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.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Witch Hunting in the 21st Century

 

A little while back I wrote an article about The Broom Closet in the 21st Century. Recently the New York Times had an opinion article about the persecution of Witches in various parts of the world. In that article the opinion writer argued that the age of the internet has increased the witch hunting that occurs. One of the problems is that many of the people accused of witchcraft may not even be witches. They are accused for reasons that may have nothing to do witchcraft, but nonetheless it is used because it's convenient. In such places, the brutality that occurs involves burning people alive, or beheading or stoning them. The majority of such atrocities occur to women and the the people doing the assault are men doing it for prestige or as a way to enforce dominant social values. I mention all of this make a point: That such atrocities, far from being history, are still happening. In some cases, they are even happening in the U.S. And even here in the U.S. we also see the proliferation of ignorant perspectives about magic, because of how the mainstream religion fears the spread of any spiritual beliefs that run counter to that religion. Now whether every single one of those victims did or didn't identify as a Pagan or a Witch doesn't really matter, because those people were still labeled as such and punished for beliefs they may or may not have held.

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Hierarchy, Musical Harmony, and Magic

In Music Power Harmony, R. J. Stewart presents an interesting take on the concept of hierarchy as it relates to musical harmony and how that can be applied to magical work. He argues that hierarchies aren't inherently linear or spatial and that treating a hierarchy as a series of separate entities with linear connections ignores holistic aspects of the hierarchy that could be useful in magical work. When examining hierarchy from a harmonic perspective, Stewart notes that harmonics can open our awareness to resonances and relationships between the patterns and entities involved, in such a way that it provides order without necessarily bringing authority into the mix. It's an interesting take on hierarchy, which is typically treated as a linear structure with temporal authority included in it.

The problems that most people have with hierarchy is the abuse of authority or the bureaucracy that makes it convoluted and unable to do anything. Typically hierarchies are associated with corporations, governments, and other such institutions. These institutions enforce hegemonic authority and standards that keep certain agendas in power, while keeping others out. It's not a surprise then that people have knee jerk reactions to hierarchy. Yet I think R. J. Stewart makes some interesting points about hierarchy as it relates to both music and spiritual work.

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The Broom Closet in the 21st Century

When I was 18, in 1995, I was outed from the broom closet. I had kept myself in that closet, because I was afraid of how people would react if they realized I practiced magic. A friend's parents (both fundamentalist Christians) found a book I'd let my friend borrow and contacted my mom about it. She was also a fundamentalist Christian and needless to say did not approve of my spiritual choices. I was still living with her as I was in high school and I didn't have a job at the time. She told me I had a choice. I could move out or burn my books. I had a half hour to decide before she kicked me out. A half hour isn't a lot of time to make such a decision. I made a very practical choice and decided I would burn my books, because I didn't have a job and I wanted to finish high school. I hid the books I hadn't read yet and took the books I had read and told her I'd burn them. She marched me out to the back yard and I burned those books. That incident didn't discourage my practice of magic. If anything, it only made it more attractive and also made me more determined to continue learning. That incident also convinced me that staying in the broom closet wasn't going to help me, and so I decided I'd be open about my beliefs and practices, and I have been to this day.

A short time after the book burning, I was contacted by the father of my friend (I didn't know who he was at the time). He was drunk, had a cold, and told me how he was going to come kill me in 48 hours and he'd call me on the hour, each hour before he came. He started singing hymns to me. I told him if he came over I'd defend myself. I also called the police. He kept calling and eventually I disconnected the phone. The next day, in school, my friend told me that his father and step-father, in a rare moment of collaboration, had decided they were going to try and kill me. The step-father would drive the father over to do the deed. It never happened, but it illustrated to me how intolerant Christians were when it came to any religion or spirituality that wasn't of their own practice. It also illustrated what a risk it could be to be out of the broom closet.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Rebecca Kinney
    Rebecca Kinney says #
    I have also found that the most intolerant and vocal of any religion are the ones with the most to hide. It is as if they use the
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Unfortunately many Christians are intolerant and interpret freedom of religion to only pertain to their religion. Not all of them
  • Joyce ORourke
    Joyce ORourke says #
    I find most Christians to be intolerant of any religion other then their own. If you want to know what a religion is like read hi
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

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