Healing magick is one of the earliest forms of magick known. In the days of natural antibiotics and rougher lifestyles people had to rely on nature, or someone who specialised in the healing arts, for the best chance of surviving illness or even relatively minor injuries. This isn’t to say that these techniques were ineffective as archaeological evidence from skeletal and burial remains suggest that many people in prehistoric times lived into their 60’s provided they avoided accidents and serious diseases. Interestingly general human health went down with the invention of farming in the Neolithic era, average height dropped from 5’10” to 5’3” in men and 5’6” to 5’3” in women and has taken until the last century to come back up to pre-farming levels. Bone evidence from the same era shows a sudden marked drop in nutrients after the commonplace use of farming which would have corresponding effect on general health.
The Neolithic also seems to mark the transition from Shamanism to more organised and hierarchical religions and styles of worship. Part of this would be the development of clergy who would specialise in healing through herbs, dreams, and magickal energy frequently focussed or ‘tuned ‘ through a Deity, or aspect of Divinity. As one religion supplanted another and the displaced clerics left, or were dispersed to other parts of the world taking their skills with them, they became the “Witches” and “Wizards” of those times. Because herb based healing was widely used by the general populace, it was the magickal/energy healing and what we would now call psychotherapy or dream interpretation that characterised the healing abilities of the local “Witchdoctor”. Along with the use of manipulation in the form of bonesetting, massage and what we would now call chiropractic skills.
Sometimes a Mage who was known for healing would specialise in one area, such as the laying on of hands, or Shamanic journeying to recover lost aspects of a person’s essence. But it was the energy healing that most people associated with magical cures. True, there was a certain ‘God of the gaps’ worldview that attributed anything than could not be explained at the time to negative or positive aspects of Divinity. Also as with most of the energy healing systems there is a lot of crossover with aspects of psychology such as the placebo effect. In England White Witches also known as Cunning Men or Women, or Charmers, were renowned for their skill at curing ailments from arthritis to warts through chants, laying on of hands and the use of talismans. Also, from Celtic times onward, many springs and wells in Britain had their own resident healer who may well involve the intrinsic power of the land energies in their cures in addition to personal and Divine ones.
In Cornwall this tradition of healing has been kept into modern times, and I have heard that some of these healers are now teaching the next generation of practitioners. It survived so well because of the remoteness of the region, even in modern times you can drive around for a week and not see a traffic light as my wife and I did last year. The terrain of moors, bogs and large marshes meant that innovations and social change had a difficult time supplanting effective traditional skills due to the sheer difficulty of outsiders actually being able to reach the remote hamlets.
There are several theories as to how energy healing works, and in many cases they overlap. The first is the psychological one, taking into account the placebo effect and the effect of properly focussed suggestion on human physiology. Modern medical specialities such as Biofeedback and Psychoneuroimmunology have shown the close interconnection between the mind and the body and some of the possible mechanisms by which this can happen. Activation of stem cells and similar therapeutic systems under the control of the subconscious could explain what ‘conventional’ medicine terms “spontaneous healing”.
Equally popular on the esoteric side is the idea of auric energy transfer. As many readers will know the aura is the energy field surrounding and interpenetrating the physical body. Many magickal systems – the most well known being Kabala – consider that the physical world is condensed down through Astral and mental planes increasing in density until it forms the physical plane/Mulkuth/Midgard, or whatever the spiritual system you follow calls the existent reality you inhabit. In this worldview physical ailments manifest first in the energy field surrounding the body before developing in it as a biological condition. This style of healing involves the transfer of energy from a stronger field to a weaker one to help re-balance and repair it, thus healing the physical condition.
If this is done willingly the energy may be tuned by the giver specifically to heal the condition. However, if the person doing the healing isn’t careful they can take on the ailment of the person they are trying to heal, or exhaust themselves. It is far more effective to act as a “lens” through which energy from a particular Deity or earth energy can flow. This avoids the problems mentioned, and is frequently beneficial to the person doing the healing. This is the system I use when I am using therapeutic massage on a client and, while working on their physical body, if I feel there is an energy imbalance component to their ailment. Sometimes this happens spontaneously while I am massaging, the main sign in both cases is a feeling of heat being focussed through me and into the person I am working on.
Needless to say energy healing, as with all forms of therapeutic treatment, is not a cure all. Sometimes one form of energy therapy, such as Reki will have no effect, while Spiritual healing will. Whether this is due to the person doing the healing or that the clients’ energy field processes one type of energy better than another is still open to experimentation. Sometimes the healing will not ‘cure’ the condition, only make the person more comfortable. This is particularly true at the end of a person’s incarnation when their body is too drained to continue, or if they have a terminal illness.
If someone takes up healing for the prestige, or to boost their ego, failure, especially due to one of the causes mentioned above can be a severe blow to their self image. On the other hand if they practice the healing arts to help others then the lessening of their suffering is the goal and any results in that direction show that they are achieving this. Healing is the Way of helping others, not for self aggrandisement.