Since my first attempt at defining what magic was, my framework had changed. My first definition was that magic can be used to exploit the reality people find themselves in. A magician finds the crack in reality and changes it to their advantage.
Then my working definition of magic became defined by Kurt Seligmann in “The Mirror of Magic.” He wrote, “Magic operation is the application of the practical use of wisdom…acquired in contemplation of the inner self and of nature. Magic endeavors to explain every phenomenon in life, in nature, in the invisible… unity of the universe with its endless entirety.”
Pondering what magic is made me realize that there was a shift in perception after the Enlightenment. Reason and materialism became embedded in every day thought. Later the Protestant Reformation flattened and homogenized life. Richard Kieckhefer in “Magic in the Middle Ages” said that the shift in thinking of magic from being natural or demonic to separate from religion started in the 16th Century.
Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn in her essay, “Pastlessness” observed that the two modern movements that arose from the Industrial Revolution were Marxism and Positivism. Both was based on the theory that history evolves from a theological belief system to scientific empiricism and finally to economic materialism. The basis of belief of these two movements was human mastery and control of the Universe. Because of this, Lasch-Quinn wrote “everything is stripped of soul of inner and mysterious life.”
A product of the Victorian Age, Sir James Frazier defined magic as separate from religion. Since then, this metaphysical outline has bedeviled the study of European magic. Ronald Hutton in his essay, “Framework for the Study of European Magic,” relates the struggles to redefine magic and religion.
For me, I decided to give up the idea of human mastery of the world. Also, I let go of the theory of a rational universe. I am no longer sure if magic endeavors to explain every phenomenon in life as Seligmann says. Science does that, since it assumes the uniformity of the universe. In this, I am reminded of the science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clark’s Three Laws. His Third Law is “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In modern times, magic and science seems to be equated in some people’s minds. Moreover, secularism has pushed the notion that the mysteries of magic is only a cloak for ignorance.
In order for magic to exist for me, I need the vision of an enchanted world. The Romans and other ancient people lived in a heterogenous Cosmos. Their spiritual ecology consisted of the interaction between Gods, Nature, Ancestors, Others (Lars), Humans, Plants, and Animals. Adopting this framework, I see that the Cosmos is full of mysteries as the various worlds intersect each other.
Magic enchants the Cosmos and gives meaning and purpose to life. I realized this when I was seeking to understand how I saw a “living pterosaur.” For me, this event was magic beyond the rational world. This entity should not exist but it does in all of its glory. For me, magic is more than manipulating reality, it is a metaphysical framework. Magic is the response to the wonder of the world. Magic is the way to change a person’s consciousness according to their will. Through magic, a person can intentionally change their lives.
In my practice of magic, I will consciously work within this spiritual ecology. If I want to change something, it means negotiation with various Divine entities. This could be “a gift for a gift” instead of me willing a change without their consent.
Davis, Owen, ed. “The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft & Magic.” Oxford University Press: Oxford. 2017.
Greer, John Michael, “The Occult Book.” Sterling: NY. 2017.
—, “The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2003.
Hennessy, Kathryn, ed., “A History of Magic, Witchcraft and the Occult.” Dorling Kindersley: New York. 2020.
Hutton, Ronald, “The Witch.” Yale University Press: New Haven. 2017.
—, “A Framework for the Study of European Magic.” Grey School of Wizardry Class Materials. Dell.Urgano, Ombra, “The Development of European Magic.”
Kieckhefer, Richard, “Magic in the Middle Ages.” Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (UK). 2014.
Lasch-Quinn, Elisabeth, “Pastlessness.” The Hedgehog Review, Vol 24, Number 2, Summer 2022, pages 66-76.
Moro, Pamela, “Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Magic.” International Library of Anthropology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea1915.
Seligmann, Kurt, “The Mirror of Magic.” Inner Tradition: Rochester (VT). 1948.