The Basics of Magick and Debunking Stereotypes
Lets take it back to the basics. When I spell “Magick”; you are probably wondering if I misspelled that right? For those who are new to Witchcraft, the word “magic” might bring various images to mind—talented illusionists who pull rabbits out of hats, sparks shooting from wands in Hollywood movies, or a cartoon character who can disappear simply by snapping his fingers. But for people who actually practice magic, the truth is much more subtle, and yet more powerful, than any pop culture fantasy.
Back in the late 1300s, the French word “magique” entered the English language and became “magic.” The common French definition of the word was:
“The art of influencing events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces.”
This is a much closer characterization of magic than any modern-day dictionary will provide, but for the 21st-century Witch, it’s more accurate to say that magic is the art of consciously participating in the co-creative forces of the Universe by directing the energies of nature to cause desired changes in one’s life.
Knowing that reality is fluid and ever-changing, Witches use a variety of methods to connect their personal power with the power that governs the workings of the Universe. Through this connection, their stated intentions are manifested into physical reality.
Denomination of the word Magic with a “K”
In the Witching world, it’s very common to see the word magic spelled as “magick.” This spelling comes from the work of Aleister Crowley, a leader in the British occult movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that gave rise to the spiritual tradition that became known as Wicca.
Crowley added the “k” at the end to distinguish his practice from that of the illusionists, or “stage magicians” who were becoming popular during his day.
Magic is also commonly referred to by its practitioners as “Witchcraft” or “the Craft,” terms that emphasize the art and skill involved in successfully manifesting change. Like so many aspects of contemporary Wicca and other Pagan spiritual traditions, there isn’t a single correct approach here. The choice of terminology—as well as spelling—when it comes to magic is a personal one.
Common Magickal Goals
Generally speaking, the aims of magick tend to be focused on improving one’s own circumstances, primarily in the areas of wealth, love, and physical well-being. People may work specific magick for landing a better-paying job, finding a romantic partner, or a speedy recovery from an illness or injury. Another common purpose is protection, such as a spell for safe travels or the banishing of a negative influence or situation in one’s life.
Personal gain isn’t the only goal of magick, however—many Witches work for the well-being of others, whether it’s people they know, or people in far-off places. For example, members of a Wiccan circle might perform a ritual to send positive energy and healing to someone’s struggling family member, or to survivors of an earthquake halfway around the globe.
Many Witches also choose to work for spiritual development in addition to personal gain, using the Sabbats and Esbats as opportunities to reflect on their lives and plant intentions for growth or balance in the coming weeks and months.
Magical practice today can include an enormous variety of influences, traditions, and approaches. Spells, charms, rituals, incantations, dancing, potion-making, visualization and divination are all activities that fall within the realm of magic. Some magical workings may come from time-honored traditions, while others are invented on the spot in a moment of inspiration.
Much of the magick practiced is at least somewhat inspired by ceremonial magick, which comes from older occult sources such as the Freemasons and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Sometimes called “high magick,” it is often quite elaborately ritualized and involves the use of symbols and gestures to direct energy toward desired aims.
Other influences come from what has been called “low magick,” which includes practices from old folk traditions in Europe and elsewhere, some of which date back at least several centuries, if not longer.
Many Witches gravitate to magical traditions that make use of natural tools and ingredients, such as herbs, crystals, shells, etc. Knowing that the natural world is still our home, no matter how far removed from it our modern culture seems to be trying to get, these Witches pay close attention to the ongoing processes of nature—creation, destruction, change and adaptation—and work with those energies in their magical practice.
For example, a magick spell might call for using fire to burn away an unwanted influence, or timing one’s intentions with the moment the Moon becomes full in order to maximize the effects. There truly are endless possibilities when it comes to learning and practicing magic, as long as you are willing to apply yourself seriously to the study of this fascinating art!
Practice Means Practice
Although there are certainly naturally-talented Witches within the world everyone wishing to be successful at magick needs to practice, be patient, and be willing to learn from trial and error. If you’re just starting out, keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to see little or no results after the first few attempts at spellwork.
It’s also important to read as much as you can about magic for beginners, and work on your own tendency toward skepticism and resistance—as this is always at the root of the problem!
Magick is simply the use of energy within us and available in nature. Everyone can produce magick. There are different kinds of magick and some people are better at one type of magick then another. Whatever type of magick you practice, the more you are aware of your psychic energy and the use of energy flows and the more you practice, the better you become and the more effective the magick will be.
The Subconscious Mind
People can produce magick and never realize it, for example self thoughts, “always think positive” or “be careful what you wish for” is producing magick. What we truly want will always manifest itself into reality. Magick works on the subconscious level and our environment is always changing to match our perceived reality.
These changes are subtle, but one who is attuned to their psychic energy will be aware of it and realize why spells they performed worked or did not work or had a completely different reaction. Its because our true will always be expressed, that is why the saying, “always think positive” is actually helpful and the concept of what you give out comes back to you.
To influence the subconscious to creating even more powerful magick is through suggestions and visualizations. Visualization is extremely important for effective magick. You have to visualize the reality you want or the desired outcome. This visualization is successful when it is performed at least a week before you perform your magick.
Our subconscious mind will censor out what it believes should not be in there because it doesn’t conform to our beliefs. For example, this is why when a person is hypnotized with the suggestion to physically hurt someone else, the person still will not harm another because it is not perceived as ‘right’, it does not conform to the persons beliefs. Even under hypnotism, a person cannot do what they do not believe in.
In order to penetrate the subconscious mind you must use repetitions of suggestions until it becomes a part of who you are and your model or belief system. Simple chants like, “I will stop smoking” or “I will lose weight”, etc. are simple, but effective once they penetrate your subconscious, these chants will ‘change’ your ‘model’ or the way you believe about something and bring about positive yet subtle changes.
Sigils work the very same way. When sigils are designed by yourself, you are manifesting your energy into the creative symbol and working the concept over and over in your mind until it works by itself on your subconscious level.
Since our subconscious is always at work be mindful of your thoughts because your true will and desire will manifest itself and what goes out will come back because any type of magick has a cause and effect.
The Different Types of Magick
Everyone possesses the psychic ability to perform magick. Usually we are better at one kind of magick then another, but with guidance from another we can develop the abilities for another type of magick.
1. Imitative Magick
Drawings, paintings on paper, earth, sand, mud, walls of symbolic images representing your goal or an actual picture or drawing of what you want to happen. The object is that if you can draw it and see it then you can make it happen. It’s like drawing what you visualize in your mind. This type of magick is mainly used to enhance your magick, to bring better luck and/ or power to achieve your intended goal.
2. Contagious Magick
The use of a person’s personal belongings, ex. clothing, hair, nails, a shoe, etc.. This type of magick is used mainly for a variety of love spells to darker forms of magick such as the hexes and curses.
3. Sympathetic Magick aka Image Magick
The use of poppets, dolls, sand dolls, earth, mud dolls, corn husk dolls, apple heads, turnip heads, etc.. This type of magick is used mainly for healing believe it or not with the use of herbs stuffed into the doll. Sometimes dolls can be used for love spells where two poppets will be made of the assigned couple. This type of magick is popular amongst African magick, voodoo and hoodoo folk magick practitioners. This kind of magick can be used for healing and love as I said above, but it is popularly known for the use of a black kind of magick where pins and needles are supposed to be stuck in the doll to bring about pain and/or death on another.
1. Personal Magick – this magick is directed for the self, to help the self. Often working on the subconscious mind alone with repetitive chants, self-hypnosis and visualization. Many people perform this kind of magick on themselves are not aware of it or deny it as magick
2. Active Magick – magick directed out, to bring about a desired event or to affect someone else.
3. Passive Magick – magick directed from out. Events that are caused by a nonphysical cause, such as ESP.
Magick forces are neither good nor ‘bad’, but are neutral. The different ways of magick make it good or ‘bad’.
4. Gray Magick – This is the most common type of magick performed. Magick that is usually for self-interest, it brings about a desired outcome that is beneficial for the one performing magick. Often spells can be performed for another without their permission for a desired beneficial outcome. This may fall in the ‘black magick’ area because the one performing magick does not have the others permission, but because the intent is unselfish it is therefore categorized as ‘gray magick.
The Difference Between “Black” and “White” Magick
If you’re searching around the Internet for resources about magick, you will no doubt find plenty of references to “black magick.” Some sites promote black magic as a particularly potent form of magick, while others warn against using it, portraying it as negative or harmful, and therefore a violation of the one “rule” of Wicca—to “harm none.”
Some Witches believe that there is both “black magick” and “white magick,” and that Wiccans only practice white magick, which is beneficial and positive, causing no harm to any living being. And there are even some who make a distinction between “black Witches” and “white Witches.”
According to this concept, Wiccans fall into the white category, while those who choose to do harm with their magic are black Witches. But just what is “black” magick, really? Are these distinctions real, and if so, where do they come from?
Centuries ago, Christian forces intent on dominating pagan cultures labeled any non-Christian religious or spiritual practices “black magick.” Those who had held respected roles in their communities as “soothsayers” or “sorcerers” before the Church began its crusade eventually came to be thought of in negative terms and were blamed for all kinds of misfortunes, such as crop failures and the death of farm animals.
Women in particular were accused of summoning demons and unleashing evil forces on their neighbors, and it was believed that there were those who performed curses for hire. These people came to be known as “witches,” and they were thought to have great (though evil) powers, and no moral conscience.
If people believed they were the victim of a curse, they would seek out a “white witch,” also known in some places as “cunning folk,” who would work a counter-spell to lift it. Any kind of bad luck, including illnesses and injuries, might be the result of someone else’s black magick and thus required white magic to reverse it.
Superstitions were taken far more seriously in the centuries before the fields of science and medicine advanced enough to offer rational explanations for all kinds of things.
Add to this the propaganda put forth by the Christian Church, and you end up with outlandish stories of witches turning people into toads and boiling children in cauldrons. So there’s a lot of history behind the term “black magic,” and the misconceptions persist to this day.
IT’S ALL ABOUT INTENTION!
Of course, those in the contemporary Pagan world are far more enlightened about the nature of magic, and it’s understood by most of society that the old myths about Witches are just that—myths. But the notion of black magick is alive and well, and is even embraced by plenty of Witches who are not necessarily using it for “evil” purposes.
For example, although Wiccans would certainly put curses and hexes in the black magick category, non-Wiccan Witches argue that this type of spellwork can be necessary for self-defense against people who can cause them significant harm. They’re not necessarily working spells to burn down people’s houses, but they’re not going to hesitate to take action to protect themselves, either.
The Wiccan philosophy is different, in that spellwork used to protect oneself from harm would focus on the person casting the spell, and not the person who poses the threat. Protective spells can be performed successfully without sending any negative intention toward another person, so there’s no need for curses, hexes, or other forms of black magic.
Many Wiccans take “do no harm” so much to heart that they end every spell with the words “for the good of all and harm to none,” or similar phrasing. After all, when we send out strong intentions, we affect physical reality, and this can have all kinds of unintended consequences for other people, whether we ever know it or not!
Most garden-variety “black magick” spells are related to revenge and control. People who feel wronged may want to get back at the offender, whether it be an ex-lover, a boss, or even a family member by causing them some kind of misfortune. People who desire a specific partner may decide to try to steer the person’s thoughts, feelings, and even behavior in order to get what they believe is “love” from that person.
While anger, resentment, and desire are feelings that all of us experience, Wiccans know that these are not acceptable motivations for magical work.
Even love spells, if not thought out properly, can be manipulative and will ultimately wear off or even backfire. So if you’re ever wondering whether a magical working is ethically appropriate for a Wiccan, look at the role of free will—if the result of the spell overrides another’s free will, no matter how slightly, then it’s best left alone.
Magick is Magick
While some Witches may consider themselves to be “white Witches” practicing “white magic,” others make no distinction between black and white in this regard. Your intention either fits with “harm to none,” or it doesn’t, but assigning a color to the magic itself seems illogical to many.
After all, colors, including black and white, are frequently used as tools in magic, as we see in the practice of choosing candles and crystals according to their color’s magical associations.
And black is a color associated with power and protection, among other attributes, which every Witch is surely entitled to. (And then there’s the popularity of black clothing among the Wiccan community!)
Of course, if these terms make sense to you, then feel free to use them, but keep this bit of wisdom in mind: it’s not the “label” you put on the spell that makes it right or wrong, but the intention with which you cast it.
About the Author:
Welcome to my personal corner of our world; it is great of you to stop on by. I implore you to give me a read as I am one of the writers for PaganPages.Org. You will find me mysterious, honest and full of humor. It does not come easily though. I am what is known as “High Functioning Autistic” with ADHD, PTSD, Anxiety and a touch of depression. Words do not always come naturally to me but I do enjoy speaking them..well more writing them.
One of the things you will notice, is that I really do not have a set path; as I am unique and as odd as they come. I carve my path through stone like a river cuts through rock. My life has never been easy; as I am sure most of your lives hasn’t been as well. Mine, just a little more… and with that I do have magickal names:
She Who Walks Head First Into Battle
I am adopted into the Eastern Bear Clan Cherokee. My father is someone who gave me a little nudge into my spiritual self. I have always been “Awake”. I am highly empath, intuitive and psychic; which you will notice in my articles, I write with passion as one who is one with the energies.
I am a 28 stay at home mom of 2 with a shop called “The Crooked Raven” and a facebook group called “Coven of the Moon”. I may be young in years, but, my soul is that of a old wise crone. With that are my spirit animals and guides-The Wolf, Eagle and my guide the three eyed raven.
It is nice to meet you.
“The Student is the Master; and the Master the Student”- Me