In Modern Magick I write about the two histories of the Kabalah. One, the most well-known version, is mythical and metaphoric. The second is factual and historic. This second history indicates that there are predecessors to Kabalistic thought and magick. One of these predecessors was local (i.e., Semitic) folk magick and beliefs. Sometimes, the folk traditions continued as a separate strain of spirituality. For example, you’ve probably heard of the cultural icons who are wearing a read string around their wrists for good luck. But according to Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky, “there is absolutely no genuine kabbalistic source for wearing a red thread around one’s wrist to ward off the ‘evil eye.'”
That doesn’t make the practice of wearing a red strong “wrong,” just non-Kabalistic.
Similarly, there are some Jewish traditional magickal techniques that are closer to folk magick than to the Kabalah. In a recent post, Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis, author of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism, writes about some rather amazing techniques used to encourage fertility. These include:
- Eating Rubies. Although he doesn’t describe the details, my guess is that this would involve consuming either tiny chips of a ruby or even grinding the stone into a powder. Personally, to absorb the powers of certain gems, I prefer to let the gem sit in a glass of water over night and then drink the water. I’ve found the results to be very powerful.
- Drinking a certain cup of water after a ritual circumcision. At this ritual, commonly called a Bris (or Brit Milah), a chair is left out for the prophet Elijah and a cup of water is placed under it. “Following the ceremony, barren women would drink this water in hope of aiding in pregnancy.”
- “Incantations and kamiyot (amulets) were common and widely circulated. Most amulets included verses from Scripture that promise to counter barrenness (Isaiah 30:19, for example, or Exodus 23:26).”
Rabbi Dennis considers most bizarre a practice that was actually banned by Rabbis, the consumption of a foreskin after circumcision (although just keeping the foreskin as a talisman is more common). He says that this is “not so weird if we think of the occasional modern practice of women eating the afterbirth, but still shocking.” On this I would respectfully disagree for two reasons. First, the practice of eating the afterbirth is quite ancient. Cathy Margolin writes, “According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, placenta is considered a powerful and sacred yang tonic. The placenta is cooked with a few herbs and wine…Historically Chinese Medicine has used human placenta for those who have low energy.” Amy Weekley adds that there is scientific evidence to support the idea that eating the placenta by a new mother may ward of postpartum depression.
However, in Western culture eating the placenta is a taboo, and like any other taboo, it is culturally shocking. It is not inherently shocking.
What about you? Would you eat the placenta or foreskin of a child? Have you done so? Or is there another fertility ritual you would recommend?
Websites to Watch
As many of you reading this know, I have a website just for my novel, The Resurrection Murders. It is live and there is a lot of information you can discover about this exciting story set in present-day Los Angeles and filled with magick and mystery. I am now hard at work designing and creating a more general website that will link you to information about all of my books and all of my activities. It will also have a set of blogs on different topics so you can read only the areas that interest you. The main website will be reached at www.dmkraig.net , however you will also be able to reach it via www.modernmagick.com (I finally got that away from a web squatter). Neither is “live” now, but I hope to have them up and running in just a few weeks. I’ll let you know more when they go live.