We Wizards Who Write Magic

When I was a little boy my daddy told me about a tree where the devil lived. It was behind town, back between the river and the jungle in that clearing where nothing grew. There Satan would hold court; and those who needed a favor or a helping hand could appeal directly to him and were sure to be heard.

In that Argentine town of my childhood the Guarani Indians lived in perpetual fear of a malady they simply called susto: fright. Babies taken too close to the waters would be possessed by the river demons; stricken unto death if they did not seek help – the right help. It’s always the water, isn’t it? Poseidon, Yemanja, the mermaids. The shaman priestesses, aged and saturnine in their wickedness would examine the child and announce the only cure; visit the tree to beseech the devil.

Late one evening in that same lost town of my youth an Indian family, converts to the new faith of the Jewish God knocked on our door. “You have preached,” they told my old man who was then still young, “that your God is more powerful than he who is in the tree. You must prove it.” And they held out their baby. Without further recourse, my daddy bent a knee, taking the child in his arms; and she was cured. The authority of the evil shaman and her tree was forever weakened.

Faith. Magic.

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We live in a world of communion between what we know and what we know not. Whether your devil lives in an Amazonian tree beside a river, tormenting local Indians; or he is Iblis calling the djinn to his side for council from his rock fortress of Kaf Adjnoun in the Fezzan; or even if he’s an old man in Young Goodman Brown’s Salem – there is a great deal that goes on around us that requires only some sensitivity of spirit to observe.

That little boy from the town beside the jungle has grown up. I have witnessed the magic in my own right. I have conferred with witch-doctors reading coca leaves high in the Andes; have visited with victims of the guerrillas in the jungles of Congo as they describe the amulets used so that the bullets flow off those evil men like water; and I have defied the will of a prophetess in Central America.

We are not so different, we children of the west who would scoff at suggestions of magic in our own lives. The baseball player who will not change his underwear; the Appalachian preacher who lifts a serpent high; the long-haired man perched atop a red rock in search of that elusive vortex.

I write magic because I have known this world.

And I write magical realism because I know too that the magic is really about power; power over others. Priests of an adipose church selling indulgences through access to sacred relics. Shrines to powerful political leaders, which cannot protect even them from disease when they transgress. Great men subconsciously channeling powers of men even greater who came before – carnival fare for the pleasure of the enslaved. So I harness the magic as I write – pulling it into the stories of the people I have known and their struggles for power – power over others and, yes, sometimes power to protect them from others. Power – above all. For if magic is power – then we wizards who write magic are the most powerful of all.


This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. About twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (29th – 31st July 2016) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the blue frog below to visit them and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more.

 

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About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright, author of the recently released novel "Lords of Misrule" about jihad in the Sahara. Joel has also written "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio".
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21 Responses to We Wizards Who Write Magic

  1. Magical Realism definitely has deep roots in South America. I would say that some of my first introduction to the genre came from a piece of nonfiction, Spirit of the Rainforest by Mark Ritchie, and a subsequent visit to the Amazon. Thanks for the interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My alternative view of magic is that many do not learn it to have power over others. They learn it for the same reason people learn martial arts: for self defense and a mastery over and an expanding of oneself.

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  3. I loved this simple example of magic, belief as power. The power of prayer to heal. The power of our minds to create the world we want. The power of the human spirit. We need this, we need to believe in this probably more now than ever in this country.

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  4. Odile Donis says:

    A little superstition maybe? But if it feels goo, go ahead.

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  5. drstephenw says:

    Wow, Joel, you have lived what many of us have only had rattling around our imaginations. What a rich resource as a writer! Fascinating post.

    Best, Stephen Weinstock

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  6. Zoe Brooks says:

    I have to confess that only now have I had the time to read and consider your blogpost fully. Setting up the hop took a lot of effort this year.

    What an amazing childhood to draw from!

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  7. I’m in awe of your childhood, Joel. And it’s interesting to me that water triggered the villagers’ deepest fears, while earth (in the form of the tree) was the cure. Now there’s a rich vein of magic realism to be mined, lol.

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    • Lynne – if you look at water, its always where the magic comes from. There’s so many stories across central America about things like chupacabra and naked women beside streams luring young people in, etc. It definitely is interesting. Not that the tree was the cure in my story – tree was the devil!

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  8. An interesting interpretation of magical realism, Joel. Thank you for sharing this rich, little slice of your life.

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  9. I loved your article – this one about magic & power – you write superbly, lyrically – I smile inside as I read your sentences:)

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  10. Joel, thank you for your interesting post on this – I found it through the blog hop links shared on Natalia Erenhah’s blog.

    I really resonate with your comment above: “In magic realism magic is sometimes the only defence people have against the powerful forces ranged against them.” That fits much of my work very well!

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