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Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Eclipse Wars: Magic vs Fantasies vs Fed Up Folks


For the last few years, it was common every time eclipses would happen for two types of posts to dominate the internet.


One set would talk about the amazing power to spiritual growth and manifesting your desires which the eclipse would unleash. Cause, things are about to get real, and the alignments are happening and get ready to download all the goodness from the know...that kind of thing.


The others would be like "don't do any magic anywhere close to an eclipse ever under any circumstances."


One has more value than the other, neither is really right.


There has been a swing towards "stop commenting on eclipses, just let people do their magic" or "stop the doom and gloom different traditions believe different things." also kind of a problem. It kind of ignores that magic stuff is magic because the magic involved is real. If there is a reason for the warning, trashing the warning isn't the right answer, just like a full scale ban on eclipse magic isn't the answer.


Let's unpack this idea a bit.


People feel comfortable dismissing the warnings for two reasons.


One is that most people's familiarity with astrology is modern astrology. Modern astrology is basically a New Age version of a Myers Briggs test. It's pretty changeable and idiosyncratic. It presents fairly simple breakdowns of personalities and behaviors and trends such that the complex array of behaviors and feelings which make up a person will often line up in some way which makes a fair number of modern astrology memes and claims seem real enough. They are also tenuous enough that they seem like a fun thing to talk about but not something super meaningful.


The other reason is that a lot of people approaching magic from the "we're about to download all of the universe's blessings" side of things look at magic as just being about feelings and intentions. Magic doesn't really need to do anything or accomplish anything, but if it does, great. Magic is about praying, or focusing, and helping prepare yourself to find and utilize the opportunities for success that the universe presents you. Your intentions are more important than the specifics of what you do or when you do it.


If that approach to astrology were the basis of the eclipse statements, and if those ideas about magic were anything remotely true, then sure dismissing the eclipse statements would make sense. People should mind their own business and not give dire warnings. We all know, those views on magic are nonsense and that the type of astrology generating the eclipse warnings isn't modern astrology.


The various forms of traditional astrology (Classical, Medieval [Traditional], and Renaissance) all deal with much more specific analysis to create fairly specific readings about events, moments, trends and cycles. It's used to answer specific questions, sometimes as detailed as where to find lost things, and it is used to choose moments at which to do things - reliably enough that major companies and world leaders often still use it.


We could still dismiss it as "this is just one set of beliefs," except that traditional forms of astrology go back to Babylon, and then developed through Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Indian, and Arabic cultures before reaching medieval Europe. We have literally thousands of years worth of data and analysis from astrologers for examining and testing their ideas.


Traditional astrology is a science based on the way it uses and analyzes data. It doesn't claim the stars are causal or to fully explain why there is a relationship between the sky and events. But it maps how the sky works as a clock which can tell us about events. It can track to people's lives as well as to larger occurrences in society.


If you look at reports from Austin Coppock he will routinely lay out centuries worth of history that provides examples of events that happened under similar astrological conditions. It's really not all that far off from meteorology in terms of its quality as a science, and it has a larger data set than most things people recognize as science.


So the problem with dismissing the warnings or holding a view in opposition to them is, you're basically the guy on youtube who did his own research.


That said, the warning to do no magic is still bullshit. Not because astrology isn't true or because magic is all fairy dust and wishes.


Eclipses denote periods of upheaval, conflict, and chaos. They are historically understood as a powerful time for signaling negative events and catastrophes.


Magic, is often about deciding how you want the world to be despite how the world is. So the fact that an eclipse might indicate stronger energies of conflicts or chaos doesn't mean everything that will occur in life is conflicts and chaos. There are other factors happening in the sky, and also other factors happening in the world. The eclipse is one factor. Magic is also about picking the powers and forces you want to be active in a situation and directing or strengthening those while keeping out others. So if you don't want eclipse energy in your life, do magic about it.


The "don't do eclipse magic" movement was really kind of a knee jerk reaction to the "I'm going to get so many blessings when I drink my eclipse moon water" internet culture. It was kind of like "defund the police" where most people mean restructure funding to appropriate auxiliary departments and services to handle things police shouldn't handle and mitigate causes of crime while no longer allowing police to amass military arsenals. It was easier to say "defund the police," but the problem was people thought it meant "don't pay cops and shut down all police departments."


Don't do eclipse magic really meant, "don't invoke eclipse energies for blessings or to power beneficent work."


See, in astrology, there are two ways in which the moment of the eclipse might impact you. One is just electing to do a given thing in a given moment. Some times are better for starting certain endeavors and some aren't. Some moments might actively hinder what you're doing. It might not be impossible to be successful, but you're not giving yourself the best possible start if you don't pick a good moment, and you might be fighting an uphill battle if you pick the wrong moment.


The other end of it is using astrological powers in magic. You might make a petition or a talisman to utilize the given powers of astrological movements and relationships which make up a particular point in time. Some moments will allow you to make powerful objects or imbue spirits into materials which you can then work with later on and have the benefits of the strength those astrological powers had at the time your object was made.


Working in an eclipse is picking a moment that has the qualities of the eclipse. So it's good for eclipsey stuff and not so good for not-eclipsey stuff. The bigger issue though is if you're trying to call on the eclipse, or call on the Sun or Moon to power what you're doing. If you are trying to do lunar magic, it's going to have the nature of the eclipse.


In some sense, since we live in the sub-lunar realm, and the moon reflects the rest of the powers of the heavens into our world, all astrological powers will reflect through the Moon which will impart the character of the eclipse onto other powers involved to some degree. So any magic drawing on the planets or stars might not be advisable.


Magic involving gods, spirits, ancestors, planets, faeries, nature spirits, elementals...all of that is still business as usual. Unless they have some eclipse issue of their own.


So basically, if you want to create conflict or upheaval, then YES, totally do magic during the eclipse and invoke the powers of the eclipse to do so. Pick an eclipse where the sun or moon are in some aspect with a malefic planet or where the skies have some other chaos that you want. I imagine there is an argument that if you're doing this to make a talisman you might end up with a weak talisman rather than a powerful talisman for the forces of chaos and destruction...but, you can do magic where you call upon the powers of the stars and planets with out making astrologically elected talismans.


If you want to do positive things, or empower the status quo in your life, or anything not related to the eclipse, yes, you can totally do that. It might even be a good idea to do magic if you're worried that somehow the specifics of the astrological moment of the eclipse portend disaster for your particular circumstances. That's totally what magical intervention is for. In that case though, do magic that doesn't involve the eclipse or the Sun or Moon. Work with different powers and unrelated materials.


Now some of you might still be saying "well, that just isn't my tradition, so I don't have to worry about it."


Again, it's not really a question of tradition. It's thousands of years of observed and analyzed date. But ok. Maybe it's not your tradition.


Then what is your tradition?


If your tradition uses magic developed in the Post-Golden Dawn magical revival then it kind of is the basis for your tradition. So if you're involved in any sort of Wicca or NeoPagan witchcraft, any form of ceremonial magic or chaos magic, then yes, your tradition is based on systems influenced by these ideas and the cultural views which shaped them.


Even Ar Draoicht Fein, a pan-Indo-European Druid organization which doesn't teach much magic, holds that you need to observe the cycles of the moon in timing your magic. It draws this not from druid tradition, but from NeoPaganism which is pulling it from the Solomonic grimoires which influenced Wicca.


Most reconstructionist traditions have limited access to the magics of the cultures being reconstructed. The places where we have the richest information on historical magic were the Mediterranean and Levantine cultures. These were all cultures which participated in the forms of astrology which developed into Traditional Astrology, and as such these were cultures which had this view point.


So, if you're doing magic, it probably is somewhere in the DNA of your tradition.


There is something to letting people get their fingers burned. It's shitty not to give them the info needed to avoid burns or help them do something useful while minimizing burns and maximizing learning.


For the TL;DR folks...


Best Answer: Eclipses impact certain powers negatively so don't do magic utilizing those powers unless you want that kind of influence, do magic using other means.


Ok Answer: There are different approaches to magic, let people do their own thing.


Over-Reaction Answer: Never do any magic of any kind anywhere near an eclipse ever.


Wrong Answer: The eclipse is going to open an energy portal to your dreams and all your wishes will come true if you just claim them.  


If you want to understand this astrology stuff check out Hawk Astrology, Austin Coppock, The Astrology Podcast, RenaissanceAstrology, Nina Gryphon, and Stellar Sorcery.


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If you’re curious about starting conjuration pick up my new book – Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration


If you want some help exploring the vast world of spirits check out my first book – Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits


Now Available: An Audio Class and collection of texts on the Paracelsian Elementals 

More Opportunities for Support and Classes will show up at Ko-Fi

Monday, March 28, 2022

Review: Consorting With Spirits


I had the opportunity to read a draft of  Jason Miller’s new book, _Consorting With Spirits_  a few months back, before it went to the publisher. Since then there have been so many times where I have wanted to recommend it to people asking questions in forums or posting things to their timelines. We've finally hit the point where I can talk about what a great book it is, and I'm super excited to do so. 

It is a wonderful book which explains many things and answers many questions magicians frequently have. I’m excited that it’s about to be available because of how well it addresses many of these concerns and questions that crop up as people begin to explore spirit work in a way which is accessible, comprehensible, and in my opinion – correct. It is, therefore, a book which you should probably have on your bookshelf.

Jason notes in the beginning of the book that he wouldn’t recommend it as a first book on magic because it doesn’t address some of the protection elements and a few other basic elements which magicians may need for this work. Jason has of course addressed those various elements people may need in _Protection and Reversal Magic_, _The Sorcerer’s Secrets_ and _Elements of Spellcrafting_. (Despite that, Jason still addresses these subjects in this book, while maintaining the focus on the actual subject – spirit work). Even with the suggestion that the reader might want to read a book or two before this one, if I had a close friend curious about what magic was this book is what I’d hand them. The book is such an easy brisk read. Jason’s conversational approach makes the material simultaneously accessible to a beginner and interesting for an experienced magician. The book writes about spirits in a way which inspires excitement, wonder, and approachability while depicting vibrant living magical practice grounded in real experience. It presents something tenable that the reader can hold onto and say “Yes, this sounds awesome, I want to do this, I feel like I can do this.”

While reading it to give feedback I ran into points where I didn’t have much that was meaningful to say because the book was so good as it was. Telling potential readers “this is wonderful, it’s fun to read and easy to understand and is full of information, ideas and instruction that you can use,” is helpful for a potential reader trying to decide if they want to read it. It’s not super useful for an author if they want thoughts about stuff they might be considering revising. The book was so easy to read and engaging, the ideas were sensible and the advice and instruction it gave were correct to the point that sometimes I almost forgot I was putting together notes for feedback, because the only feedback I had was “this is great, I like this.”

I spend more time with academic books and translations of historical magic books than I do with contemporary magic books. I’ve been studying and doing magic most of my life. It’s not super frequent that I walk away from a magic book or a magic class with a bunch of ideas for things I want to try out and explore. _Consorting With Spirits_ gave me some new ideas for stuff to try, gave me some clarity on things I’d been considering, and also showed me much simpler answers to things people frequently ask which I probably answer with too much complexity.

The only criticism I really had was that there were points where I felt like a particular subject could be addressed with more depth. As I continued reading I found that most instances that left me feeling that way were addressed as these subjects were returned to and more depth was provided in later parts of the book. The way Jason lays it out, things are introduced with the depth they need at first, and then if appropriate, explored more deeply later. This is probably better than just tossing a bunch of info at the reader. The reader can let the comprehension of the material grow as they read.   

Jason includes some great vignettes from his personal history. These are interesting cool stories which are informative. They also show the reader that this is stuff Jason hasn’t just done once or twice in the past, but these are experiences that Jason has lived and is currently living. They aren’t puffed up exciting stories to impress the reader. They’re very real, very clear examples of what real interactions with spirits are like. Jason illustrates what it’s like to navigate a living world interwoven with real spirits who we don’t always recognize until we learn to engage that component of our reality.

The book doesn’t lean heavily into exploring the history of spirit practices. It references them where appropriate. It references different perspectives and cultures where appropriate. The book isn’t about the history of grimoires, or who conjured what in which monastery or royal court. The book is about running around with your cadre of spirits and working with them to learn things and accomplish things in the present.  

One thing I think a lot of people will like is that Jason gives you options. He shows multiple approaches and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each. He presents different styles that will fit different spiritual persuasions and he talks about what’s similar and what’s different. He gives you the tools to decide for yourself how you want to do things and what you want to do, he gives you things to think about as you explore the options he presents or if you choose to explore other options, and he gives you permission to explore and personalize. The reader walks away fully knowing that they can take pieces of this and leave others and build the approach that is right for them.

Jason is also honest and clear about what approaches fit his experience and maintains his standard of not trying to explain methods or how to work with spirits outside the scope of his own work. As he does this it still leaves the reader open to explore how these techniques and ideas can work in other spiritual contexts. 

If you want a well written, engaging and easy to understand book to help you explore a variety of approaches from a variety of perspectives to engage with spirits while having an experience driven explanation of what that engagement looks like and what considerations to explore while building your practice, read _Consorting With Spirits_.

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 If you enjoyed this please like, follow, and share on your favorite social media! We can be followed for updates on Facebook.


If you’re curious about starting conjuration pick up my new book – Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration


If you want some help exploring the vast world of spirits check out my first book – Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits

Now Available: An Audio Class and collection of texts on the Paracelsian Elementals 

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Sunday, March 13, 2022

Outgrowing Models of Magic

When I was 19 I began writing a comprehensive cosmological structure for considering magic. Many people thought it was a really good and thorough explanation...but several asked "how is this different from models of magic, it accounts for energy, spirits, psychology and everything else?" My answer was that it was the opposite. Instead of saying none of these are true, but we can behave as if they are when convenient I approached things from the perspective that all of these things are true consistently. Rather than our beliefs determining the language by which we approach things, the reality of our circumstances determines the nature of the phenomena we are experiencing.


The specifics of the worldview I outlined there aren't really important for this discussion. I have - as is probably evident to anyone who has read much of what I've written or interacted with me online - continued to hold the view that reality is real and our perceptions and experiences are based on the interaction of our personal histories with the objective influences of that reality.


As such, in the last few years, I have frequently suggested that we've hit a point in our collective development of occultists where we have outgrown models of magic. I do very much feel that when people try to seat discussion of phenomena in that often no longer fits how they are actually approaching magic, and it mostly leaves us stuck in something that was really useful 20 to 30 years ago but is significantly less so now.


I made a couple comments in a forum today and I felt like they really addressed my thinking on this matter, so I felt I would share them as a short post.


Someone asked, what is your preferred model of magic?


I answered:

"My favorite model of magic is 'We've grown out of models of magic and the universe is vast and nuanced and full of real things that are more interesting than trying to focus on just our imaginations'"


The beautiful, vast, living world teaming with spirits, stirring with energies, experienced through our minds, organized with information and language experiencing the dynamism of motion as it moves through the exchanges of construction and destruction, order and entropy is after all the concept which is central and dear to everything I advocate. A complicated, nuanced universe of multitudinous elements which would probably be simple if we were vast enough to comprehend it...and which is more than anything, beauty my Platonist cosmological safe space. (It is also a space which allows for stars deep in the darkness of the earth birthed from its rich sorcerous bounty...before anyone is put off by my Platonism.)


My brief answer, might be a little sassy. It addresses the idea that models of magic fail us when they put pragmatism over engagement to the point that we compartmentalize and shrink the world strictly to the space of our imaginations rather than grabbing hold of what it is. It didn't address the idea that models of magic might be intended as a language for understanding phenomena. I think it fails as that because it is usually fixed on negating the real in favor of belief and perception, or even negating perception in favor of intention.


The person who asked the original question responded asking about how phenomena we experience may relate in their presentations to our expectations and assumptions. This is a really important question in understanding the role our minds play in everything we experience, not just the ephemeral. It does play into models of magic, do we experience spirits because we expect spirits or because spirits are there? Do we feel energy because energy is moving or because we were taught the energy model?


I think some of that can break apart as we break apart the idea of models. I think the trap inherent there is part of the issue with getting stuck in models...and it's a trap we see people in European Traditional Magic communities fall into when they reject "modern" models of magic and assert only this one "traditional" model is ever true in all instances.


My answer to how the language of our expectations guides our experience of phenomena was the part which I felt really summed up my issue with models and was what led me to wanting to share more broadly than a comment on a forum thread.


"Generally the language of imagery through which our minds interpret non-physical phenomena (whether we're talking magical, spiritual, mystical, psychological, or neurochemical) by necessity takes the form of our own experiences, expectations and internal semiotic vocabulary.


Regardless of that, each thing can be itself and the universe can have room for all of them without us needing to try and parse them into disconnected models and incomplete paradigmatic structures.


I think the idea of models of magic was useful for a little while in getting people thinking about how just because we can use a hammer doesn't mean everything is a nail.


I think it holds us back by telling us everything can be a nail if we believe in the hammer enough but nails can be screws if we really want them to be and sometimes if we just imagine glue hard enough maybe things will behave like we have glue, or at least we'll feel like we had glue and that feeling is enough.


I think we can build bigger better richer more interesting things when we learn to navigate actual nails, screws and glue and figure out how to get the one we need and how to use it in the right scenario and address what is as what is rather than fixing on how we perceive it and whether the language by which we discuss it fits to what we'd like to believe.


Too often that latter approach devolves all the models into a psychological one which tends to bypass most effective action for reflective experience."


I don't think we're at a point where we should say "everything is spirits" or "we don't do the psychological model," we're at a point where we should say, "it's bigger than models, we've outgrown those little boxes."


Thanks for reading, please show support by following and sharing. You can also visit our Support page for ideas if you want to help out with keeping our various projects going. Or follow any of the links below.


If you enjoyed this please like, follow, and share on your favorite social media! We can be followed for updates on Facebook.



If you’re curious about starting conjuration pick up my new book – Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration



If you want some help exploring the vast world of spirits check out my first book – Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits



Now Available: An Audio Class and collection of texts on the Paracelsian Elementals



More Opportunities for Support and Classes will show up at Ko-Fi

Saturday, February 5, 2022

A Magical Life - Way of the Sword? Way of the Magic?


          Someone reached out recently and asked about how my work as a fencing coach impacts my work as a magician. I think he was concerned that the question was overly personal, but it was really a very fair question. The concern that it might be too personal of a question kind of helps bring up what I want to talk about here.

          People have asked this question a few times. I think a lot of people who know me via social media like seeing me talk about my work coaching and little stories I tell about the athletes I work with. Fencing is an unusual activity, less than 20% of Americans have ever tried fencing, and while it is more common in some parts of the world, it's still not an everyday kind of activity. Magic is also something that isn't super common in most places. It's probably natural to assume if I have these two unusual activities that they dovetail. I've had magicians ask me about teaching classes on the spiritual elements of fencing or on how fencing philosophy and magical philosophy and practice go together.

          The issue there is that they really don't align in any special way. Fencing doesn't have something like Bushido so we don't have spiritual elements. When I briefly took some iaido classes, there were interesting things where the kata related to particular directions or to particular bodhisattvas. Fencing doesn't have anything like that. Modern Olympic sport fencing is pretty purely a sport.

          Does that mean that there isn't an overlap between me as a fencer and me as a magician?


          On a very surface level you might point out that I have incorporated asana, pranayama, and vipasana practices into working with my fencing students - and in a couple examples drawn inspiration from Kinhin as well. This isn't really because I'm a magician though. We actually studied all of these things in high school, so I could have been familiar with them even if I wasn't into magic. They probably stuck with me, and I explored them more deeply, because I was into magic. Many of these ideas are incorporated by lots of sports coaches though. Aladar Kogler, a former Hungarian and former USA national fencing coach and international competitor, wrote as book called _Yoga for Every Athlete_. Ironically, I believe it may have been one of the last books I bought which was published by Llewellyn publications.

          Does the fact that these things are utilized by other coaches who aren't magicians mean that this is not a point of overlap?

          Not entirely.

          The thing is, magic is not a costume I put on and go parade around in on certain days or at certain times. Fencing is also not a costume I throw on when I want to express some flamboyant romantic artistry of the sword. Both are things which are core parts of who I am. I'm also someone who grew up in boy scouts and went to a prep school. I'm someone who maintained investment and financial planning licenses for over a decade and worked in those fields. I'm someone who went to college for film, and for history, who also took a lot of traditional art classes in high school.

          All of these interests and experiences shape who I am. All of the activities I do, and encounters I've had through these pursuits shape who I am. The way I've had to solve problems as a fencer, as a coach, as a financial advisor, as a manager, as a magician, as a member of a fraternal occult organization, all of these shape who I am. Who I am shapes how I think, how I respond to things, how I look at and understand things.

          I can't think about the world or an experience without my life as a magician influencing it. I can't think about the world or an experience without my life as a fencer or a fencing coach influencing it. Anything I have majorly spent time on, and even many things I have minorly spent time on, are part of the complex of influences which build me into me.

          My mom has said I was a fully formed person from the time I was an infant, with my personality already set. So maybe some parts of me have strongly been there since the beginning. But like all people, each little tick and tock of time against my being carries with it a myriad of influences and elements which might chisel and reshape elements of how I comprehend and respond.

          I could probably dig deep and say "I tend to look at things this way because I'm a magician," or "being a fencer makes me think about problems this way," or "being an advisor makes me focus on solutions this way." It would probably be easier to do when making a choice about a particular situation I encounter and unpacking how I experienced and thought about that situation. On some level, elements of Crowley's Liber ThIShARB and the Oath of the Abyss can play into this kind of self analysis.

          I don't think I could say one influences the other specifically, because any influence fencing has on me as a magician probably is an influence that it has on me as a person in general.

          I think we often think of magic as something special. Being a magician is something we think of as special. I think magic becomes more powerful and meaningful when it isn't special, when it's an element of our lives that we interact with, address, and use like we do any other element of our lives. When magic is woven into who we are as a person just like our relationships, our taste in movies or food, our sense of style or how our occupations can influence who we are when they are the right occupation...magic has the opportunity to thread itself throughout life and interact with your life more fully. I think growing to look at it and experience it this way can be a great and meaningful goal to achieve.    

     I'm writing this post the night before I'll be celebrating a big birthday (although the birthday comes a few days later), so, an even better time to show support than usual. Sharing a post or a link to one of my books is a greatly appreciated option, and you can of course pick your favorite post if you'd like to share one other than this one.


          Thanks for reading, please show support by following and sharing. You can also visit our Support page for ideas if you want to help out with keeping our various projects going. Or follow any of the links below.


If you enjoyed this please like, follow, and share on your favorite social media! We can be followed for updates on Facebook.



If you’re curious about starting conjuration pick up my new book – Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration



If you want some help exploring the vast world of spirits check out my first book – Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits



Now Available: An Audio Class and collection of texts on the Paracelsian Elementals


More Opportunities for Support and Classes will show up at Ko-Fi

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Real Magic Fake Experts


          There is a popular meme, "some of you have never [experienced X] and it shows." I think, looking at a lot of forums, that can be said about real magic.

          A lot of popular books on magic focus on religious and mystical experiences, self-help, and seeking psychological catharsis. It's less common for magic to be focused on miraculous effects, or even not so miraculous but still discernibly magical effects. As a result, for a lot of people magic stays within the realm of religious experience and mental reflection - or rituals to give you the feels.

          Sometimes that's ok. Sometimes that's what people need. I wish we could get away from calling some of those activities magic, because it muddies the waters of discussion and makes it harder for people trying to find actual magic to find it.

          Browsing forums over the years has made me realize there are three things which people often say which indicate that either they have a shallow knowledge base or they have little experience of the actual capability of magic to make real world changes. Not everyone needs a deep knowledge base, and not everyone needs to make or recognize miraculous moments. It's unfortunate when the ideas that stem from this paucity become common or predominate though, and sadly they often are.

          The first of these is the knee jerk response that everything is dangerous. Yes, everything is dangerous. You are at risk if you lay in bed all day, you are at risk if you get up and leave your bed. That doesn't mean nothing should be done. Risk has different levels. Different ways to mitigate and control risk exposure exist in different activities. Different situations and potential successes make the acceptable level of risk also a variable factor. So an empty response of "that's dangerous" does no one any good.

          People who understand what they're talking about might explain what the dangers are, and how to successfully manage them. Or they might say "this approach is undesirable because these dangers exist and it doesn't manage them or have enough success to make them worthwhile, this other approach is better because XYZ reasons."

          People who don't understand things are more likely to say "This was written by this author I've never read, his materials are advanced but he was a bit mad and so his work is too dangerous to be useful." "This author was in league with dark forces and they led him to misunderstand the true nature of magic, which I understand from studying systems that are watered down versions of said author's work."

          Ok, so they won't hand their ignorance to you on a silver platter like that, but it's easy enough to read between the lines. More often you'll just get "that kind of spell is dangerous," "no one should ever do that because you can't control it," "only dark magicians would do that kind of magic, it's very dangerous," or other similarly vague and spooky warnings with no substance.

          The real keys here are "is the warning substantive?" and "does the substance make sense?" If the answer to these questions is no then maybe look for someone else to answer your questions. If your answers are always like that, maybe realize you aren't ready to answer questions.

          The second common fail-boat response is, "google it," "we don't spoon-feed people here," "no one is here to teach you," "shouldn't you know that if you're ready to do this magic?"

          Admittedly, sometimes, the last challenge to a question is a reasonable one. Google it might be a reasonable response occasionally too based on the way someone is asking stuff or if you've provided some help but they need more. The other two make sense much less often.

          I've written about this before. In most disciplines, experts are overjoyed to talk about their specialized area of expertise. Experts often want to share and teach. In magic, this is actually often the case too...although a lot of experts don't like the drama and hassle of public forums so they just aren't super active there. They might skip responding to posts if they don't have time or interest in answering. I have rarely see any bruskly brush off a sincere question. In the case of a forum, I would also assume any question that isn't clearly trolling is sincere enough.

          Magic doesn't have a clear bar for expertise. Expertise isn't easily testable. Expertise could refer to practical capability or to learned knowledge and those would have different measures. There are no standards or accreditation organizations. There is nothing barring Andy Random from reading a book or two, attending an online chatroom sabbat ritual and declaring himself a high priest of the ancient moon cult of witches. People do this pretty much daily. A lot of people establish their status as experts in forums by virtue of being loud and condescending. There are also those who establish it with fancy names, flashy weird back-stories, and routine seemingly pithy hot-takes that are easy to deconstruct but too sassy to want to shoot down...but that's a whole different issue.

          The loud and condescending sort would never dream of answering questions. Because they'd have to reveal that they don't know stuff. Actual experts will answer things when they have the time or inclination, and they will admit they don't know or are not the best source of information when something is outside of their scope.

          The final example is the one which made me write today's post. Originally I was just going to tweet "people who think magic never has any actual methodology clearly have never experienced real magic," or something like that. Maybe pithier...maybe more scathing, or maybe more gentle. Then I thought, "well it needs more clarity, so maybe a longer tweet? maybe a Facebook status?" Then I decided I'd do a blog post...just a paragraph or two, but then this happened. That's pretty much me in an exploded nutshell though.

          Anyone familiar with forums knows that the most predominant idea in the magical and NeoPagan communities is "it's all about intention," "the only thing that matters is intention," "there are no rules, it's just whatever it means to you because it's about intention," "answers to your question don't matter, because what matters is how you feel because it's about your intentions."

          Intention is important in magic, because magic is often accomplished through taking various mundane actions and combining them in a symbolic way and activating them through the intention to perform magic by doing them. Intention is important in the sense that magic is an intentional act. Even that is kind of a weak argument for intention because there is more to it than that. Not any actions performed with the intention of doing magic will always produce magic, and some actions might produce magic even without an aware intention on the part of the doer.

          The idea that magic is about what you intend to manifest, and that magical acts are relatively meaningless in the face of your intentions is a nonsensical sort of misunderstanding and one which is very easily demonstrably false. If this were the case, we wouldn't ever need to learn any magic, we could just intend for things to happen. We wouldn't ever run into mistakes or mishaps in magic, because our real intentions will just show through no matter what we do. Everyday acts would all be magical because we would always have some intended outcome, and things would always match our intentions. Instead of the saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," being common in our culture, we would instead recognize universally that what someone intended to do is what's important, because their intentions will win out in the end.

          Obviously, I am not a strictly by the book magician. I'm an educated magician, but I have all the messy eccentricity that just about everyone who grew up with bits and bobs of magic and the influence of spirits they encountered as children shaping their early experiments in magic. I think experimentation, innovation, and substitution are necessary. I also think these things are better when people have a good base knowledge of the system they're working with and other systems. I also know that there are things which can go wrong when symbols, materials, names, and spirits are used without understanding them or without working with them in the correct ways.

          Ironically, people who are quick to mock assertions that some things are correct and other things are incorrect are the same people who will say "never try this because it's spooky dangerous." This overlap kind of illustrates how both are based in not really getting that magic has real power, and that power can do great things, and that great things can be stuff we're happy about or stuff that devastates us.

          I have seen real magic do intense things. Sometimes, intense things can be really small but still incredibly impressive. Sometimes they are huge. I've seen it destroy towns, end lives, save lives, save homes, deliver fortunes to people unexpectedly, I've seen liquidations of investments in failed businesses yield people great returns, I've seen people healed of things where doctors were confused or avoid illness that seemed unavoidable. The list of stuff where it is inexplicable and clearly not just psychology or coincidence is endless. Magic being real and powerful doesn't mean people are throwing fireballs or flying around cities, or using magic carpets instead of airplanes. It means real powerful effects which can shake the foundation of your perceptions of reality and power are a standard element of magic.

          When we consider that simple tools can have that kind of power we must consider that there are correct and incorrect ways to use those tools. This isn't meant in a moral sense. I'm not saying if you want to destroy some village because someone offended you at a dinner party that that is an incorrect use of magic. It would be a pretty awful thing to do and I'd hope you weren't going to do it. I'm saying I've seen things that let me know that that is possible. I've seen things that let me know that completely innocent uses of magic can go horribly wrong when we don't understand how the tools we're using work or how they assemble into the effects we're trying to create.

          So when someone says "these things shouldn't be used together because of the way their effects combine or cancel," or "this should be used in this way but not this way because chances are this will happen," we should ask why and explore whether or not the advise is reasonable. We shouldn't mock the idea that the advise exists because it's all about intention.

          If your answer is "I lazily spin in my chair while wearing three talismans and sitting next to a bowl of crystals and I'm fine," then yeah, you probably are fine. You're probably also not doing any actual magic and aren't equipped to answer questions about actual magic. Your practice of feeling empowered is probably great for you, but that's probably most of what you've got going on.

          It would be very easy to read what I'm saying here as reactive and sensationalist. A lot of real magical work won't do things which are cataclysmic if we make a little mistake here or there. More likely, we'll make a mistake and get no meaningful result, or we'll make a little mistake and our result will be misdirected off from our goal. The damage here is simply the loss of opportunity to get what we wanted or needed. This kind of problem can be a great learning experience for tweaking method. If we don't recognize that methods have an impact then we don't consider making those tweaks. Not understanding that there is a reality to magical acts limits us from improving.

          As we become more proficient and move on to more intermediate and advanced methods - if we can really consider them in that kind of hierarchy - we start to encounter possibilities which might have more consistently powerful effects. Depending upon the moment and the magician super simple super basic things can have very powerful effects. There are also approaches that tend to be more likely to produce those because of the spirits or the natural powers which are involved in effecting them.

          As we engage those techniques, we might not realize powers or tendencies that a particular spirit has. Or we might not recognize how certain elements of our timing impact the spirits or the natural forces we are applying to the situation. If we understand those things we can sometimes navigate them. We can put restrictions in place, or take additional measures, or involve other spirits to help manage the effects and avoid undesirable side effects or undesirable means by which the goal is manifested.

          This is not to say that if you do a spell for money that your most likely option for a windfall is a relative dying and leaving you money, so your spell will unintentionally kill someone. There are various reasons why that is not super likely. More to the point, it's saying that if you ask a spirit who gives dignities in war and grants treasure to bring you money, and you do it in the day and hour of Mars, while Mars is exalted, and the Moon is aspecting Mars, and Jupiter and Mercury are in signs ruled by Mars, and Jupiter is afflicted by an aspect with Saturn then maybe violence, war or chaos will bring about your monetary goal. If you recognize those factors, maybe you pick a different spirit, or maybe you choose a different time, or incorporate talismans or ritual magic components to offset the electional qualities of the time at which you're doing your work.

          For a more simple example, a love spell intended to make a particular person desire you won't necessarily end up like the rapey obsession that occurred when Robin Tuney enchanted Skeet Ulrich. First he becomes a doting and vacant servant, following around the witch who ensorcelled him. Then he becomes obsessed, he can't eat, he can't sleep, he tries to see her at inappropriate times, and eventually attempts to rape her. This is the horror story that people hold up as an example of the danger of love spells. It's kind of ironic since it's from a horror movie, albeit minor horror, and usually people would dismiss the idea that magic works the way it does in horror movies.

          Doing a spell which is effective but misguided could easily result in this kind of effect. I am aware of someone doing a spell intended to kind of turn things up in a developing relationship and it involved some pepper oil for passion and the candle caught the oil and ended up igniting most of the spell components in a conflagration. The spell was left in a fireproof area in case something like that happened and ended up safely burning itself out. Something came up and the magician decided to put off their date with the object of the spell and the person effected by the spell became somewhat enraged and demanded they must have their date then. That fiery passion clearly took hold. Nothing bad happened though.

          We could take the mistake further. Maybe we take two red candles and some crimson rose petals for passion. We take some oils for lust and obsession and dress the candle with those and with red pepper oil. We add some additional components for heat and to speed up the spell. We carve the names of the two people intended to get together into the candles and bind the together. The candle for the suitor being spelled gets rose thorns stuck into it to create a painful and irritating desire. We obtain the assistance of an intranquil spirit and command it to disturb the target with dreams, a loss of sleep, a loss of appetite, a burning in their blood, until they are with the person that they are intended to pursue. We agitate the spirit with peppers and fire and threats of damnation. Maybe we are afraid that the target will be too inert because of their nature, so we call on spirits ruled by Mars to stir the blood to action and make our suitor take initiative.

          This spell would be pretty awful, but it would be pretty effective.  It would also be full of things that shouldn't go together in this context unless measures are taken to also cool the effects of the spell and soothe everything which is stirred up in the target. If the person who desires the suitor doesn't want sex, or wants to play coy and feel pursued, then this spell is probably asking for violence to happen.

          Some people might say "this is why you don't do love spells," but you could do one which doesn't do this and accomplishes the goal. Maybe you obtain personal effects from the two people. Put them in a pink sachet with pink rose petals, sugar, a load stone dressed in iron filings and oil suited to affection and attention. Anoint two pink or two green candles with the same oils and carve in their names, drizzle them in honey, and sprinkle honeysuckle over them. Maybe add some elements related to beauty on the candle for the person who wants to be desired, and courage for the person who the spell intends to turn into a suitor. Light the candles next to each other so they will melt into the same place. Call on spirits ruled by Venus and ask them to make the beauty of the individual inspire affection and sweet treatment from the suitor.

          The elements of the spell will effect the nature of the results. In both cases, Sally Spellman obtains her desired suitor. In one case, the suitor is more likely to be wound up, horny, and agitated by desire. In the other case the suitor is more likely to be affectionate and caring and attracted to Sally's qualities.

          It's not the ethical nature of the spell that potentially results in disaster, it's the way the spell tries to create the effect and whether or not the effect is directed and channeled in a way which safely allows the effect and deals with the specifics of how the spell is working. When we don't consider what we're doing, why we're doing it, and how it works, we can't consider how it will develop and how we need to address that development.

          You'll also notice that while I'm talking about dangers here, none of them are spooky vague dangers. All the dangers are based in specific elements of how and why this could be dangerous and how it can be dealt with. This again, is the different between that first issue that reveals that someone isn't super aware of magic.

          All in all, it's easy to be the guy that says "No, that's just spooky dangerous for no real reason," "you should just google it because we won't spoon-feed you," and "your intention is all that matters so do whatever you want." It takes less work to answer questions this way. It takes less work to read a few books, buy cool necklaces and crystals and live an aesthetic that makes you feel good. It takes less work to develop a basic practice of magic and basic understanding and never expand it.

          It isn't just laziness though. It can be scary to open up to a world with more possibilities and more risks. It can be scary to open up to a world where you might have real power and therefore might have to be responsible for things you do with that power. It can be incredibly depressing to hold onto power, and do really cool stuff and still be routinely faced with situations where you can't do anything about them, or where you feel too inert or unsure to try doing anything about them and are forced to still feel small and powerless and to try and unpack those feelings relative to moments of power. It's not necessarily a simpler easier world. It can be a rewarding world, but it is a choice that still opens you up to other things you will have to deal with. It's just as reasonable to not want that world as it is to want the rewards that go with that world. It isn't reasonable to reject that world and then still pretend to be an expert and get in the way of other people finding it.

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