Local Magic: Creating Magic in Your Locality
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.
Mapping the Sacred in the Redwoods
Local Magic isn't just dependent on what's around us - it's created by our relationship to what's around us. It mostly doesn't come from books, or even from careful thought or cleverly crafted ritual; it comes from going out and relating to what we find. To hills from which we can see the moon rise; or to streams that can only be glimpsed where they briefly emerge from beneath the concrete that covers them; to local parks or backways; special trees or seasonal events such as seedpods, flocking birds, particular flowers.
I just spent a week at California Reclaiming WitchCamp in the Mendocino Woodlands north of San Francisco teaching Local Magic with Tarin Towers. We taught a form of localised magic that - while we practiced it in the beautiful redwoods - could be picked up, taken home and put down in any environment; suburban, city, desert, farmland or another forest. This is the whole point of Local Magic - it's local to where you are and although the system, or structure can be taught, the content is all dependent on what's there.
On Day 1 in Local Magic we gave out compasses and maps and - after some discussion about what makes a landscape sacred - we asked people to head out into one of the four directions, east, south, west or north. When they got there they were to build an altar to that direction, using only what they found there. Then all four groups returned - to what was now the centre - bringing with them a few pieces of their altar and we created a four-directional altar, representing all of the directions.
Day 2 covered Sacred Play and once again groups headed out to the directions, each person choosing a direction they hadn't already visited. When they came back they presented their dramas; the north group was especially memorable for their powerful depiction of a peaceful, growing forest being logged. On Day 3 we did story writing, each person journeying alone into a direction to find not just their own story, but their story as it existed in that particular direction. When they returned we listened to stories of stillness, discovery and the edge of the world. Day by day we were building up a picture not just of what lay in each compass direction out from our centre, but about how we - as individuals and as a group - related to those directions; a sense of their magic and how it was brought together at the centre.
On Day 4 we wrote chants, each group creating a chant in and of the direction they had left until last to visit. Every time people came back the directions were distinct from each other and by this stage, the fourth day, the chant was building on three previous days of discovery and relating with that direction. We learnt the chants one by one and then sang them in a round, hearing the song of the east, followed by the song of the south, the song of the west and the song of the north until we were standing in a whole ring of the song of our circle, our place, singing our relationship to it.
This very simple methodology, of heading out into four directions and engaging with each of them is a basis for creating a local magic; magic immediately relevant to wherever you are. Creating altars, chants and stories are some ways to begin relating to place; of course there are many others. Observation, time spent walking, looking, being with place is the key to all these activities and to learning to relate to what is there. We bring the willingness to see with the eyes of the sacred.
Each person had been working on their own maps through the week and on the final day they created a group map, with all their learning coded into it. I love maps - how before it's created it is really a blank piece of paper, with no concept of what should go on it... only after the explorations can we create them. And they come to have accumulated wisdom, not just what we saw once, but what we came to see after maybe many visits, or what many of us understood and saw, distilled into picture or symbol or words. Magical maps are very precious to me, not as defining future experience but as gateways and indicators, as offering hints of the sacred.
Those redwoods have always been a precious, magical place to me, ever since I first went there about twelve years ago. Now they have another layer of magic for me - they've become local. I've listened to them, seen them, been part of map-making their particular resonances and shifts and patterns. My relationship with them has deepened.
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