What type of earth magic exists where you are? What is the local nature of air, fire and water? How do you make magic with the living forces all around you – not as they appear in books, but as you see and experience them when you step outside your front door? Every locality has its own flavours, energies and secrets… and when we work our magic and ritual in alignment with our locality we enter deep into the earth’s living magic.
Personal Magic - Origins
I walked in along the front driveway, past the lawn where we had once had an entire Aztec Empire, through the kindergarten section that looks tiny though I remember it as a whole world and round the corner to what I think of as the main part of the school. In the buildings I saw what I would have said I never noticed; hexagonal buildings, open plan classes, exposed beams, different levels. These are the buildings that framed my learning, my engagement with life, ideas and other people. This is the setting in which I learnt to think, to act and to become.
There are some places that have made magic with us, possibly without us even realising it. Places so intrinsic to us that we don’t even consider them… The way the air feels right, in the city of my birth. The landscape we grow up in, that’s so deeply familiar to us in later life that we search it out elsewhere, even unconsciously. We might move away but those places remain local to us in internalised ways, creating an energetic belonging. When we return, surprising connections and links are made as the whole underpinning of our way of thinking is revealed. This is the type of magic that a locality works on a person, seeping into our pores, our ways of being, our souls.
I went to a small independent school from the ages of three to eleven. I have been back since but not in the last twenty years. Last weekend I was there to attend a Memorial Service for my headmistress and teacher, whose character and ideals underpinned the school and who died recently at the age of 101. During the ceremony someone stood up and spoke to the school’s values. Self-guided learning. Courage of convictions. Follow your passions. Self-discipline. Democracy, in everything. Children are not lesser than adults, just humans without as much knowledge or experience. You can learn whatever skills you need, to achieve what you want to.
It’s hard to overestimate the affect this school had on me. In terms of local magic, this place set the parameters. My house – my impractical, creative, wild house that was on the market for two years before I bought it – is a hexagon, open plan with exposed beams and different levels. It was familiar to me from the moment I saw it; I never realised why. There are so many overlaps. One is that I created a balcony bookshelf, strung improbably across one wall at first floor level in my house; you look down from it into the main space. In the rooms of the grades 4 and 5 at this school there’s a reading nook accessed by a ladder, with a ceiling so low that only children can stand and low walls so you look out onto the classrooms below.
Those values that underpin this school describe not just my internal landscape, but how I live my life. What I practice. What I’ve taught my son. Suddenly that school looks not just like a refuge, a place I felt safe, loved and accepted but the underpinning of my whole life. And there was magic there. There was the magic of saying I wanted to be a writer and being allowed to write, all day really, for months on end. There was the magic of being taught how to create and direct plays – how startlingly obvious, now, to realise it is the same method I use to create group rituals; a consensus on the outline and structure and then each person or group responsible for their own pieces; all brought together at the end as a series of vibrant, inter-connecting surprises. This school focused on turning that huge stretch of imagination of each child into being shown how to make it happen. All my life I’ve wondered exactly why that, unlike many people, I think anything’s possible; now I think I have the answer.
And this magic – even though I took it away with me, to other schools, places, buildings, lands – it’s still here, waiting for me when I return. The grounds, the buildings, the very air reveal not just my memories but the bones of my particular magic. This is a kind of magic that has become so local to me it’s now within me, part of my make-up; my way of thinking and being. It’s still got a location, an origin, in this school – and oddly, in the very buildings of the school – but its familiar, home-place is something I’ve now internalised and I take it with me everywhere I go. And I spread the seeds of it wider and wider, as do the hundreds of others who also grew up in this precise locality, with this exact brand of local magic, philosophy, world view….
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