Articles/Essays From Pagans
June 16th. 2013 ...
How To Stay Spiritual Amidst This Chaos?
Hearing The Music And Dancing The Dance
A Tale of the Wood
June 9th. 2013 ...
The Nature of Sacrifice
The Magick of Buildings
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June 2nd. 2013 ...
Maiden, Mother, Who?! (A Discussion of the Triple Goddess)
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May 26th. 2013 ...
So You Think You've Found a Teacher...
Learning To Live Your Own Life
Raising Personal Magickal Energy for Spellwork
Casting The Wiccan Circle
May 19th. 2013 ...
The Role of Identity in Magic
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My Wiccan Journey
13 Keys: The Victory of Netzach
May 12th. 2013 ...
Pagan Studies I: How Should We Define Modern Paganism?
The Third Path
Nothing Special... Part Two
May 5th. 2013 ...
The Value of Multicultural Awareness
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Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances and Red Lipped Bat Fish
April 28th. 2013 ...
Lessons from the Lessers: Iris
April 21st. 2013 ...
Taken By The Goddess: The Crescent Moon Tattoo
The Gods/Being Godbothered
To Be A Witch
The Archetypes are Gods: Re-godding the Archetypes
April 14th. 2013 ...
On The Inclusion of Children
'Wand Fun' With Grandson
Lessons from a Baby
Lessons of Freedom: On Divinity and Healing
April 7th. 2013 ...
Out of the Broom Closet... Sorta
A Journey Through the Witches Tarot
History and Science Behind Numerology
March 31st. 2013 ...
What is the Magickal Self?
Ethics and Numerology
March 24th. 2013 ...
Keystones of the Sacred Land
March 17th. 2013 ...
Why Some Pagans and Witches Still Hide
Witch Heritage 101: What Happens When Witch Haters Joke about anti-Witch Films
I'm Not a Broom. So What's with the Closet?
March 10th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Things I Did as a New Pagan: Part 3
Hunting for the Real Witch in Film
The Collective Shadow
Lies - The Opposite of Truth
March 3rd. 2013 ...
Grounding and Releasing Negative Energy
A Patchwork of Magick
February 24th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I Made as a New Pagan (Part Two)
February 17th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I made as a New Pagan... Part One
Gardening with Crystal Energies
A Call from the Ancestors
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances and Black Water Snakes
February 10th. 2013 ...
We Are the Weirdos, Mister: A Completely Uncool Story of Origin
February 3rd. 2013 ...
"I'll Grind Your Bones to Make my Bread": Pagans and Animal Husbandry
The Role of Contemporary Culture in Magic
A Pagan Response to Endangered Earth
The Great Mother's Gift, Heinlein, and the Nature of Squirrels
13 Keys: The Glory of Hod
January 27th. 2013 ...
Why We Do Need Wicca
The Cosmos In the Coffee Shop
On Travel Spirituality and Magick
January 20th. 2013 ...
Beloved Backs and How to Save Them
Building or Burning Bridges?
Plants, Magic and Intuition
Plagiarism - How It Harms Our Community
January 13th. 2013 ...
Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Stupid Clichés
The Magick and Power of Words
Aging Is Not Easy
The Riddle of Who We Are?
January 6th. 2013 ...
Wicca v Witchcraft
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Magic or Magick . . . What's In a Word?
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Article ID: 11778
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,181
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Author: True Pagan Warrior
Posted: July 1st. 2007
Times Viewed: 3,483
Since the day my kindergarten teacher unlocked the secrets of the alphabet for me, I have been a student of words. I read them voraciously and create my own almost as fast. I have seen, sometimes with amazement, the power that words can carry. Spoken and written words have different characters, different strengths and weaknesses, but both can shake the foundations of the world when crafted well. There is no doubt in my mind that words are truly magical . . . or are they magickal?
The debate about the use of the spelling ‘magick’ instead of ‘magic’ isn’t the ‘us and them’ dichotomy I have always imagined, which I discovered with some relief after reading Taylor Ellwood’s article on the subject. I have a knee-jerk reaction against any word that looks like it’s spelled wrong, and my word processor has always agreed with me that ‘magick’ doesn’t look right, but I have assumed all along that, among Pagans at least, I am in the minority.
Before I did any research on the subject, I resisted adding the ‘k’ because I respect the power of words. Too often words are changed or neologisms created by people that lack understanding of what a word is all about (a good example here is ‘herstory, ’ created to give a feminine perspective not contained in ‘his story, ’ i.e. history; the fact that the word ‘history’ comes from the Ancient Greek ‘istoria’, meaning “a learning or knowing by inquiry, ” and is etymologically unrelated to the pronoun ‘his’ in no way stopped the creation of such an ungainly term) .
Adding a ‘k’ does not change the pronunciation, so why do it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to replace the ‘c, ’ a near-useless letter in English regardless, with a ‘k’ if you want to change things up a bit?
Perhaps I’m being intractable, unwilling to change with the times, but I’m a Gaiaped, and so I expect change to be organic. Permitting someone to just add an extraneous letter to a perfectly good word makes as much sense to me as installing a massive irrigation system in Arizona and planting a redwood forest there. Sure, we might be able to pull it off, but it’s not the type of gradual, insistent change that the Earth itself fuels.
People (myself included) coin new terms, the neologisms I already mentioned, all the time; most of these wither on the vine, but some grow into bountiful fruits of their own. The words and spellings are accepted when there is a need for them, generally when new ideas come into the language.
There is no new idea here. We have two concepts that, on the surface at least, are related closely enough that they share a word. It happens so frequently in English that it has a word of its own: homonym. My uninformed opinion was that this new spelling seemed arrogant and pretentious, a view that didn’t change much when I found out where it came from.
I’m also a bit bothered by the sneaky aspect of that ‘k’ being appended. Slipping in a letter that doesn’t (allegedly, anyway) even change the pronunciation is a pretty squirrelly way of setting ritual spell work apart. It doesn’t give any means of telling the spoken words apart. Again, there are plenty of homophones out there, but if we’re going to insist on creating a new word, why not take the effort to make it an entirely new word? When you’re dealing with a discipline that places great meaning on every symbol, it can’t be accidental that the resemblance to the word for illusion and trickery was not entirely excised.
Of course, the ‘k’ only fails to change the word’s sound in certain forms. ‘Magick’ may seem innocuous, but ‘magickal’ makes a bit more impact. Only in Amber K’s work have I seen an attempt at ‘magickian, ’ which not even the most cursory student of the English language would think should be pronounced the same as ‘magician.’ Whenever I see any of these forms, I find myself emphasizing that ‘k’ in my head, because I find it distracting.
Amber K also gave me my first explanation of the purpose of the additional letter. It is indeed intended to change meaning, separating the stagecraft and illusion from the spellcraft and intent of practitioners of the Craft. Ellwood confirms that Aleister Crowley is given credit for this innovation, by his own words:
“I chose therefore the name 'MAGICK' as essentially the most sublime, and actually most discredited, of all the available terms. I swore to rehabilitate magick, to identify it with my own career; and to compel mankind to respect, love, and trust that which they scorned, hated, and feared.”
It’s clear that Crowley understood the power of words, and chose this spelling with care. There is a significant number of people who reserve the trailing ‘k’ specifically for Thelemic magick, since that is what Crowley practiced. After learning more about the subject, I prefer not to label any work that I do with a word that was intended to “compel mankind to respect, love, and trust that which they scorned, hated, and feared.” It’s a personal choice, but one that I no longer make on gut feeling alone.
I do not wish to associate my own craft with the ethics of Aleister Crowley. Mr. Crowley is to be respected for his contributions to the field, but “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” does not, for me, work as an ethical (ethickal?) system nearly as well as “leave no trace” does.
I have a much better understanding of the origins of ‘magick’ now. I still think it’s clumsy, ugly, and, considering its source, arrogant and ethically questionable. I’m glad that I put my own views to the test by educating myself on the subject.
I have no problem with people choosing the six-letter spelling, although I encourage anyone who practices any type of spell work to give thought to the power of this word, and choose a spelling that best meets their own needs.
Copyright: Copyright 2007 by Terence P Ward, all rights reserved. For reprinting permission contact the author directly.
True Pagan Warrior
Location: New Paltz, New York
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Bio: Dak is an easy-to-remember name that Terence P Ward goes by in festival settings. A professional writer and business consultant, his other interests include magical needlework, sacred backpacking, and sporks.
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