My friend is an evangelical Christian. He's very committed to it, and his weekly Bible study schedule was actually what ended up throwing off our routine hanging out as we hit our thirties. Even with his fairly conservative evangelicalism, our conversation included him congratulating me on my Black Crozier award (we had not hung out since before I won that) and the success of my occult books. We couldn't be friends without me accepting his Evangelicalism and him accepting my Pagan-Catholic-Sorcerous-Witchcraft-and-Dionysianism. So, talking about how much magic is in the world isn't a shocking or unusual topic, and honestly, is a topic which should be intensely important for Christians too.
I talked about how when we were kids we learned folk tales in
school, and knew the various folk heroes of
We have anthropologists and sociologists finally exploring that folklore is not a past thing, but a continually developing thing. Rather than noble savages and peasantry being the source of folk memory, there are now collections of experiences with the spirit world, and folk knowledge as it impacts modern people with modern lives. There are books and studies countering the idea that materialism killed the spiritual awareness and folk beliefs of that European and North American cultures are somehow more fixed in materialism and rationalism than other cultures.
In my own experience, and the anecdotal experience of many magicians, most people believe in magic or the supernatural when faced with the opportunity for it to exist. They may deny it generally, but still choose safety when it could present some risk, or seek its help in small ways when it is opportune. A friend once told me that his atheist girlfriend appreciated me praying for her because she thought it helped her situation. In school, friends who were Catholic and friends who didn't believe in anything would turn to me as the magic kid for things they didn't feel right praying for or asking for otherwise.
At minimum the average person has retained a belief in possibility, even when that generally is at odds with how they would consider themselves.
I think some of this is changing though. As I failed to understand how to use the table top card reader, displaying my backwards hermit magician status, I bemoaned the death of folk knowledge and magical awareness amongst young people.
I work with college students, and also with children and teenagers. So I get to see a lot of what they think and what they're aware of. Unlike most teachers and coaches, I work with the kids year round, and will have some of them with me from the age of 9 or 10 up through 18 or longer. So I get to the point where they can talk about a lot of what interests them and how they see things. They also like to try and get me to kill time by setting up trivia games.
I have found that as elementary curricula focus more on STEM, and on computer skills there is less room for other things. Kids get a lot less folk knowledge and local history and folk culture. Some of it is probably still there but there is so much else for them to cover as the pace of education accelerates that it doesn't sink in so much
Add to that more activities for kids, and parents keeping activities and hobbies for themselves, as well as keeping up with increase homework as schools try to prepare students for the world loads of higher education by overloading them in lower school...parents probably find less time to sit in fields and talk about why the leaves tremble or what magics certain flowers and things floating in the air might hold.
As kids no longer have the wonder of the world woven into their nascent awareness, the world becomes less magical.
You might say that the world is what it is, and kids will have the opportunity to find it later if that's what they want. I think we mostly know, if we're honest with ourselves, that it usually doesn't work that way even if we like the idea of it working that way. It's easier to say "this might be our there" and have someone decide they don't care about it and ignore it than it is to say nothing and someone to spontaneously look for something they had no idea existed.
Even when people know something exists, like various unusual sports and hobbies, the common impulse of those with some passing interest, even some people with a keen interest is to say "well, I don't know how to find that, it's never been anywhere I've seen." In the religious sphere, lots of people decide they don't believe in God, because they don't believe in the God they've been shown, and don't realize that what they do believe in might exist in some other faith because they don't know other options exist.
Some people will be raised in a world of gray cubicles, and find the cracks that let the light shine in, and realize they can break through those cracks. It won't be the norm.
Still, the world is the world. It will always have its magic and wonder even if people don't pay attention. Right?
In some ways, yes, the fundamental reality of what is won't change. Our ability to engage it will.
I don't believe in consensus reality, or that the collective acceptance of a concept reshapes the objective realness of the world. I do believe that our interactions with the spirit world our shaped by our interactions with the world around us and with the spirits in the world around us. I believe this applies to our individual interactions and our interactions as a group.
If we are unkind to the spaces of spirits, or to the spirits themselves, guardians who see us as part of the environment they guard and assist will become monsters who see us as interlopers. We can see this evolution throughout folklore and faery stories.
More than that, many spirits need the physical world to engage with the spirits and spirit world, or to provide things that break down the barriers of awareness and interaction between those places in order to more fully engage us and engage this world. This is a common element of many magical and religious traditions.
Some elements of engagement include offerings, some include ritual acts, and some are simply engaging awareness and interaction as if they spirit is present with us.
Living in a world where that engagement is always present and where the awareness of the imminent presence of the spiritual is ubiquitous shapes our capacity and the capacity of the spirits. This isn't so much a matter of belief changing the world, but a question of whether closing our blinds impacts how easily we know what's happening outside of our windows.
I spent 12 years working in an area where most people believed in magic, and wore magical amulets and used words and signs to keep away the evil eye and other negative magical impulses. It was an interesting difference in awareness. I wasn't part of the community and didn't live in the community, so I didn't get to fully engage the difference. There was still something perceptible to it.
I've heard stories from people who have visited or lived in places where magic is a general living part of the culture. The consensus seems to be that in those spaces spirit interaction is more common, more visceral, more perceptible and often more effective. Spaces where the average person believes in magic and spirits, and needs their intervention in their lives, and routinely engages that awareness are spaces where magic takes on a different character.
Many of us have recognized that but I'm not sure we internalize what it means for the world, or what we as magicians should be doing in light of that reality.
I made a new friend last night. He was talking about his difficulties making himself study in light of other things he deals with, and I commiserated. He asked about me studying, and I explained that I had research I was doing for a writing project, and that I was currently researching the Faery Queen and her evolution from the Sibyls of Greece through Arthurian Legend into magical texts and practices and how that connected to various pieces of folklore in different parts of the world. He thought it was super cool. Later in the night, another friend talked about taking an extra trip because he didn't want to drive with too many people in his car since cops patrolled the area where he'd be driving. I told him I would offer him a bay leaf so he could drive without being seen, but that I didn't have any with me. The new friend was super confused, the other friend acknowledged appreciating that I would have offered and kind of skirted around addressing the confusion. So I explained why bay leafs relate to invisibility and hiding things.
It was all pretty matter of fact and no explanation was given. The world just included the possibility of magic as if it was a normal thing.
In situations where it's appropriate I try to be this person. A relatively normal person, who doesn't seem like anything bizarre. A normal person who might answer questions about magic or answer non-magical questions with magical answers, as fluidly as a non-magical answer might be given. Not in a showy or weird way, in places where it's appropriate or would be as normal as anything else.
I hate the internet trend of saying "normalize" things. It frequently involves stuff where the goal isn't to make something normal, but rather to make it comfortable and unstigmatized. Part of me wants to say that we should normalize magic, but that isn't really the goal either. Magic shouldn't ever be normal because magic needs to be visceral and kinetic. Magic should be present and a visible part of the world.
Obviously, care has to be taken as far as context. Some people are people who you probably don't need to be a magician in front of. Others might be people where it's ok. Sometimes keeping magic present in the world doesn't have to involve you being magic. All situations are different.
At the very least, avoiding a world less magical is a thing
we should consider.
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