Magic and Heritage

This weekend at my place of employment, a coworker outed herself to me as a witch.

We had talked briefly about similar things at an earlier time, and she confirmed it by asking me a question. The wording itself was very peculiar to me, but she was essentially asking (or so I take it) if I am able to identify other magic-users.

It was the peculiar wording, however, that interested me. Because she put it in terms of bloodline.

I had to admit I didn’t know what she was talking about. That yes, I can usually tell if someone is magically inclined or attuned. (Not necessarily that they practice magic, but that they have the talent inherent. As Mike Sententia might say, their etherial muscles seem more naturally developed.) But she seemed to be referring to a specific tradition or lineage of teaching that I was not familiar with.

But the idea of magic being inherent to a bloodline intrigued me.

I am not a psychic. My magical abilities have been developed over time with practice. But I recognize that for whatever reason, that ability is easier for me to access and harness than it is for most people. That it is inherent to my being, whereas most people ignore it.

I’ve never liked the idea that only certain people can do magic. I think anyone can do it, but it simply comes more natural to some. Some people find it easier to stay fit and build muscle, while others struggle to loose weight and tone up. Sure, I could look like Vin Diesel, but I will have to work significantly harder at it than he does (and he works fairly hard at it) simply because my constitution is different. And I think the same is true with magical ability.

But I never thought of that as a heritable trait.

My mother has told me stories of her grandparents and great-grandparents. They came from Northern Italy, and from the way she described their dress, their music, and their customs sounded suspiciously Romani to me. My grandmother had what Joss Whedon might call a fragmented reality matrix, and was never quite grounded in the world around her. She had some very sharp lucid periods, though, where she seemed hyperaware of everything that was going on around her. In such moments she verged on prophecy, and on a few occasions she crossed that line.

My mother, devout Catholic that she is, has always been highly attuned to the people she cares about, and instantly knows if friends and family are in peril or crisis, usually contacting them first. Her visions of spirits that I was working with served more to assuage my fears of insanity from my early magical work more than anything else. My sister is also plagued by spirits and other entities, and has an intense interest in demonology and angelology. She frequently reports contact with deceased family and friends, some of which I have confirmed from my own experiences.

I am not a hereditary witch. My magic was learned independent from my family and its native Catholicism, and my paganism still faces opposition and resistance from some family members. But the talent is there. Cultivated or not, there is definitely a strong family history of occult and metaphysical abilities.

It runs in the family.

And I have heard stories from magic-using friends about many of their family histories being magically inclined as well. In many of these cases (as in my own), some members reject this ability and often appear to suffer for it. But the observations of others usually confirms that some of this ability is passed on genetically.

As I become more comfortable with Pete Carroll’s models, and the notion that magic is the result of physical phenomena, this doesn’t bother me much. But it flies against the egalitarian approach I had cultivated that anyone could learn magic.

But like any skill, anyone can. It just takes more effort for some and is easier for others. Certain magical techniques are extremely difficult for me and easy for others, and this may also be the result of a heritable predisposition.

It magic something that you’re born with? Yes. And no. It is a skill influenced and predisposed by genetic factors (somehow), but ultimately only developed and utilized through hard work, motivated study, and practice. Even Vin Diesel will get fat if he sits on his ass.

And does the apparent predisposition to magic and magical sensitivity make other better than those without it? Not inherently. It’s just easier for us to start out.


2 responses to “Magic and Heritage

  1. Interesting subject! I believe that magical (or psionic) ability starts as innate and heritable, but becomes manifest through physical (and experiential) experience and practice. It’s akin to musical, linguistic, physical and other things- lying dormant until something in the environment (either practicing relatives or personal curiosity) wakes it up and puts it into motion.

    I know that’s true for myself. I had relatives (including my mom) who had certain capacities for sensing other worldly things, but I took it a step farther by ditching the limitations of their religion and taking up the tools and practice myself.

    And I also have a knack for spotting like-minded people- no matter what path of practice or belief they follow. I choose not to limit my perceptions to a small sphere of listed traits- I prefer to seek for the common root- that knowing gleam in the eyes.

    • That’s pretty much what I came up with. What bothers me is that I had initially assumed that this was not the case, and that it was something that everyone had in equal ability if only they were mentally evolved enough to work at it. That mindset in itself was formed as a response to people I knew who insisted that only special people could learn magic (even though this was long before Harry Potter).

      In our modern society we don’t like to think of traits as heritable or based on genetics (unless we’re bragging on the talents of our children that they *obviously* inherited from us). It sounds too much like eugenics or racism. But we are animals, and we have genetic predispositions that express themselves.

      In theory, we could start a “colony” of innately sensitive people and breed to select for that trait. Oh, but the politics that would result from even seriously suggesting such a project …

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