“The currents of magic are getting stronger.”
I’ve made that statement on many occasions. I used it in the title of my recap of American Horror Story: Coven in 2014. But other than a rather vague paragraph last year, I’ve never bothered to define what I mean by “currents.” I think it’s time to write about that in more detail, and hopefully, to start a conversation on what it means.
And more importantly, on what we can do with it.
“The currents of magic” is a metaphor for the environment in which we work magic. It’s a working model for something we experience but struggle to understand directly. Such a model is neither true nor false. Rather, it’s more helpful when it facilitates better and stronger magic, and it’s less helpful when it reduces or hinders our magic.
The currents of magic are like a river
Think of a river. In times of drought it may barely be trickling. Other times it may be running high and fast. Some rivers are fairly consistent in size and speed – others vary depending on the season and the year.
If there’s enough water in the river, you can get in it and float downstream. If it’s running slow you may want a paddle or a motor to go faster, while if it’s running fast you may need special skills to navigate it without crashing. If you put a turbine in the river and connect it to a generator, you can produce electricity.
The currents of magic are like a river. They can transport us from one place to another. We can use the energy of the current to power our spells and other workings. The stronger the current, the more energy available for us to use. But also, the stronger the current the greater the chance of something going wrong in our working.
As with all metaphors, at some point the comparison breaks down and it’s no longer helpful. So let’s hold the idea of a flowing river in our minds and talk about what this means for our magic.
Before starting this post I googled “currents of magic.” I found a couple of occultists and some fiction, none of which I was familiar with. I’m not going to take credit for coining the phrase. Rather, I think this is an intuitive idea and I happen to be one of several people who thought of it, under different circumstances.
I suspect some of us have been influenced (most likely subconsciously) by the idea of ley lines. This was the early 20th century idea that ancient people in Britain and elsewhere had regular travel routes along straight lines. The theory was later expanded to say that these were lines of power – power we can work with.
Pagans, occultists, and mainstream scholars have been arguing about ley lines for a hundred years. Ronald Hutton was rather skeptical about them in his 1991 book The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles.
In my experience, the currents of magic are not nearly this localized, though they’re stronger in some places than in others. Still, if you’re even vaguely familiar with the concept of ley lines, the concept of the currents of magic should be easy to understand.
The magical environment
Chaos magician Peter J. Carroll said “magic works in practice but not in theory.” I agree with his point – particularly that we shouldn’t waste time trying to satisfy materialist skeptics – but I can’t help wondering how it all works. Very early on my magical journey I came up with a three-fold understanding of magic – it’s stuck with me ever since.
Magic works through the intercession of Gods and spirits. Magic works through the manipulation of unseen energy. And magic works through psychological programming.
The currents of magic refers largely to those unseen energies we raise and direct during spellcasting. All of us have our own personal energy that can be used to do magic. When we combine our energies we can do more. And when we draw on the energy of the Earth and the Sky we can do far, far more.
If the currents are stronger – if that metaphorical river is running higher and faster – we can do more than if the currents are weaker.
But the metaphor needs to be extended. Because when the currents of magic are stronger, it’s easier for us to connect to our Gods and allied spirits. Gods have the power of Gods, but favorable conditions help us hear Them more clearly. Other-than-divine spirits can also act more easily and more effectively.
And what of the purely naturalistic psychological programming aspect of magic? There’s a reason why we dim the lights, wear magical clothing and jewelry, light candles and incense and such: the environment matters. And if a favorable physical environment helps our magic, a favorable spiritual environment will also help it.
The currents of magic are part of the environment in which we work.
The currents of traditions
Some Pagan and magical traditions speak of their “initiatory current.” This is the line running from the patron Gods and spirits, through the founders and ancestors, and into the current membership. I am part of several such currents. The details of all of them are oath-bound. I bring them up here because if you’re a part of an initiatory current this may be what you think of when I say “currents of magic.”
As I see it, these are individual currents. They are part of the currents of magic, but only one part among many.
Are the currents of our varied traditions running stronger these days? Best I can tell, some are but most aren’t. If you’re part of such a tradition, perhaps you and your fellow initiates need to look at what you can do to make your currents stronger…
Why I think the currents of magic are getting stronger
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, none of this will come as a surprise. Here’s a list of relevant posts from the last five years or so. The list could be much longer.
Beyond all this we (at least “we” here in the Anglo-American West) are seeing a greater interest in magic than we have in at least a century. Some think more people doing more magic raises the currents of magic. I tend to think stronger currents of magic inspire more people to do more magic. It might be both – you can make the case that this is a feedback loop.
I haven’t heard as much about this in recent months, but I don’t think that’s because the currents of magic are leveling off. Rather, I think it’s because we’ve been obsessed with the pandemic and with politics, particularly here in the United States.
But when I step away from the computer, sit quietly, and listen, I hear it and feel it.
At this point, I no longer feel the need to convince myself – or anyone else – that the currents of magic are getting stronger. I’m convinced they are, and that they’re going to keep getting stronger for quite some time.
I’m much more interested in figuring out what we can do with them.
What we can do with stronger currents of magic
The obvious answer is that if the currents of magic are stronger, we can do more and better magic. But of course, that means we have to actually do the magic. Even the non-Wiccans among us tend to operate on a “whenever you have need of anything” approach, and while that’s fine, the best way to build skills is to practice them on a regular basis. Better to practice them on small things so that when you have a critical need, your skills will be stronger and more refined.
And if this really is a feedback loop, being in it has some definite advantages.
Don’t just do more magic. Do different magic – pick up a different system. I’m rather fond of sigil magic, but I’ve been trying to incorporate more traditional witchcraft into my practice. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the better chance you’ll have the right one available when the need is great.
Should we try big group workings? Magic works best when it’s narrowly focused on a specific target, and big group workings tend look more like prayers for world peace: a nice thought, but not very effective. Perhaps we should start with small group workings. A thousand people can’t focus on a specific target very well, but thirty can. Or thirteen.
Experimenting at the edges
Magic, witchcraft, Pagan and polytheist religions – they’re often considered “the old ways.” We’re inspired by the beliefs and practices of our ancient ancestors, and we do our best to re-create and reimagine them for our times. This is a useful, good, and holy thing.
But it’s not the only thing.
We are not Pharaonic Egyptians, or pre-Roman Celts, or even medieval Catholics. We are 21st century Americans, Canadians, Britons, or whatever you happen to be. Our religions need to speak to our lives here and now, and so does our magic.
What ancient systems can you adapt to contemporary circumstances? There are some who insist that certain spells must be done exactly by the instructions or Bad Things will happen. That’s true in some cases. But when you’ve done them a time or three, and you start to understand how they work, you start to see where they can be modified to your advantage.
Some traditions say that magic was taught to our ancestors by the Gods, or by other spirits. If those Gods and spirits taught them, it’s likely that they’ll teach us as well. We just need to form authentic relationships with them, ask for their teaching, and then pay attention to what they tell us.
Conservative Christians – both Catholic and Protestant – teach that revelation is sealed. They believe their God no longer speaks directly to humans, at least not in an authoritative way. That’s a mistake we should not duplicate.
The Gods and spirits taught our ancestors and they can teach us as well.
Share your methods
“Keep silence” is an important part of a magical working. But there’s a difference between keeping quiet about a working until it finishes and keeping your practice a secret. Most of us in the West have no fear of an inquisition showing up on our doorsteps with torches and pitchforks. If you do, by all means keep your practice a secret.
But for the rest of us, it’s important that we share our methods. What did we do, how did we do it, and what was the result? What successes can we share? What failures need to be analyzed? What needs to be investigated further?
Magical peer review may be handled differently from scientific studies, but the concept is just as important.
If you’re not comfortable putting your full working on a blog or on social media, at least share it with a few trusted friends and colleagues.
Let’s learn from each other.
The currents of magic are getting stronger
Every time I write about things like this, someone chimes in with “this is nothing – magic never went away in most of the world.” I have little data from outside the Anglo-American West (neither do most of them) so I can’t say definitively if this is a worldwide phenomena or a regional/cultural phenomena. What I can say definitively is that this is happening to me and to many other people in my extended circles.
The currents of magic are getting stronger.
There is more raw power for us to draw on when we work our spells. The world of the Gods and ancestors is easier to access.
And also, other spirits can access our world more easily, and not all of them mean us well.
Our ordinary world is becoming a more magical world, for good and for ill.
Our world is changing. Let’s learn how to change with it.
For another take on this subject, see this excellent post by Seo Helrune titled Otherworldly Bleed, Consensus, and Magic – Otherworldly Observations.