Written and compiled by George Knowles
Mention magic to most people and they immediately start thinking about Wicked Witches, Wizards and Sorcerers conjuring up evil sounding spells and poisons from boiling bubbling cauldrons sat on blazing smoking fires. Others imagine comedians on stage with funny pointy hats and black and white wands. Still others think of illusionists making people disappear then re-appear from boxes and other contrived stage props.
Since time immemorial magic has been used in witchcraft, and many myths and evil associations have been attributed to its use. Here I shall concentrate on magic and how it is perceived by witches of today. Not everybody agrees and there are many theories on the subject, so this is my theory, based on my opinion and my experiences. At the end of the day you shall have to form your own.
So what is magic really? (Or “magick” as those in the craft would term it). How, what, where and when should it be used? These are the questions I aim to answer here.
First let us destroy the myths of wizards throwing around lightning bolts doing battle with evil sorcerers, and all other such nonsenses. Magick is a force utilising power, wisdom and knowledge. It is both more and less powerful than the ignorant can suppose. Magick can only be used to change the changeable, for instance – it can be used to cure a sickness but not to replace a lost limb. Magick is not a power to be used in place of our other powers, meaning those of our physical, mental or emotional abilities. Nor is it a crutch for the weak or an ego-boost for the inadequate. Magick is an art and skill unto itself. It needs to be learned then trained to develop, and that takes time and patience.
If we believe that everything and all originate from the same source, then the ability for using magick must be retained within us all. Magick then is a forgotten art passed down through aeons of reincarnations and it resides inside us all. Therefore magick is a skill that needs to be re-learned and trained if it’s to be used well, effectively and wisely.
In modern days magick is used not only in ritual ceremonies, but also on a daily bases during spiritual communication with the Goddess and God. It is used daily for healing purposes and perhaps more frequently for personal purposes like reducing negativity, protection and improving the self. It can also be used for many other purposes as determined by the individual while bearing in mind “The three fold law”.
Magick in essence is the use and control of natural energies or power to produce and effect needed change. There are three basic sources of natural energy or power used: Personal Power, Earth Power and Divine Power.
Is the life force that sustains us and protects our earthly existence. It’s the power that resides within our own bodies; some may call it “willpower”. As we go about our daily business we are constantly absorbing energy, be it from the sun during the day or the moon during the night or the food and drink we consume. This energy we store and release during movement, exercise, sex, and even through our emotional states. This we all do quite naturally.
In magick we learn to harness and arouse this personal power, infuse it with a particular purpose, release it and direct it towards its goal.
Is the power that resides within our planet and its natural products. Such things as: Stones, Trees, Wind, Fire, Water, Crystals, Oils and Scents. All these things and more possess unique powers and give out specific energies that can be harnessed and used during ritual and magick.
Hold a stone in the palm of your hand (receptive hand), concentrate on your hand and visualise the stone. Feel its force tingling? A crystal can be charged and then held against the forehead to clear up migraine or headaches with its healing properties. Like-wise herbs and oils can be charged then rubbed onto the body to effect internal changes. These are just a few examples of earth power and its uses.
Is spiritual power, that which is charged and channelled by the Goddess and the God. Personal power and earth power are both manifestations of divine power. Divine power is the force of life, the source of everything, the power of the universe that created existence.
To use divine power the Goddess and God need to be invoked to bless the magick being prepared, this is normally done inside a properly constructed circle. For instance during ritual, personal power may be used to effect some personal change, then directed to the deities asking for a specific need to be met.
Magick is not just about the use of power; one cannot just stand up, call out to the Goddess and God and demand that magick be done – “So Be It”. A lot of work is involved in preparation for the use of magick. Once a need for the use of magick has been identified, careful consideration needs to be given to other associations if a successful outcome is to be achieved. Other associations cover such things as – Time, when should the magick be performed. Tools, which tools are best employed for the task. Then we need to consider co-ordinating – Colours, Candles, and Incenses. All these influences when combined together increase the power and lend added effect to the spell or rite.
I have listed correspondence tables for Magickal Days, Candles, Colours and Incense on other pages and quoted them in the paragraphs below.
When planning magical workings, consideration needs to be given as to when the work needs to be performed for best effect. We need to ascertain the best time or day for when to perform it. Days have their own magickal associations, which are similar to and connected with the other tables. Thus creating harmony during ritual and generating increased power when all are working together. Days in general are associated with and influenced by the Sun and six of the Planets.
As with most other religions, tools are used in Wicca to aid and enhance ritual worship. Tools have no powers within themselves save for that which we pass through them, though they do have powerful symbolic significances, which help us to focus our will and concentration. Tools are used to invoke deities, banish negativity, and direct our energies though touch and intention. Thus we need to know and understand the properties and symbolism of our tools in order to use them properly and correctly.
Candles have long been used in association with magick, as indeed they have been adopted and used by many other religions for spiritual communication.
Candle magick is probably the oldest and simplest form of ritual magick still performed today. Ever since fire was discovered, the naked flame has been regarded as sacred. In ancient times lighted touches were used to invoke the Goddess and Gods. Today we symbolise those acts by utilising candles. The naked flame remains the finest and easiest means of focusing in on power and energy.
The use of differently coloured candles symbolises the nature of intent and ultimately can influence the outcome of a particular spell. Coloured candles are therefore used to pinpoint our focus on a particular deity or planetary association. We need to understand the colour properties and other associations of candles to make our magick work for best effect.
Colour plays a powerful role in ritual Witchcraft and Magick. Colours are carefully considered and assigned to all aspects of spell making, ritual magick and festivals.
Colours have symbolic associations representing occult powers, and have their own energy frequencies that emanate specific influences. Careful consideration needs to be given to colour associations when used with Candles, Clothing, Symbols, Deities influences, Planetary influences, Causes and Effects, Zodiacal influences and Magickal Days.
Incense like candles have long had associations with magick, and like candles are used commonly by many other religions. The use of incense in witchcraft is threefold:
(1) It conditions the mind by stimulating our senses of smell.
(2) In connection with spells, it draws down the spirits through its magickal association with the elements of Air.
(3) According to ancient beliefs, when a spell is done. It raises the spell up into the ether and sends it on its way.
In magick, the type of incense used needs to correspond with the nature of the spell being worked. Most spells require incense associated with a particular planet or deity. Many types of incense are used for their purification and cleansing properties during ritual.
There are of course other associations and considerations I haven’t mentioned. These include zodiacal associations and planetary associations; even hourly associations can have an effect. But then how far would you wish to take it? Like anything else you can go overboard. Consider that by trying to include everything in your preparation, would you ever have time for the actual working? It’s often been said that the most effective magick is simple magick. Leave the complicated stuff for the adepts or until such time as you have been trained and gained considerable experience.
Magick then is a process in which we work closely and in harmony with the divine power source. This is envisaged as the Goddess and God with whom we communicate through the use of earth power and personal power. Magick begins within us. By learning to harness and control our personal power, so then can we use magick to produce and affect needed change for others and ourselves.
Magick begins within us, it’s already there, an intuitive knowledge and instinctive ability passed down to us through aeons of regenerated reincarnations, it sits there deep in the back of the mind waiting to be used. The mind needs to be trained in the techniques of meditation, visualisation, concentration and imagination if once again we desire to use these forgotten abilities.
Given the pace of life in society today and the stresses and worries that go with it, it’s difficult for most of us to gain relief and let go of our cares and woes. Meditation is one way to induce total relaxation and normally precedes any act of magick or ritual. Let’s face it; we cannot begin to work with magick, which requires our full concentration, if we are worried about mundane everyday things. Meditation is also the quiet time in which we release our hold on the conscious mind and confront our inner-self, or through our psychic awareness communicate with the deities.
Choose your time and place with care, ideally somewhere peaceful and quiet, and where you won’t be disturbed. Perhaps the last thing at night after all has gone to bed, or early in the morning before the household arises. Light a candle in a darkened room (White or blue symbolises spirituality and meditation, and burn appropriate incense if you wish (Lotus, Myrrh or Passionflower may help but use what feels right for you. Sit comfortably in a chair and take a moment to savour your surroundings, the lighted candle glowing softly in the darkness, the scent of the incense stimulating the senses, feel and listen to the peace and quiet.
Relax as much as you can, empty the mind and think of nothing, breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth, gradually your breathing rate will slow down. For those who haven’t tried this exercise before, care needs to be taken at this stage in case you fall asleep. If you feel sleep coming on, snap out of it and start again. As your breathing rate slows down and while inhaling, use your imagination to visualise incoming peace and tranquillity, while exhaling, visualise your hate, anger, tensions and worries leaving the body and dispersing. Feel yourself relaxing more into the chair.
Now we can open up the conscious mind allowing it to become receptive and alert. Your psychic mind will also open and awareness will grow each time you practice. Call out to the Gods and talk with them, discuss your troubles and ask for advice, or look into yourself and see what you can find. Once you have finished meditating, it might be a good idea to record your findings, the thoughts, images and sensations you experienced, so you can pick up on it again the next time you practice.
Is probably the most important aspect of any magickal working. It’s what we use to guide and direct the power and energy raised during ritual and while using magick. We all have the ability to visualise, but most people do so randomly. Perhaps when sitting in the car while stuck in a traffic jam, the mind takes flight and begins to wonder? Or when sat in a classroom during a boring lecture, we might start thinking about favourite things, seeing them in our minds eye while the teacher drones on in the background? This is random visualisation.
For use in magick we need to train and control this ability, so that we can see, hold and shape whatever it is we want to see, and then direct our powers and energies towards it. For instance I may want to protect my home from intruders. In which case I would raise personal power while holding an image of the home in my mind, then visualise an energy field encircling the house sealing the doors and windows. Outside the house I may imagine the police apprehending intruders. I then direct my raised power and energise the visualisation, thus bringing it into manifestation and leaving the protection in place to work its magick.
This then is the art of visualisation control, the ability to see in the mind what isn’t there, to hold a non-existent image or happening and shaping it into being what you want it to be. Visualisation is not “the power” or “the energy”, nor does it create it on its own, more that it directs raised power and energy to its final conclusion.
Visualisation in itself may sound easy and it is while sat in a chair in a relaxed state of mind. But visualising is only part of the process of working magick. The difficult part is to retain your visualisation with your eyes open, stood in the centre of your circle with your hands and mind occupied in manipulating your tools and other tasks. It takes a little training and practise to perfect this technique.
You could start by incorporating a few simple exercises into your daily meditation practise. While still in your relaxed state with your eyes closed, visualise a still object, something familiar to you like an apple, a toothbrush, or something equally simple. Hold the image as long as you can, allow nothing else to interfere, and then let it go. When you can hold the image without interruption for five minutes, try the same exercise but with your eyes open. This is a little harder but practise daily and it will come.
Once you’ve accomplished this, we start again. Visualise the same image, only this time play with it. Turn it around, see it grow or expand, maybe change its colours and textures, or try to see it from different angles. When you can do this, try it again but with your eyes open. As you become more proficient, you might want to incorporate it into your active life, try doing it while occupied with mundane things, like when cooking dinner or washing up afterwards. See how long you can hold the image in your mind’s eye while washing the plates and dishes.
The final exercise is to visualise a non-existent image or something you have never seen before. Use your imagination to create something, something meaningful to you perhaps. I use a silver white unicorn with wings, riding down a sunbeam into a picturesque forest glade. Whatever you use, see it as a real thing in your mind, make it so real you could almost touch and feel it. Hold the image as long as you can, then let it go.
As with the other exercises, we need to be able to see the same image with our eyes open and while occupied with other things. When you can do this, you’re well on your way to using magick.
The Self (Grounding and Centering):
Finally a note of caution to anyone new to using magick. Magick begins within the self. It’s already there in the back of the mind where it’s tied up with our energy and mental facilities. When working with magick you can be working with some powerful energy and forces. Repeated or excessive use of magick without proper care and attention to the self, depletes the self’s resources and can lead to debilitating personal health difficulties, such as mental exhaustion, headaches and migraines etc.
To combat these difficulties, witches use a technique called “Grounding and Centering”. Before any ritual, magical working or divinatory activity, a witch will first ‘Ground and Center’ to booster the self’s resources by infusing ‘Personal Power’ with ‘Earth Power’ using the techniques already mentioned above. This technique can also be used to calm fear, anxiety and agitation.
To do this, plant your feet firmly on the ground (some people prefer to do this bare footed, standing on bare earth or grass, but it can also be done seated and regardless of where one is or how one is dressed). Close your eyes blank your mind and steady yourself. Inhale a slow deep breath and release it slowly while visualizing any retained negative energy or influences flowing out of the body through your feet and dispersing harmlessly into the ground. Inhale again while visualizing positive ‘Earth’ energy being drawn up into the body through the feet. Repeat this process until you feel that all your negativity has been released and the incoming energy has touched and infused all your body’s chakra points (these are the seven zones within the body that retain energy, the subject of another lesson, but later). You should now be feeling calm and energized to commence with your magical workings.
Once the rite or working is complete, repeat this exercise to disperse any residual energy. Most witches then follow up with a ‘Cake and Ale’ ritual, food and drink to replace and replenish spent energy.
Once your work is done and all is completed, a period of self-analyses should follow. Carefully monitor the subject of your magic and record your experiences in your ‘Book of Shadows’. This will provide you valuable information for future workings.