A Treatise on Magick

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.

  1. The ideal magician is someone who is completely sold on what they need or want from the universe.
  2. The ideal magician is ready to accept this change in their lives.
  3. The ideal magician is willing to meet the universe halfway and initiate the change that they can to help themselves towards their goals.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Ritual Sacrifice of the Gummulate Tribe!
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.

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Canada man charged with “pretending to practice witchcraft”

I wish I didn’t have to share this article, but… yeah.  There was this dude in Canada who scammed a woman out of tens of thousands of (canadian) dollars  to help her stop her headaches.  His unorthodox, $10,000 treatments include cracking eggs on photos of her children to tell her that they were “marked for death,” and rubbing lemon juice on her body to see if she was cursed.

Toronto police arrested the man on charges of pretending to practice witchcraft.  Of course, the article that I read was making all sorts of connections to Wicca when this is clearly a scam artist.  The Daily Buzz article links to a website straight out of the nineties to make the claim that true witchcraft is never purchased, but given freely.  I’m sure that the author could’ve found a more reputable looking website, or (gasp) a book to support the claim, especially if they’re going to go out of the way to link this dude with Wicca.

I think that they should probably charge the man with something a little more… appropriate; like fraud?  But then again, I don’t know Canadian law, and I’m sure the police made their best effort to make sure that this scam artist was brought to justice.

We should try to get some good coverage in the media so that they start linking Wicca with articles on valid religious celebration instead of scam artists, mobs in Africa, and vampires in Serbia.  Anyone want to start a pagan charity?

An Exercise in Faith

I often find myself astounded by depth of literature out there that is available to Wiccans wishing to expand from their introductory books and move on to deeper, more interesting mysteries.  I’m writing this as I sit next two five books in the local academic library:

I wrote these out and linked to them so I could find them later, and if you’re interested, you can too.

Anyway, for a while now, I’ve tried to develop an idea for a book that could come out of the work I’ve done on this blog.  Given my search ratings on certain articles, I have a feeling that much of what I’ve said over the years has been useful to the internet community at large (correct me if I’m wrong!).  Given my mixed background of solitary, coven, and family traditional practice, I think I’ve seen the gamut of some of the more common Wiccan practices.  I want to help people extend their religious experience beyond what is traditionally offered to solitary practitioners.  Of course, nothing I write in a book will ever capture that feeling that you get when you’re surrounded by fellow coveners, raising power.  But for those who aren’t in situations allowing them to interact with others publically, I don’t want them to be left in the dark, you know?

I’m rambling.  That’s the problem with this idea that I have, its sometimes just too big for my brain to handle.  So yesterday, overwhelmed and unsure where to start, I prayed.  And what I got back from the Universe and my inner thoughts was this barrage of questions.  Well, one question.  Repeated over and over and over.

What is your purpose?

The Universe was yelling at me, I was yelling at me.  What is your purpose?  Why are you standing at my door without a purpose?  How can I help you if you don’t have a purpose?  What is your question?  What is your answer?

A short digression, but I promise to get back to the point at hand and finish the story.  So, you know how I’ve been writing all month?  A couple of hints and tips and tricks have helped me along the way.  I’m going to real quickly introduce you to them.  The first is the concept of writing to an audience.  Then revising for a different audience.  And again.  And again.  And you do it five or six times, and suddenly, because you’re lazy, you’ve developed a document which is good for a mixed audience.  The second is the concept of showing and not telling.  Of choosing your words to demonstrate instead of ponder.  I’m not sure how useful this is for the topic at hand, but I’m including it anyway.  We’ll see where this takes me.  And, the third is to write without editing.  You can edit later.  Write first, edit later.  Because if you haven’t written anything, you don’t have anything to edit.

So I have these three pieces of writing advice and a question slamming into me like a tidal wave.  What is your purpose?

And I start to delve into my many collected documents (my “Book of Shadows” is my house.  Scraps of paper and stuff.  One binder can’t hold it all… I’m sure many experienced Wiccans are in the same boat as me) and a few things catch my eye.  First, the Charge:

And thou who thinkest to seek for Me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou knowest the Mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.

Second, degree requirements for High Priestess-ship in the Ring of Sacred Fire tradition (my original coven):

Explain the impact you plan to have on the world, and how you will leave your legacy.

Third, many, many documents which outline explorations into the Wheel of the Year, Tarot, types of magic, types of ritual, and many other things.

And I realize that for now, my purpose seems to be to consolidate what I have learned so far into a manual which outlines the hybrid tradition that I practice and use.  To not only lay out what I have done, but also, set out guidelines for managed inspiration and exploration through what I call “reflective questioning.”

So that’s why I’m in the library today.  I was browsing our archives and found an astonishing number of scholarly books which discuss Wicca in an historical context, and not only Wicca, but also magic and esoterism as a whole.  Now, as far as the “book draft” goes, I’m definitely not “to” these topics yet, but these books are fascinating and I wanted to share.

Another good one, which I own but have not finished or examined in many years, is Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon, which is a scholarly discussion of the origins of Wicca.

Here’s the best part of my revelation over the last few days, and the reason for this post’s title.  I’m writing this book, yes, but I’m using it as an exercise in faith.  I know that this version, this first draft, will not be “publishable” by any means, but I’m using it as a challenge to myself: What are my beliefs and how did I come by them?

I know I always start projects and never update you guys again about how they’re going, so, I’m not going to promise anything to you.  I’ve got about ten drafts of this same concept lying around my computers’ harddrives from the last 6 years or so, and so, something has to come out of it eventually, right?  You may get snippets from time to time.

Oh.  One last thing, based on that infamous “If you put it online its yours” idea that we have floating around that has no basis whatsoever.  I decided that the working title of this tradition that I’m trying to describe is going to be called the “Western Winds” tradition.  There are two main reasons for this, first, that winds from the west bring us closer to our ancestors, and ancestors formulate a large portion of my beliefs; and second, that I have always been affiliated with air and wind, and you can see it tattooed on my body: I’ve got a redtail hawk and a flying pig on my right ankle and left shoulder, respectively.

So I guess the point of this blog post was to call dibs on the new name.  Sort of a roundabout way to do it, but hey.  You can’t do everything straight 🙂

Have a beautiful Tuesday!

Lynn

Dreaming About Butterflies

Last night, I had a dream.  About a butterfly in two different stages.  In the first part of the dream, I was searching in a garden for this chrysalis (butterfly pupa) that I knew was there because I had seen the caterpillars there a few days earlier.  I was hunting in this garden for these chrysalises, and my ex was watching me from a distance.  And I was like… trying to prove myself to him, that I could find them after all.

A few moments later, you know how dream time goes, suddenly, I look up, and there’s a tiger swallowtail butterfly flitting into the shrubby undergrowth of the forest up ahead.  I get up off of my knees and I go to follow it, and my ex says something to distract me, and the butterfly gets away.

And life in dream world moves on.

I remembered this dream as I was walking from my office to the nearby cafeteria to grab some breakfast.   My initial analysis was that butterflies represent change, and so, my subconscious was trying to tell me to change.

My second analysis pointed out that my ex… hovering, like he was, in the dream, and us very clearly having nothing to say to each other; this might mean that I feel like he’s holding me back in some way.

My third analysis, in writing the dream out just now, seems to point to this idea that we’ve gone our separate ways, and he’s watching from a distance as I move on.

But in any case, the butterfly is a symbol of hope, and change, and the option to start anew.  When you see a butterfly, either in real life or in a dream, it’s letting you know that you have a second chance.

It’s a Monday, and so, I think we all need second chances, right?  I do, on this Monday.  I’m trying to be productive this week, but honestly, I should start dreaming about predators chasing me down the street.  I need motivation.

Water And Wine

This is a song that I wrote today; I’ll share the video when I post it at some point.  I’m driving 450 mi tomorrow.. so maybe Sunday?

To give you some background, I’m embroiled in a songwriting challenge where we have to write a song a week for a year.  This week’s prompt is “Sympathetic” and it brought to mind sympathetic magic.  This started as a song about pain, about sharing pain, and about standing with another person who’s hurting, but it ended as an homage to the wheel of the year and the cycle of death and rebirth.

Brother, can you hear me?
Calling out your name
Don’t you know that I hear your pain?
She’s sitting here beside me
Waiting for the memory to fade
Waiting for the tides to change
From water to wine

Cousin, can you see me?
Reaching through the darkness
Searching for your hand to hold
I’m sitting right beside you
Waiting for the bonds to fade
Waiting for the winds to change
My water to wine

Don’t let me call you home
You need to see this through
Don’t say you won’t go on
We’ll be there for you

Father, can you feel me?
When the wind is blowing
Can you feel my whispers of days gone by?
They’re piled up behind me
Waiting for the world to see
Waiting for my pain to ease
To water from wine

Lover, can you smell me?
Wafting through your memory
Can’t you taste the passion we shared?
It lives now in the darkness
Waiting in the shadow and grime
Waiting for its chance to shine again
In water and wine

Don’t let me call you home
You have to see this through
You know you’ll rise again
We stand with you

Great Lord, will you touch me?
Kneel in love beside me?
Great Lord, will you worship me today?
Your lips meet my body
Hands to hands and toes to toes
Lips to lips and heart to heart
My water, your wine

Commericalism

I’ve been trying to think about what I could share with you guys for the night, but honestly, my brain is completely drained by Black Friday.  I got some great gifts for my family.  As you may know, my family celebrates the commercialized Christmas but doesn’t really apply any sort of religious meaning to it.  It’s a big deal at our house, and we each spend probably close to $1000 a year on presents.

I like spending time with my family, and I enjoy the Christmas season.  I’ve been missing some of the companionship of a coven, lately, though, and I’m hoping to connect with some local Pagans between now and Yule.

What makes you love and/or hate this season?  What sort of lessons can you take from it?  Do you celebrate with others?