Unlocking the Road: Found Objects and Backstory Magic

Unlocking the Road: Found Objects and Backstory Magic March 8, 2021

He went back to where he had seen the key in the tarmac. In moments between cars he took a knife to it and prized it from the road. Straightening up with it he swayed, orthostatic. He ate quickly in a basement restaurant and examined the tarry key. A junk-bit grubby with metaphor. Thinking in that register helped him take unexpected advantage of the place. On the way to the toilets, in an alcove in the wall, there was a lightbulb resting in a frying pan. It was so unrestrained a visual pun, so utterly ovate, he gasped. He had to take it, in a moment of simultaneously meaningless and powerful theft.

When he had arrived at the next address he had for a broker of contacts, a bar in Hammersmith, the first thing he said to the young man was, “I can pay you. Put this in the right hands, this’ll unlock the road.” He held out the key. He held up the bulb. “And I don’t know what’s incubating in this, but someone might hatch it.” – China Miéville, Kraken

Kraken is one of my favorite novels. I reread it at least once a year, and, in fact, I was thinking about the passage above just this afternoon, when the mechanic at the automotive center placed a tiny screw on the counter and said, “This is the little bugger that did it.”

The tip of the screw had been flattened into a wickedly sharp point, allowing it to puncture my back tire. “I’ll throw it away for you,” he offered, but I snatched it off the counter before he could grab it. “No, thanks,” I said, smiling politely as I slipped it into my pocket. “I’ll take care of it.”

The little bugger in question.

Once I got home, I started meditating on what I could do with the screw. It would be an excellent addition to a witch bottle, perforating any unfriendly woo someone might decide to throw in my direction. But it would also be effective in a spell to defend myself against, say, a rival at work, slowing them up and deflating an unruly ego as easily as it did a tire.

Or what if a friend wanted to cast a spell on a straying lover? The screw could be added to a charm bag to prevent their partner from wandering. Or, what if I needed to perform a binding on myself? The screw could be the axis of a spell designed to hold me in place.

I think a lot about the circumstances of the items I use in my magic. The red brick I ground into protective dust came from the dorm of the Catholic university I attended, so not only was it part of a consecrated place, it was part of a building that sheltered me and kept me safe. Jason recently surprised me with a couple of He-Man action figures (Evil-Lyn and Teela), both of whom now reside on a bookshelf, acting as representatives of Eris and Potnia, respectively. But I hung onto the box they arrived in, because it was the same one Thorn used to send Jason a plush Sasquatch. I’ll eventually use it myself to ship something or other to another Gardnerian, but in the meantime, I’m cutting some cardboard off of it, which will be shredded and added to a Sabbat incense to reinforce my connection to my Tradition.

Hail Eris! Hail Potnia! Hail Grayskull!

The name-paper in the back of my freezer is stored in a petite piece of Tupperware that my late friend Eddy once left at my apartment. Since he was the one who taught me how to curse, the container strengthens any curse held within it. (Eddy would approve. Trust.)  The gold glitter in my homemade Inflammatory Confusion powder was purchased for me by my boyfriend, who — when he caught me sneaking it into our basket at the arts and craft store — announced, “If you open that in the house, I will leave you immediately.” His baleful ultimatum is the secret ingredient in the recipe.

The Insect card from the Arcane Bullshit Oracle that I keep on my altar as a symbol of St. Gulik was tucked into a package of dice and lapel pins I’d ordered from Suspended Annihilation. There are 105 cards in the Arcane Bullshit deck, so I’m sure its inclusion as a gift-with-purchase was arbitrary. But it came from a Discordian organization, which makes it extremely potent as an icon of my favorite Discordian saint.

When people talk about diverse approaches in Chaos Magic, I feel like they’re typically referring to practices: like, changing up the way a ritual is normally worked, or invoking deities outside of one’s comfortable paradigm. And those are great things with which to experiment! But I also believe that we can approach the physical components of witchcraft with diversity as well, and use the history of any given object to our magical advantage.

Don’t just think outside the box, pumpkins: Repurpose the box itself. There’s magic incubating everywhere, and in seemingly mundane places. All we have to do is hatch it.

About Thumper
Thumper Marjorie Forge is a Gardnerian High Priest, an initiate of the Minoan Brotherhood, a devout Discordian, a recovering alcoholic, and a notary public. You can read more about the author here.

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2 responses to “Unlocking the Road: Found Objects and Backstory Magic”

  1. This is great. I’m always saving little bits that i feel would make excellent components for various things- I’ve recently started collecting all my coloured yarn offcuts in a jar. I save every old or discarded key that have been retired and not in practical use anymore. I’ve always been of the mind that anything can be used for anything, and there’s power even in the smallest, or oddest bits and bobs.

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