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!

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magick, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments. He is also the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press. Taylor lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids, as well as 7 cats.

You are a public face for Paganism at Conventions

I recently attended Convocation for the first time. I was having dinner one night at the restaurant and I talked with my waiter for a bit about the convention. She asked me if I thought that she and her co-worker would be accepted if they visited the vendor room to look around and I told her that I thought it would be fine (The vendor room was open to the public as far as I knew). I thought about that conversation later on and how in that moment I was a public face for Paganism. And how at any convention that is hosted in a space such as a hotel, all of us are public faces of Paganism, even if we don't realize we are. The public space we are in is not solely a Pagan space. It is shared space and the impressions we make on the hotel staff and other guests matter.

When I'm at an event or anywhere really, I behave the way I'd want other people to behave toward me. I'm courteous to the staff, acknowledge the work they are doing and do my best to be mindful of my behavior and how others might perceive it. Now it's true that I'm at a convention to have fun, but  I also want to make a good impression because the staff and guests will come away from those experiences with their own perceptions about Pagans. And likely they'll already have some assumptions and beliefs about us based on their own spiritual beliefs, etc. However I think that how we act in public is important.

...
Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I agree it's important to be cognizant of the impressions we make on others, whether we're representing ourselves, our beliefs or
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Having worked a number of jobs over the year where I was retail, I always remember how people treated me and make the effort in tu
  • Mariah
    Mariah says #
    Thank you. I have seen this point made many times but you made it *without stigmatizing certain groups some Pagans try to distance
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    I don't think it's helpful to stigmatize people. As long as all of can remember that we're in a public space and behave accordingl
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Excellent, rational advice which is so self-evident that I'm always amazed at how many people need to have it pointed out to them!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Esoteric Secrets of Fantasy Books

Kat and I are reading Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling right now. It's a classic Fantasy story, but what I find interesting is that in the first chapter, if you know what to look for, you discover a lot of esoteric and occult practices shared with the protagonists of the story, and this sharing continues throughout the rest of the book. It's a subtle way to teach magic to readers. Given when the book was written, the author needed to be subtle about it, but what fascinates me is that even to this day you can still find a number of fantasy writings where esoteric ideas and secrets are shared if you know what to look for. And if you don't know what to look for, well guess what? You're being given an education in magic and how it works so that if you get to that point where you actually start practicing you've already got some idea of how magic seems to work.

Kat and I like to discuss the books we are reading together, so we got into a long and fascinating conversation about not only Rudyard Kipling, but some of those writers who've written esoteric secrets into their fantasy. For example, if you've read any of Michael Moorcock's writings you'll find quite a lot of esoteric secrets shared. In Elric of Melnibone, he practically spells how to evoke an entity in several different instances where the character needs supernatural aide. In the Corum series, he focuses in on the magical aspects of gift giving and the connections gods have to people and vice versa. And there's a number of other series he writes in where he shares esoteric ideas and concepts, which I recognize many years later as playing a foundational role in my understanding of magic. As a young, impressionable reader the stories I read fascinated me because of the adventure, but as a magician I can see how my evocation practice has been shaped by what Moorcock wrote, as well as some of other esoteric beliefs and practices.

...
Last modified on
How I'm working with Bacteria: An example of non-anthropocentric magic

Some of my latest magical work has taken an interesting turn, where I'm exploring my connection to the microbial life in my body. This work is not entirely new, as I've done similar such work with connecting with the neurotransmitters in my body, but how it is different from my earlier work as that I've decided to, as best as possible, approach working with the bacteria from a non-anthropocentric approach. What this means is that instead of trying to apply my human perceptions and the perspectives to the experience, I'm trying to be consciously aware of such perspectives as well as open to engaging the bacteria on their own level of consciousness. Part of my inspiration for this work can be found at this post and the links included in it. But part of my inspiration is simply my desire to experiment with magic, to see what I can do and how I can explore the universe around me.

In choosing to work with the bacteria in my body, I did some research. Usually when you see the word bacteria its associated with disease, but humans actually have  bacteria in our intestines (among other places), which exist in symbiosis with us and help us to process the food we eat. Bacteria also exist on the skin, mouth, and other parts of the body, and play some role in protecting us from harmful bacteria. This symbiosis is one of mutual support, where both the human host and the bacteria benefit. What strikes me the most is how even though human beings consider themselves to just be one identity, one life, in reality we are a universe all our own, full of life that we support, often without recognizing we support it. I suspect most people would be uncomfortable recognizing that they support a wide variety of microbial life. Instead we find it more comforting to just see the body as part of a singular identity we construct in relationship to the world around us.

...
Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Travis Crockett
    Travis Crockett says #
    Pardon, *exploring not expelling.
  • Travis Crockett
    Travis Crockett says #
    This is pretty cool. I think its particularly praise worthy that you maintained the non-anthropocentric perspective. That's incred
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Thanks Travis, It's something I'll be continuing to explore in more depth. I've found that by employing such an approach it real

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
How Magic can be Innovative

One of the books I'm currently reading,  The Necessity of Strangers, discusses how important it is to be open to different perspectives, outside of what you normally know. One of the intriguing stories they share is about a hair dresser, Vidal Sassoon, and how he developed his hair styles based off the Bau Haus architecture style that he'd seen in Germany. Now you might not think that architecture and hair design would have a lot in common, but Sassoon saw something in the architecture that he could bring over to hair design. He understood that certain principles of the architecture, especially the simple geometrical focus could also be applied to hair. The result was a change in hair styles and the formation of a brand of hair care products still used today. And all it took was a person being open to considering alternative perspectives outside of the obvious ones found in his discipline.

Now what does that have to with magic and how magic can be innovative? Occasionally I get asked how I've developed my ideas and techniques of magic, especially since some of them aren't based on traditional perspectives found in magic. The answer is that I'm always looking for different perspectives, inspiration, and ideas from other disciplines outside of magic that I nonetheless feel can inform how I approach magical work. For example, I'm reading Understanding Comics and When: The Art of Perfect Timing. Neither book as has anything overt to do with magic, but both books provide some intriguing perspectives on time and space and how people perceive and work with both elements. In turn, what I've learned from these books has been and will be applied to my own magical work, both with space/time magic, but also in other areas of magic where the perspectives inform how magic can be done.

...
Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Hope M.
    Hope M. says #
    I am getting my certification in coaching, and one of the ways we get our clients to experience growth is by assigning them practi
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hello Hope, I'm a coach myself. It's quite a fun journey and I wish you success as you become certified and explore it in whateve

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Interview with Tara Miller

This is an interview between myself and Tara Miller. Tara is a blogger at Patheos for the Staff of Asclepius, and is also the editor of the Anthology Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul, which has just been released by Immanion Press. I thought it would be interesting to interview her and learn more about the anthology. Disclosure note: I am the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press, but I think that the topic I've interviewed Tara about is one which needs more awareness in the Pagan Community.

1.     Taylor Ellwood: What are some common misconceptions around spirituality and people with disabilities? How do you address these misconceptions?

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Literacy of Magic Pt 2

In my previous post, I explained how literacy is an institution, and how a literacy of magic would be an extension of the institution of literacy, in the sense that a given institution typically determines who is or isn't included in the institution and also establishes what constitutes institutional legitimate actions vs actions which don't fit into the institution. I explored why I felt literacy is a loaded term and why it can be problematic to apply it as a concept to magic. I also explored how trying to define magic as a literacy would inevitably end up excluding certain people or practices because of the institutional aspects of literacy. In the 2nd post to this series, I'm going to explain why the literacy of magic isn't the same as the practice of magic and why it is more useful to examine magic as a practice instead of as a literacy.

Literacy, as it applies to magic, would seem to deal with the ability to read, write, and design magic, which could include among other things the ability to read, write, and design rituals, spells, and other associated magical activities. However, once again we are left with a question: Who determines what the literacy of magic is, and what is their agenda for defining it in the way they have? An additional question that is useful to ask is: "What activities, techniques, etc., are left out of the literacy of magic?" I'd argue that a variety of activities, techniques, etc., are left out if we look at magic as a form of literacy. Now some people might argue that I'm being overly literal by exploring magic as a form of literacy and perceiving it in terms of what are considered traditional activities of literacy, but I think that we need to be particular about the words that we use when trying to define a concepts such as magic or literacy. When we conflate these two concepts together without being particular, what results is a lot of theoretical confusion and armchair arguments that do little to substantively advance the discipline of magic.

...
Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    I didn't get the idea that Ivo intended to define magic as a "literacy" and not a practice. What he did do is draw an analogy usin
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hello Henry, At this point i'm not really Ivo's article anymore, but just taking this into my direction. His article was a good p

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Literacy of Magic Pt 1

Recently Ivo Dominguez Jr published a thought provoking article where he discussed the lack of the literacy in magic in today's Pagans. While I found myself nodding in agreement with a lot of what he had to say (I've observed in the past that there is an increasing amount of emphasis on removing magic from Paganism because it makes Paganism less acceptable to the mainstream*), I also found his use of the word literacy problematic, and by extension it caused me to re-examine his article and some of my agreement with the article in a different light. As a result, I think it worthwhile to examine the concept of the literacy of magic, both in relationship to the word literacy and its variety of meanings, and also in context to the practice of magic vs the "literacy" of magic, which I'll argue are not one and the same (in part 2 of this series). In fact, part of the issue I have with the use of the word literacy is that conjures up the armchair magician, a person has read a lot of books on magic, but has done little, if anything, with that magical knowledge. I would locate the armchair magician on the opposite end of the illiterate Pagan (at least as that illiteracy applies to magic). However, as we'll see, it's simplistic to categorize anyone as literate or illiterate, because literacy itself is a loaded term.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr says #
    Just as a clarification, I did not say that the Western Magickal Tradition was the only source for trusted systems, only that it w
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Hi Ivo, Thanks for the clarification. I really appreciate that you've written that post, because it's gotten some much needed con
  • Jay Logan
    Jay Logan says #
    I would hazard a guess that it is because we are talking about different kinds of magic. To take a simplified approach, you can d
  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    I'm of a different mind in that I'd maintain that humans were practitioners of magic before we were practitioners of religion. Tha
  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    I'd say part of it is due to the same factors which are apparent in the discussion of the word 'literacy' and the looseness of lan

Additional information