Last week’s post Occult No More – The Battle Lines Are Drawn was one of those times when I didn’t do a very good job of communicating.
The post was generally well-received, with a few notable exceptions like this long comment that basically says “don’t tell me it’s dangerous, tell me what I can do about it.” But the comments (here and on Facebook) were almost entirely about the this-world aspects of political magic.
Almost everyone missed how I tried to set the “Trump hexers” and “Christian prayer warriors” in the context of a wider metaphysical conflict.
If one or two people miss the point, that’s on them. If most people miss the point, that’s on me.
So let’s try again.
This is both mundane and Otherworldly
“The Storm” and “Tower Time” – Simple Names For A Complicated Situation describes what I’m talking about. These are the symptoms.
When we talk about “The Storm” or “Tower Time” or “The Long Descent” we’re referring to a series of events and phenomena that are difficult and unpleasant, but mainly that don’t fit our ideas about the world and the way it’s supposed to work. And not just one or two strange and unusual occurrences, but one after another after another.
Some of these things are clearly caused by humans. Some we’ve seen before, in history if not in our own lives. Others are novel and of indeterminate origin. Individually, any one of them can be rationalized away. Taken together, they point toward something bigger.
What is that “something bigger”? I don’t know. In 2017 I wrote A Speculative Look at the Cycles of Magic and the Otherworld where I openly wondered about astrological cycles, changes in the Otherworld, and magical feedback loops. All this is in addition to the ordinary this-world issues like patriarchy, climate change, and the decline of the American empire.
Of the two, I am far more interested in the magical / Otherworldly causes and their effects.
I’m not saying the this-world issues aren’t important – they definitely are. But plenty of people are tracking them and writing about them. Not so many people are talking about the magical side of things.
This is not an apocalypse
Every time I write about these things someone complains I sound like some preacher ranting about the end of the world. That’s simply not the case.
What we’re seeing isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t the end of humanity. Climate change is going to make the world a less-friendly place for us, but we’re a very resilient species.
I’m seeing more and more occurrences of Otherworldly persons finding their way into the ordinary world, but I do not expect to see some Lovecraftian horror take over the Earth.
What we are experiencing is not and will not be sudden – at least not on our time scales. It will be slow and gradual. If we are not mindful, we will one day discover that our nice warm bathwater has become a boiling pot.
But nothing lasts forever
It is not “alarmist” or “defeatist” to point out that perpetual growth is not possible. It is not misanthropy to point out that the explosion in human population has been a very bad thing for other species, and thus declining birth rates are a good thing.
Nothing lasts forever. Empires rise and empires fall. The American empire is in decline and no amount of MAGA can change that. Nor can the kind of progressivism I prefer – that will just make the landing softer.
In Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Elrond says “The time of the Elves is over.” Lord of the Rings is fiction, but it is mythical fiction that teaches timeless truths. One of those truths is that the time of Men had a beginning, and it will have an end. Not necessarily the physical end of our species, but the end of our domination of the world.
Is the increased presence of the Fair Folk and other Otherworldly beings a sign that the time of humans is drawing to a close? It’s far too early to say. But to order our lives as though there’s nothing non-human that can impact us both individually and collectively is both arrogant and dangerous.
Tower Time: the environment in which we work
In the Celtic Cross Tarot spread I use, the eighth card (second from the bottom on the staff) speaks to “the environment in which we work.” Whatever the heart of the matter, whatever our goals, whatever is passing or coming, this card represents the situation and circumstances that surround us. We don’t have to like it and we don’t have to agree with it. But we have to deal with it.
This is one of the reasons some call this Tower Time – The Tower is firmly installed in the eighth position in the reading of our lives.
Irreversible change on a cosmic scale. The crumbling of power structures, and the extreme efforts by those with power to cling to it. A growing interest in magic and witchcraft, with resulting magical effects and side effects. Increased encounters with Otherworldly persons.
This is the environment in which we work.
Now, what are we going to do about it?
Pay attention and dismiss nothing
When it comes to Otherworldly matters, many of us like to talk about “Second Sight.” But in The Wee Free Men author Terry Pratchett discussed the importance of First Sight:
First Sight is when you can see what’s really there, not what you heid tells you ought to be there. Ye saw Jenny, Ye saw the horseman, Ye saw them as real thingies.
I was born with very little Second Sight. But because I’ve developed a strong First Sight, I’ve been able to nurture the Second Sight.
Also remember this quote from Upton Sinclair:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
Or when understanding it would require him to reconsider his most basic ideas about how the world works.
I don’t care how rich you are – or how poor. You can’t afford to dismiss things just because you don’t like them, or because you’ve always been told they can’t exist.
Get your mundane life in order
I know, that’s easier said than done. Employment insecurity, lack of health care, student loan debt, and a system designed to transfer wealth from the middle class to the very wealthy make it difficult for all and near-impossible for some. I started in a different era – what’s worked for me is unlikely to work for you… or at least, it’s unlikely to work for many of you.
It’s hard to be spiritual when your roof is leaking. Ergo, doing what you have to do to insure you keep a dry roof is one of those things that simply must be done.
Build alliances – in this world and in the Otherworld
Things are difficult now. They will be more difficult in the future. Trying to get through them on your own is incredibly risky.
Telling people “build community” is heresy in the Pagan movement. So many of us are solitary practitioners, either because of geographic isolation or because of personal preference. It’s worse when new reports of dysfunctional organizations or abusive leaders come to light – we want to become the witch living alone in a cottage deep in the forest.
But remember the other side of that myth: the witch dragged off to a sham trial because she was alone and unable to fight off her attackers by herself.
You need other people and other people need you. Find them. Nurture relationships with them. Forgive their foibles and failings, but be brutally swift to cut out those who are manipulative and abusive.
You need allies in the Otherworld too. Your ancestors are your most accessible spiritual allies. Form devotional relationships with the deities who call you. If no one calls you, pick someone. Do the right things for the right reasons and you’ll get Their attention sooner or later. Tradition warns against making deals with the Fair Folk, but these are not ordinary times.
The Storm will be intense and it will last for years – perhaps more years than anyone reading this has left in this world. Don’t try to ride it out by yourself.
Do political magic, if you like
I’ve done political magic and continue to do it, but it isn’t my specialty. If you want a How To Hex Trump guide, I suggest Magic for the Resistance by Michael M. Hughes or Witchcraft Activism by David Salisbury.
Full disclosure – I have read neither of these books. I recommend them based on reports from people I trust, and from my knowledge of the authors.
If you want a concise spellbook, read The New Aradia: A Witch’s Handbook to Magical Resistance edited by Laura Tempest Zakroff. I have read this one and I highly recommend it.
Mainly, do the type of magic you do best. Do specific workings directed at specific targets – vague spells are ineffective spells. The more specific and the more localized you can make your workings, the better your chances of succeeding.
But mainly, do magic
Choose whichever type / style / tradition appeals to you: sigil magic, kitchen witchery, traditional witchcraft, grimoire magic, etc. Read books. Talk to experienced practitioners. Mainly, practice – work spells on a regular basis.
It’s become fashionable in certain circles to say “the deeper my spiritual practice becomes the less magic I need to work.” I may have said that myself (pretty sure I did, but I can’t remember when or where). In a more stable environment, perhaps that would be acceptable, or even a worthy goal.
My one regret from all my years of schooling is that I took Spanish in the 10th grade, made As in it, and then never took it again. I didn’t think I was going to need it. Spanish would be very helpful in today’s world, especially here in Texas.
Just as Spanish has become more common in the United States, so has magic become more common in the mundane world. Not in a happy cheery this-is-all-great sense, but in the sense that more people are working more magic (often for reasons we would find unethical) and more Otherworldly persons are making their way into this world. If we are to survive and succeed, we need to be magically literate and especially magically operative.
Lots of people have Otherworldly experiences. We mostly keep them to ourselves, because we know our mainstream society will ridicule us if we talk about things they’ve always been told can’t exist. But when given a safe space to discuss them, even non-magical Christians and atheists will admit to experiencing things that defy “rational” explanations.
Now more than ever, it’s important that we share our experiences. What did you see, what did you hear, what did you feel? Where were you, who was with you? What do you think it means? What else might it mean?
Keeping silence is an important part of magic – talking about your spells before they’re done is a good way to kill them. But once they’re done, letting people know what worked and what didn’t helps them do a better job of crafting their own spells.
Even more than the tactical information, it’s important to discuss our ideas about what’s going on. I had several conversations about this at Mystic South with people ranging from beginners to intermediates to the most experienced of elders. They were all very helpful… and I still need to get a book on archaeoastronomy.
We will get through this, together
The political and economic changes in our world are hard. The magical and metaphysical changes are just as hard, even though some people like to pretend they don’t exist. The battle lines have been drawn, and while I can see many of them in this world, I can’t see them nearly as well in the Otherworld. But they’re there just the same.
Pay attention. Take care of yourself. Grow your skills.
Mainly, though, take care of each other. Other people who are dealing with The Storm need you, and you need them.