In this case study, I share a recent working I did with Glasya-Labolas that shows how focusing on the influence aspect of a spirit can produce great results. To learn more, watch the video below.
Did you miss an episode of magical experiments in February? All the shows are below.
Magical Experiments podcast: The alchemical balance of positivity and negativity with Bill Duvendack
Book Review: Advanced Magical Arts by R. J. Stewart
Advanced Magical Arts is a follow up to Living Magical Arts, with a particular focus on visualization, ritual and mediation and how these techniques can be used in conjunction with each other as well as what precautions to take when employing them. The author does a good job of explaining the techniques and showing how they can be used to develop a system of magic. I also like that he includes some sample workings in his tradition that you can use to implement these techniques. I found it easy to take the concepts shared and employ in my own workings and systems of magic. I recommend this book as a good resource to learn more about these techniques.
I thought I would share a few examples of how my own aesthetics of magic have changed. The first two examples are recent ones that have to do with art magic, but the final example is really a discussion of how my use of magical tools has changed over the years and why. I'd originally intended to share these answers in a class I'm teaching, but after a bit of back and forth with my friend Felix decided to make a video discussing these examples, because its a good way to continue fleshing my own thoughts on the aesthetics of magic and where that really fits in my own work. I'm sure I'll be doing some further work around this line of inquiry because there's a lot to consider and explore.
In the video below I share the three examples of changing aesthetics in my own magical work.
And if you want to learn more about the principles of magic...
In my previous post I talked about the aesthetics of magic and why that perspective can be a useful part of your process of magic. Now I want to explore why its useful to question your aesthetics and how that can benefit your magical practice. While your aesthetics of magic is useful for helping you understand what makes a magic working magical, it's not a good idea to treat your aesthetics as set in stone. If anything, questioning your aesthetic filter can help you recognize how it might limit you magically, or what you could change about a magical working.
In the example, I used in the previous post, the person mentioned that sigils didn't look magical, which was why trying to do magic with them didn't work. One question I found myself asking was, "What could this person change about the sigils to make them look magical (and therefore buy into them being a viable magical operation)?"
It's important to recognize that the Aesthetics isn't limited to the appearance. When I think of an aesthetics of magic, I'm thinking of what makes the experience magical, which can include (but is not limited to) visual appearance, but can also include the smells, sounds, feelings, taste, as well as movement and stillness (and whatever else you might think of that contributes to creating the experience). This distinction is important to note because if we're going to question our own aesthetics, we need to recognize what we are specifically focusing on.
So how do we question our Aesthetics?
First you need to decide what is aesthetically part of your magical workings. I suggest looking at a number of magical workings you've done over a period of time to identify the aesthetic elements that consistently show up in those workings. This will tell you which aesthetic elements are considered necessary on your part in order to make a magical working happen.
For example if you find that you consistently use candles in your workings, then candles would be an essential aesthetic element of your magical practice.
Now take a look at what aesthetic elements don't show up in your ritual or workings. For instance, you might not do chanting, because you might think its a distraction or that it doesn't sound magical (or whatever the reason is).
List the aesthetic elements that you consider essential in one column and in the other column put the elements that are non-essential.
Why are the aesthetic elements in the essential column necessary for your magical working?
This is the question to ask yourself. Beside each element write down your response. No answer is wrong. The point of this exercise is to understand what makes a given aesthetic element essential to your magical practice.
Why are the aesthetic elements in the non-essential column unnecessary for your magical working?
Just as with the previous question, write down why a given aesthetic element is unnecessary or not magical enough for you. Again there's no right or wrong answer. The point of this exercise is to help you understand why a given element isn't aesthetic enough for your workings.
Now it's time to try something new...
You know what the essential and non-essential aesthetic elements of magic are and why they are or aren't essential to your practice, but it can be a useful exercise to try something new with your magical practice. Try putting together a magical working where you don't use all the aesthetic elements you normally use, or where you mix in some aesthetics that you normally wouldn't use. Then record what the results are, but be willing to do this multiple times, to see if there are any differences.
Also if you're using an aesthetic element of magic that you normally wouldn't use, ask yourself what you could do to make it magical. Don't be afraid to make some changes. For instance, in the case where the sigils didn't appear magical, the person could try drawing the sigils differently or using colors or try a different sigil technique.
The benefit of experimenting with the aesthetic elements is that it gives you an opportunity to challenge what you consider to be essential. And even if you come away with realizing that what's essential is really what works to make a working magical, at least you've questioned and challenged your aesthetics and discovered for yourself why those elements are essential.
The benefit of working with aesthetic elements you don't consider essential is that it allows you to discover if you can make them essential to your practice and also provides you an opportunity to challenge your ideas about what is or isn't magical.
Share your results with this exercise in the comments below. I'd love to discover what you learned :)
And if you'd like to see my answers, check this video out.
The other day an acquaintance emailed me and asked me what I thought about sigils. What the person wanted to know is if I thought chaos magic style sigils were an effective form of magic. I'll admit to being surprised by the question, because I've generally found the work, but then I read a bit further and I recognized why sigils hadn't worked for the person. The person explained that the sigils didn't look magical. The issue was an aesthetic one. And it's an important issue actually, because if you look at the practice of magic in general there is an Aesthetic aspect to it that shows up across various systems and traditions, and yet isn't overtly acknowledged or recognized for the most part.
I got to talking with my friend Felix Warren about it, because in the past he's shared his own perspective about the aesthetic of magic and how he uses an aesthetic perspective in developing his magical work and he agreed that if there is an aesthetic quality missing in a magical working that can affect the person's process of magic.
Let's define the word Aesthetic. Aesthetic is a set of principles that underline and guide the work of a particular artist or artistic movement. It's also the appreciation of beauty.
So what's that have to do with the practice of magic?
If we look at a given magical working from a design perspective, we see the aesthetic principle of magic show up. The design perspective is concerned with the trappings of magic and what trappings are needed in order for the magical working to happen. For example, what tools you will use, what clothes you will wear, but also how you will get your conscious and unconscious self to align and buy into the magical working.
This is why some people need incense and candles when they do magic. Aesthetically the incense and candles creates the right design that allows the person to fully commit to the magical working, because they've created a space that is magical.
Now what's important to remember is that not everyone's aesthetic is the same. For example, I don't need incense or candles to do magic. My aesthetic of magic is fairly minimalistic in some ways...yet there is an aesthetic that informs the magical work that I'm doing.
I would also say that your aesthetic for a given magical act can actually differ depending on what the magical working is. For instance if I'm doing a chant to evoke an archangel...that chant and the correspondences in it will be the aesthetic that makes the working come together. On the other hand, a painting of a sigil doesn't need a chant, but does need the paints and the experience of paint, and so that becomes the aesthetic.
Now that's just my take on the aesthetic of magic and as you know I'll all about personalizing magic, so to me it makes sense to take an approach to the aesthetics of magic that personalizes them according to the magical working that you'll be doing...but a reasonable question to ask is if a person should develop a universal standard of aesthetics that they apply to their magical practice.
The answer to that question is that it depends on the person. For that matter it also depends on what spiritual system or tradition they are engaged in, because a given system or tradition of magic has its own aesthetic of magic that informs the design of the rituals and how people should show up. You can question that aesthetic and modify it, but you also have to consider whether said modification will be welcomed in general.
If you're developing your own system than you can create a codified aesthetic for that system. That codified aesthetic is essentially your brand and it describes how your magic should be designed and why that design will play a role in the magical work you do, as well as the interactions you have with the spirits that are part of your system. This codified aesthetic should also have some input from your spirits, because of course they'll have their own expectations and correspondences that need to be considering when you're doing a working with them.
How does the Aesthetics of Magic connect to the Process of Magic?
I think the aesthetics of magic offers another angle that you can use to help you understand your process of magic and why something is or isn't working. And recognizing that your magical practice should be experienced a certain way helps you to appreciate how you design your magical works, as well as what is essential and what is optional in those workings. Additionally, there's something to be said for simply appreciating the qualities of a magical working that make it magical.
Sometimes your magical working fails. It happens to all of us, but if you don't understand why it fails, you can't do much about it. However if you're willing to take a step back and look at why your magic might be failing, then you can start to address that problem and make changes that help you get consistent results In the video below I share the top 5 reasons why your magic fails and how to account for those variables.
Sometimes what stands out to me about why someone is having problems with their magical work is that the person is complicating the magical work. It likely doesn’t help that in your average book on magic you find tons of information about magical tools, herbs, crystals, and candles that you are supposed to have in order to do magic. Throw in a magical grimoire and now you need to get golden tablets, and various other arcane tools that the author assures you is absolutely essential to doing the magical working.
Let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. And if you come away reading a book that suggests you use a specific tool or do a specific activity, but it’s not clear why you should do it, then you need to back up and liberally douse that book with a bar of salt before doing the working.
The reason why people complicate magic is because there’s a tendency to take whatever is presented and treat it as the final word on the subject. But here’s a little secret for you: You are the ultimate authority of your spiritual practice and you don’t have to do magic the way people tell you to do it.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t read books on magic or try the exercises, spells, or whatever else, but if you find it isn’t working, it’s okay to try something different or take the working apart and figure out what part of the process doesn’t actually make sense. To this day, I do this with much every practice I read about. I try it, figure out what makes sense and get rid of the rest. And the practice consistently works without the unnecessary information.
So how do I simplify my magical work?
I’ve already explained that if you don’t know why you’re doing something or what the purpose of something is, it can be useful to consider discarding it, but let’s explore 5 other ways you can simplify your magical work.
1. Design your own tools. Magical tools have a place in magical workings, but it can be helpful to design your own tools. There’s nothing saying you have to use an Athame, wand, or whatever else. They can be useful tools, provided you understand their purpose, but what if you need a specialized tool?
For example I created a memory box, a specialized magical tool for the purpose of helping me do space/time magical work. No conventional tool would have worked, but the memory box helped me connect with past memories and future possibilities, providing a model I could work with. By designing my own tool, based on my needs, I was able to simplify the magic and get more from the workings.
2. Develop your own list of correspondences. Lots of magic books come with correspondence charts. The purpose of a correspondence is to help you understand how a crystal, plant, etc. is connected to a specific spiritual power. However there’s nothing saying you can’t come up with your own correspondence list, based on your own experiences. In fact, developing you won correspondence list allows you to personalize your understanding of the spirits and forces you’re working with, which simplifies your magic because you aren’t having to remember someone else’s correspondences.
3. Take a critical look at the ritual you want to do. When I learn any given magical technique, I like to take a critical look at it and ask myself what each part of that technique or ritual is supposed to do. This helps me determine what I do and don’t understand about the technique or ritual. And then I can either do further research or cut out what doesn’t make sense and see what happens. Either way by taking a critical look at the technique or ritual I’m simplifying the magic because I’m taking time to figure out what I know and what may need to be modified.
4. Take out elements of a working that are optional. Sometimes you’ll discover that a magical working has optional elements. Well optional for you anyway. The person who put together the original working might disagree and say everything is required, but in my experience you can likely get the same result doing a stripped down version of the working. You can always do the full version of a ritual and then strip out what you consider is optional and see if there is a difference.
For example a meditation technique I was learning had a lot of visualization in it. Trying to remember all the visualization became a real distraction from learning the technique, so I stripped the visualization out and focused on the sound and tactile sensations. As a result I was able to hit some very deep spaces of altered consciousness that were consistent with what the defined outcome of the meditation is. By simplifying the technique and getting rid of what I felt was optional, I was able to focus on what was essential for learning the technique.
5. Use your talents in your magical work. We all have our own talents. I think it’s a good idea to apply your talents to your magical work. For instance, I use my creativity in my magical work, in the form of paintings and writing, collage art and song. By taking what I’m good at and applying it to magic, I am able to develop my own processes and practices. I simplify the magic by using my talents to connect with it.
One of the ways I’ve simplified my magic work is to create paintings that are evocation portals. The paintings contain the sigils of the entities I’m working with and when I need to evoke one of the entities, I can simply use the painting to connect with the spirit and call it forth.
If you want to learn even more about about how to simplify your magic, check out my 5 secrets for personalizing your magic that gets you consistent results.
The other day, in the magical experiments newsletter, I shared a story about why I walked a way from a mentor I was working with. In short, his biggest lesson was showing me how close-minded he was. I don't have time for narrow perspectives of magic, but it got me thinking about how you choose to work with someone magically and what you do to recognize the warning signs if a person isn't a good fit to work with. I share more in the video below.
My magical theme of the year is process. I explain why in this video:
2016 has been a really interesting year for me, all across the board. I think what I appreciate about this year we just exited it how much I ended up growing because of my willingness to step away from what I knew to embrace the unknown.
Embracing the unknown is a fundamental part of magical practice.
For 2016 I created the theme of respect. At the end of 2015 I called out the Pagan conference organizers on what I considered a lack of transparency around which presenters were compensated for their efforts, and which were expected to pay to present. That choice made me realize that I needed to reevaluate my relationship with respect, and so 2016 became a journey into respect. I learned 5 magical lessons as a result that I'll carry with me through the rest of my spiritual journey.
Lesson 1: Respect begins with you and you must hold to it, if you want others to respect you.
If I wanted respect from other people, I needed to respect myself and I realized that in some ways I really didn't. I made compromises because I wanted to fit in or because I was told it as better to toe the line and not stir up trouble. I disrespected myself and my feelings on certain matters because of that and in 2016 (and the end of 2015) I realized I could no longer disrespect myself, especially because it was clear I wasn't getting the respect that I felt I deserved.
I confronted the Pagan conference organizers and then stepped away from the Pagan conference scene because it was clear that the desired changes and the requested transparency wasn't going to be provided on their part. And in doing that I made the choice to respect myself and my work instead of continuing to toe the line and go along with the status quo.
And you know? It's forced me to become more creative, challenged me to step up my game as an author and presenter, and I love it. I am happier (and more profitable actually) getting away from the Pagan conference scene than continuing to be a cog that is basically used, instead of being a person that's appreciated.
Lesson 2: Create a space for your tribe and they will come.
Part of my journey toward respect involved recognizing that I needed to capitalize on one of my strengths: Creating and sustaining community. Instead of going out into the larger community, I decided to create my own communities around the interests I have and focus on working with those people. My first attempts weren't very effective, but I learned and ultimately came away with two online communities where people are engaged and actively working on what excites them, and where the space is safe, because the focus isn't on tearing people down, but rather on helping them become better at their magical practices.
Creating community showed me that the best way to reach the people I'm called to serve is to provide them a space to gather. I'm already thinking of new ways to continue creating that space and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens as a result.
Lesson 3: Sacred time and space for yourself is essential for divine connection and inspiration.
I took the last couple months of 2016 for myself, to really drill down into some work I've been needing to do, both internally and process wise. Stepping away from writing and content creation was good for me because it really helped me get clear on what the purpose of any and all my activities should be for. I still have a lot of work to do, but you'll soon be seeing some of the fruits of my work and I'm really excited about this year will bring.
Lesson 4: What you feel resistant toward learn from.
This year I learned how to work with the temple of memory and the value of correspondence charts and oral chants. I felt some resistance toward working with these concepts, and so I decided to challenge myself to learn about what I was feeling resistant toward. The end result: It's provided me a new approach to how I work with spirits that feels more intimate and connected. I still have a lot of experimentation to do around what I'm learning, but opening myself up to what I felt resistant to lead me to some new magic, some new work that really excites me.
It's important to honor the resistance, but its also good to challenge it and see what you learn as a result.
Lesson 5: Embrace your shame to discover your respect.
This was perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this last year. By choosing to really sit with and embrace the shame I felt, I could respect myself. This internal work was hard and it really put me face to face with some of my demons and made me recognize how I had hurt other people in my life, as well as myself. But out of that work I could make changes and respect myself as a result.
This is why a consistent regime of internal work is so important. When you put the time in to take care of yourself, to really see who you are and how you show up and then make good changes, it frees you from the burdens of guilt and regret that can other wise hold you back and keep you mired in the muck.
What lessons did you learn from 2016 and how you are applying them to your spiritual work and life?
Note: An advance copy of this article was shared on my Patreon.
As I've been working on my latest book, Pop Culture Magic Systems, one of the frequent topics on my mind is the role of a person's spiritual lineage or history in relationship to creating a system of magic. A system of magic is created as a result of different influences and the spiritual lineage a person has access to is one of those influences. Let me share with you an example, namely my own spiritual lineage.
My spiritual lineage isn't the types of magic I've practiced, but rather specific influences that I consistently integrate into my practice. Those influences can be specific people or specific books or something else. Whatever they are, they continue to exert an influence on my spiritual practice and on the experiments I come up with. When I look at my magical work, the influences, the lineage I see is of specific people: Franz Bardon, Antero Alli, William G. Gray, William S. Burroughs, R. J. Stewart, B. K. Frantzis, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, A.R. Heaver and Edward Schiappa. I haven't met most of these people in person, but they nonetheless have exerted a significant influence on my spiritual practices, and while there have been other sources of inspiration they haven't had the same level of influence of lasting power that these aforementioned people have.
I see the mark of these people in my work, in how I think about magic, how I practice it, and how I experiment with it. They are a lineage of sorts that I draw on. Now your lineage likely won't be the same as mine, but you have one. You have people who are significant to you and your spiritual practice, that influence how you think about and practice magic, and when you recognize that significance, it causes you to look at all of your work in a different way. You don't see it as a singular work, but rather as part of a continuum of work.
Your system of magic is shaped by that continuum. Your lineage is alive and speaks through your system to you, and to anyone else using your approach to magic. When you look at your system, take a moment to recognize who shows up in it. When you see who shows up, what it reveals to you is not just your own ideas and thoughts but also how you have taken the thoughts and idea and practices of others and integrated them into your own work. The importance of that recognition is that it teaches us how to make our lineage live on, and also helps us realize that magic cannot be static. It builds on what came before and changes what came before into what is (in the moment).
When we recognize the role of the past in the work of today, we also sow the seeds of the future.
Genuine magical experimentation doesn't occur in a void. It happens in context to whatever else is significant in your life and work. When you look at who came before you and how they influenced your work and then you see it in your experiments, in your personalized systems of magic, you also discover how to take the past and push it into the future, to evolve the work that's been done into the work that can be discovered and revealed.
My experimentation only started a couple years after I began practicing magic, but those first couple years were important for providing the experiences and foundation I needed to be able to experiment. And so its continued to be the case throughout my own practice. I learn from others and bring what I learn into my experimentation, in order to see how I can take what I've learned to the next level.
What is your lineage? How does that lineage show up in your magical work?
In this video, I share how I integrate protection magic into my daily works, as well as my overall approach to practical magic, which involves stacking magical workings on to activities already being done to achieve the optimal use of one's efforts.
Why research plays an important role in your magical experimentation and why it can be useful to do research in non-occult topics.
Do you enjoy my writing, videos and the Magical Experiments podcast? If so please donate. Your donations go toward the costs of the podcast and this website. Even a dollar helps me maintain and continue the work that you are enjoying. Thanks!
A couple weeks back I wrote about what to do when your magical practice is in a slump. Wouldn't you know it? After I wrote that article my magical practice went into a slump, albeit due to the fact that my lovely wife got very sick with Pneumonia. I needed to focus on getting her better, so my daily routine went out the window, and that included my magical practice.
Fortunately I had an energetic reserve to draw on during that week, but once she got better I felt pretty tired, and I needed to rebuild my energetic reserve (watch this video to learn more about that). What I needed to do was get my practice back on track and yet I was feeling decidely unmotivated.
I'm sure you can relate to that.
We all have moments where we get thrown off our daily routines and as a result our practices suffer. And after the problems are resolved, it can be all too easy to let your routine go to the way side. It takes an act of discipline and will to get yourself back on track and focused once again on your practice.
Yet once you do you rediscover all the benefits of doing the daily practice.
- You get more focused and clear on what needs to be done.
- You get more creative and inspired
- You feel grounded and centered
- You connect with the spiritual world and bring it back to the rest of your life.
Those kinds of benefits are powerful, especially when you experience them everyday. They are also cumulative. I know this because when I don't have interruptions to my magical practice, I'm connected to the heart of the universe, and when I don't do my practice, I just don't feel so on or grounded.
So how do you get back on track?
You just decided that you'll start your practice up again and you do it. The first day back is hard, because you're having to reconnect to everything. The next day gets easier, but its an act of discipline and will that moves you back into connection with your spiritual powers and helps you turn the potential of your soul into the manifestation of reality.
You get back on that practice and you do it. It's really as simple as that, and yet as simple as that is, you got to do the work.
P.S. The next round of the process of magic starts June 8th. If you need help developing a consistent practice and sticking with it, this class will be perfect for you.
In the most recent episode of Magical Experiments podcast, Maviiin and I were discussing identity and at one point we talked about the identity of family and how it can shape a person positively or negatively. Maviiin made the interesting suggestion that we should be able to change our names at 25, if we want to choose a different one and I like that idea a lot. Yet a recent conversation with a family member got me to thinking about how family identity isn't just constructed by your parents, but also by your ancestors. And why I think that's important is because when we work with our identity, its worth spending some time exploring the environmental factors that play a role.
Family is one of the most significant environmental factors in a person's identity, but for the most part when we think of family, we tend to think of the immediate preceding generations, mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, sisters and brothers (if you have them) and perhaps more distance living relatives. Beyond on a genealogy chart I don't think much thought is given to ancestors further back because those people are dead. They aren't immediate and yet I would argue that their impact on your identity is immediate, in the sense that they had a role in creating the identity of your parents and grandparents and that in turn was passed down to you via your parents and grandparents.
Now you can sometimes learn about your ancestors either via stories told by your parents or grandparents or through their own written accounts (if they left them), and it can give you some sense of who they are, but what is told and shared is filtered to some degree. You can make some guess work about your own patterns of behavior and your family's patterns of behavior to get a sense of how your ancestors might have contributed to those patterns of behavior (A person's behavior doesn't show up in a void after all. A lot can be discovered by looking at how your family handles different emotions for example and comparing it to how you handle your emotions). This isn't to say that you can't be a different person from your family, but I would suggest that even choice to be different is shaped by the identity of your family and the origins of that identity via your ancestors.
So if we're going to do identity work on ourselves its worth considering how we might also work with our ancestors or at least learn from them? How do we work with them magically (if we choose to) and should we even work with them? I'll admit that I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to work with my ancestors because I'm not sure it would be helpful. What I really want to learn, if anything, is their role in my identity so that I can work with that. And my goal in doing that work really is liberating myself from identity constructs that come from the family or at the very least being aware of them and making whatever changes are most useful as a result.
One thought on how to proceed is to make an offering to my ancestors and ask that if any are willing to communicate to come forward so that I can speak with them. However I've also considered doing a magical working where I access their lives via the genetic information we possess. While there will be some genetic drift, especially as you go further and further back, I would think that as long as I have some genetic similarity to an ancestor I could access their lives through that (kind of like Assassin's Creed). I'll be developing a meditation technique for that process to give it a try and see what happens (and I'll report back here with what I uncover).
I'm curious if any of you, my dear readers, have done any experiments along these lines and what you discovered.
I never met William S. Burroughs in person, but I felt like his reading his books was an introduction to the person. I didn't even encounter Burroughs writing until the spring of 1998, a half year after the author in question had died. It was a senior class seminar for college and I needed the credits and nothing else was remotely appealing.
I remember walking into that class with only a vague idea of who William S. Burroughs was. I knew he was an author and that he'd written a book called Naked Lunch and supposedly done a lot of drugs. I remember not feeling overly enthused at the time, because I was a straight edge kind of person, but I needed the class.
Little did I know that reading William S. Burroughs work would have a significant effect on my magical practice and my writing.
As I started reading his books, I felt his presence, hovering over my shoulder. Burroughs is one of those writers who lives on in his writing, a phantom presence that comes and visits, whispering secrets in your ears as you read his words. You know he's there, but when you look, you can't find him. His soul is embedded in every word. You could say he's a virus in his words.
As I read his books and learned about his writing techniques, I felt like the secrets of the universe were revealed to me. Soon I was cutting up magazines and newspapers and my own writing and randomly gluing it altogether to create my own versions of cut-ups and like Burroughs I discovered that the cut-ups could circumvent linear time and provide glimpses and even manipulations of time.
But Burroughs didn't just write about writing or drugs or all the other subjects he's most known for. He also wrote about magic. Oh his books weren't your average magic books, written explicitly about magic. No, the magic was in his stories, in what the characters did and how Burroughs explained their relationship to the world, spirits, and whatever else he was writing about. In the lurid sex acts, in the depictions of corporate greed, and the frank exploration of the word as a virus, as well as the stories of magic, what Burroughs did was paint a picture of the world that would make so strong an impression on me that it changed me.
I experimented with writing and I experimented with magic. Burroughs wasn't about rules, but about possibilities, and the recognition that there was no such thing as coincidence in a magical universe. What he taught me was that the universe was magical and I had only to open myself to that fact to discover just how magical it could be.
For several years after I finished my undergrad degree, I religiously read Burroughs. There was always at least one book by him among the collection of whatever else I was reading. In reading his books I connected to his spirit and that spirit was my mentor as I experimented with time, and the alchemy of the body.
Burroughs taught me to question control and all its forms, to question the word and why people used the word in the ways they did. And he taught me to question magic and why magic need be so formal, or if it could just be simple and direct. In those days I did a lot of ceremonial magic and its fair to say that Burroughs ruined that for me, because in the way he wrote about magic, he boiled it down and made it simple. The magic of Burroughs was street magic, survival magic, the magic you do to get results, and you don't want to spend lots of time doing things that are unnecessary with that kind of magic.
I connected with Burroughs because I could relate to the struggle of his life as it pertained to dealing with the Ugly Spirit. My Ugly Spirit was my emptiness and I grappled with it constantly then (and for many years afterwards). In reading his writing and reading about his life, I felt a connection to what he'd gone through and while I didn't do anything so dramatic as his William Tell act, I nonetheless knew something of writing for the sake of writing out that ugliness within one's self, because so much of my own writing at the time was precisely about that.
Eventually I got into a Master's program for English and I drifted away from reading Burroughs work, but nonetheless his writing and magic had change me and my approach to everything I did with magic and writing. When the final book of Burroughs came out, Last Words, I remember picking it up and feverishly reading it, the words inscribing themselves into my soul. And his final words, so strong, so poignant speaking to me of a person who found his answers and was ready for the Western Lands.
I haven't read Burroughs in 16 sixteen years. The truth is that you can't read the works of someone like that casually. There's a commitment, a magical connection that demands discipline from you as a reader and as a writer (if you identify as such). But in this year of reconnecting to my writing roots and in some ways my magical roots once again, I have recently started reading his books again. And there his presence is again, ready and waiting after so long, to continue the instruction. I'm ready now to, ready to continue divesting myself of the dead weight of academic writing, which had dulled so much of my writing, to get back to the non-linear narratives that still sing in my soul.
Hurry up please, it's time to go. Nothing here but the recordings, but he's here to, in the recordings. I'm ready to experiment again, ready to see where this journey takes me. I'm ready Burroughs. Thanks for waiting for me.
Earlier today (at the time of this writing) I was teaching a class on the process of magic and how the Tree of Life can be used as a model to explore a given magical process. One of the points I made in the class is how important it is to understand how magic works, and that when you have a process mapped out to describe what is happening, it also helps you figure out what isn't working, so that you can make adjustments accordingly. In fact, what a process ultimately provides you is the means to experiment with magic.
What a process does is describe how your magical working ought to work from beginning to end. It describes your desired result as well as the steps that need to be taken, what principles of magic you'll draw on and what tools, resources and powers that be you'll work with in order to achieve the result. That descriptive map also clues you in on how you can personalize and experiment with your working, so that if you want to do something that isn't traditional, you can still pull it off because the process helps you understand how the magic should work once you've done it.
I like to think of it as elegant magic because what it really does is helps you simplify the magical work and make it your own. And really that's how magic ought to be...simple, focused, and helping you achieve the result you want. I think that what usually makes it so complex for people has more to do with not having a process in place...or what I call push button magic, where so much is invested in doing magic a particular way because that's the way magic is being taught or that's the way its written about, or because the spell says it needs these components.
The problem with push button magic is that it doesn't encourage critical thinking or awareness or experimentation. It simply takes a prescriptive approach to magic and says this is the way you do it, often with little to no explanation for WHY you do it that way. Yet such an approach dulls the magic, because it doesn't set people up to discover what really works for them and will help them achieve the desired results they want.
A process approach to magic, on the other hand, is a descriptive approach that encourages experimentation with magic precisely because it encourages critical awareness and thinking about what you are doing and why you are doing it. It also encourages you to look at each step and ask yourself what you can do to make it work better.
Personally I like that approach to magic because it encourages innovation and experimentation and personalization of your magical work. You figure out what really works for you, why it works, and then you implement it. And if there is a problem, you go into your process and figure out what the problem is and then make the changes. No guess work involved, just a process that can be taken apart and put back together in a way that actually encourages the person to understand what is happening, in order to make it successful.
I've always found that experimenting with magic makes what I do with it work very effectively, because I understand what's happening. I understand what each step does and how it feeds into the working. I understand how the result will manifest and I know what to look for if something goes wrong.
After my class, I spoke with a person who found me and my website because of my writings about magic and sound. She told me that my process approach to magic gave her permission to experiment with the folk magic she was doing and use it in ways that it hadn't been used before. It allowed her to create new products that she couldn't find anywhere else, because she now had a process that she could use to describe what she was doing and implement that process with confidence. I thought that was cool, not the least because I don't really do anything with folk magic, but here was this person who does, who could take a process approach to it and achieve real results.
A process approach to magic can be applied to any type of magical practice. What it sets up for that magical practice is a method for exploring what is really happening in that practice, and then making modifications accordingly. It's the basis of experimentation. Map out what you have, then start experimenting with what you can change. It's beautiful and elegant.
In Magical Imagination by Nick Farrell shares a cautionary story of a magical group that made the Arthurian mythos a part of their identity and consequently ended up re-enacting that myth in their lives. The point that Nick makes is that too close of an identification with a mythos can cause you to manifest the themes and characters in your life in ways that aren't desirable. In the case of that magical group, the head of the group lost his wife when she ran off another person in the group (a Lancelot to the head's Arthur) and then had issues with other people who ended up replicating other aspects of the mythos. It's a good cautionary story that highlights the reality that when you work closely with a given mythology and identify with the entities in that mythology, it can take on a life of its own and effect your life both positively and negatively.
Pop culture mythology is no different than classical mythology, other than the fact that its contemporary mythology. If you look at a given mythology it has themes and values written into the story and it has characters that perform essential roles in moving the story along and relating the narrative to people. Most importantly the mythology establishes a shared sense of identity with the fan. That identity is what causes the fan to like the pop culture mythology and to either replicate it or create new myths within the mythology. This is why fan fiction of various types is written, because it allows the people writing it (and reading it) to contribute to the pop culture mythology and also interact with the characters they love.
If you want to magically work with the mythology of your favorite pop culture, it's worth while to do so carefully. You may find that you identify strongly with certain characters, but you don't want to identify so strongly that you take on their flaws. I once did some work with several characters from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms mythology and part of that work was influenced by how they were depicted in the Dynasty Warrior video game series. I identified strongly with the character Lu Bu, but ended up taking on some of his less desirable traits such as his anger and short-sightedness. Once I realized this I stopped working with him and those issues just as quickly ceased showing up in my behavior. What I've done since then is build in filters so that if I'm working with a given character closely, I'm only taking on the attributes that are helpful to me and the work I'm doing.
When you work with the pop culture mythology at large, you need to not only pay attention to the characters, but also the themes of the mythology itself so that you can be aware of how those themes are showing up in your life. That awareness can help you to build in appropriate filters while also drawing on the themes in a way that is helpful to the work you are doing. I also think it can be worthwhile to actually do some banishing if you find that the theme of a given pop culture mythology is replicating itself in your life too much. At the same time, its important to recognize that if the pop culture mythology is a central part of your practice, then part of accepting that mythology involves recognizing that the themes may need to occur in your life because of how you are making them central to your identity. However that doesn't mean you have to let those themes into your life in an unhealthy way, which is why it is so important to filter and focus on what relationship you really want to have with the mythology you are working with.
There is one other point to make and it is that when you choose to work closely with a mythology, pop culture or otherwise, you are inviting change into your life and you won't have complete control of that change. What you do have control over is how you respond to it and so it is very important to pay close attention to your behavior and interactions with other people. If you find that certain thematic elements are coming into your life, ask yourself how you will handle those elements and make sure that you are aware of how they show up in the lives of the people around you. That way you can be prepared for them and make sure that the themes show up in a way that is helpful to your life journey and spiritual practice.
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Magical Experiments Radio: Interview with Crystal Blanton about Racism and Cultural Appropriation in the Pagan Community.
Recently I was talking with a student who was telling me about how the job entity she'd created in the Process of Magic class, as well as several other workings had seemed to evolve and change to fit her own changing circumstances. I wasn't surprised, because in my experience a magical working never really ends, so much as it changes. I've noticed that some people buy into the notion that there is an end to a magical working, as if the manifestation of the result just finishes it up, and yet what is not recognized is that the manifestation of a result does't just manifest the result, but also the subsequent changes that occur because the result is turned into reality. The magic doesn't end with the result, but carries forth into those changes.
Now it could be argued that a magic working should have a defined beginning and end, and certainly the actual working may have that defined beginning and ending, but when you are doing magic, the working ultimately isn't just limited to those moments who you are engaged in it. The working extends beyond the formal beginning and ending, shaped by the circumstances that called for the working and shaping reality in response to those circumstances. You can do a working and in the initial moment not recognize the changes, only to realize later just how much your life has changed as a result of doing the working.
A magical working isn't something to be done lightly. It may help you solve a problem in the moment, but also set your life up in ways you didn't expect. In some ways I think of a magical working as a living being in and of itself. It changes as your life changes and in some ways prompts the change in your life, which is why the saying Be careful what you ask for, because you will get it, is an apt one. There's a reason that the words you use in a magical working are chosen carefully, because you aren't just setting up the immediate realization of the magical working, but also the permutations of that working.
Yet you can't let that stop you from doing magical work. And if you're seriously engaged in doing the work you'll find that what allows you to make the evolution of the magic work best in your favor is the implementation of daily internal work that allows you to work through your issues and helps you recognize what you really want.
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Magical Experiments: Interview with Gordana Kokic about Slavic Polytheism