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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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.

The never ending process of Internal Work

A lot of the magical work I do and have been doing for the last ten years is focused on internal work. Internal work is a combination of inner alchemical techniques, energy work, meditation, ritual magic, and psychology. The focus of internal work can vary, based on the particular purposes you apply it to. For example, internal work can be used to help you develop a better understanding of your body, or can be used to refine your internal energy, while also releasing emotional and mental blockages (also known as dysfunctional behaviors). Internal work can also be used to deepen your connection to the spirit world, or it can be used to cultivate your creative resources. Ultimately, the purpose of internal work can be boiled down to it being used as a catalyst for change.

I use internal work for all of the above purposes and have been doing internal work for ten years, as I mentioned above. I woke up, one day in March, in 2004, with the realization that if I didn't change my life I'd end up in a bad situation. I'd been living my life reactively and I suppose I had a glimmer of realization about that reactivity, which consequently led me to start doing internal work. I realized I didn't want to live a reactive life, constantly responding to what came into my life. When you live life in that way, you live in a chaotic environment, with little control over yourself, let alone anything else, because you are letting what happens to you dictate your life and the choices you make in life. You are living a life of reaction instead of a life by design.

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How to Learn and Experiment with Magical Techniques

For many people in the Pagan and Occult communities, their initial journey into magic is one which is self-taught, with the majority of learning occurring from reading books. Even when you do encounter a teacher, you still may find that a lot of your learning occurs on your own, with the expectation that you will teach yourself and also discipline yourself to do the work. In my own experience, the majority of my magical education has been self-taught. I've only had one teacher show up in my life, and he's only appeared in the last couple of years, and I've been practicing magic for 21 years now. Whether you are just starting to practice magic or have been practicing it for a while, it's a good idea to develop your own process for learning and experimenting with the magical techniques you learn.  In this article, I'm going to show how I learn and experiment with techniques I read from books, as well discuss how you can apply the same process toward what you learn from teachers.

Right now I'm reading a book called The Sacred Cross by Anastacia Nutt, which teaches a stillness technique that I'm using as part of my daily work, and as a foundation tool for deeper ritual magic workings. In this article, I'm going to use my own journey in learning and experimenting with this technique as a case study to illustrate the process of learning. The process for learning and experimentation doesn't need to be formalized or tedious, but there are certain considerations that need to be factored in with the learning of any technique. These considerations are: your learning style, patience, carefully checking in with yourself, Integration of the technique into your practice, and Careful experimentation and modification of the technique. Let's look at each of these considerations in more depth.

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Doing the Work is where Learning Occurs

In the Process of Magic class, one of the expectations I lay out there is that people taking the class will ideally do daily work. I feel that daily work is an essential part of magical practice, and not something which can be ignored if you are really serious about studying magic. However daily work is only part of the equation. Another part is making sure that the core skills of magical practice are developed. You need to build a foundation that supports the magical work you do. This means spending some time learning those core skills, which may not be glamorous, but nonetheless are important because of how such practices provide the necessary experience to handle more advanced work.

Still the question that may arise is this: Is it is possible to make magic more accessible, to teach it in a way that makes it possible for anyone to pick it up? The answer to that question is both yes and no. It's yes, in the sense that it is possible to write about magic in a way that strips away the esotericism and focuses on the technique, but it's no in the sense that unless the person is actually willing to do the work, willing to apply what is read into actual, experiential practice, it is very hard for a person to get a lot of meaning out of magic. The student must do the work. Without doing the work the magic is just a concept, and the student is just an armchair magician. In the process of magic, one of my goals was to explore the fundamental process of magic by examining how techniques work. I feel that if you can help someone understand how a technique works, understand the principles that inform the actions, then what you do is make magic not only more accessible, but you also show a person how to personalize magic.

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Call for Papers: Finding the Masculine in Goddess' Spiral: Men in Ritual, Community and Service to the Goddess

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press (Stafford, U.K./Portland, OR, U.S.A) is seeking submissions for Finding the Masculine in Goddess' Spiral: Men in Ritual, Community and Service to the Goddess.

E-MAIL FOR INQUIRIES AND SUBMISSIONS:
Erick DuPree:  please put “Finding the Masculine in the Goddess Anthology” in your subject line.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thanks for the notice, Taylor!
  • Siri Snow
    Siri Snow says #
    I believe an important part of Goddess traditions is balance, and that the masculine is the counterpart to the Goddess, just like
  • Susan Harper
    Susan Harper says #
    Carol, I totally agree with you about the terms masculine and feminine -- I wish we could see all traits as potentially present in
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Love the concept and the subtitle. I think this is an important issue. We all need to be able to affirm that our bodies ourselves
The Difference between Concept and Experience

One of the issues that I notice comes up a lot in the writing I see on magic is that the conceptual aspects of magic tend to be emphasized over the experiential aspects of magic. Now part of the reason for this simple could be due to the fact that writing about a topic inevitably moves that topic toward concept. However when we leave out the experiential aspects of a practice, the concept itself is diminished because what it presents is the theory without the grounding of practice. Experience necessarily grounds concept and provides the context to turn a given concept into a reality. It's important then to make a distinction between concept and experience, in order to make sure we're utilizing both in our spiritual practices.

A concept is not, in and of itself, a theory, so much as it is an idea. A concept only becomes a theory when we bring it into an experiential level. A concept attempts to describe how something ought to work as well as what the various variables are that effect the concept. A lot of the writing we see on magic is concept focused because the writer is trying to share how something ought to work with the reader, as well as providing the necessary background information that informs the concept.

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The Rule of 3 and how we can use it in our Community

The Pagan community is going through a period of upheaval around the issue of sexual predators in the community. It's not an easy topic and as the shock of recent events falls away, we're left with a question of, "What do we now?" In a recent discussion on Pagan Musings Podcast, I suggested that one action the community could take involves documenting situations where non-consensual sexual activities have been reported. In such cases, it can devolve into a he said, she said scenario, with neither side able to conclusively prove what happened. When this occurs, its important to have a process in place that protects everyone, while still allowing for the possibility that the offending person made a mistake, as opposed to consciously doing something offensive. By documenting such situations, it makes it easier to track what is happen and do something about it before it blows up into an even more harmful situation than it may already be. Actually, this process of documentation can apply to any type of infraction that occurs at a pagan convention or festival, but it does require that people organizing the event be willing to take on the task of documenting whatever has occurred, keeping it in a database, and also sharing it with other organizers and leaders in the community. This may seem like a lot to take on, but I think it would also help to cut down on behavior that is harming members of the community.

Recently I was reading Romancing the Brand, which is a book about marketing. However, there's an interesting rule in marketing and customer service: The rule of 3. The way the rule of 3 works is if you hear about an issue, person, problem, etc. from 3 different sources, then you take it seriously because it means there's a problem. If we were to apply this rule of 3 to our community, through documentation and through the understanding that an issue shouldn't be buried or ignored if it continues to happen, what this would allow us to do is effectively monitor situations before they got out of hand. The rule of 3 provides enough verifiable information that we can't continue to put our heads in the sand and ignore what's happening. The rule of 3 also establishes that a pattern of behavior is happening and not being changed, even though concerns have been expressed.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal says #
    I agree. I work for the Judicial Department and I know that our system is far from perfect, but at this time it is the best cours
  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal says #
    Although it is an interesting idea, and perhaps a good starting place for a conversation, I see an exceedingly sliperly slope. Wh
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    This is an article primarily focused on starting the conversation. I agree with your points in your response to it, and I think al
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    The fact that this idea comes from outside the community -- yet also reflects the "law of threefold return" which is popular withi
Some Musings on Wiccanate Privilege, Words, and Pop Culture Magic

At Pantheacon I attended a discussion about Wiccanate Privilege (See this post by Lupus for an accurate overview of the discussion). I was curious about this term because it had been applied to me in a post that Ivo Dominguez had written about the Literacy of Magic. The person who applied it, Ruadhan McElroy commented on a comment I made about how I felt the Pagan community was divorcing itself from Magic in order to achieve mainstream acceptance. He made the point that such a statement displayed a level of privilege and assumption about magic's place in a given Pagan spiritual practice. Another commenter also pointed this out in a different way and in subsequent comments I came to better understand the perspective of magic as an optional practice because its simply not central to the given spiritual practices of a particular spiritual tradition.  I'll admit that when I think of Paganism, I typically associate magic with Paganism and with anything that might fall under the rather broad umbrella of Paganism (which as I'll discuss later points to a distinct problem). I think that Ruadhan made an accurate point, though at the time it blew my mind that the practice of Magic could be perceived as a form of privilege (mainly because my own experiences in mainstream culture, but in this case Ruadahan is referring to the Pagan subculture, and in that context it makes sense).

The conversation that occurred at Pantheacon helped me further understand this aspect of privilege, and where Ruadhan is coming from. Ruadhan also wrote a post about Wiccanate Privilege and noted the following:

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Nova
    Nova says #
    Sorry but I suck at double checking my own post. Since there isn't an edit button... Hmm? So hard to ask? I've honestly had it w
  • Nova
    Nova says #
    I'v honestly had it with the idea of privilege. priv·i·lege ˈpriv(ə)lij/ noun 1. a special right, advantage, or immunity granted
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    I have found being a member of a minority-within-a-minority very instructive. I'm a (mostly) middle-class white guy, one who has
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Well said Terence.
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    That's a good point Terence. It can be said that once the word privilege is invoked it sets the tone of the conversation. Sometime

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