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Magic: A Young Seeker's Explanation for Fellow Seekers

Author: Alexander Cheves
Posted: April 22nd. 2012
Times Viewed: 2,441

Magic was the hardest thing for me to come to terms with on my journey into Paganism and Wicca. I was a young teenage guy, I was logical, and I was brought up by medical professionals in a conservative Southern Baptist household in the wooded countryside of North Georgia. I was taught the value of ethics, education and spiritual discipline, and I were taught that God loves me.

I found Wicca, or Wicca had found me, in the same way that I imagine religion finds most people. We stumble through life searching for meaning, purpose, fulfillment and happiness, and sometimes along that journey we are lucky enough to have rare, beautiful experiences in which we feel truly alive. Sometimes we dismiss them as great feelings, but sometimes we see them as something more. When the latter happens, we feel perhaps like our eyes have opened up and we have arrived home into the warmth of a familiar-feeling idea or deity. We are taken to a place within ourselves in which we find truth, and even greater than truth, a breathtaking sense of purpose: we belong here.

I owe a lot to Christianity. Aside from being a rich and beautiful faith in which I grew in my journey with God, Christianity provided me the spiritual discipline and religious mindset that eventually led me from it. I understood prayer and I understood ritual, the symbolic breaking of bread, the power of music to direct one’s focus and consciousness at something higher. So as I began reading more and more books on the Pagan or Neo-Pagan faiths, primarily Wicca, I readily accepted the concepts of the polytheistic duality of deity, of the God and Goddess, and the pantheistic concept of the natural world being divine as the substance, manifestation and vessel of deity. These concepts, although unlike anything I had ever read before, felt familiar and beautiful and true, and they gave me purpose and made me feel alive. It felt like coming home. But magic (or “magick” as some Wiccans spell it, simply to distinguish it from parlor tricks and entertainment shows) continued to be a stumbling block for me.

Magic happens when I look up at the stars, when I hope, when I place my hand on someone’s shoulder as they cry. When I look up at the stars, I am reminded of my smallness and my uncertainty, and that first and familiar awe is rekindled in me, the awe that I feel when I face all that I don’t know and all that I have to trust. It gives me hope, humility, and a sense of worship – a sense that I am not alone, that I am guided through this. When I hope, I’m projecting my positive energies onto the world around me to make it better. When I place my hand on someone’s shoulder, I am connecting with him or her on the most basic level of human communication: Touch.

Touch is something that starts in the womb and infancy and sustains us throughout our lives. This powerful and simple action is comforting because it connects us to that place of infancy in which we all needed to be held and cared for, and it reminds us on a deep level that life and struggle are shared experiences. But on a surface level, as I touch my friend’s shoulder, all that is occurring is the transference of my warmth, my pulse, the vibration of my cells, the energies that constitute me as a human being, to another person: Magic.

Scott Cunningham in his famous, singular work Wicca: A Guide For the Solitary Practitioner, defines magic as “the projection of natural energies to produce needed effects.” As a Wiccan of five years, I am still learning and growing in my understanding of magic. I have had discussions with many different people and read several different perspectives on the subject of magic. I’ve realized that magic is often what draws people to Wicca. Ideas of personal power and sorcery, casting spells and curses and controlling others are probably very attractive and romantic ideas to those who don’t know what the Wiccan concept of magic really is. As can be seen in the examples above, magic is a natural occurrence. It happens every day.

Cunningham claimed that the energies employed to make magic come from three primary sources: the self, the earth, and deity. As I have studied, I have found these three to be the most common and accepted sources of energy in Wiccan thought. The energy that comes from the self is simply the life force that runs through all living things. We humans gain this energy through food, exercise, breathing, living, from the body’s natural processes and from the power of one’s will. The earth holds energies within its natural phenomena. This is why rocks are commonly used as ritual items in Wicca. Rocks often have molecular qualities that can be medically beneficial to human beings; they act as powerful symbols with which the subconscious mind communicates to our conscious selves; and most of all, rocks and crystals vibrate with the old, raw and natural energies of the earth. Lastly, deity – the divine energy, the God and Goddess, the Great Spirit, God, the All – whatever one may wish to call the forces that guide us – provide us with the greatest source of energy: divine energy.

In common Wiccan thought, the God and Goddess are twin energies that run through everything that exists, and we humans have cast them in our image in order to better understand them. I believe that we are also cast in their image, and are, out of all the living creatures on the planet, the closest to them, for we humans are given the greatest burden and responsibility: to care for the earth and for one another. Divine energy is the core substance of all the other energies, for the energies within ourselves are directed by higher forces, and the energies inherent in the earth are the presence of divinity in nature. In Wicca, there is no distinction between deity and creation. God is both the substance of all that is and also the energy that runs through it. This energy is divine energy.

In Wiccan thought, magic occurs when one takes these energies and uses them to meet practical, real-world needs, such as the need for comfort and money and faith and protection. I have used magic to help my suffering loved ones, to aid in my ability to concentrate and remember information for a test, to help me relax, to help me grieve, to give me faith, to keep me strong when I need to be brave, to give me direction, to help me make a decision, to help me financially, to get me through a hard day – the list goes on. How does one use these energies in order to produce magic?

Many Wiccans use tools and practices, such as ritual, meditation, prayer, and craft-making to create objects that help focus the applied energies, but at the heart of all these is the presence of faith. One must believe that the desired result will happen. Often faith is all it takes.

Finally, over all of this, one must believe that, if the magic doesn’t work, higher forces are guiding the world and are involved in the circumstances that one is trying to influence. If we were left totally in control of our lives, then we would never grow. That is perhaps the greatest religious struggle: trusting deity, and trusting oneself to know when to act and when to let go.

Although a major part of Wicca, the Wiccan understanding of magic is practical and practicable for anyone. Magic has certainly helped me get to where I am now: it guides me through my journey of faith and through my everyday life. Like prayer, it is something I cannot live without. Rather than practice specific, written-down, structured ritual to create magic, I have found that the spontaneous actions and experiences that I create for myself without any ritual tools (wand, stones, bell, salt, water, candles, an altar, etc.) often work the best for me. As my journey has progressed, my earliest teachings of God have been affirmed: education and ethics are essential to my sense of fulfillment, and God loves me.

Once, many years ago, I accidentally found a few books on Wicca when I visited my local Barnes and Nobel. I flipped through them lightly, rejected them all as garbage and left them on the shelf. I felt that surely my religious questioning and my searching was not taking me there. But later, on a cool night in Zambia, Africa, I slept beneath the stars. There was no smog or air pollution, no bright lights, and no cities. There were bush villages in that darkness, which at the most produced smoke columns from cooking fires. Nothing blotted out the sky, and the stars were so clear that they fell to the horizon line. I at last felt the sensation that we are on a large sphere hurtling through space. I was in the stars.

There, in that strange place, I held my breath: I was not alone. I had been brought up to see God, a male, Judeo-Christian deity that was loving and protective. But there in those sweet stars I saw a woman. She and the same wild god that I had known before in Christianity were standing beside each other as equals. She was mother, I was seeing her for the first time, and I was home.

Wherever your journey of life takes you, I wish you only the passion to seek, and to keep seeking. There is magic in these woods and these mountains and down the soft shoreline. There is beauty in all that we see if we just look for it. It is enough to simply see that beauty and not understand it. It is enough to stand before the earth and not know what purpose it serves or from whence it came and still kneel before it in awe.




Footnotes:
Cunningham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. St. Paul, Minn., U.S.A.: Llewellyn Publications, 1989. Print.



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