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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Taylor Ellwood

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Esoteric Secrets of Fantasy Books

Kat and I are reading Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling right now. It's a classic Fantasy story, but what I find interesting is that in the first chapter, if you know what to look for, you discover a lot of esoteric and occult practices shared with the protagonists of the story, and this sharing continues throughout the rest of the book. It's a subtle way to teach magic to readers. Given when the book was written, the author needed to be subtle about it, but what fascinates me is that even to this day you can still find a number of fantasy writings where esoteric ideas and secrets are shared if you know what to look for. And if you don't know what to look for, well guess what? You're being given an education in magic and how it works so that if you get to that point where you actually start practicing you've already got some idea of how magic seems to work.

Kat and I like to discuss the books we are reading together, so we got into a long and fascinating conversation about not only Rudyard Kipling, but some of those writers who've written esoteric secrets into their fantasy. For example, if you've read any of Michael Moorcock's writings you'll find quite a lot of esoteric secrets shared. In Elric of Melnibone, he practically spells how to evoke an entity in several different instances where the character needs supernatural aide. In the Corum series, he focuses in on the magical aspects of gift giving and the connections gods have to people and vice versa. And there's a number of other series he writes in where he shares esoteric ideas and concepts, which I recognize many years later as playing a foundational role in my understanding of magic. As a young, impressionable reader the stories I read fascinated me because of the adventure, but as a magician I can see how my evocation practice has been shaped by what Moorcock wrote, as well as some of other esoteric beliefs and practices.

Raymond Feist is another author who mixes in esoteric ideas and practices in his books. For the most part his ideas are more metaphysically oriented, but there a few magical ideas I've gotten from reading his works, especially as it relates to energy work and the nature of reality and other planes of existence. Then there's the Deathgate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, where they share some useful ideas about working with probabilities via sigils and sound magic. Admittedly those aren't standard esoteric secrets, but you can get a lot from the ideas and turn them into workable magical practices if you're willing to engage the material with an eye toward applying it to magical work. William S. Burroughs also integrates magical techniques into his writing. In fact, all of his writing is essentially a magical technique in and of itself. 

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How I'm working with Bacteria: An example of non-anthropocentric magic

Some of my latest magical work has taken an interesting turn, where I'm exploring my connection to the microbial life in my body. This work is not entirely new, as I've done similar such work with connecting with the neurotransmitters in my body, but how it is different from my earlier work as that I've decided to, as best as possible, approach working with the bacteria from a non-anthropocentric approach. What this means is that instead of trying to apply my human perceptions and the perspectives to the experience, I'm trying to be consciously aware of such perspectives as well as open to engaging the bacteria on their own level of consciousness. Part of my inspiration for this work can be found at this post and the links included in it. But part of my inspiration is simply my desire to experiment with magic, to see what I can do and how I can explore the universe around me.

In choosing to work with the bacteria in my body, I did some research. Usually when you see the word bacteria its associated with disease, but humans actually have  bacteria in our intestines (among other places), which exist in symbiosis with us and help us to process the food we eat. Bacteria also exist on the skin, mouth, and other parts of the body, and play some role in protecting us from harmful bacteria. This symbiosis is one of mutual support, where both the human host and the bacteria benefit. What strikes me the most is how even though human beings consider themselves to just be one identity, one life, in reality we are a universe all our own, full of life that we support, often without recognizing we support it. I suspect most people would be uncomfortable recognizing that they support a wide variety of microbial life. Instead we find it more comforting to just see the body as part of a singular identity we construct in relationship to the world around us.

In my approach to connecting with the bacteria in my body, I have initially focused on connecting with the bacteria in my stomach. There are actually a variety of different types of bacteria, but I haven't focused so much on the types as just connecting with the bacteria in the gut. I could just as easily focus elsewhere, say in the mouth or on the skin (and actually I have just started doing some connection work with the bacteria on my skin), but for this article I'm just going to describe my work with the bacteria in my gut. I want to note that in doing this work, something I've consciously recognized is that to effectively engage bacteria its important that I don't categorize them with human emotions or attributes, or assume that they'll appear in a human shaped form, or even assume they'll communicate with me using language, or visuals. I figure if I make that assumption what I'm really doing is applying an anthropocentric perspective to the magical work and consequently not effectively engaging the bacteria. At the same time I also realize that at a certain point I may need to interpret what I'm experiencing in terms that are more human oriented. The key is to recognize that and be aware of it as I continue to connect with the bacteria.

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  • Travis Crockett
    Travis Crockett says #
    Pardon, *exploring not expelling.
  • Travis Crockett
    Travis Crockett says #
    This is pretty cool. I think its particularly praise worthy that you maintained the non-anthropocentric perspective. That's incred
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Thanks Travis, It's something I'll be continuing to explore in more depth. I've found that by employing such an approach it real

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
How Magic can be Innovative

One of the books I'm currently reading,  The Necessity of Strangers, discusses how important it is to be open to different perspectives, outside of what you normally know. One of the intriguing stories they share is about a hair dresser, Vidal Sassoon, and how he developed his hair styles based off the Bau Haus architecture style that he'd seen in Germany. Now you might not think that architecture and hair design would have a lot in common, but Sassoon saw something in the architecture that he could bring over to hair design. He understood that certain principles of the architecture, especially the simple geometrical focus could also be applied to hair. The result was a change in hair styles and the formation of a brand of hair care products still used today. And all it took was a person being open to considering alternative perspectives outside of the obvious ones found in his discipline.

Now what does that have to with magic and how magic can be innovative? Occasionally I get asked how I've developed my ideas and techniques of magic, especially since some of them aren't based on traditional perspectives found in magic. The answer is that I'm always looking for different perspectives, inspiration, and ideas from other disciplines outside of magic that I nonetheless feel can inform how I approach magical work. For example, I'm reading Understanding Comics and When: The Art of Perfect Timing. Neither book as has anything overt to do with magic, but both books provide some intriguing perspectives on time and space and how people perceive and work with both elements. In turn, what I've learned from these books has been and will be applied to my own magical work, both with space/time magic, but also in other areas of magic where the perspectives inform how magic can be done.

Something I tell my students is that there is no tried and true way of doing magic. There are paths that have been blazed by other people and those paths provide a foundational knowledge of magic which is valuable, but to assume that the paths already blazed describe the one and only way of doing magic is to block out other potential avenues of exploration and to close ourselves off from possibilities of evolving magic. We need to acknowledge those who've come before us and provided us the foundation we draw on, but I'd argue that its equally important to draw on other disciplines and other perspectives in order to evolve as a magician. By being curious and open to discovering what a discipline such as architecture might offer you as a magician, what you provide yourself with is a way to challenge what you already know with what you are learning. There may be no immediate connection, but you'd be surprised at how much a different discipline can inform your magical practice or anything else you do.

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  • Hope M.
    Hope M. says #
    I am getting my certification in coaching, and one of the ways we get our clients to experience growth is by assigning them practi
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hello Hope, I'm a coach myself. It's quite a fun journey and I wish you success as you become certified and explore it in whateve

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Interview with Tara Miller

This is an interview between myself and Tara Miller. Tara is a blogger at Patheos for the Staff of Asclepius, and is also the editor of the Anthology Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul, which has just been released by Immanion Press. I thought it would be interesting to interview her and learn more about the anthology. Disclosure note: I am the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press, but I think that the topic I've interviewed Tara about is one which needs more awareness in the Pagan Community.

1.     Taylor Ellwood: What are some common misconceptions around spirituality and people with disabilities? How do you address these misconceptions?

Tara Miller: Several of the contributors said they were told if they believed enough in being healed or had more magical power they would be healed of their disability. Another misconception is that people, like myself, who are born with a disability, have it because they were meant to learn a lesson in this life.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Literacy of Magic Pt 2

In my previous post, I explained how literacy is an institution, and how a literacy of magic would be an extension of the institution of literacy, in the sense that a given institution typically determines who is or isn't included in the institution and also establishes what constitutes institutional legitimate actions vs actions which don't fit into the institution. I explored why I felt literacy is a loaded term and why it can be problematic to apply it as a concept to magic. I also explored how trying to define magic as a literacy would inevitably end up excluding certain people or practices because of the institutional aspects of literacy. In the 2nd post to this series, I'm going to explain why the literacy of magic isn't the same as the practice of magic and why it is more useful to examine magic as a practice instead of as a literacy.

Literacy, as it applies to magic, would seem to deal with the ability to read, write, and design magic, which could include among other things the ability to read, write, and design rituals, spells, and other associated magical activities. However, once again we are left with a question: Who determines what the literacy of magic is, and what is their agenda for defining it in the way they have? An additional question that is useful to ask is: "What activities, techniques, etc., are left out of the literacy of magic?" I'd argue that a variety of activities, techniques, etc., are left out if we look at magic as a form of literacy. Now some people might argue that I'm being overly literal by exploring magic as a form of literacy and perceiving it in terms of what are considered traditional activities of literacy, but I think that we need to be particular about the words that we use when trying to define a concepts such as magic or literacy. When we conflate these two concepts together without being particular, what results is a lot of theoretical confusion and armchair arguments that do little to substantively advance the discipline of magic.

Thus I don't think it's useful to define magic as a literacy. If anything, I find literacy to be too confining and limiting in terms of describing what magic seems to be or what one can possibly do with it. At best a literacy of magic can describe certain activities and how those activities are performed, but even in that case the above questions should be asked.

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  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    I didn't get the idea that Ivo intended to define magic as a "literacy" and not a practice. What he did do is draw an analogy usin
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hello Henry, At this point i'm not really Ivo's article anymore, but just taking this into my direction. His article was a good p

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Literacy of Magic Pt 1

Recently Ivo Dominguez Jr published a thought provoking article where he discussed the lack of the literacy in magic in today's Pagans. While I found myself nodding in agreement with a lot of what he had to say (I've observed in the past that there is an increasing amount of emphasis on removing magic from Paganism because it makes Paganism less acceptable to the mainstream*), I also found his use of the word literacy problematic, and by extension it caused me to re-examine his article and some of my agreement with the article in a different light. As a result, I think it worthwhile to examine the concept of the literacy of magic, both in relationship to the word literacy and its variety of meanings, and also in context to the practice of magic vs the "literacy" of magic, which I'll argue are not one and the same (in part 2 of this series). In fact, part of the issue I have with the use of the word literacy is that conjures up the armchair magician, a person has read a lot of books on magic, but has done little, if anything, with that magical knowledge. I would locate the armchair magician on the opposite end of the illiterate Pagan (at least as that illiteracy applies to magic). However, as we'll see, it's simplistic to categorize anyone as literate or illiterate, because literacy itself is a loaded term.

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  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr says #
    Just as a clarification, I did not say that the Western Magickal Tradition was the only source for trusted systems, only that it w
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hi Ivo, Thanks for the clarification. I really appreciate that you've written that post, because it's gotten some much needed con
  • Jay Logan
    Jay Logan says #
    I would hazard a guess that it is because we are talking about different kinds of magic. To take a simplified approach, you can d
The application of Magic to Being Human

One of my fascinations in life is human behavior. I'm reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and it's a book about irrational behavior, and ultimately human behavior and why people make the choices they make. Reading it is enlightening, but even more than that I want to apply it to my magical work. See, one of the things that I like about magic is that I think it can be applied quite productively to human behavior. But that can only occur when you take the time to study human behavior and ask yourself the question as to how you could apply magic to that behavior. Whatever being human really means, when we apply magic to the mix what we seem to ultimately be doing is changing behavior and habits. We uncover and examine the unconscious behaviors we've taken on and use magic to bring them to a level of conscious awareness that can then be applied to change that behavior. Here's a few thoughts on how magic can be applied to human behavior:

1. Stop an expression of behavior. This is a typical act of magic that many people do. If you are doing a behavior that you find to be harmful, use magic as one of the ways to help you stop the behavior. When you use magic to help you stop a behavior you are finding some way for the magic to actually redirect the behavior. So you'll also want to think of what behavior you want to redirect it to. If you want to stop smoking, you typically start by cutting down on the smoking and or replacing it with a supplement, such as chewing gum, but you also need to change the behaviors associated with smoking, in some form or manner. For example, there may be specific hand gestures you did when you smoked, that you might need to change in order to avoid calling up the associations with the smoking.

2. Enhance or construct a behavior. When you think of the concept of a glamour, it's an illusion to used to enhance an image, but why not apply the principle to a behavior? For example, let's say you want to feel confident when you are speaking to people. You might observe someone you really admire for their confidence and analyze how they behave or act, and then construct a persona that allows you to access similar skills in order to improve your own confidence.

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Why the question why is important to your magical practice

The other day a student from the Process of Magic class told me that she was working on the first homework assignment, which asks the student to tell me what their definition of magic is and why they've chosen that definition. She'd answered the first part, but asked me: "Why do you ask why?" I quipped "Why not" but then proceeded to explain why the question why is so important not only in magic, but in any subject you are trying to learn. In my opinion, if you can't answer the question why it indicates that you don't understand what you would be explaining to the person. For example, going back to the question of why a person has chosen a particular definition of magic, simply offering the definition isn't enough, if s/he can't explain how s/he arrived at that definition of magic. When you define something like magic, you are either defining it based off your personal experience, using someone else's definition, or a combination of the two, wherein your experiences seem to confirm the definition that someone else has offered.

One of the problems I have with how the average occultist or pagan defines magic is that all too often the definition offered is someone else's. Crowley's definition of magic, for example, is often used to explain what that person conceives of as what magic is. The problem, in my opinion, is that there is a tendency to accept this definition without asking why. The same applies to any other definition of magic that is offered up without the person questioning the definition. A definition of magic, or anything else for that matter only really becomes relevant when you can explain why that definition is important to you, in context to your own experiences. Simply expressing what something is doesn't demonstrate true understanding of it, until you can explain why the definition is meaningful to you.

Another reason to ask why is that why necessarily helps you to uncover the positives and negatives of a given definition. Any definition brings with it the baggage and agendas of the person who created the definition. Thus when we use another person's definition we are also using all the associated baggage and agendas that come with that definition. Asking why allows you to examine a given definition carefully and explore what makes it what it is, and ask whether that really fits your needs. Definitions are ultimately words used to describe how something ought to work and/or exist, and as such they are far less tangible then we sometimes think. A definition of magic is ultimately just words used to describe how you think magic ought to work...so why not ask why and actually test the definition to see if it has any validity to it. By doing so you can determine if the definition really applies, or if you need to develop one of your own that better fits your experiences.

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  • Lalia Milner
    Lalia Milner says #
    What would be a good way to introduce this concept to my children? With so many "traditional" beliefs out there it's sometimes dif
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hello Laila, The best way to teach them is get them to ask why and also to explain why to them. By getting them to ask why, they'
  • J'Karrah
    J'Karrah says #
    This article very closely aligns with a position I have held as a teacher of magic for years: if I agree to take you as a student,

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Why Magic should change you

It seems obvious that magic should instill some kind of change within you, but I feel compelled to write this article because so often what I see in occult texts is a emphasis on changing the environment around you, as opposed to changing yourself, or a focus on changing yourself solely through spiritual means and the assistance of spirits of some type. There's this dualism within Western Magic, where you apparently have two schools of magical practice. The theurgic school is a spiritual school, wherein the magician practices high magic in an effort to connect with spiritual powers and and gradually change him/herself via that contact. The thaumaturgic school is a practical school, where magic is done to solve problems and change the environment to one that is more pleasing. I think of it as reactive magic, done to solve the current crisis in one's life. This approach to magic breaks down various magical actions by the results, and depending on what the results are a magical action is lumped in one of the two schools of magical thought and practice.

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How to experiment with magic

I've experimented with magic from almost the beginning of my magical practice. When I've tried techniques that other people have developed, I've always had one question in the back of my mind: How can I improve on this technique? Even with my own techniques, I am always interested in experimenting with them and improving on how the process of magic works. I thought it might be interesting to share on here how I experiment with magic and how you can, in turn, also experiment with magic.

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Academic Cultural Appropriation of Neopaganism and Occultism

Author's Note: This is a reprint of an article I originally published in the Anthology: Talking About the Elephant in 2008. Because the theme of the month is on cultural appropriation I thought I'd dig it out and reprint it here. I've added a commentary on the end to show where my thoughts on this topic are now (5 years after the original article was published).

While some of the articles of this anthology [Author's note: I'm referring to Talking About the Elephant] deal with cultural appropriation issues that Neopagans and Occultists may perpetuate, the goal of my article is to provide a look at a different form of cultural appropriation currently gaining popularity in both the academic and Neopagan/Occult cultures. This cultural appropriation comes in the form of academic articles and books focused on Neopaganism and the Occult. On the surface, it would seem that scholarship on these subjects is a good thing, certain to buoy the public relationship image that both Neopaganism and Occultism have with mainstream culture. However, as I will argue, there is a different, more subtle agenda occurring in these academic works, and in a manner that can be considered cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to revere academic works without coming to them with an open, but critical, awareness of how those works really represent their beliefs. Nor is the question raised by Neopagans or Occultists, if the benefits of said academic works are really good for the community, or are only good for the academic who happens to be doing the research.

 

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  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    The knife does cut both ways and I'm sorry you had that experience, but imagine if you'd gone in, recorded everything and publishe
  • Candi
    Candi says #
    I tried that myself, and I got burned badly. I can't use my research at all. I wasn't allowed to record, barely able to take not
  • Candi
    Candi says #
    I have a question on this subject: Has a researcher ever encountered a Pagan population they wanted to study that has said "No" t

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Role of Practice in Magic

In my previous post I discussed the role of the theory in magic. In this post I want to unpack the word practice and consider what it really means to practice magic or practice spirituality. The word practice originates from Praxis, which roughly translate to taking action. Practice also refers to any activity that people do. When practice is applied to spirituality it can be thought of as a set of activities a person does in order to cultivate spiritual development (ideally physical and mental development as well). A practice moves a person along a path toward a goal, whether it is spiritual union or the practical realization of something you need. Practice is a central concept of magic and Paganism. One of the questions you might ask a fellow pagan is: "What magic do you practice?"

Without practice magic is just an academic discussion over tea with someone. There are many would-be magicians who love to discuss magic and have lots of books. Reading those books and discussing the concepts is not the practice of magic. I'd argue that such a person can't really even know what magic is because s/he hasn't experienced magic. And that's what practice is supposed to do. It's supposed to provide us with experiences that occur as a result of doing activities. Practice is the implementation of the magical process, the choice to do something in order to change your relationship with the world, spirit, or whatever else you are practicing magic for.

Practice is defined by the goals that we create around it. There is no magical practice that does not have some kind of goal, some kind of end result in mind. Whether you are seeking divine union with a deity or doing a practical magic working to solve a problem in your life, your practice is defined not just by the activity itself but also by the result. This makes it rather interesting because we are told not to lust for results and yet results are central toward defining the practice of magic. The solution to this dilemma is the choice to define the result and make it part of your practice while also not obsessing about the actual experience of the result. In other words, you need to know what the result is, but you also need to allow yourself to be open to the experience as it actually occurs, instead of fixating on how you think it should occur.

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The Role of Theory in Magic

This is part 1 of a 2 part series about theory and practice in magic. I've started with theory, because in my opinion the word theory is not accurately used by the majority of people including it in their writing. The word theory is one that has become conflated with a variety of meanings and associations. I'd argue that how theory is often used, in Paganism and in general, isn't really in line with the meaning of the word as it applies to the scientific method. In other words, a person chooses to use the word theory but how s/he uses it has less to do with the scientific method and more to do with cultivating a certain image associated with the word. If theory is used in context to the scientific method then the theory is a 'proven' hypothesis which has been tested and replicated by multiple people, all who have gotten the same results. The theory is valid as long as the same result is replicated each time, but becomes disproven if the result isn't replicated. In that context, theory is actually a part of practice and is used to demonstrate what a person understands about practice, but also is used to test that practice.

How the word theory seems to be applied, when people use it, is more along the lines of providing a generalizing statement about a topic. Said statement is speculative and nothing is really proven. The word theory becomes a kind of paper shield. It looks impressive so we use it to make what we discuss seem impressive. Used in this way the word theory seems to be used in the classic Aristotelian sense of the word, where no doing, no practice occurs beyond the formulation and expression of the theory. In contrast there is practice (which I'll cover in my next post), which involves doing, an essential activity to really experiencing anything life.

The latter use of the word theory is unfortunately used a lot. It leads to a lot of speculation, a lot of discussion and very little doing. Armchair magicians, in particular, love this kind of theorizing. I find it to be boring and less than useful. Theory without practice is a lot of hot air, with no engagement, no experience occurring. I find that when the word theory is employed in discussions about magic and metaphysics in general the result is a lot of speculative conjecture thrown around for the sake of doing it. Theories abound about why magic works or why deities are or aren't real, or any number of other metaphysical topics. But does it even matter? All that kind of conjecture leads to is an intellectualizing of magic, which in turns creates a distance that from doing the actual work. My question is: Does your theory work?

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  • Stephanie Rodriguez
    Stephanie Rodriguez says #
    Thank you, Taylor for this effort to steer the general conversation back toward meaningful discourse and away from spiteful argume
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hello Stephanie, Thank you for the kind comment. Theory is fairly loaded word, which is one of the reasons I wanted to unpack it
In Defense of Pop Culture Magic

 

When I first wrote the Invoking Buffy article for Newwitch Magazine I got a lot of flak from the occult and Pagan communities. I was accused of being flaky, a fluffy bunny, and a variety of other labels. When I wrote Pop Culture Magick these criticism increased ten fold. Once, when I was talking with a Celtic Reconstructionist friend, she pointed out that her Gods had been around thousands of years, which seemed to automatically confer more validity to her spiritual practices, compared to my own. When I pointed out that the stories around her Deities were the pop culture for the people who had told the stories, I was told that such a perspective was blasphemous and that because her Deities had been around for millennia they were automatically more powerful than any pop culture Deity. And when I was interviewed by Pagan Centered Podcast it was a hostile interview, with their goal being focused on trying to disprove what I practiced. I could probably tell you a few more stories along these lines, but I think you get the idea: Pop Culture Magic, and any associated beliefs, spiritual practices, etc. are considered to be the bastard child of Paganism and Occultism by a good number of people who inevitably seem intent on proving why their beliefs are more valid, more spiritual, more anything than pop culture magic is.  And if you, like me, are associated with practicing pop culture magic you'll be told what a flake you are and how your spiritual practices aren't as good as the person to your left or right who believes in more traditional deities. You'll be told it's fiction and that you're wrong and they're right.

Some of this bias comes from a tendency to revere something that is older or more traditional (older is better), and perhaps even purportedly rooted in nature. While I think its important to maintain a connection to nature, I am skeptical as to how older religious systems automatically ensure that particular connection. If anything, I have found that developing a genuine connection with nature is much more primal and based on your willingness to spend time and effort in nature. For example, choosing to deweed your yard and really put your hands in the dirt to take care of the land is an action that is very connective to nature, with no Deity required to facilitate said interaction. A long hike can also be just as connecting, allowing you to become part of the land by choosing to be in it, instead of merely observing it. The smell of the land, the feeling as you walk it is a spiritual experience that again needs no Deity in order to facilitate it. All that is really needed is you and your willingness to connect with the land and learn from it, as a result of the connection.

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  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    I think the recons would argue that they have allowed the gods to find and shape them. As for myself, any entity I'm working with
  • Rhiana
    Rhiana says #
    Let me start off by saying I find both arguments be they pro or con to have valid points. Having said that, I often wonder why we
  • Frater Isla
    Frater Isla says #
    Good point. And I've found that most internet 'discussions' are just ego dancing. I've maybe gotten two actual responses where I f

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Magic isn't always Glamorous

I've been thinking about what to write for this column for the last week and I've been coming up blank. No topic has really seemed right. There was nothing exciting going on or anything of real note standing out to me. If anything my life has been pretty mundane. Get up, go to meetings, meet with clients, come back and work on a project, spend time with the family, and of course throw some meditation and exercise in the mix for grounding purposes. Nothing very glamorous at all, and yet it strikes me that perhaps there is something to write about that, on this blog and its this: Magic isn't always glamorous or full of drama or anything else that we might associate with pop culture references to magic. Sometimes magic is just part of daily life, something you are doing to make your life easier or more meaningful or to connect with the spirits, but not something which necessarily has a lot of glamour associated with it.

My latest book, A Magical Life, has just been published. I'm excited to have it out, but something that the author of the introduction, Storm Constantine, wrote has been on my mind. In describing the book, she explains that magic isn't a colorful garment we put on, but rather it is an integral part of our being, woven into our lives everyday. And that is how I think of magic. I meditate each day and my meditations are an essential part of my life, something done as a way of bringing order to my mind, while allowing me to connect with the spiritual forces I work with. Nonetheless I'd have to say there is nothing inherently glamorous about the meditation. In fact, there are days I don't want to meditate or do anything else along those lines, and yet I make sure I do meditate because it is part of my life, and because not doing it takes away from the quality of my life.

I think to some degree your average magician is in love with the idea of magic being glamorous. Certainly at the beginning of a person's spiritual work with magic, there is this sense that you need to get all the ceremonial tools and that every act of magic must be an overt, explicit affair that screams to the universe: THIS IS MAGIC! And there is something to be said for doing those loud acts of magic that are glamorous and over the top and amazing in their own right. I've done and still do those kinds of acts of magic when the time is appropriate. But I recognize that fundamentally magic isn't always that way, nor does it need to be. My meditation practice isn't over the top and yet it still fills me with a sense of wonder and amazement. Indeed, if anything my daily work speaks more loudly to me than an over the top ritual because the daily work is where the discipline of the magician is tested. In that daily work, I don't necessarily do magic to solve problems (at least not overtly), but what I do is connect to the magic in a meaningful way that allows me to deepen my relationship to the spiritual forces I'm working with.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Thank you Erik. I'm glad this article was helpful!
  • Erik M Roth
    Erik M Roth says #
    Thank you Taylor. This is a great reminder about the nature of magic and it's ability to weave into everyday life. I appreciate
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Indeed you are not. There are many people out there who realize this.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The feelings you put into magic

In my previous post I discussed how to emotions could be used in magic and made the point that an emotion such as anger is not inherently negative. What makes anger negative is we choose to express it. In thinking further about my own approach to magic and what I use to fuel my magical work, I recognize that it's not just emotions I draw upon, but experiences and the feeling of the experience. A feeling is not necessarily the same as an emotion. A feeling is the awareness of an experience and emotions are just one component of an experience and the expression of that experience. This is important because when we work magic to bring a possibility into reality part of what we are working with is the feeling associated with that possibility.

Think about love for a moment. What does love feel like? Don't think just in terms of the emotion, but also the physical sensations of you holding someone else's hand, or holding the person or kissing the person. What does that feel like? How does it make you feel emotionally? How does it make you feel intellectually, spiritually, and physically? All of those feelings and experiences are what love (romantic) is comprised of. So if you were to do a love magic working, you'd want to draw on those experiences as part of the fuel for the workings, because those experiences shape that feeling in your life.

But we can also apply this understanding to other circumstances. For example, if you work at a job, there will also be specific experiences and feelings you associate with the job, as well as emotions. If you decide to look for a new job or just need to find one, then any magic you work you want to infuse with the positive experiences you've had. Maybe you were praised by a manager or took pride in what you did or got a pay raise. Take all of those feelings and infuse them into your magical working.

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Emotional Magic: Can emotions be used in magical work?

The other day my wife Kat commented on a newsletter I'd written where I explained how you could use "negative" emotions in your magical work. She asked me if that was really a good idea, especially since I'd essentially be integrating those emotions into the magical working. It was a good question to ask, but what it highlighted to me is just how much cultural baggage we have around the word negative as well as specific emotions. I explained my reasoning by noting that I don't think any emotion is inherently positive or negative, but that if we believe an emotion is negative or positive it is because of the cultural associations that have been placed on that emotion. The problem with that association is that it causes us to not genuinely experience the emotion.

Anger, in and of itself, is not inherently negative. The expression of anger can be negative or positive, depending on what a person does, but that expression doesn't make the anger wrong or bad or negative. The expression isn't the anger in and of itself, but if we examine anger from a cultural perspective what we tend to find are associations of negativity with anger. The same is true with fear, sadness, anxiety, or any other emotion that is "negative" On the flipside love and happiness are considered "positive" emotions.  However expressions of love and happiness can be negative just as expressions of anger, sadness, and fear can be positive. There is nothing inherently polarized about our emotions other than what we choose to believe about them. 

Putting anger into a magical working could be quite useful depending on how you are using anger. I have used anger to fuel some of my magical work, with the goal being to improve a situation. I felt the anger and instead of allowing it to fester I chose to direct it into the magical working because I felt that it would give me an outlet that was healthy, while producing a result that would improve the situation. I've done the same with other so-called negative emotions and have found each time that I have felt empowered because I've actually given myself permission to integrate those emotions into the magical work. By providing an outlet that allows me to express them as a positive force of change in my life, I am able to be present with my emotions and allow myself to find resolution about what I am feeling.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Mikey
    Mikey says #
    OHhh I forgot the counter balances of love. Love...is a warm and nurturing emotion. It has alot of power, like a parent protect a
  • Mikey
    Mikey says #
    Hi, I'm new, so forgive me if this sounds peculiar. However, I was reading the post, and I couldn't help but put my 2 loonies in.
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Precisely my point. Thanks for commenting!
The application of identity to magic

In my previous post, I defined various elements of identity that I thought should be considered in choosing to work with identity as a principle of magic. However what I didn't do was explain, in full, how identity could be applied to magic. It's not enough to simply recognize identity as a principle of magic or to even define identity, but consider this: The various elements I used to define identity all play a role in our lives, and in how we interact with other people, and the world. Understanding this about identity is important, because if we are apply identity to magic, we need to understand that we are working with these elements of identity and choosing to use them in a conscious, purposeful manner to effect change.

For example, your family is one of the elements of identity I mentioned in the previous post. There are a number of ways you could work with family as an element of identity, and apply that your magical work. You could do internal work via meditation, where you explore your dysfunctional issues and trace them back through your family, from generation to generation. The meditation could be a pathworking where you traveled into each each ancestor and experienced the dysfunction as it showed up in their lives. It might help you better understand it as well as look at how you could break the cycle. You could apply this working to life skills you learned from your family as well, such as finances, or your work ethic. You could also take this working and apply it forward to your descendants. 

You could also do more practical work with your family by creating an ancestor altar and communing with your ancestors or asking for their aide in your spiritual workings. You might seek advice from them, or simply honor them with a ritual that celebrates their contribution to your life. And that's just two ideas for how you could apply the identity element of family to your magical work.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Elements of Identity

In my previous post, I discussed why I thought identity was an essential principle of magic and explored what magic as an ontological practice might look like. In this post, I want to unpack identity further so that we can learn what makes up identity and how we can work with it as a magical principle. Some of what I discuss below can also be found in my book Magical Identity.

Your Family is one of the foundational elements of your identity. Your mother and father, and siblings (if you have any) provide you the initial experience of the world, as well as modeling behaviors about how to interact with the world. They pass down both their functional and dysfunctional behaviors, both in terms of how they interact with you and around you. It's fair to say that your identity is shaped by them for your entire life. I'd argue that your family is one of the more influential elements of identity and one that needs to be carefully explored in order to change a lot of your own behaviors. Your family also models financial and health skills to you. Even if they never explicitly discuss finances or health, they nonetheless provide you with standards that impact how you handle both throughout your life.

Your Genetics are another element of identity. Your health is determined in part by your genetics and knowing your family's health history can help you plan accordingly. Many of the diseases we deal with seem to have a genetic component, which can also shape your identity and how you prepare to deal with those diseases. But beyond health, your genetics also plays a role in your overall appearance, which also creates a sense of identity that shapes your life. 

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Exploring Magic as an Ontological Expression of Identity

A year or two back I remember telling an acquaintance that I was actively exploring identity as a foundational building block of magical practice. He looked surprised and told me that he didn't recall seeing much about identity in Western Magic ad what he saw in Eastern Mysticism pushed for getting rid of identity because of the karma that holding onto identity causes. He was right that there wasn't a lot of material about identity in Western Magic (I've found a couple authors who write about it, but otherwise it is curiously ignored) and he had a point about Eastern mysticism and its relationship to identity. Still I felt like something was being missed by not exploring identity and its role in magical work and I explained to him that I felt that getting rid of identity actually worked against the practical applications of magic, because magic is very much about being in this world as opposed to to getting rid of your connection to it.

My exploration of identity came about as a result of my dissatisfaction with standard definitions of magic, which are usually variants of Crowley's definition of magic. Those various definitions focus on doing magic, on applying magic to change the world according to the will of the magician, but I disagreed with that approach to magic and felt that there had to be something better out there. I shifted away from doing magic and instead focused on exploring magic from an ontological perspective, a perspective based on being and on identity, which also examined the relationship of a person's identity in context to the world and other people around him/her.

My current approach to magic is formed around the following definition: My identity is the ontological state of being that includes an awareness of cultural, subcultural, spiritual, familial, physiological, and environmental aspects of identity. My identity is also an exploration of my on-going agreement with the universe and how I manifest my identity is an application of that agreement to the interactions I have with the universe and the various other identities within it. If I want to change my agreement with the universe, I can use a practical system or technology such as magic to help me change my relationship with the universe, other entities within the universe, or my own identity. In other words, if I don't like my experience of my identity and want to change it, I apply magic toward changing my identity and its place in the universe, as well as the agreement I have with the universe.

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