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.

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Walking the Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral

All land has history – many millions of years of it – all natural places have living beings who reside there or pass through; all places have a landscape, an altitude, weather and seasons as well as a relationship to the four elements and all buildings have, as well as history, an intention or purpose informing them. Places can hold great resonances of emotion and just by being there we participate in it. Some locations gather layer upon layer of meaning, for example churches are often built on land, or on top of sites that were always considered sacred, as a method of colonising local religions. These places are often high points in the landscape with significant features of water, geography and relationship to the local spirits. Churches themselves are often majestic structures, containing art work of great beauty, reverence for the divine, interred bodies, memorials and the thousands of rituals that have occurred within them. Perhaps they also retain the whispers or cries of those who lived and worshipped here before this current building was constructed, from lineages that might stretch back untold generations.


There is personal history, as well. Each time I visit a place I add another layer to my personal history there. If the visits are particularly powerful, or emotional, when I visit again it is like stepping into a three-dimensional tapestry of my lifeline. There’s a sense that my former selves are waiting for me, greeting me as I arrive and reminding me of those times, those rituals or relationships. I feel again the intensity of those emotions, and images of those visits layer over each other creating a stream I can almost feel wrapping around me, informing my movements and mood.

Visiting Grace Cathedral in San Francisco I feel both sombre and joyful. There are two labyrinths here – an outdoor, and an indoor one. I visit with a friend, and in the past I’ve been here with several different, and always dear friends, so that the energies and memories of those times and friendships still seem to be here, laid down in the curving patterns on the ground as well as wrapping about me. I’ve done absurd, powerful, irreligious and purposeful things here – walked the labyrinth as a spell, used holy water to affix butterfly transfers to our skin, danced through the labyrinth while my friend crawled on all fours through it, sat watching angels tread up and down a Jacob’s Ladder installation for an hour or more, donated my used books to a prisoner reading scheme, and spoken with strangers about the nature of community and spirituality.

I’ve been on the cusp of initiation, explored the corners of the Cathedral, had powerful conversations, been surprised by friendship, wept and laughed, sheltered here. This time it’s raining and I watch my friend walk the outdoors labyrinth though puddles. I take some photos of her, backgrounded by blossom clinging to a few branches of otherwise bare trees. Indoors there’s a new art installation, a flowing river through the air of two thousand origami paper birds, bearing wishes and blessings as they fly outwards from the altar. When we first enter the space their shadows fall across the labyrinth like petals or memories. My friend walks in first and I hesitate, choosing how to use this walk and just as I decide, and take the first step over the threshold, the sun comes out and colours flood across the floor from the stained glass windows. I smile because I am walking a spell, walking into the heart of my pleasure and joy, taking each step on a word of intention that I chant under my breath, a litany that flows, ribboning together into a long prose poem, a word garden, questing deeper and deeper into my intention and yearning until I am weeping with the emotion of it and I feel my other selves, my past selves of this place gathered to watch, to witness, to add their power to this working. 

As we walk, it falls out a few times that my friend and I are walking directly towards each other, only to meet as each of our paths turns away from the other, before curving us back again, and away. I’m reminded of those meetings here in the past, other friends who I met here and how they’re not here now, who we choose to meet as we travel our own paths and how we create meaning in those meetings and how we remember them, or maybe how the places remember them for us. And then if I think of the thousands of people who visit here, all their threads and memories residing in this place, if I think of the history of it, the layered years and if I cast my mind back through centuries and imagine this place as a grove, a hilltop, a point humans have gathered at for a very long time I am almost lost in the river of it but not entirely lost. 

One spark amongst the thousands, or the tens of thousands, I have my own small resonance, like one of those two thousand paper birds flying overhead, I read the patterns of resonances in the air around me, through my own times of visiting here and pick up those threads and add another layer, this time a spell for joy. And I trust that that folds in, amongst the layers of history here, my own timeline blending with the far greater resonance of this place adding a shade, a shimmer, a note.

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Jane Meredith is an Australian author and ritualist. Her books include 'Journey to the Dark Goddess', 'Aspecting the Goddess', 'Rituals of Celebration' and 'Circle of Eight: Creating Magic for Your Place on Earth', about Local Magic. Jane's latest book, co-edited with Gede Parma is 'Elements of Magic: Reclaiming Earth, Air, Water, Fire & Spirit'. Jane offers workshops and distance courses and also teaches in the Reclaiming tradition. She is passionate about magic, myth and co-created ritual, as well as rivers, trees and dark chocolate.


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