It’s been months since I wrote a post. I’ve been finishing up my certificate in paralegal studies and I was interning at a local law firm, but I can’t really claim being too busy as the main reason I haven’t written. In fact, I tried to write a couple of posts, one on the nine realms of Norse cosmology and one on why I am a solitary. I still plan to write those posts, but the drafts I produced didn’t express my feelings on the topics explicitly enough to meet the publication standards I have set for myself. Therefore, I am putting them on the back burner for further revision. Stay tuned, though, because I will get to them sooner rather than later. Today, I am going to talk about something that has been percolating on the back burner of my consciousness for some months now. I am going to talk about the concept of correspondences, particularly in relation to magick and spell-work.
In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault famously argued that the Renaissance epistemology or system of knowledge was based on the principle of similitude. This principle is manifest in the macrocosm and microcosm as the Renaissance model of material and spiritual reality. The idea of similitude can also be seen in the Renaissance concept of plant signatures, whereby a specific herb or plant could be used to treat various ailments based on its resemblance to a specific part of the human anatomy (see Wikipedia – Doctrine of signatures). Alchemists used the principle of similitude in their attempts to transform mundane materials into precious metals.
Today, modern witches, Wiccans, and other pagans turn to correspondences to work magick. We look to moon phases, the days of the week, and planetary hours for guidance on timing our spells. We select herbs and gemstones based on their correspondences to desired objectives and we blend oils with properties that will appeal to specific deities or to anoint candles in magickal workings. The modern-day magickal practice of using correspondences is therefore part of a long tradition of folk magick and ceremonial magick that goes back to the Renaissance.
The things is, Renaissance practitioners eventually gave way to Enlightenment rationalists. Foucault argued that the shift from similitude to the categorical organization of knowledge during the Enlightenment signaled an epistemlogical break that is typical of historical development and that radically affects the way a society produces and disseminates knowledge. I would argue that Renaissance physicians, alchemists, and herbalists were actually the originators of the scientific method that became the dominant paradigm of scientific discovery during the Enlightenment. They designed experiments based on working hypotheses and used a process of trial and error to determine what worked and what didn’t. When the principle of similitude failed to transform mundane materials into precious metals or to cure physical diseases, they rejected the idea of correspondences in favor of categorical knowledge and thus, the Enlightenment was born.
Of course, the idea of correspondences did not disappear altogether. Most practicing witches and ceremonial magicians will attest to the value of correspondences in their work. Based on my own experience, I have developed a hypothesis about the efficacy of correspondences. When I first attempted spells, I assumed that using the correct correspondences would cause my desired objective to manifest. After years of very mixed results, in which my successes occurred on an infrequent and haphazard basis, I began to doubt the value of correspondences.
At the same time, when I did work a successful spell, the results were dramatic enough to encourage me to keep trying. When I began working with Norse deities and embraced northern tradition spirituality, I began experiencing some marked successes in realizing magickal intent through devotional practice. I wondered if maybe I should dispense with correspondences altogether and just focus on dedications or prayer instead. But I didn’t want to give up spell-work. I considered it a fundamental part of being a folk witch. So I began to study the work of other magickal practitioners. All of them pointed to the use of tools and correspondences as props and emphasized the important of concentration and visualization in effective magick.
Based on my study, I began combining work with correspondences and devotions to the gods. I began to experience even more success in achieving my magickal objectives. I decided to analyze the possible secrets to my new-found success and discovered that my use of correspondences was most effective when I used them to sharpen my focus on my desired objective and to tap into the divine power of the appropriate deities for my stated purpose. I realized that correspondences do not operate on a causal model. They are more like tuning agents that the individual practitioner can use to tap into the forces of magick. In other words, correspondences work through the mechanism of symbolism.
I want to clarify that in my belief system, symbolism is not a mere byproduct of the material brain or a projection of the human psyche. I think of symbolism in its archetypal sense. Symbolism is a means of tapping into what Jung referred to as the collective unconscious and what New Agers might refer to as the Akashic Records. I think of symbolism as a bridge that links the abstract (a desire) with the concrete (be it an image, spell ingredients, or magickal tools).
As I prepare to look for a job in the legal profession, I will be blending essential oils and using spell-work to augment my practical efforts. I am confident my efforts will facilitate my job search, not because my use of correspondences cause my intent to manifest, but because they tap into the power of the symbolic and build that bridge between the intangible nature of desire and the very material reality of a job and a paycheck.