Recently I posted the following message to my Facebook and Twitter accounts
What are you willing to give in order to get what you want? There's always some giving involved in magic.
I received some interesting responses to it, ranging from the argument that sacrifice isn't a necessary part of every magical act to the idea of sacrificing unwanted ego complexes to the idea of swapping energy for energy. All of these were good responses and what I appreciated the most was the thoughtfulness that went into the responses.
My own take on what I wrote, with more of an explanation than 140 characters, is that within every act of magic the magician needs to give something in order to make the magic work. And what does that really mean? Magic doesn't happen by itself. The magician at the very least needs to provide a goal and/or vision with an accompanying action. There is always a purpose for doing magic, and the magician supplies that purpose via the goal or vision, as well as with some kind of action taken.
The action also can't be nebulous so the magician needs to provide some kind of structure in which that action takes place. The environment of ritual space for example may need to be constructed, or there may be a need to pick certain ritual tools that will be used, but even more important than all of that is actually determining what you will do, both magically and mundanely. And all of that is also an act of giving, because magic doesn't take place if you don't provide some form or process by which it can actually be worked.
And then there's the final point on giving, which will probably show something of of a less than contemporary attitude on my part to giving. If you choose to work with some external agency, what are you willing to give to it, in return for its aid? I know it's popular to believe any entity is just some kind of psychological construct, but personally I tend to think there's more to an entity than that. So when I work with an entity, I ask myself what I'm willing to provide. I don't see it as a sacrifice either, so much as an exchange of some kind. I want something, and I recognize I could use some help, so I go get that help and I offer something in return.
For some people, taking the psychological approach with entities seems to work, and perhaps in the end it,s all in my head, but I've found that erring toward my own conventions on giving and magic has worked really well. So it's part of my process.
What are your thoughts? Anything I'm missing or that you would add?