October 3rd, 2005

Owl Side

More Than Vaguely Appalled...

So I was standing in the grocery store line yesterday afternoon and a very nice-seeming we-just-got-out-of-church mother and her two sons were standing behind me. On the checkout shelf, amongst the tabloids, was a copy of Harry Potter 6. I hear the younger of the two sons, who is maybe 11 or so, say (in a very dutiful-sounding voice) something like, "Oh, that's witchcraft. It's evil and I won't touch it, Mom." And the mother replied something like, "That's right, baby." All very serious and solemn, no hint of a joke or teasing intent.


I know there are real people out there who believe this, and they constitute a large number. But to actually see one in the flesh! To observe how thoroughly kind they are, and then hear this sort of thing! (And the mother was very, very courteous to all the other shoppers behind her. And she complimented me on my hair. And generally seemed like a nice, neighborly sort of woman.)

In my head, I think such people are backwoods cretins with permanent scowls from their fire and brimstones preachers. They do not, in any sense, look like Nice People (TM). I realize this is completely ridiculous but...well, yes. And hence my shock at running into one in the flesh yesterday afternoon.

After I left the store, I got to thinking about what witchcraft/magic means to people like this. Is it anything that someone can do to affect someone/something else that you don't understand the mechanism for? If so, all of science could well fall into this category. But that can't be right, because these people presumably drive their cars and get innoculations without really understanding the complete mechanisms behind it all. (They have vague ideas, certainly, enough to get a sense of what's going on - but then, wouldn't witchcraft also have that description for them? "I cause myself to get a job by believing/praying/whatever-ing really hard about it..." Vague idea = believe/pray/whatever to get desired effect.)

So then I thought it must be something like all witchcraft is devil-based, so any kind of magic, whether for good or evil purposes, has a bad source. Which would explain their revulsion towards it, but then you still have the same problem of what you classify as witchcraft/magic.

And what if, sometime in the future, there's some discovery made about the brain-workings that would cause "magic" to exist Harry Potter-style? So it's then not devil-based, but human physiology-derived. Because the workings are completely human, is it still "magic" or "witchcraft" and therefore evil no matter what the intent? (My guess is yes. But then you're back to defining what magic/witchcraft actually means.)