Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I've Got Soul: Canaanite Magic and Napshu

When people ask me for “energy,” they don’t realize that what they’re really asking me is “send me a bit of your soul.” Unless the situation is dire, or unless I deem the situation appropriate, or unless someone consciously asks me knowing full well what they’re really asking me, I will send prayers instead. In addition to prayers, sometimes I will also send offerings to the deities on the requester's behalf, or I will make an offering of incense to aid the requester’s strength and wellbeing. Magic, or a full-on blessing, however, requires napshu.

I don’t work with “energy.” Canaanite magic works on a fundamentally different paradigm, using napshu as its key empowering factor. Napshu is a word that embodies many concepts in English: soul, vitality, will, charisma, appetite, and throat.

The word napshu, from the Ugaritic language, is an earlier version of the Hebrew word nefesh. Canaanite magic (charshu) works with the napshu of the mage, and it can work with the napshu of a deity. Napshu is not an impersonal resource like coal or electricity. Napshu is the very signature of your being, and it should be treated carefully and conscientiously. When you send some of it out, presumably through magic or blessing, you are sharing your vitality, a part of your personal being, with another.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Charshu: Types of Canaanite Magic

16 Khiyyaru (month), Shanatu (year) 84; Malatu (Full Moon)

Liver models from
Mesopotamian city of
Mari, circa 19-18th
Centuries BCE
From liver and lung models to animal fetus divination, magic was a part of life in ancient Canaanite religion. Before I can delve deeper into these mysteries, it behooves us both to contemplate the very basics of charshu, Canaanite magic. Archaeological record includes Bronze Age Ugaritic texts regarding health, protection, cleansing, purification, blessing, and divination. A broader collection of amulets from the ancient Near East in Classical times attest to many of the same concerns. Charshu derives from a word that means “craftsmanship, creation, technology, skill.”
Like any other skill, a person can put charshu to good use or not. The ancient Canaanites distinguished between charshu and witchcraft. I use the word “witchcraft” here to mean malicious unlawful magic—this is the term scholars use when translating Canaanite words and concepts indicating undesirable magic. The word “witchcraft” has a long history in the English language of indicating undesirable magic, and its use here does not indicate any “earth-centered” religion like Wicca, nor does it indicate “good witchcraft” which would be a contradiction in terms to the Canaanites.
There are four types of magic typically used in the Canaanite world, and these overlap.