Experimental Magic: The Evolution of Magic

Experiment with your magical practice by learning how to apply art, pop culture, neuroscience, psychology, and other disciplines to your magical work, as well as exploring fundamental underlying principles of what makes magic work. You'll never look at magic in the same way!

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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.

Whenever we label an emotion or an attribute as positive or negative we are creating a false construct of the emotion. The obsession with happiness is a good example of that. We are all supposed to be happy, as if that's always a good experience, but that obsession toward happiness has created more unhappiness (and pharmaceutical drugs) than it has happiness. What it would be like instead to simply be present with our emotions, to allow ourselves a time to be sad or angry without having to change the emotion just to be more accepted? What would it be like to really allow yourself to feel angry or sad? Allowing ourselves to feel what we feel is healthy and finding a constructive expression of that feeling is also healthy. We need to carefully examine why we label an attribute as negative or positive. Are we labeling the attribute because of a cultural belief, or are own experiences or something else? Labels define the experience, and also pigeonhole the experience. Anger, in and of itself, isn't negative, but cultural beliefs about anger paint it as a negative emotion, which consequently can make it hard to feel and work with the emotion.

It comes down to your own judgment. Is the emotion really negative? Why? What makes it that way for you? Why would or wouldn't you integrate it into your magical work? Asking yourself these questions can help you decide more than on just whether you will draw on emotions for your magical work. It can help you understand if you need to do some internal work with your emotions, and if you need to examine what informs your labels and beliefs about what you are feeling.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magick, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments. He is also the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press. Taylor lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids, as well as 7 cats.

Comments

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Wednesday, 17 April 2013

    There is a lot of energy and power in anger, but it can lead to negative consequences. Be VERY careful.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Wednesday, 17 April 2013

    But that's my point. Why do we assume it automatically leads to negative consequences? There's a cultural belief that anger leads to negative consequences, but in and of itself anger is not a negative feeling. If a person learns to sit with their anger and express it in a way that isn;t violent, but still allows the person to acknowledge and feel the anger that isn't negative...it's actually quite sane.

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Wednesday, 17 April 2013

    There is a lot of energy and power in anger, but it can lead to negative consequences. Be VERY careful.

  • Mikey
    Mikey Thursday, 25 April 2013

    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. (yes I'm canadian - LOL).

    Anger is the counter balance to love. Neither is positive or negative. They but like the sword, that is swung. You can love someone to the point that it hurts. (both them and you) and you can allow anger to consume you, where it hurts both you and everyone else around you. Counter balance, that with anger. Angry if unleashed is in an uncontrolled manner is utterly destructive. However, if the energy of anger is used to positively. Then a different result occurs. Perhaps the most interesting concept might be, that alot (not all ) people lack control over their emotions. It is the lack of control that creates the chaos and destruction. My 2 loonies worth.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Thursday, 25 April 2013

    Precisely my point. Thanks for commenting!

  • Mikey
    Mikey Thursday, 25 April 2013

    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 child, or a partner protecting their spouse. It has tons of energy. But just as the parent must let go of their child when they grow up. If they keep their grip on to long the bird never learns to fly on its own, and becomes doomed into a co-dependent situation, which is actually destructive. So again, it is not only anger but also love, I dare say the balance of positive and negative could be applied to almost any emotion. For perhaps within the emotions lies the energy of self, and how well we are able to control that emotional energy directs whether the outcome be positive or negative. (Ok that's 3 loonies worth now LOL)

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