Humans do a lot of work. Work can be joyful, of course. But is joy the first word that springs to mind when you look at the growing pile of dishes balancing precariously in the sink? Probably not. Ask folk what they did last week and you’ll hear that they went to work. Maybe they didn’t work at a job but they’ll say they worked in the garden or worked on cleaning their house. Ask folk about their magical lives and they’ll remark quite earnestly that “I’m doing the work right now” or “That last ritual is really working me.” We all work our magic one way or another and it’s clear there’s plenty of magical work to be done. But is there any joy in all of this?
Is there any joy?
Somebody once told me that if the meetings I attended weren’t fun then they needed to be productive. If the meetings were neither fun nor productive, then I should change the meeting structure or stop going to them altogether. I stopped going to a lot of meetings. They felt like work and had a decided deficit of joy.
There’s plenty of “not joy” in the world. I’m not suggesting that we close our eyes and ears, put our head in the sand, and pretend that everything is just dandy. There’s an exceedingly high chance that all is not dandy for you but having a surfeit of crap in a bucket doesn’t preclude there being cups of joy somewhere else in your life. I went searching for the joy in my life. I’ve found little pockets of joy all over the place.
Magic and joy?
For a good long time magic ceased to be joyful for me. It became something I did out of obligation and responsibility. I understand there are times when magic is obligation. Responsibility, after all, is not a forbidden word in magical practices but sweet Brigid’s ghost, was it ever dull. Quite frankly, I became pretty dull along the way too and that seemed to run so counter to what magic had meant for me in the past. Magic was dangerous, elusive, fun, naughty, powerful, heretical, filled with laughter, serious, frivolous, and filled with joy. I wanted that back. That meant I had to change my relationship to magic and doing that took much more work (there’s that four letter word again) than I had bargained for.
In the back of the cupboard there was Joy
The first thing I did was to cease nearly all magical activity. Really. I stopped going to rituals. Holidays would come and go and I’d acknowledge them, but I didn’t fully engage. I stopped all spell work except two ongoing, long-term spells that needed regular care and attention.
Then I noticed what magic I was missing. I examined why I was missing it. Was it simply a habit or was there something beautiful, sustaining, valuable, there that was calling to me. Even if I felt the pull to re-engage with a particular piece of magic I resisted. I really wanted to check myself and know for sure if I was compelled to participate in a piece of magic or if I was just experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out). Basically, I simplified my magical life much like I would periodically clean out my cupboards and throw away old spices and random Tupperware lids.The magical practices that were left, the ones I couldn’t live without, were bursting with joy. Just completely filled with the stuff. I started my practice anew focusing on just a few specific elements.
Where I found Joy?
For me it came down to just a few simple practices. Here’s where I discovered my joy and my magic.
Writing – No surprise there, except that I found myself writing about all kinds of non-magical topics. Writing is a big part of my day job and I absolutely love it. Learning to fall back in love with writing lead me to write more and, eventually, to start writing about magic again.
Cooking – I cook a lot. I stopped cooking for the pleasure of it though and that was quite sad. Then I started cooking as a devotional practice. What would Dionysus like for dinner? What foods would please Inanna? Would making “breakfast for dinner” bring my family joy even though it’s not my favourite thing to make? Holding fresh vegetables, smelling new spices, trying unique combinations of proteins, and returning to ancestral dishes that transported me home, renewed my magical practices and reawakened my joy.
Laughing – I know joy and laughter sort of go together but hear me out on this one. I love to laugh. My partner is one of the funniest people I know. Friends of mine make me laugh until my sides hurt, I can’t breathe, and I’m scared I’m going to pee myself. I was hanging around with far too many people that didn’t laugh. My magic was exceedingly serious. I decided that “mirth and reverence” were to be the order of the day, with an extra helping of mirth. There, in the deadly serious silliness of it all, was joy. Just oodles of it.
There’s plenty of serious magic to do and I’m doing it again. And there’s absolutely no reason why serious magic has to devoid of joy. In fact, I’ve discovered that when I bring my joy to my work and my magic, it is ever so more effective.
Where is your joy?
I’m generally a curious person by nature and I’m genuinely interested in the places where you find joy. So where do you? What’s joyful right now about your life or your magic? Where is there joy in your work and your play?