I have been asked what magic means to me, how it came into my life, what its biggest manifestations so far were and how I am making it a habit. It`s hard to answer from my heart without taking too many outside influence into account because this is so tender, but I will try.
How magic came into my life
I remember my eleventh birthday like yesterday – I was wholeheartedly disenchanted by boys already and I wanted to celebrate alone. Knowing this was socially unacceptable I invited one friend to spend the afternoon after school with me, mainly eating things and going to the bookshop. I bought a purple hardcover on witchcraft because it seemed like the weirdest thing to do and that really resonated with me. I read it often, but it never really touched me as it seemed just full of random spells and ethically questionable practices. So this clearly wasn’t the magic I was looking for.
A few years later I touched my mum’s tarot cards for the first time. I never read for myself, but I felt attracted. I think a total disconnection from my intuition was what largely defined my teenage experience, so there was something inside me that really strongly rejected a reflective practice like tarot, even if I was also a bit curious.
In my twenties I became much more interested in rituals – Lighting candles for myself, practicing deep self-care, establishing boundaries and meeting new edges. I did priestess, massage and yoga teacher trainings, read a self-help book a week and often made two steps back after getting three steps ahead of myself. I never wanted an ordinary life and I threw everything at creating something that would fit better. Between all the different places I lived in I often exhausted myself with change, but I collected little sparks of magic always. Sometimes magic was totally weird and ordinary, like making it a habit to watch Sex and the City while smelling my favourite essential oils in each new space I was inhabiting even if I knew most episodes line by line – we create the rituals that reflect where we’re at I guess.
What practical magic means to me now
I am aware that magic and witchcraft have become hip in some circles and I am really not surprised. In my humble opinion reclaiming a sense of enchantment and magic is inherently very political – it’s a clear opposition to the focus on productivity, linear time, binaries, disconnection from nature and endless expansion that came with capitalism. Paganism or magic is, at least for some people, also a way to shamelessly embrace sexuality, care for the environment and pleasure in a way that is often being denied in many of our cultures – so the connection to queer ideas totally makes sense to me. Many of us are interested in Jungian psychology, working with archetypes, shadow work, permaculture and generally building more joyful, sustainable lives. I would go even further to say that working with magic and ritual can be a way of finding back to a sense of sacredness and self-love for people who have been marginalised, denied access or shamed. We can learn to value ourselves when we understand our deep connection to everything that is true, magical and sacred.
“The gods are really the components of our psyches. We are the gods, in the sense that we, as the sum total of human beings, are the sum of the gods.”
Gwydion Pendderwen in Drawing down the Moon by Margot Adler
I think the strong focus on healing is also a way of sustaining our health and ensuring our survival in a way that public health care often can’t. This is not to say that magic could or should replace modern medicine or therapy at all, but I do notice that people who care about herbalism, ritual and self-care often built their own and their communities` resilience in beautiful and independent ways.
Of course communities whose essence is somewhat magical are not perfect at all – there are oppressive power dynamics that are hard to break down and cultural appropriation is a massive issue that we often try to spiritually bypass by talking about universal love and light. And then I think class is another important factor, especially when it comes to access:
“The paradox of polytheism seems to be this: the argument for a world of multiplicity and diversity are usually made by those few strong enough and fortunate enough in education, upbringing, or luck to be able to disown by word, lifestyle, and philosophy the totalistic religion and political views that dominate our society.”
Margot Adler in Drawing down the Moon
…this is not to say that everyone who is interested in magic also has a polytheistic and or pagan understanding of the world, but I think this quote illustrates what I mean when I say that there is privilege in being able to practice magic.
One of the most important aspects of magic to me is a connection to nature and a deeper understanding of time through rites of passage and the celebration of seasons. In my early twenties I had very little awareness of what was going on in the world around me – I lived in huge cities, worked overtime in artificially lit offices and hardly noticed the cycles of my own body. If I was lucky I casually saw the full moon above the roof tops sometimes. Living on a mountain by myself for three months this spring has really changed my understanding of what human life can be and what I am capable of creating.
Experiencing my body through the elements on my skin, needing to tend a fire and waking with the sun was a truly magical experience for me. I have become very shameless in talking about all the things that are magical to me in that time and I feel sorry for people who think that only quantifiable, material aspects of life are real or worth paying attention to. We don`t even really understand the universe let alone how to protect the planet we are living on, so I cannot relate to this sense of academic superiority that values our rational minds so highly above our emotions and imagination. I had some of my best ideas napping under a tree in the soft afternoon sun, so I have come to cherish my dreams no less than the food I put on the table.
I love what Rachel Corby said in Rewilding yourself – becoming nature:
“As you rewild, as you become nature, you will gain a deeper understanding of the whole of nature including yourself. You may find yourself changing; your outlook, desires, behaviour. People will notice and wonder what’s your secret as you gain a kind of luminosity, an ethereal glow. And as you begin to care for the earthworms with as much respect as you care for your mother there will be a knowing inside that you finally have come home.
If everyone understood that our individual health is intrinsically connected to that of the planet we would no longer be able to over exploit it, we could not hunt species after species to extinction if we knew this to be true.”
Rewilding, to me, is about rediscovering how magical nature is, how connected we are and how amazing it feels in our bodies to be more feral than our city lives allow us to be.
I think what puts many people off magic is the idea that it would mean believing in something supernatural – flying through the air, shape shifting, poisoning enemies. It is mind blowing to me that we have become so cut off from fantasy and imagination that we believe these ideas to be literal and therefore impossible. As children all of us have been able to fly in our dreams and we were able to transform into any form while playing with others. In many cases this is what kept us alive, so why would this not be valid now? Why does growing up mean stopping to believe in magic? Looking from the outside in I feel that most people who make primarily rational choices lead pretty boring lives. I worked in a bank for two years and I am pretty sure none of my co-workers ever lit circles of candles for their lovers. What a shame!
The politics of fear and the oppression so many of us practice and experience today have been nurtured by a disconnection from pleasure, a lack of intuition and consequentially the denial of positive boundaries for ourselves. My hope is that magic can reverse some of that.
On a practical level tarot is one of the ways in which I celebrate magic in my life. I don`t expect the cards to tell my fortune, but I love the feeling of clarity I get from sitting down and thinking about what it is exactly that I am asking about. Forming a deep, meaningful question is in itself a valuable and illuminating practice. I believe the magic lies in my own interpretation of the cards I draw, in the way my subconscious mind makes itself known and in the way my body reacts when I turn each card and feel into what I really wish for.
Another love of mine is herbalism – making my own brews and tinctures is something I have only recently started doing, but it has already added so much to my life. For me this is about a deeper listening to my body’s needs and making an effort to really take care. I wish for a stronger immune system, for a resilient nervous system and a long life and I think practices like herbalism, yoga, meditation and using essential oils can bring me closer to that goal.
Finally I think bringing magic into our sexualities can create space for intention, deeper connections and healing. This might be as simple as stating intentions clearly within a beautiful ritual, developing more mindfulness in our touch, creating an enchanted atmosphere or developing our own ceremonies. Thinking about the ways we play and interact with each other in a way that creates space for something truly magical to happen can only be a good thing in my opinion.
I don’t believe that initiation in the conventional sense is necessary to bring more magic into our lives. In fact it really surprises me that so many groups who so fiercely challenge mainstream thought believe that gatekeepers are needed. This is not to say that we should steal traditions of other cultures and capitalise on them or claim them as our own, but I do feel that there are many ways of transmitting wisdom and that all of them are valid in their own ways. In particular I think its beautiful when we as queers honour our ancestors and histories, even if we are not always connected by bloodlines. We know that we carry the joy and the trauma of our ancestors in our bodies on a cellular level, that we share a collective consciousness with the communities we are part of and we even understand that trees talk to each other – so to me it makes total sense that we can understand time as a spiral construct in which we hold dreams for the future while honouring the past. When something truly magical happens, like the queer summer camp this year, I love the idea of dedicating it to all queers backwards and forwards in time as we access something beautiful that many of us have been denied.
How magic has manifested in my life
Seeing the night sky in the Sahara on my own, coming home to handmade gluten-free bread, letting a piece of land find and ground me, touch-free orgasms, being able to say no till it became a muscle memory on my lips, always pulling the perfect card with the most needed message, meeting you, meeting myself, running into the sea and chasing waves, making enough money for organic avocados and taxis to bring me to bed, articulating big wishes and trusting the universe, starring at a labradorite, surviving my twenties and turning 30, being naked and loving it, knowing there is always enough, healing deep shit, kissing someone for the first time, overland trips across Europe, coming out of the bath covered in coconut oil and sleeping in fresh sheets, feeling other people`s feelings, staying up late to tell stories, understanding that I will never fully understand the universe.
Some of my favourite resources on magic
Books on aspects of spirituality and magic I love are “Women who run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estès and “Drawing down the Moon” by Margot Adler. Sonia Choquette`s work on intuition has inspired me lots and I love what Caroline Myss has to say about energy work and archetypes.
My training in herbalism was with the Herbal academy of New England, also highly recommended.
…but while all these things are important on my journey I really think that finding magic within is the most important thing anyway.