Since the beginning of time, man has been fascinated with the supernatural, with the idea of just pointing a finger and having everything that you desire. I realize that the reputation for using magic is a major attraction for many people to explore the Pagan path. They have seen one too many episodes of “Charmed” and think that they are going to be handed some fantastic power that will gain them what they want without much effort on their part. All they have to do is mutter some ancient phrase and their problems will be over… Surprise! They are in for a nasty shock. One should never choose a spiritual path based on the power one might receive. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely—and an even more insidious concept is that power attracts the corruptible. Beware those who seek power for power’s sake; they are the destroyers. I would suggest that your spiritual path should not be about the power you can wield but about the knowledge of self that you can gain.
I do use magick within the personal expression of my spirituality. I have been blessed with an affinity for healing (I perceive a person’s life energy—sort of like seeing aura, but it is on a more mental level rather than seeing a nimbus of light around their body) and divination. I have a strong sense of obligation to share this with my fellow beings, to give back what has been so freely given to me. It is so much a part of me that it requires little conscious effort for me—I just “do it”. When I need to work a magick (other than these that I am so familiar with), I do create a ritual and write out the words I want to use to make my visualization become reality. On very rare occasions, the magick is done on the fly—I did a protection spell for a friend totally ad lib. I had another friend helping me and even though we had not written anything down, we spoke as if we had memorized our lines; we said all that needed to be said, and we had amazing results. That was one of those times that I know the Divine was manifesting itself within us…everything came together like we had either been practicing for ages, or it was a spell we had done a thousand times before even though it was the first (and so far, last) time. Our desired result was very clear and our motive was pure, so it was easy. And ease of doing has always been the way I know that I am doing something right. Doing things the wrong way, or doing the wrong thing requires so much effort!
Magick, at least as far as I understand it, is a concentrated mental effort (visualization) to bring about a physical and visible change in something (realization). In other words, if you can picture it in your head, it will occur in the physical world. And what might surprise you is that prayer, in the most Christian sense of that word, can also be defined exactly the same way. However, instead of praying that some god will work the change for them, Pagans “raise energy”, or call upon the natural power that is all around us (sort of like “The Force” in Star Wars) and work with that power to make a change occur. This natural power has many names and it may be defined in many ways, but it is inherent in each of us and it is Universal.
It should be made very clear that this power is neither holy nor evil. It exists, like electricity. What makes it good or bad is the purpose for which it is used. Part of the learning process for Wicca is that everything (and I do mean everything) that you do comes back to you at least three fold. So hexing or cursing someone is NOT a good idea since that negative intention will come back to bite you in the…you get the picture. This is also stressed by the Wiccan Rede, which states “And it harm none, do as thou will”. This is not total liberty to behave however you want without regard to others. In fact, it can be more restrictive than any of the Ten Commandments if you have to really stop and consider the consequences of your actions. Part of Paganism’s greatest strength is that it requires you to take responsibility for what you do. You can’t blame it on anyone else or some external evil entity like Satan.
There are limitations upon what is considered acceptable magick. Your magickal purpose needs to be extremely clear or you can end up with other than the desired results. You have to focus on what you are trying to do; you have to have a very specific goal in mind. Adherence to the Three-Fold Law and the Wiccan Rede means that it should come as no surprise there are also warnings about performing magick upon other people without their express consent. This means it’s not a good idea to use magick to attract a mate—and love spells have a notorious reputation for backfiring on those foolish enough to try them. Just about the only exception to this is self defense, where you would be casting out negative energy from other people—and you need to word things so that you are not interfering with their free will, only preventing them from hurting you. Another more subtle concept is that you should not work magick that interferes with a person’s destiny, even your own. Most Pagans agree that we are here in this life to learn a lesson. A bad situation may be our lesson and to use magick to avoid it could prevent it from being learned. It can end up being worse later on if we don’t experience it in the proper time frame.
It is also useless to attempt magick that is clearly pointless. If someone has terminal cancer and it is their time to die, trying to work a healing for their body is simply not going to work. You can do magick for a spiritual or mental healing to help them accept what is coming, to have the strength to see it through or to ease the pain to bearable levels without interfering with their path. You can phrase things in such a way that a healing can take place if it doesn’t block what is supposed to happen for them, but that should not be the main focus of your magick. Again, clear purpose and good motives go a long way towards making things work out as you plan.
I feel that magick does not require a lot of trappings to work. Oh sure, you can have the wand, the candles, the black cat and the cauldron; you can chant or sing your desire or make a long, involved and rhyming poem to spell out what you are doing—but it won’t work any better than if you did it with only yourself and the pure intention of a single thought. Whatever it takes to make the visualization for you, that’s what gets used. If you need blue candles to perform a healing, then burn them. If written words that rhyme make it real, put them to paper. Part of the reason that the working of magick within a group ritual usually has visual and auditory clues is to help get everyone present on the same page, so to speak. More preparation may be required but the increased number of people working on the same thought can generate more power and a greater chance of success. I know that there are those who will not do any magick without elaborate spells and researching the phase of the moon…I still think it just comes back to what YOU need to be able to clearly and thoroughly visualize your desire.
I also believe that magick is not confined to only those who have some arcane or occult knowledge, nor is it an external power that requires special abilities/tools/words to use it. ANYONE CAN DO MAGICK! It exists in each and every one of us. Magick does not occur outside of the natural order. Magick is very normal; it is in everything that we do and everything that we are. To me, magick is just science that we can’t explain yet. We have technological marvels today that would look like deepest magic to someone who was living more than a hundred years ago, science so far beyond their knowledge that it seems supernatural. Just because something lacks an explanation does not make it unreal.
Whatever the thrill of magick, whether the having of it, knowing how to use it or just belonging to a group that is known for it, Pagans do tend to stress magick a bit much. There is so much more to this path than a few parlor tricks. I find that the magick is sort of a side benefit for the life I am now living. I was pointed to this way by my housemate about 5 years ago, and it felt like coming home. I needed to find peace of mind, a way of living that was neither guilt-ridden nor immoral. I was seeking a reconnection with those childhood truths we all forget: everyone is somebody, the Earth is a marvelous thing that we cannot continue to abuse, and life is too short to spend it being unhappy. I had so many questions, so much doubt about a God who was jealous, vengeful, and demanding, a God who would cause His child to be born specifically to murder that child that I could not find peace within Christianity. There was no sense of the sacred and I desperately needed that. I have found the peace I was seeking; I am comfortable with the person that I am; I know that the entire Universe is sacred. Magick is part of being Pagan, but I think that it is the least portion and not the main definition of who we are and what we believe.