When I was a kid I loved comic books. I quickly got bored with Superman because he had no weaknesses except Kryptonite, and you couldn’t have him deal with a green, red, or another color of alien rock every issue. As to the other comics from the company that published Superman, well, I remember reading the first Justice League of America story where all of their leading superheroes had to join forces to defeatâ€¦a giant starfish!
And then I discovered comics from Marvel. Spiderman was a kid not much older than me, and he had all the problems and issues I faced (along with his spidey sense and super powers thing). I really liked Thor, too. Here was a guy who was in love with a woman but was too shy to say anything because he had a physical handicap. She loved him, too, and kept waiting for him to say something. Eventually, he finds a stick that turns him into a virtual God when he taps it on the ground. This was every schoolboy’s dream! If you were beat up by bullies or felt insecure (who didn’t?) you could just tap a stick and become a hero so handsome everyone would fall in love with you. Whatta guy! [It caused me to go to my school library and the local public library to find out more on the traditional Thor, but neither had much on him. There was plenty on the Greek and Roman myths, but in those booksÂ the Norse myths were minor appendices. Grrr.]
And then came Dr. Stephen Strange. A brilliant but egotistical and money-hungry neurosurgeon, his hands are damaged in a car wreck. He spends his savings looking for a cure. When he fails he becomes depressed and a drunk. Then, in foreign saloons he hears whispers of a man who could help him. He travels to the Himalayas to the home of a mystic known as “The Ancient One.” The mystic, however, won’t help him. Strange is still too egotistical. But sensing something special in him, he invites Strange to stay.
There is also another student there, Baron Mordo, who, it turns out, is planning on killing the mystic and assuming his power. Strange doesn’t believe in real magick, but tries to warn The Ancient One of the murder plot. Mordo uses magick on Strange to stop him from giving the warning. It turns out that the mystic knew Mordo was planning the murder and used it to bring out the decency in Strange. Mordo is sent packing and Strange becomes The Ancient One’s main student, eventually claiming the title of “Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme,” the magickal protector of the Earth and our universe.
Dr. Strange by Steve Ditko
Unlike most of the other comic book heroes, Dr. Strange wasn’t stuck on this or any other planet. He thrilled our imaginations as he travelled through strange dimensions and fought evil beings there. His personality and characteristics changed and evolved, as did his appearance, depending upon the writers and illustrators such as Steve Ditko and Gene Colan.
Dr. Strange’s Magick
While Dr. Strange is studying with The Ancient One and learning all sorts of spells, it appears that his real power doesn’t come from any of them. Rather, there are all sorts of otherworldly entities who, by using the appropriate spells, callings, or tools, will give him power to use. The two primary sources of his powers are Â the VishantiÂ (consisting of Agamotto,Â Hoggoth, and Oshtur) and the OctessenceÂ (composed of Balthakk, Cyttorak, Farallah, Ikonn, Krakkan, Raggadorr, Valtorr, and Watoomb). So what I guess Strange was studying was the memorization of which bizarre poem or phrase to use to call on a particular entity who grants him the use of their power, often through the use of some sort of object, such as the “Wand of Watomb” or the “Crimson Bands of Cyttorak.” At times, his powers (or his use of powers) transcends worldly issues and becomes cosmic in nature, virtually changing universes. I imagine they purposely keep all of Strange’s powers and practices somewhat hazy to make him seem more mystical.
Although Strange frequently studies and practices, it seems as if what he really needs to know is the magick words. Simply saying the magick words results in powers from levitation and energy blasts to protecting worlds, reversing time, and sealing a black hole!
This concept has been a pervasive running thread in the popularâ€”but fictitiousâ€”understanding of real magick: if you know the words, even if you do nothing more than mumble them, magick will occur. Ah if it were only that easy! As I have written elsewhere, if that understanding of real magick were true, every book on magick in the U.S. would be locked up under the Patriot Act!
There’s more to real magick than wand waving and word mumbling. You also need to know how to generate and direct magickal energy. Without those abilities you have theater, a movie, a novel, or a comic book. Add those abilities to working with magickal tools and using words to form and direct the spells and rituals, and you have real magick!