Narrative and Identity

  In The Functions of Role Playing Games by Sarah Bowman, the author brings up an interesting point about narratives in relationship to identity when she explains how people use narratives to define their conscious sense of self, as a way of highlighting key moments of significance and linking those moments together to create a causal logic that in turn shapes the identity of the person by describing both who the person is and how that person is changing because of the narrative they've created. While her focus is on role playing games (RPGs), you can see how narrative is used as a tool in a number of different disciplines including magic, as well as how it reinforces aspects of identity related to narrative.'

In magic, narrative shows up in the form of ritual and spells, but also in pathworking and even to some extent in meditation. I'd argue that any process of magic is essentially a narrative which is structured to express the identity of the magician in particular way that enables the magician to establish his/her identity, both before and after the narrative. The purpose of the narrative is to describe the change in identity and what type of journey the magician goes on to make that change.

Narrative describes the experiences the magician goes through, but it also structures those experiences into specific actions and categories. Thus when the magician does a ritual, the narrative created through that ritual provides an essential piece of the experience that allows it to gel into something that changes the magician. The narrative mediates the experience and provides a structure of causality for the magician to use in order to situate the desired change the ritual represents into his/her own identity.

We can use narrative as a tool for our magical work, with the understanding that what the narrative represents is an idealized version of events. It's a description of what's been done, but its not necessarily the actual experience. This is only important in the sense that we recognize that narratives simultaneously describe and explain what has changed and why and yet can also leave much of the technical detail out of the description. The narrative can never embody the experience for other people. We use narrative as a tool to tell our stories and to make sense of our experiences so that we can establish an identity we understand.