You’ll often see this question posed as a starting point for discussion among people who practice magic. It’s uses are varied, mostly I tend to see it is a phishing exercise as many so-called leaders and teachers seem to want to appear as though they are listening to the respondent but usually fail to do so. (Yes I’m aware my blogs have been rather cynical of late but its the truth). Obviously, there is a counter-explanation and which is the sweeping New-Ageism axiom stating all is wonderful and subjective and therefore needs no basis for comparison so we must simply smile knowlingly as “true spiritual adepts”. In the WMT we’re asked to learn discernment as Seekers and Neophytes and most of us seem to require a small space to ‘check-in’ with others every once in a while, be this an online forum (for me this was Occult Ireland (OI) back in the day), an open circle/moot/meetup (OI also held some of these) or a temple/coven.
My Hairy Pagan Friend posited this idea to me in our last training session, because well honestly we’d hardly done any magical rituals in the familiar sense of the word and he wanted me to have a think on this. Though HPF did pose it rather differently. He asked me whether or not my magical rituals for success had worked. Having to think about this I realised that yes they’d worked but only in the limited fashion that my mind allowed. I generally don’t allow myself to get trapped into discussing successes or failures of magical operations openly and part of me is waking up to the idea that this is because I’m still conditioned to see my magic as delicate and open to being swayed by others. Now this also belies the idea that as a Witch part of me sees myself as someone on the lower rung of the ladder. The Witch, of course holding a counter-cultural role in the community. Letting magic do what it is supposed to do would remove me from this social construct. Think about it the bad Witches are those who are capitalists and unapologetic in this view and the good Witches are those who have to overthrow the Wicked Witch – and who generally subscribes more to this than others… Witches of course! We look to myth and mythos for help in our religion and magic but get “lost in the magic of it all” more often than not.
Clearly I’m online regularly so I’m not exactly homeless but I have had some serious financial issues in pursuit of my postgraduate degree. For years I’ve made my way through university on disability allowance and a governmental grant. I’ve never asked my parents for money and only once asked for a loan from the Credit Union (paid back as well). When you consider that I started in 2006 before the [first?] economic collapse and had to take two years out in between I’ve found myself facing into a different world academically in my final two years of my undergrad and like many facing the shock of this feeling of being humbled financially in my postgrad. If we looked as citizen and State as a partnership or marriage this would be comparable to financial abuse in the relationship. The process dehumanises the individual and makes them feel incompetent to boot!
Like many I’ve learned to survive on the breadline in the form of social welfare payments and other subsistance living. In a strange juxtapositioning without my DA and Grant I may not have been able to do my Bachelors and also travel for initiation but mentally I’ve been prepped to think that I can work magic by a case by case basis so to do all these various workings was dealing with the symptom rather than the case. After all the rule of Karma and magic is asking for prosperity and nourishment is one thing but using magic to seek wealth is bad form. Right?
Thing is looking around at many of the great founders of modern magic we have Gerald B. Gardner who had money to travel from England to Cypress (climate was seen as better medically for him) but had money to finance a space for his witches to meet, apparently even buying one of his High Priestess’s a house so magic could happen. Looking at SL MacGregor Mathers – one of the founders of the Order of the Golden Dawn – we find that he was financed by Annie Horniman a wealthy heiress from the merchantile class. When Mathers was seen to slow down his teachings for the Order, Horniman withdrew her support. Money is a great supporter and regulator of magic. Even St. Francis of Assisi found his monastery taken over by book-keepers upon returning
In a recent post I commented about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Once Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be met (or a derivation thereof) an individual can look more favourably and less wistfully toward finding out how all else works. Within Wicca and some systems in modern Paganism the Ardanes or Laws (guiding principles may be better term?!) as presented by Scot Cunningham forbid a witch or Priest of the Wicca to accept money for services to the community. A barter system is recommended to appease the Law of [Karmic] Return under Cunningham’s guidelines and though I generally love Cunningham’s writting this is a socialist ideology and requires a lot of fleshing out to be viable for the Wiccan and pagan communities. We are never offered an answer to how the tax person (we’ll be PC) is likely to respond. Indeed, more and more people are attempting to go “off grid” for various reasons but come under threat because of Governmental involvement. Small sidebar: Limerick was the second Soviet State in existence and was crushed because it looked like it was working. Who knows if Ireland had left Limerick to it’s own devices perhaps it would have succumbed to the same fate as the USSR with corruption and violence or perhaps it would have been a more stable model for other socialist governments to be inspired by.
Okay, so that got way heavier politically than I like but we often need to challenge our own perceptions and ideas if we’re going to learn discernment and to become actualised magicians and witches working magic successfully and living it too. So once more, what is magic? Well for me it is not any one thing limiting it like Cunningham or others have done does nothing for me and only weakens where I wish to be in life. Magic is change, there are no caveats or addendums to this axiom apart from those we allow to be placed on ourselves. As such Aleister Crowley stated that Magic is “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will” (Magick in Theory and Practice) but such a definition comes from the work of this particular magician. Testing and transcending the boundaries of the Will was what Crowley sought to achieve in his life’s work.
It is true to say that same or similar is the definition or response offered by many magicians since then and it is perfectly acceptable to do so because either conscientiously or subconsientiously they pick up on the supporting axioms and beliefs put forth by Crowley which inform his definition. This being said asking someone what magic is is important because they need to know whether these axioms work for them and if so how so and does the definition or response alter through looking at these aspects at all. The answer is more important for you as the practitioner rather than the teacher asking it because as I have learned it sets up what limitations if any are you willing to accept from magic.