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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Conjuring a Pen

In the last ten to fifteen years there has been a resurgence in talking about "materia," and the importance thereof. Materia is, of course, simply Latin for materials. When we say materia, it gives a kind of foreign feel to what we're saying that indicates that it is something special and out of the ordinary. 

But is that what materia is? 

Magic books from the pop mass market occult publishing industry of the late 20th century would tell you that your materials are absolutely not out of the ordinary. There are probably a lot of books which would say the same today, continuing the same ideas their authors learned from those books. Such books teach us that nothing is supernatural, because everything exists in nature. Along with this idea, since everything is natural and normal, no tools or materials are special. The Power, after all, resides in you; the magic is your intentions, the tools and materials are just props to help you focus. 

While we usually can't shoot down people's beliefs because beliefs are beliefs not demonstrable facts, we can kind of take this one apart. General observation of the world will show you it's not just intentions that matter, and most jobs are easier to do with the right tools and materials.

Magicians should also recognize that the supernatural exists. Nature is a living collective which is one part of existence. There are other spaces and existences aside from just Natura. When elements of those other spaces interweave with the natural world or influence it, this is an element of what we know as the supernatural. 

An alternate view of tools and materials - tools are after all a sort of material, so we can discuss them together - is that of grimoire purists. They remind us that the books tell us exactly how and when to make the tools and what to make them from. If we want to do the thing in the book, we need to follow the instructions exactly. Why? Because if we follow the instructions, we know we're doing the thing, so the results are real...but if we don't follow the instructions, maybe the results are a trick. We can't know why it says to do these things, so we just have to do what it says. pretty intellectually lazy. It ignores most evidence of historical magical practices which shows it wasn't done this way. It ignores the fact that manuscripts all had variances and what we're reading today are usually interpretations of several manuscript examples. It ignores that there are different instructions in various books. 

Worse than all that, it assumes we can't ever figure out why we're doing things, so we need to just follow the rules and not ask questions or think. 

Unlike the mass market view, it does assume tools have meaning and are important, so at least it gets that part right. 

What about sorcerers and witches? 

A lot of working magicians with their hands in the dirt exploring will interweave things from various sources after they become comfortable with and understand each source's approach. Many magicians, modern and traditional, have encountered situations where some things simply aren't available, and they find new or different options to fulfill a similar purpose. 

In such approaches, people understand that tools and materials have power, meaning and function which they bring to the table. It is also understood that the work is a living and adaptable thing that interacts with our real, living and adaptable world. 

Specific materials, and specific times and methods for making or obtaining them connect to their power. Everything in creation has within it an essence or nature which shapes and characterizes it. That essence comes from a spiritual level of existence and is part of the extension of divine life within it. In many cases, we can understand or interact with this life as a spirit, or part of the power and influence of the spirit which moves through that particular material. 

When we understand tools and materials as bringing particular types of life or spirit presence, we can understand their importance and power. We can also understand that not having a traditional material or tool isn't detrimental, if we find something with spiritual presence and power that can perform the same, or a similar function. 

Tools and materials are special and powerful because they are living allies. 

We have to remember this relationship and work with them in a manner that acknowledges, respects, and calls upon that life, agency, presence, and assistance. 

When we engage them that way, something else should become evident. The more New Age magic books were almost close to right. Tools and materials aren't special foreign sacred things that have power just by virtue of being out of the ordinary. Ordinary things we encounter day to day are also parts of the living collective of nature. They have power and life too. 

The fact that tools have power and characteristics is not the proof that they are exacting and unchangeable, it is, as it turns out, a reminder that there are many things which can help us in magic when approached the right way. 

So, with that in mind. If you are going to do written-magic you'll need something to write with. If you're drawing a sigil, a magic square, a petition paper, a pentacle or an incantation or versicle, you need something to write with. 

The classic magical tool answer might be an ink well and quill...because that was the way people wrote when the grimoires were written. It wasn't because that's the only way to write magically. 

If you have a nice clickable smooth gel ink pen and you're going to use it for magic, are you able to conjure the pen? 

You could sprinkle it with Holy Water to make it sacred, to consecrate it...but, that's not what we're talking about. 

The pen is plastic. The ink probably has some plastics, but it might have some elements derived from herbs or minerals. There is probably some metal, maybe some rubber in the pen. The pen assembled is a thing and has a nature. Its nature is formed by and takes part from the natures of the materials from which it is made. It's more than the sum of its parts but it's parts still make up what it is. 

Elements of the plastic, ink, and rubber were once alive in a conventional sense. The metal lived in a spiritual sense. The pen lives now and each element lives in part through the existence of the pen. 

This might seem silly but try it and see if you can feel that life and if it has a presence or response that indicates it's ready to aid in your work. 

Start your ritual. Open your space. Do your invocations. Do everything you'd do before you would begin writing. 

Then, hold the pen between your hands. Your hands can press to its sides like praying hands, but maybe softer. 

Start at the level of your heart, then move your hands and the pen up to your head. Quiet yourself and feel the pen, feel if you feel life there. Call on it. 

"I conjure this pen, I call upon the ancient life which forms its body, I call upon the metal drawn from the earth, the sap from trees and the life of that which forms its ink. I conjure and call upon you, be present here and aid me in this work." 

Be respectful. Be ready to acknowledge that this is an element of your work that you're working with, not simply something you are using. 

It may seem silly as you read about it, but if you can connect to it, it won't feel silly. It will feel like any other tool or material. 

An animist approach to magic isn't a dress up approach which only acknowledges those materia which feel foreign and magical. There was a point when many of those things were everyday things and that's why magicians used them. 

We don't need to get silly and imagine complex and overblown identities for every object in our lives. Even those we engage with in magic might not have an identity or the conventional concept of a spirit. They will still have life and from that life stems character, agency, and presence. They have elements which they bring to the table. Using a wide range of those allies can bring more to the table and help you get deeper into the spirit space of the magic. 

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