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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Role Vs. Identity in Magic

Recently I've been watching the second season of the Crown on Netflix. One of the things I've really enjoyed about the series is how the show explores the concepts of identity and role and makes clear the distinct difference between identity and role. A little further down, Ill use the show to demonstrate what these differences are, but let's take a moment and consider what each of these terms has to do with magic. 

In some magical practices, people can choose to take on a particular role that they use to embody their connection to magic. An example would be coming up with a magical name. The magical name serves the process of assuming the role that the name represents. When a person uses their magical name they are choosing to make that role prominent in the moment they are in.

Identity in magical practice can be something else altogether. It can be simply you the person and how you identify yourself with the magical work you're doing. It can also be long term magical working done with the purpose of changing your identity. And finally, I would argue that whenever you are doing a magical working to get a result, you aren't just changing the world around you, but also your identity. You are making that result part of your identity.

While the Crown isn't really about magical workings, it is about roles and identities and I feel it illustrates this difference between role and identity, in relationship to spiritual workings. In a very real sense, the Crown is about how a person is transformed by the role they take on, while also trying to figure how out to maintain some type of identity within that role.

In the first season, Elizabeth becomes the queen of England and she is told when she becomes the queen that her identity must be subsumed to the role of the queen. She's no longer Elizabeth Mountbatten...she's now Elizabeth Regina. 

Even the theme music and pictorial theme illustrates this. We slowly see a crown shaped, and the music builds up to show this shaping of a person into the role of the crown which supercedes everything else. What Elizabeth is embodying in that role is her connection to divinity as well as to the traditions and legacies of the monarchy. It is a mediation of that role which is expected, and which defines Elizabeth and her family.

In the midst of all that both Elizabeth and her family struggle to retain some connection to identity, to being people. The challenge for all of them is how they manage the expectations placed on them by other people versus their own ability to be people and its clear that the role will always take prominence when Philip points out to a friend that there's no room for mistakes or scandal...yet interestingly enough what Philip does is use his identity to get a role that provides him respect that he feels is deserved if he's to be the husband of the queen. 

Now again, this is a T.V. show, which means its going to be idealized and fictional to some degree, but if we look at it from a spiritual perspective, it does provide us some interesting considerations when it comes to deciding what role we want to take on spiritually as well as how that role will fit with our identities.

I'll admit I've never taken on a magical name, but sometimes with magical workings I've chosen to take on specific roles, whether its through invocation of a spirit or through focusing on a specific task. when taking on a specific role I've recognized the need to yield my identity over to the role so that the role can be expressed and mediated into the working...but I've also recognized the need to take back my identity and ground myself in it.

And as I mentioned above when I do magical workings for specific results, something I always take on is that the identity will change with the result, because the result isn't just an external manifestation in the world, but also the responsibility you accept in making that result part of the world and part of you. Identity is never static (even if we think it is). It's fluid and adapts to the changes that happen to us and the changes we manufacture in our lives.

Knowing the difference between a role and identity is useful in magical work because it allows us to recognize what we're taking on as well as what expectations may be place around what we take on.

Bio: Taylor Ellwood resides online at magical experiments, where he shares his magical experiments, ideas, and explorations of magic.

*Image is from Wikimedia

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


  • Lolan ah Sine
    Lolan ah Sine Friday, 29 December 2017

    I like the idea of a crown, headdress/hood, priest/monastic zucchetto or scullcap or even a Harry Potter Wizards Hat to cement the idea of ones role in performing Magick and ritual. I've often said to solitary Wiccan practitioners that one must take the role of both the High Priest and The High Priestess to perform the symbolic Wiccan Great Rite part of the ceremony drawing down and then uniting both the divine male and female energies. But that does not change ones genetic identity. A male can take the role of the high priestess and draw down and invoke even host a goddess deity as one of her own without having to actually be a female high priestess. I think this holds true with Pop-culture based magick as well and if wearing the helmet of Thor and holding the hammer of Thor connects one with that God or god-form then all power to you!

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Friday, 29 December 2017

    Roles are a way to be something you aren't temporarily, which can be useful under the right circumstance.

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