Secrets of Magic 25: Earth supports


The elements of air, fire, and water all share the quality of movement. When we think of earth, we think of it as the place where we walk, and the foundation of our houses. The ideas foundation and ground express the quality of stability. Earthquakes frighten us partly because we expect the earth to remain still and calm beneath our feet.

Also unlike water, air and fire, earth is a planet as well as an element. As an element, the good dark loam provides nutrients for all growing plants, which in turn feed all the animals in the world, including humans.

As earth supports our houses and provides us with a surface to walk on, we can invoke the power of earth to bring stability into our lives. We say solid as a rock to describe permanence, safety, and shelter.

The color green expresses the power of earth both as an element and a planet. We can use any green growing thing to bring earth energy into our lives. Rocks also make strong earth tools. Earth is associated with winter, the season of rest, darkness, and cold.

What support do you need in your life? Do you need an increase in money or health, or do you just need more time to rest? What can the power of stability bring into your life?

Affirmation

The power of earth sustains me.

Practice: Inviting support
As you take your next walk, look at the ground. If you can, pick up a handful of dirt. What does it look like? Is the earth near your home dark or light, sandy or clay? Put your hand on the ground. Let the tension in your body flow out into the earth.

Make an affirmation describing the support you wish to bring into your life. Write it on a green sticky note, index card, or construction paper, or write it on white paper with a green pen. Put this where you can see it, and read the affirmation out loud every day for a week.

Secrets of Magic 24: Water purifies


Like air, we interact with water every day of our lives. Where fire in the wild inspires awe and fear, water sometimes annoys and often delights us. Rain, which is water from the sky, washes our cars and houses, roads, trees and plants, making everything sparkle.

We depend on water and take it for granted. Turning the tap brings us a flow of clear, safe water for cleaning, cooking, and drinking. Many places in the world do not have this simple but absolutely vital service. We wash our hands many times each day, limiting the spread of germs, and we drink liquids many times each day, keeping ourselves hydrated. For both these reasons clean water is an essential requirement to maintain our health.

Just as water cleanses our houses and our bodies physically, we can harness the power of water to purify our houses and ourselves on the spiritual level. Just a few drops of water sprinkled on us or around us acts to wash away negativity.

We draw on the power of water by using the color blue, and any kind of container for liquids, including cups and bowls. Water is associated with autumn, cooling the heat of summer as the days grow shorter and the living creatures of the earth prepare for winter.

What do you need to wash away from your life? What do you wish to flow around you? Do you need to become clean again after a misfortune, or cleanse your own negativity? What purification can water bring into your life?

Affirmation

The power of water purifies me and my surroundings.

Practice: Inviting purification

Spend some time beside a body of water. This can be still water, like a pond or lake, or running water, such as a stream, river, or bay. You might have the chance to visit the ocean. Listen to the sound the water makes. You can breathe out your tension, putting it into the water to be washed away.

You can purify your house with water. Take a cup or bowl. Any container will do, although a blue cup is especially nice. Fill it with the purest water you can find—from the tap, spring water from the store, rain water that you collect. You can also walk through your house, sprinkling a few drops in each room. Write the record of your purification in your journal.

Create an affirmation describing the purification you want to accomplish. Write it on a blue piece of paper. Read it out loud to yourself every day for a week.

Secrets of Magic 23: Fire transforms

Air revives us gently. Fire changes too, in a much more dramatic and permanent way. Where air renews, literally making new again, fire transforms, burning away the old to make space for the new.

While we experience air every day, when we look at the sky or feel the wind on our faces, we may not see an open flame at all in the day. When we do see fire in the wild it can be a frightening experience. Fire destroys our houses, burns grasslands, torches forests. We recognize fire as a powerful and dangerous force. For the same reason fire fascinates us. We instinctively group in circles around campfires, enjoying the warmth and beauty of the contained flames, while taking care that the fire does not escape our grasp and become destructive instead of inspiring.

As an agent of transformation, fire helps us to release what we need to let go from our lives.

In magic we draw on fire’s energy with the use of bright colors—red especially, but also yellow or gold—and by lighting candles, especially red ones. Fire connects with summertime, the warmest season of the year, which sometimes brings welcome warming, and sometimes unbearable heat.

What do you need to sever from your life? Do you need to release old habits, escape a limiting relationship, end an illness or a stressful situation? Do you need to change the way you look or the way you think? What transformation can fire bring for you?

Affirmation

The power of fire brings transformation to my life.

Practice: Inviting Transformation

Whenever you work with fire, it is important to take steps to contain it. Use a fireproof surface, such as a ceramic tile, beneath candles and containers holding burning objects, like incense coals. Make sure to have a fire extinguisher and a water source nearby.

Study an open fire. You might light a fire on a beach or at a campsite, or visit a home, hotel, or restaurant that features a fireplace. Let the fire warm your hands. Watch the flames. Meditate on the transformation you wish to affect. If it is safe to do so, you can write a description of the thing you want to release and burn it in the flames.

Make an affirmation describing the transformation you want in your life. Write it on red or orange paper. Read it out loud every day for a week.

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.