Is there Sacrifice in Magic?

rumpelstiltskin Jack wrote an exasperated (but justified) response to the above meme, which has been circulating the magical and pagan blogs of late (evidently). The caption that is supposed to go with this picture is "All magic comes with a price, dearie!" Jack's point is that none of us are being asked to sacrifice our first born children to magic, to get what we want, which in the show is something that Rumple expects from the various people he helps. All we are ever asked to sacrifice is the time we spend learning magic, practicing it and discovering who we are in the process. To my mind that's not much of a sacrifice at all, but then I love studying and practicing magic.

But I think that Jack, and others miss perhaps a more subtle message that is implicit in that statement of magic coming at a price. It's a negative message, a negative belief about magic and what it costs. If you watch Once Upon a Time, magic is treated as this corrupting force, this power that can't really be controlled, which makes the people who practice it become complete asses to everyone. I don't buy it, don't really agree with it, but I see it as an example of mainstream culture using pop culture to comment on magic, to paint it in a very specific light (ironically in the process just making it more attractive). All magic comes with a price...and that price is the sacrifice of your child or something else you don't want to give, but that you'll willingly give for something you prize more. when magic is looked at that way it becomes both something tragic and malicious...pity the magician who has fallen sway to the forces of darkness, while recognizing all over again that magic is something a person shouldn't dabble in.

Given the source, Disney, we shouldn't really be surprised. Look at any of what's been produced and magic is always treated as some force a person can never control, something that will corrupt the person who uses it. But that belief isn't something Disney just cooked up. It's something that was cooked up by the Christians, there way of demonizing the spiritual practices of the religions that weren't Christian.

I don't think there's sacrifice in magic, unless you choose to make a sacrifice (and sometimes that can be appropriate). I think, if you're doing it right, the price is your time and effort, or whatever you agree upon. Certainly I haven't sold my soul to any capricious spirit for the dark delights of magic. Whatever agreements are made are ones that don't demand a pound of flesh or an ounce of soul. It all boils down to this: You decide what you want to give and do...but don't automatically assume there's price. There's only a price if you make it about a price.

Magic and price

If you've been watching Once Upon a Time, in several of the episodes the focus has been on the price of magic. The take in the show is based on a Faerie Tale perspective of magic, where magic comes with a price and the price usually isn't what you expect. It reminds me of some of the faerie tales and fiction I've read.

I recently asked on my Facebook page if people thought there was a price with magic. The answers I received indicated that people thought there was a price associated with magic, of some sort or another. Nothing as dramatic as a faerie tale price, but nonetheless there was a sense that to one degree or a price existed.

And I agree with what they said. I think there is always a price. As one person put it, it's a trade off in terms of what you give away in order to pursue the path you choose. That principle applies to anything as much as it applies to magic. But the price of magic fascinates me because it plays on specific themes within occultism, such as Faustian deals or Faerie Tales. And it makes sense to some degree. Anytime I work with an entity I am making an exchange of sorts, though not in such medieval terms.

But I think if there's really a price with magic it has more to with the discipline needed to study it as well as the consistent work needed to apply it. And that's a price worth paying, as is the case with any discipline you want to master. You put the time in order to really grasp it and apply it to your life. And when you do a magical working you accept you are making a choice, but that no different than making a choice that doesn't involve utilizing magic. Everything has a price associated with it. You just have to decide if the price is worth it.