Just three things that have me thinking right now, broadly grouped together under the categories of Kabbalism, magic in antiquity, and Lemonade.
This article on incantation bowls. The whole article and all of the issues with which the bowls are entangled are worth considering, but I am especially interested in the statistics which suggest that this was a predominantly Jewish practice:
“The largest number of known incantation bowls are written not in Syriac, but in Jewish Aramaic by Jewish scribes (though not necessarily for Jewish clients). Mandaean bowls are the second most numerous, only then followed by bowls in Syriac. A handful of bowls in Arabic and Persian are also known, in addition to bowls – perhaps 10 per cent – that can only be called ancient forgeries. These latter are filled with scribbles that mimic cursive writing but are not, in fact, in any language at all; perhaps they were made by illiterate scribes preying on equally illiterate clients.”
I had tended to assume that the bowls were such basic tech that they provided a convenient vehicle for magical action generally, but this suggests that the incantation bowls were more culturally specific, more culturally loaded, than I had thought. These bowls seems like part of the forest floor that will give birth to Kabbalism proper and it suggests, too, that there was something specifically about what was going on in Jewish magic that was attractive to a wider, receptive audience of would-be clients and magic workers.
While the article suggests that the bowls were all produced by Jewish individuals, it should be noted that this isn’t a necessary assumption, that in addition to a core of Jewish bowl makers we could be also be looking at individuals who are making use of Hebrew without necessarily being Jewish.
Also, the entanglement between the bowls, the word, and the spirits entangled within them, which gets us into the DNA of texts like the Lemegeton.
This article on Lemonade, which does a nice job skimming the surface of a very deep pool.
“Some might wonder why this celebrity release has gotten so much attention, or why some in the magical community are talking about it. But the reality is that an intense tie to the magic of the African American community is often ignored in mainstream celebrity culture. People all over are now talking about the images and references to the African Diasporic religions, Orisha, Black Girl Magic, and Southern magic cultures that Beyonce brought into the Lemonade video documentary.”
Plenty of people aren’t talking about this because they don’t feel it’s their dialogue to participate in and that is alright, but if you are American, especially North American, this is part of your spiritual DNA and you should know something about it. You should know this is part of what forms the cord of holy work on this continent, and you should be respectful and maybe even a little humbled by the force of it on display here.
Also this article on just how carefully Beyonce is working place in Lemonade. That’s a thing we need to be thinking about magically, too, about the way in which where we are and where we have been form the concrete blocks of time that we subject to our work. Magic at its highest includes the constitution and nourishment of a community, of which money and power are the more gross aspects. Money and power are the grosser aspects of that and overemphasized become easy roads to corruption, but they remain parts of it (Beyonce, after all, has a lot of both and it makes possible Lemonade).
“At the Evergreen Plantation, also along the Mississippi River, twenty-two slave cabins hint at the geography and culture of slavery that is also represented in Lemonade. The 1860 census says that 103 enslaved people lived there, owned by Lezin Becnel. The double line of cabins facing each other are the same spaces mothers cared for the children, where small gardens may have grown, songs sung, and tears shed.
In Lemonade young women reenact this enslaved community while also creating their own radical, futuristic community, by collecting vegetables together, cooking and caring for one another. And then Beyoncé begins singing of ‘freedom’ and ‘breaking chains.'”
Lemonade also pushes back from the roots against the standardizing forces of globalization and empire, lodges the black U.S. South in the throat of a discourse that would erase it as peculiar and exceptional. Part of that discussion of what it means to fashion an identity by fashioning the dialogue in which that identity would develop.
The stark realities of violence that crisscross Lemonade point, too, to the challenges inherent in the communal dimensions of magical work. The community isn’t an isolated or discrete object that can easily be cut off from the world. At the best of times, it is shot through with dialogue and debate, but at the worst of times community’s entanglement manifests under the duress of conflict and violence. This violence rests in part in the inability to appreciate the interrelationship of peoples, but it also appears as the preface to a potential pact under which the violence is put to rest.
Somewhere in all of this, there are also issues around religious approaches that skip past the human and into the natural too quickly, the old point made by Donna Haraway decades ago about the way in which ‘speaking for the earth’ can quickly turn into ignoring all of the people living on it.