At THATCamp last week I proposed a toolkit-building session for newbies which was accepted on the first day. I had decided to post some of the images of my source material, the dreambooks, but said very little about what I planned to do with them. Surprisingly there was not much creative input from those in attendance about what they were or how they worked, but lots of technical advice and suggestions was given on what questions one might want to consider before utilizing dh methods on these texts and artifacts.
Nonetheless, I think that the images held great appeal, piquing the curiosity of even the dorkiest of humanists, especially since I noted in my proposal that in my scholarly estimation, these dream books actually “work.”
The question of efficacy in magic has long interested me, but for different reasons than one might think. As a Religion scholar, I am often surprised that questions about efficacy are rarely asked about the most popular and visible of the religions, by people both in and outside of the game. Tell me, Professor, will God grant wishes if we ask? Is there a method for doing this? Does prayer work?? This latter question was actually the query subtext of a huge grant competition from the Templeton folks a few years back, only the prize money ended up going to social scientists, not humanists. Is it because we humanists assume that efficacy as far as the religions we study, is a dead issue? Ah, but Magic, squatting on the lowest rung of the epistemological ladder, the shitty little bird in the pecking order, the d’oh! of the savage in Frazer’s intellectual hierarchy, etc. etc., …one might start to believe that questions of efficacy are more naturally suited for magic, and in fact, somehow it is only fair that we get to ask these questions of the humanist scholar of Magic, because it would be quite impolite to ask these of the religionist, the theologian, the preacher, the practitioner, and so forth.
I have to think more about this. In the meantime, I will offer some materials from twentieth century Hoodoo advertisements, colorfully marketed as viable magical products that work…otherwise, why bother? and this before the introduction of the fine print disclaimers.