Manifesto: Magic is for Everyone

Anyone can do magic.

All human beings have access to the same magic. You don’t have to have talent. It doesn’t run in families. Magic doesn’t favor one people over another, unless by “people” you mean “the human race”.

Magic is knowledge plus action.

Magic happens when you know what to do and practice doing it. It is simple but not automatic. Once you know what to do you’re halfway there. The second step is to do it. The more you do it the easier it get.

Magic is cumulative.

Each piece of knowledge adds to the whole. Some pieces come together immediately like interlocking parts. Others sit by themselves for a while before other pieces match up with them. Every bit of knowledge we learn contributes to our magical playbook. Our magical playbook is constantly expanding as we learn.

Each magical act we perform adds to our magical effectiveness. Some acts link up immediately and develop a sequential path. Others accomplish an end in themselves. All contribute to our magical skill set. As our skill set improves with practice we can do magic faster and more simply, refine the results, and explore new magical actions.

Magic leverages the powers of the cosmos.

On the planet earth we connect with the elements: earth, air, fire, water spirit. In the cosmos we connect with the stars, and with the planets known to the ancients: Moon, sun, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn.

There are other universal forces: the powers of life, energy, movement, form, harmony, freedom, love. We interface with these universal forces through culturally specific forms such as gods. The Egyptian (Kemetic), Greek/Olympian, Celtic, and Germanic deities are well known in traditional magic. Other systems view the forces as angels and daimons, devas and asuras, spirits of the land, energic forces such as ley lines, spirits such as kami.

We access magic through the lens of our culture.

Religion, language, and culture determine how we understand and identify the cosmic forces. Are there four elements, five, more? Do we understand ourselves as machines, animals, stars? What is the source of spirit – God, gods, kami, universal forces? Answering these questions gives us the keys to the symbol sets that unlock our magical power.

Human cultures are linked.

Some people say all religions share a fundamental truth, or that there is a “perennial philosophy”, a truth which we all discover. When we find similarities between religions and philosophies this usually points to a connection between cultures. The peoples of the world have communicated more closely and for much longer than we usually credit.

Any body can access magic.

Any gender: female, male, trans, androgyne, genderqueer, however you experience gender in body and spirit, magic works for you.
Any race: black, white, person of color, whatever your skin shade or ethnic origin, magic works for you.
Any age: from the youngest child to the very oldest elder, magic works for you.
Any ability: at the peak of health, ill, blind or deaf, lost limbs or movement – magic works for you.

Every person has a fundamental right to access magic freely.

Every person has fundamental human rights as outlined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The Western Magic cultural lens needs to be updated to actualize this.

How to use a time turner

Time turner

Time turner

Have you ever wished you could squeeze one more thing into a weekend? Wouldn’t a Harry Potter time turner come in handy?

Actually I have one! Well, I have a replica. My dear friend and covenmate Dave Magnenat bought it for me in Diagon Alley at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s a beauty, with three spinning rings and a functioning hourglass at the center. The glass takes less than a second to empty but it does work.

Okay, it’s an awesome piece of memorabilia. But – it’s a toy, right? I mean, it doesn’t actually work.

Have you heard of Pop Culture Magic? Taylor Ellwood’s sytem taps into magical energy through contemporary stories. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars and other series drop us into fully realized worlds where magic makes a difference. We live these stories so vividly that the characters and places seem real to us. They engage us at such a deep level that we bring them into our daily lives, we wear costumes and learn to speak languages and buy replicas of the tools: a light saber, an Ollivanders wand, the One Ring.

Clothing, language, and tools are all part of traditional practice. Why not adapt these pop culture versions to use in our functional magic?

I do just that with the time turner. As I write I am on the second day of a writing weekend. I spent Friday driving out to my writing retreat and relaxing from a grueling work week. On Saturday I walked and read and thought about what I wanted to write. It became clear that it was going to be one of those weekends where I have to relax and unwind before I can create. On Saturday night I realized the weekend was half gone and I still wanted to get some writing in. Time turner to the rescue! I gave it three spins while saying “I have time to relax and time to write”.

Buying myself time to write is what I use it for most often. I do find that it takes a toll. There’s an energic drain as I’m giving something of myself to it. The Harry Potter version cost Hermione in the fictional universe (she exhausted herself with studies) so it makes sense that it does to me too.

What does it do? I’m rested and finishing this piece off before I return to drafting my next book. How does it work? You could say it helped me to focus on task management to make everything happen. Or, you know, folds in space, or whatever. In the true spirit of operative magic I’m not all that interested in figuring out a theory that satisfies everyone, I just know it works. Give it a whirl!

For more ideas about how to leverage real magic through the power of story, here are Taylor Ellwood’s published books – with at least one more on the way!

Pop Culture Magic
Pop Culture Magic Second Edition
Pop Culture Magic 2.0
Pop Culture Grimoire
Pop Culture Grimoire 2.0

In defense of practical magic

Magical and academic texts sometimes make a distinction between low magic and high magic. Spiritual magic has lofty goals, connecting us to the divine; the priestess who works this magic has the best intentions and results. On the other hand the sorceress who conjures for her own benefit is the meanest of the mean, twisting her knowledge for personal gain.

I’m betting that people who condemn using magic for money, health and love have seldom experienced want. Have you ever been so sick you thought you would die? Have you ever slept on the streets? Have you ever spent a night in the depths of despair without a single friend to call?

I have. I left my childhood home with nothing in my pockets because anywhere was better than there. I’ve slept in charity missions where they prayed to you before breakfast because I had nowhere else to go. I’ve laid in my bed while my lungs filled up thinking my next breath would be my last.

If you’ve ever been desperate you know that surviving is your only focus. Nothing else matters except drawing the next breath, finding a safe place to live, gathering a circle around you who you can depend on. And if you’ve ever had to endure lectures or abuse for your food and bed you know that the most precious thing in the world is the freedom to live in peace.

I’m okay now. I have very dear friends who pick up the phone when they think I’m hurting. I draw down a good salary and use it to help my chosen family and my community. I jealously guard my health and do whatever it takes to keep myself fit.

I do have some advantages. I’m white, and it matters. I’m smart – that’s helpful but not necessary. On the other hand I’m a woman, and that matters too. I was raised in the destitute class without manners or fashion sense. I started my adult life with no money and no education.

The biggest advantage I have, the one that overcomes the disadvantages, the key to my happy life, is magic.

Magic got me where I am today. Magic gives me health when I am sick. Magic brought me friends and lovers and helped me get free when I picked the wrong ones. Magic steered me down the path to material success.

Some people sneer at material success. I’ve always thought the folk who say money doesn’t buy happiness haven’t tried to live without it. I’ve been on both sides and I can attest from experience that my life is better with material success than without it.

So when people say magic that gets you things is “low magic”, I say bring it! You can’t have “high magic” without it. Try meditating on a chronically empty stomach. Try doing a complicated ritual while you’re sleeping on someone’s couch.

Practical magic isn’t inferior magic. It’s not something shameful to resort to when you have to have it and abandon as soon as you can. Low magic is the foundation for everything else we do, in magic or in life. It gives us freedom. And we need freedom to live.

Here’s my book on low magic: Practical Magic for Beginners

Humanizing traditional magic

I am deeply committed to humanist values. I know as a fundamental truth that every human soul is equal to any other regardless of the body that soul currently wears. Women are as valuable as men, other genders are as valid as the man-woman binary, skin color and ethnicity are no bar to ability, disability is not an indicator of worth, all religions are paths to the divine.

I am also committed to magic. Lady Tradition allowed me to sit at her feet and her lessons have framed my life. I owe my health, friendships, love, prosperity, and meaningful life work to her tutelage.

Western Traditional Magic (Golden Dawn Ceremonial, Thelema, and Gardnerian-style Witchcraft) is the repository of several thousand years of Western philosophy, theology and ritual. It is a magnificent edifice, a cathedral of human wisdom. That said, it is technically eclectic, layering newly acquired knowledge and technique atop what came before. The awkward joins reinforce the impression that the structure is more of a bricolage than a system. Furthermore, the tradition has grown less responsive over the past few centuries and has yet to confront the challenge of the Enlightenment or to incorporate humanist values.

My work challenges Western Traditional Magic to identify and update racist, sexist and colonialist aspects of the tradition. This puts me at odds with those who believe that Mathers, Crowley and Gardner wrote the last word on magical practice. Fortunately I am not alone, there are others working in magic today who similarly seek to update the tradition, all of us driven by an understanding that it does not adequately serve the multi-gendered multicultural people of our time.

I have sympathy for magical revolutionaries who reject the tradition on these grounds and seek to build something completely new, but I often detect elements of the tradition in their work. Magical metaphysics are based on metaphysics – magical culture and popular culture share the same underlying philosophical-theological structure. You have to know what came before to know if you’re building something new.

My path is reform. I study deeply and analyze the tradition. I learn from Lady History, Lady Science, Lady Culture, Lady Theology and Lady Philosophy, each of them providing me with new language and tools. This enables me to propose new structures built for all genders and races, a human-centered magic.

Every book I write, every blog post and article and conference presentation takes a step toward that goal. Making esoteric magic accessible means updating magic to humanist values, helping to make it more welcoming, inclusive, fair, and true.