Category Archives: Magic/Magick

Choice and Power

Yesterday, I blogged about how the belief that we have no choices in situations is detrimental to our ability to live an ethical life.  Today, I want to discuss another reason why this belief is problematic for witches(1).  A belief that we have no choice in a given situation also destroys our personal power in a given situation as well.

We in the Pagan community talk about self-empowerment a lot.  It’s a key reason a lot of us came to a Pagan path, at least in my experience.  However, sometimes we talk about it in rather vague terms, never really making it clear what it means to be self-empowered.  To that end, I would like to suggest my own definition:  Self-empowerment is the act of embracing the realization that no matter what situation we may find ourselves in, we always have the ability to choose how we will respond and act.

Note that self-empowerment doesn’t mean we always get to control the situations we find ourselves in.  Nor does it mean that we can magically change everything in our environment to suit our needs.  Such a concept of self-empowerment would simply be out of step with and contrary to reality.  Hardships are going to befall us.  People are going to do things we don’t like and that hurt us.  Circumstances are going to limit our options and even make us face some unpleasant choices.  Those who want to find a way to turn their lives into a fairy tale need to keep looking.  They will not find it here.(2)

But what the principle of self-empowerment tells us is that no matter what those situations are, our actions are our own to choose.  It tells us that even if our choices are limited to unpleasant ones, there are still choices to make.(3)  Self-empowerment teaches us that no matter what is beyond our control, who we choose to be and how we choose to act is still our personal domain.  And that is an incredible power to wield, in my opinion.

Saying we have no choice in a situation robs us of that power.  It turns us into victims of our circumstances rather than people who are working to not only make the best of our circumstances, but improve it insofar as we can.  And that is a great tragedy.

And again, this is a creeping problem.  The belief that we had no choice tends to spread throughout our lives.  What started as one instance where we thought we had no control or no power becomes two.  Then it becomes five.  Then it becomes a regular occurrence.  Soon, we are never empowered because we fail to see our choices.  And then we wonder why our lives are nothing like we want them to be.(4)

Now some may be ready to ask me, “But what about magic?”  And it’s a good question, so I will answer it.  Back in 2007, I blogged about the role one’s will plays in magic.  At that time, I suggested that our will is the part of our psyche that initiates action.  It’s the part of us that actually goes about making all of these choices, and it’s central to the process of working magic.

So what happens when we say that part of us is incapable of making choices because there are none to be made?  We are effectively subjugating it or turning it off.  A belief that we have no choices actually hinders our will.  And a subjugated or hindered will simply cannot operate effectively.  Which means our ability to do magic effectively disappears as well.

(1)  As witches are not the only people who believe in or value self-empowerment, I’m sure many other people will be able to identify with much of what I’m saying here.  I think that’s great.  But since I’m a witch, I’m going to focus on witches.  Though I do hope anyone who isn’t a witch still shares with me what value they might find in my thoughts.

(2)  In reality, I suspect they won’t find it anywhere.  But I respect their right to continue searching.  That’s their choice to make.

(3)  The other advantage to realizing you still have choices, even if they’re all less than ideal, is that it gives you the freedom to think creatively and look for even more choices.  The ones you see immediately may not be the only ones laying about.

(4)  Of course, there are also times when our lives are nothing like we want them to be because our desires are simply not realistic.  Again, this is because self-empowerment is not about living a fairy tale life.  Sometimes, we just have to find a way to live within our limitations.  But my experience is that even within our limitations, there’s a life that’s well worth living.

Post-Festival Review: Seances

I’ve been meaning to write more about the festival I attended last week, but simply haven’t found or made the time. And when I’ve had the time to blog, there’s just been other things I also wanted to write about. But I think I can make enough time to talk about the three seances Michele and Belinda held while we were there.

As I mentioned in the last post about the festival, I had never been to a seance before. In some ways, I suppose that’s strange. I’m friends with a number of mediums and I regularly hang out at a store that has about one seance a month. But to be honest, they don’t hold a great deal of interest for me. In fact, I had originally only planned on attending the first seance at the festival: the one held on Tuesday night.

That was a pleasant seance, as it was early enough in the festival that a relatively small number of people came to it. After all, not many people had arrived at the festival itself yet, either. I actually learned something about seances I didn’t know before that night, too. You see, like most people, I had this idea that seances were about contacting the dead. And while the spirits of those departed do show up, they’re not the only ones who stop in. For the first time, I discovered that seances involved contact with spirits in general, and that can include spirit guides (or even deities) as well as spirits of passed loved ones.

The first night, I received a message, this one relayed by Rich. I got a brief lecture on the fact that I need to let the mask down and let people know the real me. This didn’t surprise me, as I’ve received this message before. I think, however, that the fact that it came from Rich — someone who had just met me six hours earlier and knew nothing about me — really increased the impact this time, however.

The second seance was Thursday night. Right up until an hour before the seance, I was convinced I wasn’t going. I had decided that I had already been to one that week. While it was an enjoyable experience, I didn’t see a great need to attend another one. To be honest, I’m not even sure what reason changed my mind. But when the time came, I rode down to the Khaki Shack in Michele’s golf cart. When we got there, we were quite shocked. I’d estimate that about thirty people were packed into the small building (far more than it can comfortably accomodate).

While I can’t say a reason for my change of mind, it became obvious why I had come along after all. In addition to the fact that there was such a large crowd, many who had come that night had been drinking. In fact, a number had cans of beer with them!

Now, for those of my readers who may not know this, you do not come to a seance or seek out a psychic reader while intoxicated. It does strange things to your energy and those around you. The net result is that you end up with very sick psychics and mediums. In fact, Michele and Rich each prepared to ask those who had been drinking to leave, but were stopped by their own guides. So we went forward.

That seance was a dreadful experience, however. All of the mediums had difficulty getting messages, and even some of their guides were noticeable affected by the situation. After about an hour, Michele’s guide called a halt to the whole process, promising to hold a third seance the next night. A handful of us stayed there for the next twenty minutes (after most everyone had left), mainly because the three mediums were feeling quite unwell. Arlene was kind enough to help pull away the stomach problems Michele and Rich were both feeling, and I helped to ground Rich. After a while, we were all able to leave. And everyone’s guides were kind enough to make sure everyone felt better by the next morning.

With the help of Tim, Michele tried to find a location to hold the unplanned seance Friday night. After a few failed attempts, our quartet agreed to hold the seance in the trailer we were renting for the week. We also insisted that everyone signed up ahead of time this time so that we could determine if we needed to break the group up and do two separate seances. Fortunately, only about ten or twelve people signed up (and counting those of us who had to be there, we number around sixteen or seventeen), so we held only one seance.

I want to mention one incident at the third seance simply because of how peculiar it was. At one point, Michele’s guide commented that there was a little boy in the room associated with one of the women there. (Her husband was also there.) Her guide went on to explain that the little boy identified himself as Anthony and said that he was trying to enter the world as the woman’s son. There was more to the message, but I don’t recall it.

What makes this particular message so remarkable is that Amy had a conversation with the woman and her husband after the seance. Apparently, they’ve been trying to have a child for many years. Even more, because of a tradition in the woman’s family, the couple had already planned on naming any boy they had Anthony. Needless to say, this made this seance a particularly amazing experience for this couple — particularly the husband, who was quite the skeptic and primarily came to humor his wife.

The last seance was probably the best. This was partly because of the smaller number of people who came — not to mention that the people who came weren’t there expecting some sort of “show,” but had realistic expectations for a seance. Of course, it also helped that it was the only seance held in our living space, which by that time had been thoroughly infused with our own energy and presence. This made it much more cozy than the more public and chaotic space of the Khaki Shack.

Prayer, magic, and my relationship with my gods.

Today, Deborah Lipp offered a brief summary of her thoughts on the differences between magic (or more specifically, spells) and prayer on her blog. It was nice to see someone whose thoughts on the subject echo my own. I’ve always had a problem with the tendency for some to equate spells to prayer, simply because of the nature and source of power that Deborah describes. One of the things that drew me to the path I’m walking is the understanding that I am an active participant in my life and in the process of determining my eventual destiny. To me, the suggestion that spells are simply a way to ask the gods to give you what you want is contrary to that very principle. I work magic because it’s a way I contribute to my life and the achievement of my goals.

Of course, as I think about the whole topic, I also realize that the suggestion that spellwork is the same as prayer bothers me because it is contrary to my own understanding of prayer and the very relationship I have with my gods. I’m not the kind of person to ask my gods to give me something, but rather the kind of person to ask them for wisdom and guidance on how to attain what I desire for myself. I would ask them to help me learn to make my own efforts as effective as possible. I would ask them to help me be aware enough to see the opportunities I’m working to create. Asking them to just give me whatever it is I want would be unfair, both to them and to myself. It’s simply not what our relationship is about.

Concepts in Magic: Wyrd

Back in January, I launched a series of entries called “Concepts in Magic,” starting with a discussion of creation. I followed this with the second entry, that one about will. As I sat at my computer, I decided that the most logical third entry should be about wyrd, as it’s where the previous two concept meet and interract.

Wyrd is a term from Norse mythology. However, I believe that the concept of wyrd exists in most, if not all, magical systems and religious traditions. This can be seen in the fact that wyrd has many aspects in common with such concepts as karma or fate (though none of them are exactly the same). Given the fact that my own practices are heavily influenced by Norse thought, I will focus on wyrd in this entry. However, I strongly believe that much of what I say translates well to other traditions in some form or another.

At its most basic level of understanding, wyrd is the principle that states that the current moment in time is the cumulative result of all past events and choices. If a person takes a moment to ponder all of the circumstances and choices in their lives, they discover a trail which has led them to the point where they stand at this very moment. As they do this, they are pondering and coming to understand wyrd.

Often times, people come to understand wyrd as a personal thing. You will find both modern heathens and Icelandic authors that speak of an individual’s wyrd much like one might talk about one’s karma in the Eastern traditions. While there may be some benefit to this point of view, I have come to the realization that from a magical viewpoint, the idea of personal wyrd is merely an illusion. What we often like to see as “his wyrd,” “her wyrd,” “your wyrd,” or “my wyrd” is merely a limited perspective of a tiny piece of a much greater tapestry, true wyrd. In reality, there is only wyrd, a single fabric of reality that connects and supports everyone and everything. And it is this larger picture of wyrd that is important to a magical mindset.

It is this interconnectedness of all people and things through a single, universal wyrd that makes magic possible. This is because each of us shapes this universal wyrd on some small scale, thereby affecting the greater whole. Indeed, it is our ability to shape wyrd in some way that makes us participants in the creative process. After all, it is wyrd that holds creation together.

In reality, every living being in the universe can and does shape wyrd, even those who don’t understand or believe in it. However, the magician does so both consciously and willfully. A magician comes to understand the nature of wyrd and his contribution to it, thereby enabling himself to influence wyrd in the way he wishes.

Of course, a wise magician does this respectfully and carefully. Wyrd is governed by certain principles (often known as the primal rules or orlog), and so is the process of shaping it. Indeed, one of the great challenges of working effective magic is coming to understand the governing principles behind wyrd well enough to shape it effectively and responsibly. That is an ongoing learning experience which the responsible magician or witch will devote themselves to for the res of their lives — or as long as they choose to work magic.

Concepts in Magic: Will

In a previous post, I wrote about how an understanding of Creation as an ongoing process is a powerful concept in magic. In this post, I wish to look at another powerful concept, the concept of the will.

Most people who work with magic are familiar with the definition of magic offered by Aleister Crowley:

Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.

Despite the fact that I am in no sense a Thelemite (which is one of the reasons I don’t add the K to the end of the word “magic”), I find this definition quite useful. Furthermore, it demonstrates that will is central to any magical act. Without will, there is no magic. So this begs the question: What is will?

The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition (as reported by includes the following definitions:

1. a. The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action: championed freedom of will against a doctrine of predetermination.
b. The act of exercising the will.
c. Diligent purposefulness; determination: an athlete with the will to win.
d. Self-control; self-discipline: lacked the will to overcome the addiction.

It is clear from these definitions that will is that part of the psyche that initiates action. It is that which takes a desire that we have, and focuses our time and energy to accomplish or manifest that desire.

It is important to note that desire is not the same as will. In my experience, this is an increasingly common misconception in the magical community and our society in general. Far to often, we express our desires thinking that doing this alone (or even having those desires in the first place) is sufficient to have them met. I’m reminded of the joke about the devout Christian who goes to church daily, only to ask God to let him win the lottery. After many weeks of this daily routine, God finally decides to respond to this request in a very personal day. As the petitioner makes his request one day, he hears a rather annoyed voice from heaven proclaim, “You could at least buy the ticket!”

Truly involving one’s will in the satisfaction of a desire requires both effort and action. Without this effort, this act of will, the desire never comes more than a vain wish. It is the act of making sure that the “rubber meets the road” that makes magic.

Since Crowley offered his definition of magic(k), some have tried to improve upon his definition. Most notably, people have tried to add such qualifiers to the end of the definition as “by means not understood by ordinary science.” This is often done in an attempt to identify the “mystical” aspect of magic and to distinguish it from “mundane” effort. I am convinced that this is a mistake, as it creates an artificial boundary between “mundane” and “magical” effort.

Truth be told, to someone who walks a magical path long enough, every act of will becomes an act of magic. The boundary between the “mundane” and the “magical” dissolves completely, and an individuals conscience efforts blend together seemlessly. The witch who is looking for a new job is working just as magically when she writes her resume as when she is lighting a candle or praying to her gods for their blessing on her search. All of these acts and the power channeled into them work together to accomplish her goal and manifest the job that she needs.

Understanding all conscientious acts as magical acts also explains why so many magical attempts are shipwrecked by “mundane” activities. Consider for example a less experienced witch who does magic to get a new job, but doesn’t not pay careful attention to the creation or modification of her resume. Or perhaps she submits her resume haphazzardly, not putting much effort into the seach process. Understanding that these choices are magical acts in themselves demonstrates that her will is not fully behind her stated outcome of finding a job. As such, her efforts and energies become unfocused, scattered, and less effective. Perhaps they become totally ineffective.