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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A New Model of Elemental Magic

Since October of 2004 I've practiced a year long ritual called the elemental balancing ritual. It's a ritual that involves the invocation of an element into your life, so that you can work with it over the course of the year, in order to bring balance with that elemental energy and your life. Balance, in the context of this ritual, means that you working with the elemental energy and the behavioral attributes it represents in order to balance that energy and behavior in your life. For example, the element water is traditionally associated with feelings and emotions so if you feel disconnected from your emotions, you might work with water to develop a better relationship with your emotions. Of course you'll also pick up other aspects of water while doing the work, such as learning to be more flexible or discovering the value of stillness.

I chose to start this balancing ritual in October, because of Samhain which marks the end of the year, in a spiritual sense, and also because my Birthday is in October, but anyone doing this ritual could start it at any time of the year. I'll explain more about how to do the actual work below. I've also described this work in my book Inner Alchemy.

When I initially developed this ritual, I applied the traditional model of elemental magic to it, which means working with the five element. I looked at my life and asked myself where I felt there was a lack of balance and what elemental force would correspond to that lack of balance. I chose to work with Water because I felt that I had a lot of passion, but a disconnect from my emotions. It was a good choice and that first year's work helped me grow as a person and connect with my emotions much more meaningfully than I had before.

However, at the end of the first year, what I needed to work on didn't have a traditional elemental correspondence. I'd become a hermit, while in graduate school and I really didn't know how to socialize with people and I didn't feel comfortable doing it. The closest traditional element I could think to work with was Air, but that element didn't feel right. So I began to think about what did feel right and came up with Sound. It's not a traditional element, but I realized that I shouldn't confine myself to traditional elements for the sake of being traditional. It could be just as viable to work with an element that wasn't traditional, but nonetheless is an element that affects our lives.

I define an element as a force of nature that moves people and the world at large. It's a force that is essential to life. Sound, as an element, fit that definition. It's something we experience every day, and even something we help to make. It is something that moves, not only in what we can hear, but what we can't hear. Most importantly, for my purposes, it was an element I could identify with, when it came to learning to be social again.

In the years since I've worked with Earth, Love, Emptiness, Identity, Space/Time, Fire and I am now working with Movement. The majority of these elements are not traditional elements, but they are elemental powers that are defined by the modern context of our time. By choosing to extend elemental magic to more contemporary elements, I'm not disrespecting the traditional model of elemental magic, so much as recognizing that there is room for evolution and the possibility to connect with elemental energies that all of us can work with.

The elemental balancing ritual is a year long commitment. The reason it is done for a year is because you are working with the elemental energy to create balance in your life and do internal work on the parts of yourself that are out of out balance. The initial work involves making a connection to the element. I recommend using pathworking. If you are working with traditional elements, you can use the symbols for the traditional elements, but if you are working with non-traditional elements such as sound or emptiness, you will need to get creative (I'll explain how to do so below).

Whether working with traditional or non-traditional elements you'll be creating a virtual space in your pathworking that represents the elemental forces you want to work with. For example, if you were working with fire, the virtual space you'd create would be one with flames. You'd visualize the flames, smell smoke, feel heat, etc. Once in that environment you'll use the symbols to connect with the element of fire and ask for an elemental spirit to appear. The spirit might appear in a traditional form, or it might appear in a more contemporary form. It depends on what you are most comfortable with. You'll then ask the spirit to provide you a personalized symbol which you will use for the invocation ritual.

With the non-traditional element, you won't have a symbol to use. However you do have your experiences of that element to draw on. For example sound is an element you've had experiences with for your entire life. You can draw on those experiences, and even play sound such as music and let those experiences guide you to create a symbol. Take a pencil or pen and sheet of paper and as you feel/listen to the sounds, draw whatever comes to mind. That will be the symbol you'd use to connect with sound. You can do the same with the element of love or emptiness, or any other non-traditional element you want to work with. Also some of these elements may have symbols. Love, for example, has many symbols you can draw on. Once you have a symbol, use it to connect with the element and ask for an elemental spirit and get a personalized symbol for the invocation ritual.

On the night of the invocation ritual, you want to memorize the symbol. I also recommend using body paint to paint the symbol on your fore head. Invoke the spiritual entity that represents the element in whatever preferred method you want to use. You will feel the elemental spirit enter via the spirit and interact with you directly. You'll be bonding with that spirit for a year, working with it intimately as it brings the elemental energy into your life. After the night of the ritual you'll find that the elemental spirit will appear as needed in your life to weigh in on experiences you are having and offer advice as well. In return for that you'll pray to the elemental spirit each day and make occasional offers.

My experiences with this working have been positive, but each year has brought a lot of change and growing experiences. Not all of those changes have been easy, but when you do internal work there is a lot of work that occurs because you are working on your dysfunctions and blockages. It's important to make sure you are up for the commitment involved in this work and that you follow through. If any of you want to try this work, please contact me.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


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