In a recent post, Jason Mankey asked the question: can there be a Paganism without the Occult? His argument–one with which I agree–is that the occult plays a significant role in Paganism and taking the occult out of Paganism takes an essential part of it away. When I think of the occult, I think of magic, and Jason seems to do the same in his article. There are some movements under the Pagan umbrella that question whether magic is relevant to Paganism, or to their specific traditions, and for those people magic isn’t an essential part of their spiritual practice. But, I’m going to tell you why magic is relevant to me, what it is good for, and why it isn’t an optional part of my spiritual path.
When I was 16, I was a born again Christian. I felt dissatisfied with that spiritual belief, not the least because I was told I shouldn’t be reading fantasy books or anything else deemed to be impure. I also didn’t like the expectation that the Bible was somehow going to answer all my questions when it was clear to me that it didn’t answer even most of them. So, when I learned magic really did exist and that people really did practice it, I wanted to learn. I’d yearned to have magic in my life since I first picked up a book and read about it, and finally, I’d learned it wasn’t just a fantasy. I devoured the books people gave me, practiced the exercises in those books until I knew them inside out, and experimented with everything driven by a desire to see what I could do. Finally, instead of relying upon some higher power, I was taking control of my life, asking the questions I wanted to ask, discovering the answers for myself instead of relying upon some authority to dole it out. That’s what magic meant to me at 16 and to some degree even now that’s what magic represents to me.
At 38, what magic means is a bit different than when I was 16, and I’m certain it will continue to be different as I age. That’s good because if my relationship with magic didn’t change, it would be a stagnant expression of my life. When I was 16, it was all about testing myself, learning what I could do with magic, and how it could empower me. At 38, it’s about doing internal work, getting my issues sorted out, and simultaneously it’s about contributing to my chosen communities. And, yes, magic is still about experimentation and questioning everything.
Magic is relevant to me because it has changed my life. I have applied it to problems in my life and created solutions. I have utilized it to manifest possibilities into reality. I have used it to enhance my capabilities, to connect me with people and spirits, and to have experiences that have allowed me to plumb the depths and reach the heights of existence. With magic, I have discovered my identity, explored practices of other cultures, developed my own systems of spiritual practice, and challenged my assumptions.
For me, magic isn’t the tools, or even the specific actions a person can do. Magic is lived. The rituals and practices I do are expressions of a spiritual relationship that permeates my everyday life, and indeed, I find magic in every moment, because it is there, just waiting to be discovered and realized. What stops people from realizing that is sometimes we get too caught up in the trappings to recognize it’s there.
Magic isn’t an optional part of my spiritual path, it’s central to it. It’s what I use to connect to the various spiritual powers I work with; what I use to connect with the world at large. To strip magic away from my practice, would be to take everything that makes my spiritual practice what it is. Magic is what connects me to spirit, and I’m not interested in trying to explain that relationship away via psychology or science…if anything, I find such explanations just take the life out of what I’m doing. What’s important is that magic is more to me than that; it is what I use to facilitate the relationship I have with everything else in my life.
What is magic good for?
I’ve told you what magic means to me and why it’s essential to living my life. I’ve even shared what magic has been good for in my life, but I leave this article with this question of what magic is good for, because I think it is an important question to ask. You know why magic is good for me, but for those of you who feel magic is an essential part of your life…what is it good for? I look forward to reading your comments below.