Fifteenish Years

Genitive or contractive apostrophe? My little joke.

Sometime in the last week of June or first week in July is the anniversary of my first steps into practicing magic.  It’s been fifteen years. Despite my obsessive journaling — records are buried in notebooks and hidden away in boxes in the attic… and I don’t even have an attic. So the exact date is a little fuzzy, but it began by performing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram out of Israel Regardie’s book on the Golden Dawn.

I acknowledge some teachers and peers, by name or initials: JA, FGL, SP, JS, Rufus Opus, Jason Miller, Deborah Castellano and most recently Christopher Warnock. As always, I count it a great blessing to have been hit on the head by a couple of books by John Michael Greer.  And then there’s Gordon at Rune Soup, way out there while also grounded, but a visionary who’s helped me get a grip on a number of insights. As always, I hope to meet some of these people face-to-face one day.

And then there’s the necessary insight for an anniversary — since no list of self-referential sentences would be complete without a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the last week, I’ve done quite a bit of magic for folks, and with folks.  There was a woman who had a preliminary diagnosis of cancer; between her primary care doctor’s visit where she got the diagnosis, and her visit to the specialist, she expressed her fear and worry to me; I made her a card with a picture of the angel Gabriel on it.  No tumor, no cancer at the specialist visit.  My doing? How would I know?   A friend sat in my house, expressing his stress and fear about job prospects the other night: we worked magic together, and he left with greater confidence that a new position would be his; maybe it will be. I think he has a better than 70% chance now. But still, I claim no credit.  Two weeks ago, a friend’s new beau came to me with a complicated question for which I did divination.  I didn’t like giving the answer, because it was a rough one. Since then, half a dozen people have benefited from the actions the querent has taken to sort things out.  A first aid class I took a couple of weeks ago, because it was the responsible thing to do, became suddenly helpful in a restaurant.

Geomancy Visual Aids: History of Geomancy
Figuring out how to advise people is in our DNA…

Fifteen years ago, I started doing magic because I wasn’t sure what was happening with my life. I did it for ME.  I began to do this work for very selfish ends: more money, more time, more life, more love, more energy, more hope, more knowledge. More, more more. I pulled it in like a sponge.

Now, fifteen years on, I look at how I actually live my magical life.  Sure, I still do weird ceremonies and speak strange prayers.  But it seems to me, more often than not, that the real magic happens elsewhere, and looks completely different: Coaching people through turbulence or grief or fear. Guiding people to live in ways that bring them greater interest and joy. Sometimes in those sessions, I talk about Magic-with-a-capital-M, and sometimes I say, “there’s this weird trick that really works…” and I attribute it to psychology or brain science rather than the Great Work.  I wind up sounding like a Buzzfeed article.

I do not know if I will ever be counted as one of the Adepts, though I continue another thirty or forty years in the Work. But if I have learned anything in this decade and a half, it is that Magic eventually abandons me, or shoots a warning shot across my bows, when I am working solely for myself. Yet it serves me with extraordinary kindness and grace and miraculous results when I am assisting others.

We may be tempted into the Art with selfish designs and barely-contained desires. But it’s a bit of a con game, isn’t it? Ultimately, the hard work of mastering Magic makes us, its students, into servants — self-trained to offer unlikely help at complicated times and places in people’s lives.  And whether you’ve only read about Harry Potter, or you’re a beginner in this Art, or you’ve been practicing two decades longer than I have, I suspect that something about this resonates as true: that you might have begun the practice of Magic for yourself … but that you will master it only by using it for others.

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