Welcome to version two of the post entitled “What is Magic?” What happened to version one I hear you ask? I deleted it from my drives in a fit of spring cleaning and unfortunately I had no backup. Fortunately I had enough time to rewrite the post so, let us consider for a moment what magic is and how we can utilise it.
As well as attempting to make a definition of magic and it’s use I’m also going to talk about the route I took to reach my understanding and I’m also going to bring in a parenting element and talk about how I have been explaining the subject to my children.
What is Magic?
I’ve seen magic described as pretty much everything. I’ve seen is explained as quantum fields and as a yet unknown source of energy right the way through to mystical webs of connectivity and everything in between. Some see this force as existing on a cosmic level which is accessible to any wish to to access it whilst others see it as evidence of divine forces which can only be accessed through supplication. Those who are less drawn to deity worship sometimes perceive it as an entirely internal force which we are fully in control of given practice and dedication.
I am a fan of science however I realise that it cannot answer all of our questions. We are limited by the boundaries of what is observable and what we have the ability to perceive. Even as our perception expands something remains on the outside of the box of our perception and it is here where we find Magic.
Whatever the truth it is a strange force which is both felt and acknowledged yet at the same time remains beyond our ken and defies description. It is something beyond, something ‘other’ and sometimes these things are best left a mystery.
Personally I see magic as having many layers which cannot fully be pinned down. I am a devotee of Hekate but I am not dependent on my devotion to Her in order to use magic. I can call upon her in my manipulation of this force but it is by no means a necessity.
How is Magic Used
Magic is not an entirely inert force. Even if it is left untouched it affects our life in small ways. Sometimes call it Fate, sometimes it manifests as Déjà vu or even synchronicity and through it we are all connected in some way. This free flowing form of magic is given many names and personally I like phrases like ‘Web’ and ‘Weave’ because I like to imagine magic as being tendrils of energy which connect us all, unseen by the mundane eye, we can then tap into and draw upon.
Magic is a force which it we mortals can use to bring about changes in our own lives. We all have the ability to use magic as a tool of change but it is a conscious process of focus and dedication.
How this is achieved will depend upon the interpretation of what magic is. For myself an important part of the process is using these forces to achieve my desires. As I came to understand the process of using magic through strange and diverse this idea needs some further contextualising so let’s jump straight into my understanding magic and
how it is used.
How I Understand Magic
I came to understand magic through some what nontraditional means. Whilst many pagans will proclaim well known authors such as Silver Ravenwolf as their inspiration for me it was young adult fantasy writer David Eddings that inspired, and still inspires, some of my biggest ‘ah-ha’ moments in my magical life.
I don’t know how much research into western magical traditions David Eddings before writing the Belgariad and Mallorean but if I didn’t know better I would have thought him a Witch. I have learnt as much, if not more, about the principles of using magic from Eddings than I have from anywhere else and his writings laid the groundwork to help me contextualise the things I have read in later life.
It was the Belgariad and Mallorean which particularly inspired me and it is his description of The Will and The Word which resonated with me as a young seeker.
On the surface this seems to be an entirely internal process in which the sorcerer/ess influences the course of events and the environment around them through shear force of Will. In its most basic form the sorcerer draws upon their desire to achieve something and focuses it through the use of a word to translate it into actuality. Reading this age 14 or so connected various things in my mind. Without the ability to visualise what I wanted and the force of will, and certainty that I could achieve it, nothing would actually work for me.
But I perceived that there was something more, something deeper, to this process. Whilst at first this process seems so internally driven as I read (and re-read) these books I realised that this was only the surface message.
Emphasis is placed upon the importance of study, of understanding how things work in able to intervene in them more successfully. Their actions can have many unintended consequences, people around them of similar talent are aware of their activity and there are times when you may be vulnerable through the work that you do. Their confidence in their own ability effects what they are able to achieve.
Most importantly the characters are described as drawing in their Will but rather than it being entirely internal it also involves drawing on forces outside their own being. It is noy simply an internal process of personal Will overcoming nature’s rather it is the process where a powerful Will working in concert with natural, even cosmic, forces and being ultimately constrained by the laws of these forces.
All these things laid the foundation for my understanding of what magic was and how it could be used. Not only is magic all around us it is also within us. Also within us is the ability to use magic and just as it takes focus and imagination to achieve things in real life so to is the case in thr magical life. No matter what I’ve read or learned in my journey so far the same points have been reinforced. Study, focus, believe.
How I Understand the Way Witchcraft Works
Now as an adult and fully fledged Witch other elements of this teaching come to the fore. I have found that I have returned to that central concept of the Will and the Word as a core of magic practice, the combination of will and words.
Witchcraft in truth requires few tools, what is most important is the choice and use of words in conjunction with will. Whilst I dearly wish I could speak a single word and manifest an object into being reality isn’t that kind. It requires a few more words and the passing of time along with a little practical input from us but the concept of a link between what is said and the force and conviction with which it is said is a vaild one.
The power of the Witch lies in their ability to command the forces at their control to do their bidding. As Aldur said to Belgarath “Thou art a man. It is but a rock.” You are the Witch magic is but a force awaiting your command.
It is increasingly common in modern practice to put a tentative ‘if you wouldn’t mind so very much’ type of request out into the ether and hope that it comes to pass. This isnt Witchcraft, it is wishcraft and it is not nearly as effective.
“Thou must command, boy, not entreat.”
Now that doesn’t mean that you aren’t polite but it is a fine distinction between a polite command and wishy washy enquiry. You also need to be very careful what you ask for and the words you use. Think the request through fully and be realistic in your request. A car that functions and gets you from A to B is more likely to manifest itself than the latest Fiarre.
All these revelations are a product of their context. I accessed these realisations through something that resonated with me and whilst they may inspire others they will not have the same impact as they did on me. For that reason, when my eldest asked her own variation of the question ‘what is magic?’ I had to cast my thoughts into something she would be able to connect with. Fortunately enough inspiration was close at hand.
How I Explain Magic To My Children
Mummy/Daughter time is sometimes spent in guilty pleasures and we are big fans of the SyFy show The Librarians. This meant that when the question of magic came up I had something far more relevant to her experience to draw from.
If you have ever watched the show I am sure you will have heard Jenkins, the Caretaker of the Library played by John Larroquette, repeated the phrase “Power Focus Effect”.
… John Larroquette…
… Anyway where was I?
I was able to use this phrase to outline both magic and how it is used.
Power – Magic is all around us and within us. It is the source of our ability to bring about change in our lives and the world around us.
Focus – to be able to use magic we must be able to focus it. This could be by using objects such as crystals and talismans but it always involves your mind, and requires practice. The ultimate form of focus for Witchs is the use of words.
Effect – The outcome of the magical process realised in the real world. It may not be as expected and may not be as immediate as we might hope but the effect of our use of magic will be felt.
I thought it all up very much on the fly, and I am probably blessed by the fact that my eldest is quite intuitively magical in her own right, but she was able to extrapolate from my explination that ‘things’ are not always necessary in using magic.
I will admit I was more than a little proud of her that day.
Context is everything, and hopeful you can see some of the context in which I came to understand magic and it’s use. You can get more insight into my context and development over the last 15 plus years by visiting the Defining My Craft project page. I am one month into this year long project and I am finding the process very illuminating.