Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Y No K? or, Who Put the 'Icky' in 'Magickian'?

I'll take my magic without the K, please.

Ah yes, magic-with-a-K: that pretentious archaism that supposedly differentiates the genuine article from illusionism. The new magical realism at its most twee.

Why, Posch, why?


I reject Crowley’s much-parroted definition as auto-delusional. I likewise eschew our community's rampant magical literalism. Belief is its own punishment. Thoughts are not things; magic is metaphor.

Magic’ for me is the process of actualizing the imaginal.

Surely to start with something no more tangible than the neural impulses of the human brain and end with solid real-world results is magic, if anything is.

In humanity, matter reaches self-understanding. This is what makes us the ‘wise.’

And the wise have no time for distinctions existing only in print.




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Tagged in: magic
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Friday, 28 March 2014

    Where have you been all my life?

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Sunday, 30 March 2014

    My wife the English Professor hates the Magick spelling. However I find that its now listed on Dictionary dot com:

    "mag·ick [maj-ik] noun 1. Archaic. magic. 2. a power or effort associated with wicca. "

    On the whole I can't say that I'm disappointed to see mainstream acknowledgment of Wiccan words and spellings. Having our own Wiccan words and spelling variations gives them something to incorporate that they otherwise would not have.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 02 April 2014

    Well, I agree with you both. (How's that for straddling the hedge?) I don't regard myself as Wiccan, but if that's the box on the form, I'll check it. Let 'em know we're here.

  • Diotima
    Diotima Friday, 04 April 2014

    I think magic is so broadly defined that magick has a place in our lexicon to define the discipline involved in the work of the magician (magickian?). As a lover of the language, how to spell the word is something I've gone back and forth on in my own writing over the years, and I'm always interested in people's take on it. It also seems to me to be something folks can easily agree to disagree on.

    What bothers me about your post, Steve, is the scorn and accusations of pretension directed at those who disagree with your view of this relatively minor matter, and the generally scornful tone you take towards Thelemites and anyone who has a different view of magic than your own. I come away from reading this post with a feeling that you have little or no respect for large swaths of the Pagan community. Is this the case?

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Sunday, 06 April 2014

    Far from it. Gods help me, Diotima, I care very deeply about our people--so old and so young, so wise and so foolish, so courageous and so flip--and I want us to be the very best pagans that we can be. And to me that implies critique.

    Spelling here is just the hook from which hangs the much larger issue of the nature of magic, which is what this piece is really about. Literalism is an issue with which every contemporary religious tradition must contend. It seems to me that the language of magic has much to offer as a very subtle description of the human mind's mutual interaction with the world, and that this is so regardless of direct causality. I'd be a fool to expect everyone to agree--agreeing to disagree is a fine old ancestral tradition--but it's the only way I can engage the concept and remain intellectually honest to myself.

    Thanks for a close reading and careful critique; I will certainly take your comments about tone to heart. Surely one of the reasons that pretentiousness bugs me so thoroughly is that I'm so capable of it myself!

  • Diotima
    Diotima Sunday, 06 April 2014

    I'm glad to know that the post was not meant to be scornful. But when you say that magick is a "pretentious archaism" you imply that those who use that spelling are pretentious and archaic -- not to mention twee. And apparently anyone who agrees with Crowley's definition of magick is delusional. There's no room in those statements for discussion -- it does not strike me as a critique, which would require considerably more analysis -- it's a dismissal and a rejection of those who use the "wrong" spelling, or agree with Crowley's "The art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with will" definition.

    While I actually agree with you that magic is the process of "actualizing the imaginal", and further agree that "the language of magic has much to offer as a very subtle description of the human mind's mutual interaction with the world, and that this is so regardless of direct causality" (well said!), judging from your other statements, I suspect I am way more of a "magical literalist" than you.

    Personally, I believe that consciousness is the source of physical reality, and not an epiphenomenon of the brain. Consciousness is also the one thing that both religion and science (at least, quantum mechanics) agree on as a necessary component of reality (although many scientists would run screaming from the room at the comparison).

    I think that the discipline of magick -- the "science and art" helps us train our own little slice of consciousness in a way that helps us learn to "cause change to occur in conformity with Will", both in a strictly materialist sense as well as on the level of what is generally known in research circles as "psi", and that the alternate spelling, with all its problems, still helps differentiate the discipline from prestidigitation or a dismissive "oh, it's magic" applied to anything we don't understand.

    But I assure you that I am a sane, productive member of society. I don't think anyone who knows me would accuse me of being "pretentious", much less "delusional", and certainly not "twee", (I probably have to cop to archaic, 'cause I'm getting old).

    So I urge you to consider that maybe some of the people who read your posts may use that spelling because they have thought about it, and believe it means something more or different than magic. Yes, there are difficulties with the fact that the two words are homophones, but certainly we have enough of those in the language and manage to work with them. Perhaps, over the years, we'll find words to describe our practices that help us clarify differences and express ourselves more precisely.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 07 April 2014

    Maybe 10 years back a coven-sib and I spoke to the local Unitarian Pagan chapter about our group. Afterwards, someone came up and said, "I can't believe you two have been in the same coven for 25 years. You don't agree on anything!"

    This was well-observed indeed. My coven-sib is much more of a literalist than I am, and what struck me most is that our differing positions on things like reincarnation and magic (which I suspect she spells with K) didn't make any difference in our ability to work well together. The paganisms aren't premised on belief.

    That believers and non-believers (to mention only two out of many possible permutations) can not only stand together in the same circle but also join hands to dance...well, that gives us and our people an immense strength and resilience. Magic or magick, this thing that we are together magicking into being (and here even I'll accede to the K) continues to amaze me.

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