone is OK for beginners, but isn't it too simplified for more advanced magic?
WICCAN CORRESPONDENCES are a hidden key to Wiccan theoilogy:
- Quarter attributions:
- Circle attributions:
- The Farrars nicely summarize the rationale of Witchcraft (A Witches' Bible, vol. 2, ch. XI) as based on the theory of polarity (complementary opposites) and the theory of levels (multiple planes of reality). The many sets of fourfold correspondences of the quarters are like multiple levels of the circle, like stacked disks: the elements, the elemental lords, the winds, the sun and moon, etc.
- Polarity in circle = deosil vs. widdershins. Some say only deosil is good; avoid widdershins (except for cursing, undoing, etc.); thus always maintaining a deosil-spinning energy vortex in circle. In Australia, though, many witches go only widdershins, since that is "sunwise" and "Coriolis-force" direction below the equator. Yet others want balance of polarity, so open circle deosil and close it widdershins. The important point, though, isn't which is "better", but the use of the polarity itself.
THINKING IN WHOLE SYSTEMS seems to be not only the habit of mind that the theory of correspondences encourages, but also the most effective way to practice it:
- Correspondences work best when drawn between systems, rather than applied arbitrarily between individual things. Individual things fall into categories, e.g. "colors", "alphabets", "numbers", etc., and each of these has its system, which you should try to understand. Then you can see how underlying principles correlate.
(Example: The notes of the musical scale are often correlated with the astrological planets or signs of the zodiac solely on the basis of the order in which they occur, not because they share common attributes.
- Be careful about violating integrity of systems being correlated.
- It is easy to be misled by superficial correspondence of number. E.g. not all groups of seven fit comfortably with the seven visible planets -- just try making the seven chakras fit!
- Yet if numbers don't correspond, integrity is again often compromised. E.g. if you hold your circles in a five-sided building (like one coven we know), how will you call the four quarters? Do the four elements really fit all that well with the points of the pentacle? (Also see "Experiments", below.)
EXPERIMENTS AND SPECULATIONS:
- Here is a puzzle of fitting a triangular peg in a square hole: How do you correlate Maiden/Mother/Crone with the Quarters? with the New Moon?
- If the Quarters are derived from four quarters of the day, then they must also correlate with four quarters of the year. To which season would you attribute each Quarter?
- Mainstream Western culture corresponds certain colors with the four seasons. Spring = bright green or pastel colors; Summer = red, orange, yellow; Fall = brown, earth tones; Winter = white, often with blue or black. What would it be like to cast a circle with these colors in the appropriate quarters?
- The Mystery of the Seven Vowels, by Joscelyn Godwin, examines historical systems of magical correspondence based on the vowels of the alphabet. Modern linguistic theory further classifies the consonants as "fricatives" (f,b,v), "sibilants" (s,z) "plosives", etc. How might these be made into a magical system of correspondences, useful e.g. in poetry?
- Aromatherapy is a blossoming field that did not exist twenty years ago. Scientific research into odors is also expanding. Some researchers concur on 7 classifications of odors that are chemically different in significant ways. Any grouping of 7 implies the 7 visible planets; so here is the list of odors along with our suggested correspondences: floral (Venus), musky (Moon), minty (Jupiter), pungent (Mars), putrid (Saturn), ether-like (Mercury), camphor-like (Sun). How might you use these correspondences in selecting or creating incenses?
- Does assigning the 26 letters of the alphabet to the numbers 1 through 9, as in the most commonly used system of numerology, violate the integrity of each system?
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Latest update: 09 Jun. 1996