Names and magic

The role of names in magic fascinates me. Even in the Bible, names had a magical power, being used to label everything in existence. For humans, names assume a kind of power, especially in terms of how we use them to understand what is around us. A physical location is named to differentiate it from another location and in that differentiation is an understanding that there is in fact something different. In a sense, names draw out what is distinct and different for us, so that we can situate it in our consciousness and our experience as something distinct that we can work with.

This isn't to say there aren't other ways to discover this difference, but names play such a powerful role that we end up using them even in describing those other ways of realizing the differences. And that's my point: Names have a way of shaping our perceptions and descriptions of what we work with. They are an essential tool of magical practice. We use names for calling entities, use names to describe places we've worked with...they are embedded in how we describe reality.

What make them important to magical work is how we use them, not just in term of describing or labeling something, but also using them to attune ourselves to the specific entities, places, etc., that we want to work with. I think of names as being like tuning forks. You say a name, you vibrate the name and you've set off the tuning fork and sent out a call to whatever it you'll connect with.

Book Review: Arcana V: Music, Magic, and Mysticism Edited by John Zorn

Like most anthologies out there, this anthology has a mix of interesting essays and essays that leave the reader (well this reader) wondering how they got accepted into the anthology. I'll admit that I found the premise of this anthology interesting, i.e. the intersection of music, magic, and mysticism, and some of the essays lived up to what I was looking for, but a fair amount of them didn't. I would've liked to have seen more essays on practical applications of music and magic. The ones in the book were excellent and intrigued me. I did appreciate some of the mystical leaning essays, but with some of the essays it seemed like nothing so much as a rant by the authors about whatever they were discussing, and not all of it readily focused on anything that was mystical or magical. I'd recommend this anthology with the caveat that you'll find some diamonds and the rest may not appeal as much as you'd hope.

Why magic isn't a bunch of categories or labels

I think sometimes people try too hard to boil magic down to categories. You ask someone what type of magic s/he practices and you get a long list list of categories such as Chaos Magic, Postmodern Magic, Shamanism, Ceremonial Magic, etc. Add in magical lodges the person belongs to and you've got another set of categories (made into Acronyms) such as TOPY, OTO, OSOGD, GD, Etc.,I see these categories applied to the future of magic as if that can be boiled down to a specific type of magical practice. I'm guilty of this too. I talk about experimental magic as a label of some kind, as a way of trying to differentiate what I'm doing from what others are doing and labeling their practice as. Yet at some point it becomes a haze of semantics and the question that arises is: Are you doing anything with all of this anyway or just armchairing it?

On some level there's a necessity for labels and categories, to be able to provide some vocabulary for the discussions, but when we get obsessed with it, it ends up becoming some kind of circle jerk indulged in for the sake of trying to prove who is cooler than thou or who's the most elite occultist out there, or whatever. We all want to stand out and how better to do it than come up with some crazy ass term that sounds cool and might even mean something up if we get through the semantic haze.

But I like my magic simple. Yes, I want to experiment with it, but I also want it to be something other people will do and understand without having to throw in a lot of specialist jargon. So I'll use a definition where applicable, and otherwise keep the focus on doing the magic.