Every culture on our planet, since before recorded history to the present day, and on every continent, has engaged in the practice of magic. Celtic Druids, Chinese Taoists, Egyptian Hem/Hemet-Netjer,and Cherokee Ghigau are a few examples of the high-magical class from around the world. Cultures and civilizations typically also left room for at least one classification of common magic-user, i.e. practitioners of arcane lore not formally taught by or initiated into a school or priesthood recognized by the scholars and lawmakers of the era or region. To be fair, I’ll point out that very few of these individuals or organizations ever called themselves “magical” or claimed to practice “magic”, instead applying the appropriate and corresponding term from their own language, such as Draiochta (Celtic) or Shakti (Hindu).
What does magic actually mean, by the way?
The word magic is derived from Greek, through Latin, into Old French, and finally into English, and is defined as the art, or technique, of the magus or magi. Magi were the Persian wisemen, linguistically the first magicians but in true chronology relative latecomers to the arcane or divine arts.
Where did magic originate, and what happened to this practice?
So named, at the earliest, circa 500 BC, the Magi owed their knowledge and understanding of how to weave and work with the unseen fabric of reality to, at a minimum, predecessors from the previous 3,500 years of recorded history. Modern anthropology has strongly suggested that related practices date back a further 35,000 years in a region of what is today France.
Is there any reason to discard the notion that workings of magic are even far older? In fact such concepts, called religion by some and superstition by others, may well be humankind’s most ubiquitous.
Outside of drama, fiction, and the fabulous entertainment of David Copperfield and Derron Brown, is magic in its historical context still practiced today?
The short answer: absolutely, yes. The long details of who, where, and how being a matter for another article, I’ll ask and then answer the obvious follow-up question.
Is magic real, or true, and if so how or why?
Yes, again, although I can’t prove it in the standardized manner. I certainly am not implying that magical formula are imprecise or unpredictable.
Quite the opposite; magical procedure can be written or directed in absolute detail and results can be both predicted and reproduced over and over. What I cannot manage, however, is to clarify and demonstrate a mechanism in the sort of unmistakable terms of identification modern science requires.
All good. This article isn’t about proving anything at the level of laboratory science.
My aim is to simply relay, for those with an interest, what magic is, as a practice and utility.
The uninitiated sometimes think of magic as a mysterious force that acts against the laws of nature. Only a few special individuals, proponents of this notion explain, have the means to move this force. I suspect there are level-ups, dragons to ride, and easter eggs to find before the boss fight on the second map. Fiction, catch my drift?
To be sure, magic can refer to a system of practice, a method of work, even a program of study. I’m moving deeper into the matter with this little Q & A styled soliloquy and examining the point of departure from technique and method.
Aleister Crowley,on one of the half dozen occasions he said or wrote something legitimately worth remembering, defined our craft as the art and science of creating change in the world in conformity to the will. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn polished this up a bit, specifying change to be in consciousness, and emphasizing the use of “means and methods not currently understood by western science.”
I’ll spring directly off from this point and tell you: in addition to being a deeply layered system of metaphysical mechanics, plus beyond its role in the continuum of creation, likely binding the Astral or Causal Plane unto the Etheric and Material Principles, magic is the connection you make with a deeper (higher) part of yourself, which is in turn connected to every other part of your being and every other point in space and time.
This connection becomes a state, absent from the flow of time and the pressures of mundane living. Here you are part of the Great Whole, the Living Spirit, the All Mind. Hence, magic is direct interaction with subtle energies, powers, spirits, and forces of causal, reflective, or other natures; tinkering and working with the fundamental and foundational pools and currents of reality as we understand it.
The purpose of such connection and interaction is obviously to enact change, or to mitigate or prevent change that may occur if not interrupted. This should cover any magical act you can think of, from banishing or summoning a spirit, to finding new money or getting a romantic competitor arrested and jailed, preserving one’s health, receiving previously unknown information, even finding a lost pet or altering the nature of your nightly dream-experience. You can, and should use magic for just about anything once you understand and practice a few basics.
I am, however, getting off track. My aim here was simply to define magic, not to recommend or promote it per se. I will add but one final point to my current definition.
Magic is an enigma, and a paradox. Strange, alluring, unexplainable, a thing that should not exist. Yet it does. Anyone of modest intelligence could dismantle and disprove magic in a few brief statements or, at most, a couple of minutes to round all the bases. Nevertheless, a spell cast will produce the desired outcome, even if the involved mechanics are obscured or known to be impossible.
To the man who says it’s all foolery, that I’m wasting my life on delusion, I smile. I exchange my thanks for his concern, without a need to prove anything.
To the individual who thinks, “maybe”, I wink and reply, “Let me tell you about a book or two you might find interesting. Read, study, and practice sincerely and intently for 100 days, and then tell me what you think.”
Find more about practical, modern magic by checking out my blog about natural and ritual magic and my original talismans and wands.