Secrets of Magic 27: The sun gives life


We owe our lives to the sun. This is one point on which ancient and modern observers, astronomers and astrologers, scientists and occultists all agree. Without the sun the earth would be a lifeless ball of rock. The sun provides all the heat and light in the solar system, and is the source of energy for all the living things of the Earth.

Many of us recognize spirit as the source of life, our own, and the life of the universe. In the Western world we tend to think of spirit as invisible, ghostly, an indefectible presence completely separate from the world. We speak of spirit and matter as being polar opposites. However people in other times and in other parts of the world have recognized the sun as a tangible manifestation of spirit. The sun’s light is visible to all of us every day, the sun’s heat is sensible to all of us every day, always there unconditionally, equally available to everyone and everything.

Many of the world’s creatures instinctively turn to the sun. Baboons sing at sunrise, flowers track the daily progress of the sun in the sky. Humans too love to play in the sun, gravitating to the sunniest places on earth and coming outside in warm weather.

Magic teaches us to tap into the source of spirit through the light of the sun. When we align ourselves with the sun we acknowledge the source of our physical lives. We can turn to the sun with profound gratitude for the forces which allow us to exist.

It may seem strange to us at first to think about expressing thanks to the sun for our lives. After all, the sun would continue to shine whether we thought about it or not. It may be that our gratitude does not matter to the sun, but it matters to us. When we acknowledge the force that sustains our physical existence, we acknowledge the universal power, whether we think of that power as a being, or a process, or a system. Greeting the sun aligns us with every other living thing and reminds us that we are part of the universe and owe our lives to the forces around us.

Affirmation I greet the sun.

Practice: Align with the sun

Look up the time of sunrise in the newspaper. Get up early enough to catch the sun’s first rays. If you can, go to a place where you can see the horizon. If it is raining, do the practice at the time of sunrise. As the sun rises, say a few words of greeting. You can say, “I recognize you, sun. Thank you for my life,” or whatever words seem appropriate to you.

At sunset, take a few moments to stop and enjoy the play of color in the sky. As the sun dips below the horizon, say a few words of farewell. “Farewell until morning, sun.”

As you continue this practice over the days, weeks, and months, you will notice the sun moving in the sky in an arc from south to north and back again. In the winter you can sleep in before the morning greeting, while in summer the alarm goes off too early! You will also notice the sun is higher in the sky in the warm months than in the wintertime. Greeting the sun brings us outside again, putting us in touch with the fundamental forces that allow us to live.

Secrets of Magic: The Planets


Most of us learned in school that there are nine planets, all revolving around the sun. Tiny Mercury is closest to the sun, followed by Venus, then our own planet Earth. The red planet, Mars, is next, about a third of the size of the Earth, and the first planet which has moons like our own. Next come the big planets, the gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Finally there is the little dark planet Pluto at the edge of our solar system.

Today we explore the solar system with remote sensing vehicles as well as our eyes and telescopes. Exploration vehicles bearing cameras and a wide array of sensing devices fly by Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune, heading for the outer planets, sending their readings and photographs back to Earth. Astronomers comb pictures of the night sky seeking the faint movements that might lead to the discovery of additional objects even farther out from the sun.

The ancients viewed the planets differently. We say now that they believed the planets revolved around the Earth. It is perhaps more accurate and certainly kinder to say that they observed that the sky appears to revolve around our planet. We know, intellectually, that this is because the Earth is spinning. However ancient science still describes our observable experience. To our eyes the moon does rise over the Earth’s edge, the sun sets into the night sky.

Through the centuries the definitions of planet and the number of objects counted as planets has changed. Today we classify the sun as a star, the moon as a satellite of a planet, and Earth as a planet. Now we recognize three classes of planets—rocky planets close to the sun, gas giants farther away, and dwarf planets at the edge of the solar system. The discussion about whether Pluto is a planet seems destined to continue for years to come.

The unaided eyes of the ancients detected the inner rocky planets and some of the outer gas giants. They saw Mercury, Venus, and Mars, which seemed as red to them as it does to us. They saw bright Jupiter, and even faint Saturn. For them, the term planet also included the sun and the moon, all classes of objects that spin in the sky.

To ancient cultures the planets embodied deities who affected their lives. Modern science has rejected that religious viewpoint. We no longer think of the planets as literal deities, as we have learned to measure their movements, and have taken increasingly more detailed photographs of their surfaces.

However the planets served more than just a religious purpose. The ancient philosophers also used the planets as a classification system. Each planet acts as the focus to study and understand one of the forces that make up the universe and the way we build our lives. These ancient observations have become some of the secrets of magic.

Secrets of Magic 26: Balance the elements

Air, fire, water and earth together make up a whole system. Air surrounds the globe of the earth. Water runs on the face of the earth, burrows deep beneath the surface, circulates from sky to ground and back again, and sits at each of the poles in the form of ice. Fire flares unpredictably across the surface of the earth, and makes up the molten center of the world, emerging at times to erupt up into the atmosphere.

The power of earth, fire, air, and water combine to make up our physical being as well. Most of our body is water, although when we remove the water, an irreducible salt remains. We circulate air constantly. Just as the earth has a fiery core, heat sustains us at the center of our bodies.

The elemental powers affect us on a spiritual as well as a physical level. These too work best when they come together as a system. Many of us have an affinity with one or two elements and find the other elements less attractive. However, each element has its negative side when it is emphasized over the others.

Air: we express the power of air when we approach the world with a childlike spontaneity and playfulness. Air also describes the power of our minds, which can soar in flights of imagination. However, when we develop intellect without grounding in the physical world, we can become detached from the sources of our life.

Fire: We describe our passions as fiery. We touch the spirit of fire when we are filled with enthusiasm or energy. At times though our passions escape our control, consuming us with rage or obsession.

Water: helps us to touch down into our emotional selves. Our tears wash away our sorrow and express intense joy. When there is too much water in our lives we risk being swept away in the flow of excessive emotion.

Earth: grounds us by wicking off excess energy or emotion. Earth focuses us on physical reality and on being dependable. Too much earth though can leave us rigid and brittle.

When we turn our conscious attention to the action of the elements in our lives, we can act to bring them into balance. We develop our intellects, fuel our passions, let our emotions flow freely, and remain grounded in the physical reality of our lives.

Affirmation I balance the elements in myself.

Practice: Exploring the elements
Think about the four elements. Which of them seems most comfortable to you? Which is least attractive? Collect all four of the colored affirmations you have made for the four elements. Which worked well? Which would you like to rewrite and try again?

If you have many journal entries, you can re-read them to look for the actions of the elements. Count the number of entries which seem intellectual or airy, passionate or fiery, emotional or watery, grounded or earthy. If you have used the list of questions in the practice, there is one question relating to thinking, one to passion, one to feeling, and one to the state of your body. Which of the elements do you write about most often, and which least often?

Make an effort to connect with the elements that seem less attractive. If you are too grounded, try doing something spontaneous. To ignite fire in yourself, think about the last time you were really excited, and let that suggest a practice for you. If you discover you are ignoring water, try writing a sentence about what you feel emotionally each day for a week. To ground yourself, pay attention to your body, for example by doing gentle physical stretches each day for a week. With each practice, make a record in your journal.

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.