I’ve spoken about sources and methods for magic multiple times throughout this blog’s history. I have compared the process of magic to removing mortar from bricked over windows, and even photosynthesis. I’ve claimed that Christians, Hindus — pretty much anyone that is religious — have used magick in their lives at some point. I’ve asked where magick comes from, and what it means to us. I’ve even announced that the Universe has a minimum “dumb” requirement when it comes to requests.
But these discussions scatter throughout the years, and I want to create a concise discussion for my readers. In part, this blog post is the first draft of a document that will be included in that book I’m trying to write. In part, it serves as a capstone document to summarize what I know so far, and what I’d like to learn.
Magic vs. Magick
You will see both “magic” and “magick” scattered throughout the Pagan literature. Some people think that the latter spelling is stupid, but it does have roots in history. In the late 1800’s, Aleister Crowley decided to make the distinction between “show” magic and magicians, and true, ritual-based magic intended to affect change in the world. The former, he called “magic,” and because the latter was newer, he referred to “true” magic as “magick.” Some people use the distinction, others do not. I am notorious for mixing the two, although I tend to use the latter because the “k” on magick makes the word stick out to me a bit better in writing. You can read more about this history in Ronald Hutton’s, “Triumph of the Moon,” which is a treatise on modern pagan history. This fact is also commonly cited throughout the Pagan literature, especially in the introductory literature.
What Is Magick?
There are many, many different definitions of magick, but I defined “doing magick” in 2008 as the act of taking responsibility to create change. That would mean that magick, the noun, is simply, “conscious change.” Nothing really satanic or crazy or even esoteric about that, is there? Sorry to disappoint. Here’s the thing. No amount of wishing, hoping, and dreaming will get you that new car. No amount of secret, intense ritual, will get you that car. Unless, after you perform your wishing, hoping, dreaming, and magick, you try your best to put yourself in a position to receive a new car. Which means that you take those extra hours or odd jobs, and you try your best to save your money. In other words, after you decide that you want something, you need to act on it. You need to make good on your agreement with the universe and begin enacting conscious change. And that, my friends, is why I define magick not as some supernatural power, but instead, “conscious change.” Because, when you do magick, you are trying to align your wants and needs with the Universe. You are visualizing success. You are telling your whole self — your conscious and subconscious minds — that this is what you want. This is what you need.
See it like this. What you want is on the other side of a barrier. Let’s say that the barrier is a sum of all of the things preventing you from your goal. If your goal is that new car, we could define the barrier as a combination of economic background, current monetary situation, your luck, your relationships with others, the availability of the cars you desire… et cetera. You can think of a thousand different major and minor obstacles to getting that car. But let’s think of that barrier as a physical brick wall. When you perform magick, when you declare to the universe that you want that car, that you’re going to get that car… you’re initiating change. And in this brick wall metaphor, let’s say that suddenly, the universe decides to weaken the mortar between bricks, or make that wall a little shorter so you can just hop over it, or make a door in it, so that you can walk around the obstacle. The universe helps you bypass those barriers. But it can only do so much. You need to help yourself bypass those barriers, too. And that’s why magick, in essence, is “conscious change.”
The Ideal Magician
So what are the qualities that turn you into an effective magick-wielding entity? After all, surely some people are better at doing magick than others.
- The ideal magician is someone who is completely sold on what they need or want from the universe.
- The ideal magician is ready to accept this change in their lives.
- The ideal magician is willing to meet the universe halfway and initiate the change that they can to help themselves towards their goals.
- The ideal magician is master of her environment, and not subject to external influences: she does not desire a new car out of jealousy of her friend’s new car, but instead, because her car is unsafe, unreliable, or nonexistent.
- The ideal magician is willing to reexamine herself and her goals.
Magick and Sacrifice
All magick requires sacrifice. The minimum sacrifice is time: time to develop your goals, wants, needs, and desires. In some cases, the way you want to do your magick requires sacrifice of material things: perhaps you lose the picture of your ex, because you’ve burned it in your spell to separate yourself from him. Perhaps you lose some herbs you’ve gathered, as you bury them to bring their qualities into your life. As a child, I would often make and sacrifice small paper boats with messages to the gods, which I released into a local creek.
Sometimes, the sacrifice comes after you’ve done your magic. To get to your goal, you begin sacrificing time or pleasure to achieve your goal. Perhaps, after you’ve done your magick to help you repair your bond with a friend, you realize that its best if the friendship just ends, that the friend is drawing time or energy or happiness away from your life. Sometimes, things happen that you just can’t… unsee or undo, which you can clearly attribute to your magick. Regardless of the circumstance, you will always find that with magick, with conscious change, comes sacrifice.
Some may disagree with me on this point, and bring to my attention the sentence of the “Charge of the Goddess” which states:
Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold: I am the Mother of All Living, and My Love is poured out upon the Earth.
The difference between sacrifice to your magickal goals and sacrifice to the Mother is this: she doesn’t demand sacrifice for you to live a happy and successful life. She is the Mother, all giving, all knowing.
But these magickal sacrifices of which I speak, they are not true “sacrifices,” for you certainly get something in return. No, these are trade-offs. These are the currency that you pay for growth and change in your life. These are your “action” to get your “reaction,” like in Newton’s laws of thermodynamics.
There is a lesson in your sacrifices: Be the change you want to see. This requires change. This requires sacrifice. What you sacrifice, be it time or materials or actions, is up to you. Your sacrifice does not necessarily improve your chances of success, but there will always be a sacrifice.
Religion and Types of Magick
Other than the brief mention of the Charge of the Goddess, above, you will see that I have left religion out of this discussion entirely. That’s because, although Wiccans often practice magick, magick is not unique to our religion. Magick is incorporated into a wide variety of traditions across the world, including mainstream religions such as Catholicism. Return to the definition of magick that I provide: conscious change.
Let’s take the Catholicism example. During each mass, the Catholic priest stands over some bread and wine (occasionally, grape juice and crackers), and he declares that the bread is now the body of Christ, and the wine is the blood of Christ. And those who have been initiated fully into Catholicism are welcome to eat of the body and drink of the blood of their savior.
This is what we call “sympathetic magick” and is the second of three types of magick that I will share with you now. Thought magick is any magick that is based primarily in thought, and does not include any actions. Examples of thought magick include prayer and visualization.
Sympathetic magick, what the Catholics practice, is a type of magic where we use symbols to affect change in the world. For the Catholics, they are taking the bread and wine as symbols of the body and blood of Christ. Most of the “magick spells” you will find on the internet use a form of sympathetic magic. What everyone thinks of as Voo Doo dolls, are a form of sympathetic magick. We are saying to the universe, when we interact with a Voo Doo doll: whatever I do to this doll, let it be done to the person it represents.
And finally, ritual magick is a more formalized version of sympathetic and thought magick(s) that relies on historical symbology and formalized ritual. Ritual magick is often used to achieve more spiritual goals, and is defined by some as “magick on purpose.” Ritual magick is the combination of the two aforementioned methods (thought, sympathetic), but within a ritually consecrated and designated space. Sympathetic magick becomes ritual magick, for Wiccans, when its done in a circle on an auspicious night.
How much you use magick, and use your thoughts and actions to affect the world around you, is up to you. Unlike in Harry Potter or other fantasy novels, magick is not a crutch. It is an extension of the self and will into the world around you to affect change.