Secrets of Magic 22: Air renews


The element of air surrounds us continuously. We move around in the atmosphere as fish swim in the ocean. Air carries sound to our ears and scent to our noses. To our normal senses it is usually colorless and odorless. We only notice it when a welcome breeze touches our faces, or when strong winds threaten our homes.

Air brings physical renewal to our bodies and our homes. When we take air into our lungs we bring a fresh supply of oxygen to our bodies. Breathing out, we exhale carbon dioxide. When we air out our houses, we open doors and windows to let the stale air escape and bring fresh air inside.

Air renews on more than the physical level. We can harness the power of air to consciously bring renewal into our lives. When we breathe, we exhale negative energy and inhale positive energy. We sweep old energy out of our houses and invite positive energy inside.

In magic we invoke the energy of air through color and symbol. Air can be yellow (usually) or bright blue (for the sky). We can use a fan or a feather to move the energy of air. We associate air with springtime, the true beginning of the year. Partly this is because spring is when we rejuvenate the air in our houses. Spring and air are also linked through revival—spring brings rebirth, air replenishes our life energy.

We draw on the energy of air to bring the energy of renewal. What needs to be renewed in your life? Imagine your life as a house. Open the doors and windows of your house. What flows out with the freshening wind? What does the wind of beginning blow in?

Affirmation

The power of air brings renewal to my life.

Practice: Inviting renewal

Sit in a chair, or sit cross-legged on the floor. Practice cyclic breathing. As you exhale, visualize and feel negativity flowing out of your body. You might see it as a dark cloud or feel it as a release of tension. This negativity can take many forms—ill health, anger or sadness, or just a sense of unease. Now as you inhale, see and feel bright relaxing energy flowing into your lungs. It circulates throughout your body, bringing health, peace, and well-being. You can do this exercise anywhere, whenever you feel the need to renew your energy.

Open all the doors and windows in your house. Take a broom or a fan and walk around the house. Think about clearing your house of the residue of unhappy experiences and feelings, like energic dust. Now walk around the house again, sweeping or waving positive energy into the house to spread into every corner. You can do this whenever you feel the need to change the energy in your house. It is a good practice to do once a week, in the springtime, or after an illness has passed.

Make an affirmation describing the renewal you want in your life. Write it on yellow or blue paper, such as a colored sticky note, index card, or construction paper. Put it where you can see it every day and read it out loud once a day for a week.

Secrets of Magic: The Elements


Today science recognizes many elements which make up the basic building blocks of matter. Ancient scientists looked at the world as being composed of four elements: air, fire, water, and earth. Both ways of looking at the elements teach us different things about how the world works.

The four ancient elements make up the world and make up our lives. Humans breathe air constantly. Even an interruption of a few seconds in our air supply has dire consequences. Water makes up most of our bodies, and we need to drink a lot of water daily to stay healthy. The earth provides us with the food that sustains our lives. Although today in the developed world we may heat our houses and food with electricity instead of fire, that lively element provided our warmth and cooking energy for almost all human history, and continues to do so for some of the people who live on our planet. Fire also describes the processes our body uses to convert food into heat and energy.

When we walk around outside we experience the elements in a real and immediate way. We see and feel the sky, waterways, and ground that surround us. Fire draws our attention immediately, both because it fascinates us, and because it is often dangerous to us. Recognition of the elements traces our connection with the planet and reminds us that we are all creatures of the Earth.

The elements act on a deeper, spiritual level as well. Magic taps into the fundamental power of the elements, harnessing their essential nature to help us renew, transform and purify ourselves.

For the next four weeks we will explore the secrets of air, fire, water and earth.

Secrets of Magic 21: Honor the stages of life


The year moves around in the cycle of the seasons that starts with spring, moves through summer and fall, ends in winter, and begins with spring again. The seasons teach us about growth, rest, and renewal.

As we move through the cycle of the seasons, we find ourselves on the same place on the wheel, but in a different place in our own lives. For us, the seasonal round is a spiral, taking us a little farther on our own paths with each spin of the wheel.

Wherever we are in our own life spiral, we often want to be somewhere else! As children we longed to be old enough to do things that we couldn’t yet do. In our older years we wish for the resilience and beauty of youth. We hide our age, pushing our young selves to be taller and stronger, or concealing our graying hair. One of the sources of unhappiness in life is dissatisfaction with our age.

One of the secrets of magic is to find the power in our place on the spiral. When we are young, we can enjoy the flexibility of our bodies and minds and our ability to learn new things. In older years we can draw on the experiences we have had. They allow us to avoid our earlier mistakes and teach us about what works to make us happy and healthy in our lives.

In school, at work, and in social groups, we tend to seek out people who are our own age. We relate most easily to those who are experiencing the same life issues that we are facing. When we seek out older and younger people we can bring the energy of the human life cycle into our lives. Relating to children reminds us to keep our minds flexible and explore possibilities. Talking to elders lets us draw on their experiences and prepare ourselves for the time we reach their ages.

When we honor the stages of life, accepting and enjoying our own age, and relating to others of our own age and different ages, we center ourselves in the experience of our own lives.
Affirmation

I honor the stages of life.

Practice: Honoring your age

Think about your current age. What disadvantages do you experience because of your age? What advantages does your current age provide for you?

Think about how your culture views your age. Are people of your age honored for their contributions, or do you experience limitations?

Think about the youngest person you know and the oldest person you know. What do you learn from each of them?

Secrets of Magic 20: Remember your Ancestors

Each of us has a physical mother and a physical father. Even if we do not know them, they have provided us with our physical bodies. Their mothers and fathers in turn gave birth to them, which was necessary for us to come into the world. Biologically, we all have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, thirty-two great-great-great-grandparents, branching ever more broadly as we reach back in time. These multitudes of forebears are our ancestors, all of whom contributed to making our lives possible.

We know that traits that run in families. There are physical characteristics, medical conditions, life expectencies. We look at these people and know we are linked to them. Our relationship goes beyond the physical. Families have cultures, preserve memories, share histories, but our affiliation goes beyond that too. Even if we have been separated from them for much of our lives, when we meet our blood relatives, we experience a connection with them that goes beyond the accident of birth.

In some places in the world families are large, living close to one another geographically, sometimes confined and sometimes supported by the network of relationship. In other places in the world, families have shrunk, narrowing to just our immediate parents and siblings, or one parent, or no parents at all. Many of us form intentional families, seeking kinship with others who are not in our immediate biological kin set. These are real families, providing the human support and connection which we all need to survive.

We may live among or visit people sharing our ethnic heritage. Walking the streets of the country where our grandparents lived, we can see some of the same physical traits in the people around us. It is as if the whole country is made up of our relatives. Those who have been adopted sometimes discover their ethnic heritage through travel.

Meditating on the branching of our ancestral tree, we begin to realize that we have many biological relatives in the world. We share degrees of kinship with all the descendants of our thirty-two great-great-great grandparents. If we go back far enough in time, we all descend from a few ancestors. Some scientists believe that all humans share one ancient ancestral mother. Everyone around us is ultimately related to us. Our intentional families may be biologically distant from us, but none of us are strangers.

Whether we live among hundreds of biological relatives, or have never known any member of our birth family, we have inherited a fundamental part of our life force from our parents and our ancestors. It is the energic framework that animates us, like chicken wire under plaster. When we recognize this and acknowledge it, we touch an important source of our life energy.

Affirmation

I remember my ancestors.

Practice: Thanking the ancestors

Write a journal entry about your family. Think about the physical traits you share. What energy do you sense that you share?

If you have pictures of your biological parents and grandparents, get them out and look at them. If you do not have pictures of them or do not know them, look at pictures with people who share your ethnic heritage, or imagine people who look like you. Think about the generations of people who preceded you. Take a moment to thank them for your physical life and for the energy of the family which created you.

Secrets of Magic 19: Acknowledge kinship


Humans are the dominant animals on the planet, but we are not the only ones. We hold one place in a complex network of interconnection between all the animals on the earth. We know this, but as with many of the magical secrets, we tend to forget this in the bustle of everyday life.

Animals and insects furnish some of our food, either directly by providing us their bodies, or indirectly through their production. We eat fish, meat, and eggs; cheese and butter made from milk; honey made by bees.

Just as with plants, we derive spiritual as well as physical nourishment from our fellow creatures. Humans need animals in our lives. Children delight in learning about different types of animals, seeing them, touching them, and living with them, in zoos, as pets and as farm animals. Elderly and isolated people respond immediately to dogs and cats brought in to visit them. Animals provide us with companionship. In their presence, we feel less alone.

Once we tune into the animals in our environment, we may be amazed to discover their number and variety. It is almost impossible to enumerate the species of birds alone. The grimmest cityscape hosts flocks of crows which exhibit amazingly intelligent individual and group behavior. There may be hundreds of types of birds in even a small park. We can listen to their songs, watch their flights, seek glimpses of their nests.

We can sing the songs and chirpings of the animals in our environment back to them. We can sing them out loud, so they can hear us, or just quietly to ourselves. This seemingly simple practice can have a profound affect on us, as we respond to the natural sounds in our environment, acknowledging that we too live in the place where they live. Reaching out to the animals around us reaffirms our place in the web of life.

Affirmation
I recognize my kinship with the animals of the earth.

Practice: Sing a birdsong
The next time you are outside, notice the insects and animals around you. How many different species do you notice? Can you hear birdsongs? Are there squirrels in the trees? Do insects scurry along the ground? When you hear a birdsong, try to sing it softly to yourself.

Make a list of the items in your refrigerator. What animals are the sources of your food? For example, you might find milk, cheese and hamburger which come from cows, or eggs which come from chickens. The next time you eat one of these things, take a moment to thank the animal for the gift of its life which sustains your life.

What are the real magical secrets?

I titled my blog series “Secrets of Magic” with tongue in cheek.

Carl Weschke famously said there are no more magical secrets, they are all published! This certainly seems to be true when you look at all the material that used to be oath-bound that now sits perfect-bound on my bookshelves. There’s Lady Sheba’s Book of Shadows and the Golden Dawn and Secrets of the O.T.O.

Many in the O.T.O. caution people not to read “Secret Rituals” because it spoils the surprise. My initiations delighted me precisely because I didn’t know what was going to happen. On the other hand I have been reading published Books of Shadows since before I was initiated myself. I’m old enough to remember when being initiated was the only way you could gain access to any spells or rituals, which gave the initiators tremendous power which they sometimes used to exploit eager students. (Elders and teachers taking advantage of their students is not a new phenomenon.)

In his excellent book The Witch’s Book of Shadows (you have to have it!) Jason Mankey addresses the idea in “Are there any secrets left?” He points to volumes of material created by people contributing to their traditions. Many of these secrets are unpublished “and more are being created all the time”. My initiators in the O.T.O. have compared King’s rituals with our current and note that these versions are no longer used, and we have created new rituals.

So yes, the secrets have been published. And yes, new secrets are being created all the time. The real secret of magic is that there is no single word or idea or initiation that will grant you the powers of the universe. You have to create the magic that works for you.

Secrets of Magic 18: Think green


We learn in grade school that plants exhale oxygen and breathe in carbon dioxide, while humans breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, in a symbiotic relationship. We exchange more than air with plants. They form the bulk of our diet, including grains such as wheat and rice, legumes like lentils and beans, and vegetables. Herbs provide spices and medicines. Just as importantly, the presence of green growing things provides us with vital energy that feeds our spirits.

Gardening is the best way to rediscover how we are embedded in the earth and to synchronize ourselves with the seasons. When we turn the soil to add compost, or even fill a pot with soil, we enact the ancient relationship of human with land. Helping a seedling grow to a mighty plant, enjoying its flowers and picking its fruits, connects us with the forces of birth and beginnings, growth and strength, completion and reproduction, withdrawal and death, and rebirth.

Even when we can’t garden, we can notice the trees in our environment. There’s a reason people hug trees—they channel energy directly from the planet, giving us a direct access to the earth’s energy, and they wick off our excess energy and negative energy to direct it harmlessly into the ground.

Introducing plants into our homes brings their energy into our immediate environment. Plants in containers on windowsills and cut flowers or greens in vases work equally well. It’s important to change the plants out when they wither, as they then spread the energy of decay. We can keep the energy fresh by replacing spent flowers with new ones and removing dead leaves from container plants.

Paying mindful attention to our relationship with plants helps us to gain the greatest benefit from the gifts they give us, both the physical gifts, and the spiritual ones.

Affirmation
I exchange energy with the plants in my environment.

Practice: Create the stages
The next time you are outside near a tree, place a hand on its trunk. What do you notice about your energy and the energy of the tree? Imagine energy coming from the tree into your body. Now imagine energy flowing from your body into the tree.

Eat a salad or a handful of fresh vegetables. As you eat, pay attention to the colors and the flavors of the vegetables. Imagine the energy of the vegetables flowing into your body. Give brief thanks to the plants for sustaining your life.

Secrets of Magic 17: Flow with the Seasons

The environment around us changes with the seasons. Whether we live at the seashore, mountains, or desert, near the poles or at the equators, the phases of the year affect all the plants and animals in our ecosystem. That includes us!

The cycle of the seasons makes an annual pattern of renewal. Each year has a beginning, a growth, a harvest, and a time of rest before beginning again.

Spring brings new energy into the world. In the desert springtime may be a brief flowering, in the plains and mountains spring can come late in the year with the snowmelt, and at the seashore it may be marked by a letup in the winter storms. Plants poke out of the earth and unfurl. Geese and ducks head for their summer homes. Many animals give birth to their young in this season.

Summer is a time of growth and strength. In the plains and valleys, the breadbaskets of the world, plants shoot up, young animals learn to eat and to hunt. In the mountains, hibernating animals scurry to build up fat and food supplies for the long winter. The summer sun bakes the desert, while the seashore breezes provide welcome relief from the heat.

In autumn the decreasing sun and increasing cold trigger changes in all living things. Fruiting plants provide their harvest and begin to go dormant or die. Hibernating animals prepare their nests. The last few clear and sunny days provide a final burst of warm energy before the change of the season.

Winter is the time to rest. In the deserts, plains and mountains, animals and plants retreat before the snow and cold, while at the seashore the winter winds and rains drench everything. The energy of the earth contracts. Even in this season, plants extend roots, and animals grow, building a foundation for the activity of the year to come.

The affect of the seasons on us isn’t as obvious as it is on the other creatures of the world. Nonetheless we too respond to the changes in sunlight and weather. We can become conscious of this and synchronize with the season to tap into its power.

Spring energy revives us, helping us to heal and grow. We stretch ourselves with the new unfurling leaves. Humans feel the surge of the mating dance too! When we open our windows to the warming air, freshening houses that have been closed all winter, we let in the energy of the new year.

In summer we migrate outdoors, drawn to exercise the strength in our bodies. We enjoy the beauty of the plants around us, the flash of birds and butterflies, the long warm days. Summer is a time to build up our strength and enjoy the happiness of life.

In autumn we treasure each sunny warm day while noting the new chill in the air. We pay more attention to our houses, decorating them at the late fall and early winter holidays. This is the season to take stock of our health and prepare ourselves for the hardest season of the year.

Wintertime finds us largely indoors. We sleep longer, eat more, and struggle to stay cheerful. This is the storytelling season, time to rest, plan, and dream.

When we notice the changes that happen to our bodies and spirits in the seasons, we synchronize ourselves with the yearly round, harnessing the energy of the world like a boat sailing on the outgoing tide.

Affirmation

I tune my life to flow with the seasons.

Practice: Create the stages
Go outside every day for a week. Practice being present. Notice the signs of the seasons around you. Are the trees filled with spring blossoms? Is the summer sun high in the sky? Are autumn leaves turning color? Does winter snow blanket the ground?

Take a deep breath. Imagine the energy of the season filling your body. Now exhale, letting go of your tension and worry. Breathe in again, letting the air refresh you.

Secrets of Magic 16: Touch the earth

Humans are spiritual beings, but we are also physical creatures, with bodies, living in a physical world. When we remember to honor our bodies, our families, and our connections to the Earth, we tap into some of the deepest magical secrets.
Human life is embedded in the web of life that sustains the earth. Each of us depends on the plants, animals, and people around us to keep us alive. We tend to forget this while we are caught up in the busy detail of our lives. Our homes and workplaces, stores and entertainment complexes protect us from direct contact with the outside world. The turn of a tap brings water into the house. When we’re cold we crank the thermostat up a notch. After sundown the lights in our buildings let us go on working and playing around the clock. Only a major event, such as a storm that knocks down power lines, breaks through our very effective insulation.

Human genius has made it possible for us to keep ourselves warm and dry in the most severe conditions. We travel great distances easily. Our medicine restores our health and extends our lives. These are great benefits of our ingenuity and skill. However effective we are at taking care of ourselves and each other, though, we are still living creatures dependent on the world.

We are profoundly affected by the weather, the seasons, and the conditions in our environment. The amount and quality of sunlight we get every day influences our mood and our physical health. When the weather turns cold our metabolisms slow down, causing us to sleep more, and add body fat. Wind, smog, and mist affect air quality, which in turn affects our ability to breathe and to see.

Recognizing that we live in a living world can profoundly change our lives. When we trace the connections between ourselves and the sources of our food, water, and shelter, we recognize our debt to the living things that help us to live. When we trace the connections between our homes and the systems that sustain them, we learn about the shape of place we inhabit, and how we in turn affect the land.

Our knowledge of the physical sources of life helps us tune into the energic sources of our life. The natural world provides tremendous energy that we can tap to heal our bodies and renew our spirits. The more we learn about the world, the more we learn about ourselves, and about the sources of magic.

Affirmation
I am a living being in a living world.

Practice: Create the stages
Go outside every day for a week. If you can, get to a park where you can walk around, even for a few moments. If you are not physically able or free to move around, have yourself moved outside for a few minutes in the day.

Practice being present. Notice the sky: are there clouds? What is its color? If you can see the sun, where is it in relationship to the landmarks around you? Take a deep breath. Notice the energy that floods into your body.

Lean down to put your hand on the ground. If you can, take off your shoes and walk on the ground barefoot. What do you experience when your bare skin touches the earth?

Make a note of your observations and experiences in your journal. If you have been keeping a daily journal recording the weather and your mood, read through the journal. Is there a correlation between what is happening outside and what you have been feeling?

Secrets of Magic 15: Make space

However small or big the changes magic makes in our lives, any change requires some scope to manifest. We can help the magic manifest the change we want by making space for it.

Here is a simple example. Suppose we decide we want a new stereo system. Where will we put it once we get it? We decide where in the house it will go. Then we move everything else out of that space. The empty wall is a vacuum that calls the new stereo into that space.

Magic brings new things into our lives. When we stretch our magical muscles, we find ourselves exploring new ideas, traveling to different places, making new friends.

These new things may fit easily into our lives. We may also find that our lives are too crowded to let in new energy. The process of exploring our dreams may spotlight the ways in which we have let our lives drift away from what we really want. Some decisions may seem less wise in retrospect, or we may find ourselves chafing at restrictions we had previously accepted.

It is very normal to re-evaluate our lives when the energy of possibility begins to make changes for us. We might re-affirm the decisions we have made with a new enthusiasm, directing our magic to energize what we already have in our lives. We might also decide to move in a new direction. We might end a relationship, move to a new town, change careers, go back to school, devote ourselves to art or music. Each of these changes makes space in our lives to manifest the results we have dreamed.

Affirmation

I make space for magic to manifest in my life.

Practice: Create the stages

Make physical space in the place that you live. Clear off one shelf, or clear out one drawer, or a section of a closet. Live with the space for a time. What new thing will that space bring into your life?

Reread your answer to the question in the Dream Big practice section. Is there space in your life for that dream to manifest? If not, what can you do to clear the way for that dream?

If you want to learn to paint, you might find a corner for your supplies, and set up a table in that corner. To encourage yourself to learn an instrument, set up a music stand, and fill it with the music you want to play.

The space you need to clear may not be physical. You may need to clear time as well. For example, suppose your big dream is to make a certain salary each year. You have researched positions that draw that salary and decided one of these seems very interesting. A vocational school can teach you that profession at an affordable price. However, you volunteer three nights per week, so that you do not have time to attend school. The volunteer position may provide you with friends and emotional support that are more important to you than increasing your salary. Or you may be able to limit your volunteer activities to one weekend day per month, redirecting your time to learning your new profession.

You can jot a note about the space you clear in your journal. Later, it will be interesting to re-read that note and discover what changes have happened in your life because of that simple practice.