Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A good basis for magic

Let's talk a fictional new magician we'll call Allen. He is some kind of badass computer program who has given a Ted Talk and is high profile and amazing. And that cool start up he was working on, just went bust, not due to his awesome code, but because of some financial issue. So he does a magic for new job offers. And if a few days or weeks (and as news of the demise of the start up is leaked), he gets numerous offers for employment, each one interesting and lucrative. He talks to a few people and goes with the best fit.

Now let's talk about a fictional new magician Brian. He's a 19 year high school drop out, who has spent the last 18 months smoking poke and jerking off to porn in his parent's basement. He does magic for new job offers. And in the next day or two, his mom brings up an application to the local McDonald's that's hiring and his friend mentions that the local pizza place is hiring. He sucks it up and applies for both of them.

Now you can say that Allen didn't need magic. Given all this skills and hard work, he would have gotten those offers anyway. And you can say that magic didn't really do anything. And you can say that Brian's magic didn't work or didn't due much either.

What's interesting about both those cases is the foundation of the magic cast is extremely different. Allen doesn't really need the help. Brian little in the way of opportunities that allow magic to manifest.  Now you may be asking yourself, what's the point of this little thought experiment?

Just this, there is the underlying foundation of the situation when we cast magic. It can be so good that magic seems unnecessary or it can be so difficult the spell can't manifest. And the way a magician should handle these situations are very different. Allen should be working for something bigger than just a new job offer, to take advantage of everything he has done and really go from something bigger (if that is what he wants). Brian, well, needs to develop some real world skills that will allow him to have more opportunities, more potential, more options for that magic to be manifest in the world.

The wise magician takes a frank assessment of the situation. Is magic really needed here? What are the possibilities around me that I can take advantage up magically and practically?

Finally, not all parts of a situation are equal. Some parts of your situation are more fluid - more susceptible to magical influence - than others. Apply your magic wisely.



Friday, October 5, 2012

Rule of Thumb for Magical Ethics

My personal rule of thumb for magical ethics is not to read half-baked blog posts on ethics.

Instead, I suggest taking a philosophy class on ethics or reading something about different ethics systems. Truthfully, living an ethical life is important to the way I practice witchcraft. My tradition often talks about the Witch as the person who will speak the uncomfortable truth or do the hard task that needs to be done. Essentially, a form of utilitarianism. A Witch's goal is use his or her magic (and hands, feed, head, heart and etc) to leave the world a little better than he or she found it.

I can't say that never means I never act selfishly. Of course I do, I'm a simple human being. But I aspire to making things a bit better than I left. I will still do magic own well-being. But I also try to use that well-being to support my family and friends, my neighbors and community, and the web of life as I know it.  It's probably cheezy, but there it is.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teaching magic...

I'm just not sure it's actually possible to teach magic. It's very possible to learn magic, people do all the time.  But actually teach it?  At best, a teacher can share the tools, techniques and experiences of how they teach magic.

But something has to click in the student.  If you're learning magic and you try a few things out of a book or from a blog, it may click immediately or it may not. Just keep trying. Read widely, take classes and above all practice. Eventually, magic will find you. Or it won't.  But I tend to think that magic is available to everyone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mastering Witchcraft

I am loving the discussion going on around this book.  I hang out with the earth-based crowd who are into hugging (including trees) and trying to get along. And I love that, truly. But I am against toothless witchcraft.  See, witches are dangerous.  All the folklore says so and it's important to maintain standards.

I followed an Israeli witch's blog for awhile, before she stopped posting.  She wrote one that, in her area, one of the beliefs about folk witches (that still practiced and that she was learning from) was that it was dangerous to anger them. She was very clear. It was not that it was unwise to anger them as they might curse you, but that the anger itself is magically potent and able to harm you.  The witch's displeasure was enough to harmful to you all on its own.  Big stuff, huh?

Granted, I'm pretty right-hand when it comes down to it personally.  But I believe in assertive magic: banish that which doesn't serve you and draw in what does.  And folks, actually walk that talk in your real life.  While misfortune and bad things happen, witches aren't victims in or out of a circle. We shape and bend, heal and mend. Again, we do that in and out of circle, with our magic and with our actions.

Which reminds me, I have a prayer to Aradia to say for the Occupy Wall St folks.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Magic works

In December of 2008, I posted this to a blog I was keeping at the time:

One thing that witchcraft doesn't seem to have is a lot of focus on the power to endure. Nope, we're all about the power to change, shift or bend. But accept, surrender, endure? Not so much. I think that is part of it's appeal. I never felt the Church's emphasis on obedience and submission to God’s will was terribly inspiring. But I wonder that is an oversight in witchcraft. (Not that I want to go very far the other way, but the Serenity Prayer is ridiculously right on, if you ask me.)

I've mentioned that I've kicked off a working around resistance (which I've never defined) and part of that work has been a daily prayer that I've been saying.

By earth, air, fire, water and spirit, I pray:

Today, may I be open to my spirit allies and my own deep knowing

Today, may I see with clarity and listen with compassion

Today, may I speak with honesty and act with honor

Today, may I do my work with joy, vigor and discipline. May I bring passion to the least of my tasks.

By earth, air, fire, water and spirit, so mote it be
.
It’s been really useful. Right now, that one line "may I bring passion to the least of my tasks" has been very potent for me. Too often I spend life force avoiding certain things that I don’t like to do or, frankly, that I don't do well. And that just has to stop. I very much seek to bring joy and passion, vigor and discipline to all things that I do. Can I do that with things that I don't like? I hope so.
One magic I may dabble in (for the near future) is the magic of acceptance and finding joy where I am at, instead of resisting the life in front of me. And by doing so, perhaps my relationship to these things will change.
for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.
Around this time I was dealing with a lot of unhappiness and regret. I started doing some really basic magic - prayer, meditation and setting lights to help me through a difficult time in my life. As part of this, I saw a therapist around specific unhappiness I had in regards to career. The therapist didn't last long, although I think she was helpful in the end.

See, in my little corner of the magical world, magic is often discussed and looked at in terms of relationships. And part of the magic I decided to do was to change my relationship with my job. I didn't summon spirits or have big long astral journeys. I did a lot of cleansing. I look around at what I liked about my job and did more of it. I faced up and got on top of those things I disliked. It changed my life.

It did not change my job. Or where I live. Or who I live with. I didn't lose or gain friends in exciting or crazy ways. My internal life is much different however. I feel less anxiety. I'm generally happier. I have found my sense of humor again, something that was sorely missing there for a couple of years. My life feels completely different, even though it looks nearly identical as it did in 2008. I am amazed at how that prayer I wrote made such a huge difference. My bringing passion to things rather that treating passion like an elusive unicorn to chase, I found a lot more satisfaction in my work.

I had my first day of work back after week and half off. When I got back in, I was relaxed, glad to be back and engaged in catching up and getting back into the swing of things. An old pattern of my mine was to dread work. It seems to have moved on, at least sometimes. It was a real gift and change worth noting. I still have my ups and downs certainly. Neither my life nor myself is perfect in anyway. But life is really good.

If you made it this far, I hope that whatever magic you're working leads to wisdom, peace and satisfaction with all things in your life.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Road Work Ahead

One of the pieces of magic that I've picked up over the years is working with road, street and highways. Often when discussing spirits of place, we talk about lakes or rivers, trees or forests or even whole cities, but not often roads. 


Of course working with road just to be different to be silly. For me though, it was a natural outgrowth from doing some crossroads work. Crossroads and every street has the potential for change, movement, adventure, journeys and growth. We often use "path" (the rural cousin to the street) and "journey" (what one does on roads) as spiritual metaphors.

From my experience road spirits can help me do a few things. They can help me arrive to a place safely and on-time. They can help me find the store or home I'm looking for or otherwise help avoid getting lost.  More deeply, they can help with feeling blocked on your path by finding alternative routes or get you out of a jam.

While modern witches like using the Internet as a model for our interconnection, what about our road system. The spirits of the road connect whole hemispheres of people. With few exceptions, the road in front of my house connects with people all across the US, Canada, Mexico and Central and South American countries. Almost every person walks along or drives on a road on any given day. So the roads can help you do distance magic as well.

More importantly, the roads are an important piece of urban magic. As are buses and trains and all that good stuff. If you're on road much at all, try cultivating a relationship and see if you notice a difference in your travels.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Oh and a little self-promotion.

I recently got hired as a reader at a local book store. I've been enjoying that. So I am starting up a new blog and a twitter account about tarot. My goal is to update that site twice a month, so it may see more traffic that this blog, although I will be post here too.

So check me out as Tarot Jay.

Drive by

Thorn writes about the plurality in the way of being pagan.

Deb writes that we're not priests/esses and that's okay.

Lupa writes about integrating shamanism with one's career.

All important posts.

It makes sense that we all want to be seen as skilled or gifted in our spiritual work. I certainly like validation as much as the next guy. At the same time, that leads to bizarre competition and the claiming of skills falsely.

Rather than compete with other magical folks, let's try bringing our magic out into our daily world. Weave blessings around the bus drivers that waited for you when he or she saw you running to catch the bus. Conjure prosperity for the small business that you love. Use divination to generate creative solutions for problems facing you at work.

It's not about being the biggest witch at the festival or in your coven. It's doing magic for yourself and those you care about. Every kitchen witch worth his or her salt knows how to put magic in to food, into the act of cleaning a home or into hand-made art or craft. We can do that at our day jobs too. We may need to be subtle about it or perhaps we're lucky enough to be able to do it overtly, but infuse your life with magic. It doesn't matter whether you're a grand high muckity muck. Just live a good life.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Carbomancy

Carbomancy - the art of divining the future from baked goods.

This little known art had its humble origins in the telling of the future in the rising of bread or the shapes cookies take when baking.

It's mysteries soon expanded to ginger bread men poppets, baguette wands and pie mandalas. It had some missteps (the raising of zombie muffins is an evil that ought never be tried again), but it has distinguished itself as a new and powerful contribution to the Art.

(Why yes, I am taking a workshop on baking bread this evening, why do you ask?)

Monday, March 21, 2011

How nice for you

Ms. Manners suggests that the polite response to someone sharing inappropriately is "how nice for you" or "how awful for you" depending.

A few weeks ago, I went to a large pagan gathering. At a certain point, I was regaled with tales from a young woman regarding how "powerful" she is. As proof, she let me know that crystals are too dangerous because things blow up around her. And that she sometimes gets so lost in trance she doesn't see things in ordinary reality. How awful for her.

I'm sure we've all met folks like this one time or another. Besides lamenting that Paganism has sad cultural norm that it is somehow rude to address personality disorder and delusion as such, I just want to make a few analogies:

I'm such a powerful driver, I always go 120 miles an hour and can only turn left.

I'm such a powerful cook, I always burn my food to a crisp.

I'm such a powerful knitter that I stab myself the needles and so I never actually knit.


I ask you, dear reader, do any of those statements make a lick of sense? They don't to me either. That's not power. If such a statement were true, it is raging incompetence, not power, that leads to such outcomes. And that's just as true for any dubious claims of magical power.

What is most sad about these claims is that they:

1) Get attention - Magical people like to talk about magic and otherworldly things when we get together. Often it is why we got together in the first place. So these claims give you something to talk about. Empty dull conversation that lacks any depth, but conversation nonetheless.

2) Establish cred without actually having to prove oneself. If electronics explode every time you touch a crystal, then I would admit there is something special going on there. At the same time, often dangers of the "abilities" prevents the person from showing others or directing their "power" in some kind of helpful fashion.

Because of both of these factors, these kinds of claims are not just harmless. I actually think this dynamic is actively harmful. The least accomplished and most delusional get the most attention and, worst of all, any sense of accountability is lost. Any real conversation that may deepen spirituality or explore how magic works in the really-real world is lost in all the noise.

Even sadder, humoring these people is often considered a virtue of sorts. I believe in the mysterious and the numinous and that we humans can touch it via magic and religion. Yet, we seem to view faith as a toggle switch. Either I belive magic isn't real or I believe all claims of magic are valid. Just as an FYI to the world, I can believe in magic and not believe *you*.

One of my sincere wishes for paganism is that we, collectively, acquire a process of discernment between spirituality and delusion. I wonder if part of starting this process involves moving way from humoring folks and starting to take them seriously.

So one of the things that I'm sitting with and reflecting on is how to go from "how nice for you" to something that is kind, but honest. Something that isn't just me bitching at people, but also doesn't require me to implicitly endorse fantasy. If true, many of these claims are revel a dangerous incompetence and we should treat it as such. If not true, does it really serve others and our faith to let people lie to themselves and others?

I don't have any answers really, but I'm not sure "how nice for you" really covers this issue like I once thought.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On Christian Day...

I wasn't going to comment on the Christian Day and Charlie Sheen weirdness as so many have done so already. I figure you can call yourself what you damn well please really.

(Since I practice witchcraft rather than act out warcraft, I think I will stick with witch over warlock. Or a magician depending on my mood.)

Still, after viewing the video of his Charlie Sheen binding ritual on youtube (Really Christian? Really?), my only comment is that I have a personal rule on ritual planning: A ritual should take longer to execute than it took to get dressed for it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I heart Ann Hill

This made me laugh. "Dairy" has some got some cool stuff going on, but I left it (as a student) for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were related to the issues mentioned in this article.

On grounding...

Folks tend use the term grounding in a lot of ways. Since we use it to cover a lot of territory, sometimes the term obscures more than it clarifies. I have recently been hit from a few sources on how pagans often conflate grounding as an energetic exercise with grounding as the state of being fully out of a trance.

Most readers of this blog are familiar with the basic Tree of Life grounding. In my tradition this exercise is there to help folks connect to the earth spiritually and help folks draw on the earth instead of themselves when working magic. If I call someone grounded, in this case, I mean that they have strong energetic tie to the Earth.

Another way pagans often use the term grounded is to refer to someone who is make from a trance state. This can a guided meditation, astral projection or heavy spirit work (like aspecting). Grounded in this context means that a person is fully present in their body and is no longer in the trance or altered state of consciousness that opened them up to experience the meditation or spirit work. It is about their command of their faculties and ability to operate well with the physical details of day to day life. If I call someone grounded, in this case, I mean that they are awake and engaged in the physical world around them.

The reason I'm trying to make this distinction clear is that one can have a strong energetic tie to the earth and still be half-astral. Being able to ground to the earth is a beginner skill (foundational really), but being able to change consciousness and return skillfully is more of an intermediate skill.

The problem with assuming these things are the same is that focusing on that energetic cord and running energy does not help you return from a trance state. If you're having trouble getting fully back, engage with your body: stretch, eat something, do a little self-massage, have sex. Our bodies are us and are our ties to the everyday physical reality of day to day life. So the next time you feel a little spacey, don't just move energy. Engage your body and do your best to be fully present in here and the now. More meditation and energy work will not help you if you are still tranced-out.