Category Archives: Magic

Love and magic

Love is supposed to magically save you. The mere existence of the right person is supposed to make everything right. I’ve had people ask me in the past why being in a relationship hadn’t cured my depression. I’ve had people who love me distressed because they believe their love should be enough to fix me.

Love is magic, and can fuel magic, but at the same time it isn’t a magic cure for all ills. It also isn’t reliably enough. Love isn’t enough if you are cold, hungry, exhausted and in pain. Sure, love might carry you through a short bout of that, but it will not let you live there long term. Nor should it. Love is not a substitute for all your other basic needs. 

Depression has many causes – massive stress being a common underlier. Love won’t save you from a toxic work culture. It won’t fix your financial insecurity necessarily, or cure your health problems. It also won’t undo past trauma. Your lover is not your therapist, not your life coach, not your psychoanalyst, not a substitute for your parents… It is not the job of the person who loves you to make up for everything in your past, fix all your problems and sort your life out. 

When we think love is supposed to magically fix everything, we can end up putting impossible pressure on the people we love.

What love can do, is provide a safe space where people feel able to fix themselves. The love, belief and support of another human can help us feel resourced enough to square up to our problems and see what can be done about them. Love opens us up to the idea of helping each other and supporting each other. Rather than a hetranormative romance take where one person magically saves the other, we can have networks of support and care. Love doesn’t have to mean romantic love, and the idea that the person we are shagging is supposed to meet our every need is questionable. 

There are many ways to love. In that love, we can grow together and find shared solutions. Most of our problems are not individualistic. It’s just that keeping us focused on individual solutions that don’t really exist keeps us from making real change. I don’t think this is an accident. Love can save us, but not in the way that happens in movies. Love of life, of community, of friends – that can save us. Love of fairness and justice, compassion and dignity can save us. We can definitely save each other, but not by magic. It’s going to take work.

But then, it’s when you show up to do the work that both love and magic become truly possible and truly powerful.


A guided journey

I asked the universe for help.

Sometimes you are given

What you need.

Nothing is more terrifying

Or ecstatic.

Dreamwalking lucid

Through the night

To change shape, 

To become.

Awestruck, transforming

At every turn.

You walked me into memory

On paths that led relentless

To every place of my wounding.

And although I claimed readiness to heal,

Although I asked for this

I was not ready.

No one could be ready.

So many places to revisit

So much grief to face

Some I had forgotten although

I still carried the weight of them.

You crushed me down 

With wisdom, tenderness

Showed me

What past crushing had done

To this body, this troubled mind.

I found I could still breathe

The fear died, finally

And I lived.

(Some experiences are difficult to convey through prose.)


Enchantment and Consent

At what point does it become too much emotional pressure and too difficult for a person to say no? Not everyone finds it easy to say no – in all kinds of situations. So there are questions to ask about how we might support each other in holding healthy boundaries. If you’ve survived abuse, or been raised as a people pleaser, you might have a hard time saying no to people, especially if what’s being asked of you is emotionally loaded.

I have spent a long time trying to be someone it’s easy to say no to. That’s not been going well for me. It means I end up playing down how serious or urgent things are. It means something can be incredibly important to me and I’ll bring it up like it’s no big deal. I don’t want to be a nuisance, or an inconvenience, or make anyone uncomfortable or ask too much. But at the same time I’ve had a very rough time of it with suicidal ideation, and there are things I really need. It’s also not workable to have the people closest to me in a state of hyper-vigilance in case one of the things I casually mention turns out to be massive and loaded.

In terms of the things I need to function well, intensity is really important for me. I need to be emotionally overwhelmed, swept off my feet, blown away and otherwise captivated and enchanted. I need to feel so excited by things that I have no desire to decline even if saying yes has issues. In a world where everyone made it easy for me to say no to them all the time, I would struggle. 

There are no simple answers to any of this. I can be quite an overwhelming person when I’m not masking and muting myself, and that’s not for everyone. There are people who clearly like getting me on full blast. 

Enchantment isn’t safe, and anything emotionally loaded can lead a person to do things they might not otherwise have done. Somewhere in that misty landscape there’s a hard edge and beyond it what happens is definitely manipulation and definitely not ok. Sometimes enchantment looks far too much like dancing yourself to death, or heading off towards certain doom in the wake of the pied piper. But it doesn’t have to. Often growth and healing necessitate being outside your comfort zone but it does not follow that if you are outside your comfort zone you are growing or healing.

I’ve had plenty of experience of having my ability to consent compromised in all kinds of contexts where that was horrible. I’ve been swept off my feet as well. At the time, it isn’t always easy to tell what’s happening, or where the experience will take you or how you might feel about it with hindsight. Are you being love bombed in order to soften you up for manipulation, or have you truly found someone who can speak to your soul? Hard to tell. Is this tide going to carry you to new adventures, or drown you? There is no knowing.

I don’t want to be the tide that drowns anyone, but I’m not sure that I can both follow the call of enchantment and play safe in all possible ways. All I can do is try to make sure that people who get close enough to me that I could seriously impact on them also get some kind of vote.


Visualising Yourself

One of the many things that I learned from traditional witchcraft author Lee Morgan is how good it is to explore yourself through visualisation. When we’re working meditatively in a deliberate way, how we picture ourselves is very much part of what happens. We can choose who, or what to be without making any kind of commitment. Visualising yourself as other than you are can be a great way to develop empathy. It can also be incredibly liberating.

I’ve never been especially comfortable with the body I have. I’ve experimented with all kinds of ideas about shape, gender and species. On the whole I think I’d like me better with pointed furry ears. I think I’d like the kinds of legs that fauns and satyrs have. There are days when I’m fairly certain I would make a very good dragon.

One of the things I can do with all of this is put it into stories. There are plenty of us who, for all kinds of reasons, need the escapism of imagining ourselves as something else entirely. My most formative encounter in this regard was reading Clive Barker’s Imajica as a teen. In that novel there is a character whose gender expression changes in response to who they are with. How they seem is exactly how you want them to seem – which really would be the ultimate in people pleasing and I have issues on that score. Only one character sees this person as their whole self, and that for me was a defining moment in forming my ideas about love and romance.

I write nonbinary characters because it is one way of having that space for myself. What I’m most drawn to are the kinds of fantastical nonbinary characters who can be all genders or no gender at all, and whose physical realities transcend what regular human bodies do. I’m working on one at the moment but it might be a bit of a spoiler to say which book that’s in!


Sending you darkness

I’ve been working on my book Druidry and the Darkness this week, getting the ebook version ready for Patreon supporters. It will be more widely available later in the year.

One of the things I raise in it is how odd it sounds to say things like ‘I will hold you in the darkness’ or ‘I will send darkness to you’. We talk about light this way, as a healing, protecting and comforting force. Darkness is just as good at helping and healing people as light is. Darkness can also be protective. Arguably, that which is held by darkness is better protected for being hidden than anything you’ve put in a circle of light.

I admit I’ve never been very good at sending people light. I’m not especially good at visualising light, either. Sometimes light is wonderful – soft daylight especially so. I love gentle light but I often struggle with anything bright and glaring. It doesn’t agree with me, physically or emotionally.

At the moment I’m working on what I can do with darkness when it comes to healing. I know it helps me bodily and emotionally just to be in darkness and I’m exploring what working more deliberately with that can do for me right now. 

I will hold you in darkness.

I offer you darkness.

Blessings of darkness upon you.

May the darkness hold you and keep you safe.

I am putting darkness around you.

I rather like how this works.


Visions and Fever Dreams

Brains do funny things during fevers. I had a memorably strange experience some years ago involving the ‘revelation’ that reality is just tiny boxes inside other boxes. This week while being very ill, I had the ‘vision’ that the universe is just a Twitter thread about Our Flag Means Death.

Mess up your brain chemistry, and strangeness will ensure. I tend to hallucinate when I’m sleep deprived. Anything that pushes your body into some kind of altered state has the potential to bring weird and random insights. However, I am inclined to mistrust any vision that wasn’t actively sought.

I’m lucky because the kinds of things my brain offers up as mystic truths when I’m simply ill, are so clearly ridiculous. I can have a good laugh about them when I surface, and they make for good stories. I’ve never mistaken one of these for a serious insight into the nature of the universe. I can’t help but wonder how many other people’s religious experiences – especially in times when fevers were more common – were really fever experiences. In the absence of Our Flag Means Death fan art, you might well go for the powerful images available to you – angels and demons and so forth.

A hunger for meaning can be a misleading thing. The desire to be important can lead a person to take themselves far too seriously. If you are more interested in being spiritual than in being important, there’s a lot to be said for not taking yourself too seriously.


Learning to read the signs

Sign reading isn’t just a mystical art, although it often feels that way even when it’s largely pragmatic. Appearing to have magical insight can sometimes be about being better at reading the world than most people are. Knowing how to read the clouds when they move over your specific bit of landscape is a good example of this.

Many other animals are better than humans when it comes to spotting the early warning signs for earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Observing and knowing how to read those reactions can be a life saver. Understanding how everyone else responds can provide you with a lot of information.

At the moment I’m trying to learn how to read the signs in my own body. The immediate future can be divined from the behaviour of my heart. I’m trying to outwit anaemia, and the earlier I can read the signs, the better chance I have of staying well. It’s all very of-this-world but compared to where I was a month ago, it looks truly supernatural.

We can tell a lot about what people might do by paying attention to body language, word choices, and the tells they have that indicate lies or bluffs. Good poker players are often good people-readers. I prefer not to have to infer things, but it is often necessary.

Human systems are complex and can be difficult to make sense of. Even so, the lines of cause and effect are often there to be read, even by someone who does not have a deep understanding of everything going on. I remain amazed by the people who seem unable to see what the impacts of the UK leaving the EU are. In pragmatic issues just as in mystical ones, it is all too easy to only see the signs you can interpret in the way you wanted to all along.


Of writing and magic

Any act of writing can be a spell. Simply putting words into the world is an act of will, intended to cause change. It is a process that can change the person undertaking it, as well. I write things on this blog because I intend to cause change.

Sometimes I write in order to understand. I find it a powerful tool for processing. There have been many times when insights have come to me as I was writing, rather than having set out to write about insights I’d already had. Even when I think I know what I’m going to say, the process of writing often opens unexpected doors and allows something new to come through.

By this means, I can take ideas out of my thoughts and place them in your mind. Thanks to the additional magic of the internet, I can do that without necessarily knowing you. Written words travel freely through time and space, connecting us with people in ways that go far beyond what many of those writers could ever have imagined. I can sit at my computer and read in translation the first known novels from around the world – something I doubt those authors could have imagined would ever be possible.

Anything you can do through meditation, trance, visualisation or similar inner working, you can do by writing. It’s all about the kind of states your mind can enter and how you choose to explore that. For me, if I want to know about something, my best bet is to try and write about it. The headstates I sometimes enter when writing are much akin to those other, more obviously spiritual states. 

Much of my writing is deliberately constructed by me, in a conscious way. Much of what I do depends on knowledge, experience and years spent learning technical stuff and honing skills. However, every now and then, something else seeps in. Not always when I’m trying to court the numinous, sometimes when I’m being entirely silly, even. Some of my best animist writing is in Wherefore – which was written to be an amusing distraction during lockdown. 

Opening up to the flow of words and ideas always makes a space where something else is possible. Just occasionally, something else comes through that is more than I expected, and takes me to places I did not know I could go. Sometimes, the act of writing is one of being enchanted – not being the spell caster, but being the one on whom the spell is cast.


Excitement is the best magic

This winter I have been obliged to think about what lifts my spirits. I struggle a lot with depression, especially in the cold, grey months of the year and especially when my body is unwell. There’s been a lot of that lately. I’ve come to the conclusion that while there are no 100% reliable magic bullets for anything, excitement is about as close as it gets.

Excitement is apathy’s natural predator. It also deals with invasive problems like despair and disenchantment. When there is excitement there is often also hope, activity and room for joy. Having things to be excited about can pull me out of terrible headspaces.

There is, in here somewhere, an excitable inner child. It’s complicated. Like most younger humans I had a fair capacity for throwing myself wholeheartedly at things. Excitement is also something I remember getting told off for, a lot. On the grounds that I would end up in tears if I got too excited, or would make myself sick, or wouldn’t be able to sleep.

There was a night at an event last year when I was so excited about so many things that I really couldn’t sleep and just lay there being excited. That wasn’t really a problem. And yes, sometimes if I get really emotional I cry, and that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with crying. As for the throwing up – I don’t think that ever really happened and it’s a risk I’m prepared to take.

I need that inner child excitement, unfettered by anyone else’s beliefs and expectations. I need the people who make me feel excited. I need to do things I can feel excited about. Perhaps most importantly, I need the space to be someone I can feel excited about. I need to squeal and roll around with pure delight. I need to be so excited that I can’t actually sleep. I always did.

For me, that particular emotion is not only powerful but is the foundation for most of my other positive feelings. An absence of excitement will leach the joy and hope out of me. I’m now trying to work out what I can do on my own to cultivate more excitement in myself, and who I can collaborate with to create more excitement generally. 


Taken by the tide

The prompt for this blog was ‘Openness to the winds of how and what next’. I’m starting with a little detour around how important it’s always been to me to use the language and metaphors that resonate. Wind is not what happens to me around change. I’m a water person on this issue, and for me it has to be the language of tides, flows, currents and waves. Metaphors like this are part of our soul language, so I think it’s really important to use the words that open you up to those deeper layers of meaning and possibility. 

The tides are something I primarily feel in my gut. Sometimes there’s not much to feel, which is fine. Not everything in life is a big drama or a huge shift. Sometimes I feel when change is coming, or possible, or is happening in a way that I need to be alert to. It’s never really occurred to me not to be open to this sort of thing. Change is inevitable, and fighting it can be exhausting and pointless. Learning when and how to go with the flow and when to swim fiercely against it is a thing.

Dead things go with the flow, and life often swims the other way. Then there’s the salmon, swimming upstream to spawn. Sometimes flowing with the tide isn’t the answer, but often it is. When you aren’t going with the flow it can take a lot of effort just to stay still. 

The metaphor that has become most important to me comes from surfing. This is curious because I’ve never tried to surf and never will. About as close as I’ve got has been floating towards the shore on my stomach. It’s all about catching the waves, letting the approaching swell of it lift you and knowing how to travel with it. When that happens as a life/magic issue, I feel it keenly. I get a strong sense of the rising wave and the possibility of riding something out to good effect. And like actual waves, there’s usually an element of danger in working with this energy, trusting to it, surrendering to it and seeing what happens.

It’s not always a passive choice. Often to ride this kind of wave I have to be highly alert to what I need to do and willing to trust my intuition and time my moves based on that alone. Of course there’s often no rational, external way of monitoring any of this, and I don’t talk about it when I’m doing it – except to Tom. 

Being open to change often means being open to being changed, not just having the situation alter. It means being willing to become an agent of change, an active participant in a rising tide, part of the flow, part of the wave. Sometimes it means deciding to be the water rather than being something in the water. No one gets to be static, whether they like it or not. The question is how we choose to participate in change, how we make change, and how we let change happen to us.

(With thanks to Karen for the prompt)