Monday, January 14, 2008

The Uses (And Misuses) Of Magic

There's an old saying among witches that the most effective spell for getting a new job is done at midnight, under the full moon, skyclad, wearing a silver ring on your left index finger, with incense made from cinnamon and high john the conqueror's wort and basil, dancing deosil -- around a completed job application that you then go drop in the mail. I'm a huge believer in magic; I've felt it, seen it, tasted it, watched it too often not to believe in it. Wicca, as I've said before, isn't a religion of faith, but of experience. But I don't kid myself that magic will, all by itself, solve all problems any more than I kid myself that, for example, physics or good looks, or money, all by themselves, can solve all problems.

I've had some interesting flame wars on these here internet tubes with various know-it-alls concerning the uses (and misuses) of magic. I've been told that it was somehow "wrong" to use magic to influence politics. To which, in my generally not-too-polite manner, I've replied: "Bite me." I use magic to find parking spaces, to heal hangnails, to heal Mother Earth, to hide me from those who would do evil to me, to keep my family safe, to make my e-mails more persuasive, to make my cakes rise, to make it rain. I am damn sure going to use it to influence politics, which can have a far larger impact on my well being than, say, a hangnail. But magic is only a part of my political work. I also write letters, send e-mails, make phone calls, donate money, march, hand out campaign literature, talk to everyone I know, vote -- and I do magic. Magic is an integral part of the whole; it's not "the" whole.

And I think that's the point that I want to make about magic. Magic ought to make one more effective in the real world -- not less. If you're focusing too much on magic and not enough on the "filling out the job application" you'll be able to tell: your life will be in the crapper. You won't have a decent job or insurance or a retirement plan. You'll be living in a shitty apartment or a house that's falling down around your head. Your health will be iffy, as will the health of those -- pets, children, significant others, aged relatives, plants, etc. -- entrusted to your care. You'll have problems coming out your wazoo and it's precisely then that retreating into an overdependence upon magic is a serious danger.

That's when you'll start telling your friends: the universe is going to provide (trust me, at that very moment, your friends are beginning to feel that they're the universe, and they're not liking it.) If you've already got big credit card bills, and what you really think you should do is buy one more book on magic and one more poly-something statue of some Goddess, you're misusing magic to avoid the other work that you need to be doing (aka getting a second job and paying off your bills). If you need to go to the dentist and start walking around the block every day and get enough sleep, and what you really think you should do is sign up for one more workshop/class/ritual weekend on "Creating Health," you're misusing magic to avoid the other work that you need to be doing. If you're in an abusive relationship and what your really think you should do is make a poppet and do some trance work in which your partner stops hurting you, you're misusing magic to avoid the other work that you need to be doing.

That's one of the dangers of magic (and magic does have dangers, just as science and good looks and money have dangers. Oddly, few books published by Llewellyn mention this. Old grimoires tended to; maybe they worried more about lawsuits back then). Magic can seduce you and help you to avoid reality, all the while allowing you to feel as if you were, in fact, taking action.

Stop that shit. Because, when you hurt yourself, I will laugh. Or, if I care for you, I will cry. But, either way, it's up to you to pull yourself up by your own broomstick and act like someone able to transverse all the worlds, rather than like someone who can't even function in this one. I am just saying.

A witch is one who works as hard as she can to correctly perceive "this" world and who then goes a step beyond to see the magical overlay, to see the connections between everything, to walk between the worlds, acutely aware that what she does in any one of them affects them all. As I pray every morning: It's all real. It's all metaphor. There's always more.


spectral_ev said...

practical magic. good post. there's a buddhist story about a yogi who meditated for thirty years, and finally achieved the power to walk across the river. when the buddha met him, he pointed out that for a penny there was a guy who would take you over in a boat.
there's no free lunch, the shortest way is the most direct, if you're not willing to act in the physical you won't have much spiritual power.

sotteos said...

Great post. In fact, this post (expanded or not) deserves to be an article on

ina said...

I really appreciated this post, Hecate, thank you.

There was a show here in town last week that I really wanted to play, but I wasn't included. The girls decided they were getting magical powers, with which they would first give themselves any presents they wanted; second, abolish school; third, change the line-up of the show to include me!

But the message I got last week instead, thankfully, is to practice more. And I've been working my fingers and my guitar since.

My brother once told me about a girlfriend who claimed to really want to get in shape, but she said she couldn't get started on whatever routine she had planned until she was able to afford the fancy sparkly sports shoes she coveted. My brother gave a big ol' nah-uh. You really want it? You'll do the work in the hush-puppies you got on! I often think of that story when I'm havin' an 'if only' moment.

I'm looking forward to reading the book you sent, but I've got a lot of work to do first!

Anonymous said...

Great Post you captured the stuff we've been discussing so well. I agree it should be posted in Witch's Vox. Now to make sure my own house is in order...


Clare said...

Very nice post. Not the first advice to not rely on magic I've seen, but probably the best.

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