Tag Archives: magic

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.


Every Pagan Is An Activist

If we are to have any kind of relationship with any aspect of the natural world, we have to be activists. I firmly believe that it is not possible at this point to be a Pagan without being an activist. The person who feels entitled to simply take from nature – be that magically or practically, has a destructive relationship with this planet and everything on it.

There are, however, many ways to be an activist. If you are working from a place of care to try and protect, nurture, and support life, you are already doing this work. You might want to consider dialling it up, making it more explicit and more visible. There is always more that can be done, but if everyone did something we’d be in a much better state.

All compassionate work is a form of activism – up to a point this also includes self care. Promoting rest and health means pushing back against the idea that we should work and consume endlessly. When self care is sold as a product, it becomes part of the problem. When self care is the excuse we use for not bothering, then it stops being activism.

We have to be careful to avoid things that are primarily undertaken to put ourselves centre stage. Activism that is mostly ego doesn’t get much done. 

Pagans are especially well placed to talk about power. Anyone on a magical path has a considered relationship with power. There’s a lot of philosophy in Paganism around power-with rather than power-over, and this is key around activism. Mainstream culture teaches people to feel powerless and ineffective. Paganism teaches people to stand in their own power and use it well. If we can model how to do that for people who are not Pagans, we can help people overcome the feelings of futility and powerlessness that stop many from acting.

Everything can be changed if there’s enough willpower to make a difference. We have the resources. We have the knowledge. Anything can be changed, but only if people believe they can change things. What we know about will, belief, and intent could make a great deal of difference. 

And so I write this to remind you that you are powerful. The things you do make a difference. Your words are spells. Your actions have an impact. Your will affects the world. 

(With thanks to Helen Woodsford-Dean for the prompt to write this.)


Confidence is a form of magic

So much of what we do depends on having enough confidence. Day to day life is full of decisions – many of which we may not even notice making on a normal day. However, if fear has paralysed you, or experience has shattered your confidence, those small decisions can become overwhelming. Shower? Breakfast? I think often people fall down on self care because they just can’t figure out what to do, and end up doing nothing.

Every communication we enter into depends on confidence. If you don’t expect to make sense, then speaking at all is hard. If you don’t have the confidence that you will be listened to, heard and taken seriously then communicating is hard. This is part of why it is often so hard to ask for help when you’re in trouble.

It is more normal to frame this in terms of what we can’t do when anxious, but I think there’s some use in flipping it over. Almost everything we do depends on confidence. Without confidence it is so difficult to make choices, act or speak. How much confidence a person has is going to greatly inform how effective they can be. Curing someone’s anxiety is far more complicated than the idea of boosting their confidence, but the effects are going to be much the same.

We can all support each other in being more confident. We can cheer each other on. When we shoulder burdens together we can better manage the difficult choices. When we put our faith in each other, and make that explicit, we can lift and empower each other.

Confidence is belief. Belief is most assuredly magic. We could all use more of that, but it’s a magic we can make together, and for each other.


Inspiration and Performance

Often, we talk about inspiration as being the act of creating a piece of work. That’s not quite what happens around performance. It is possible to be a really good performer – of music, poetry, theatre, dance… without creating original pieces of work. There are a number of ways in which inspiration can manifest.

Firstly there’s the choice of material. An inspired choice will be a powerful thing. This is about finding the perfect piece for the setting, the time of year, the audience, the mood on the day. When this works it can be truly magical. As you’re preparing material and won’t necessarily be able to fettle those choices in situ, how inspired you are in your choices can make a lot of odds.

There’s a lot of work involved in learning and arranging a performance. A lot of your own creative energy will go into this. What you do with your voice or body to bring a piece to life is very much yours. The preparation work you do will also inform how you are able to interpret and perform the piece in the moment and what you can do to tailor it to the space, audience etc. Whether you prepare with the intention of doing it in a way you’ve settled on, or whether you prepare to try and have many options on the day is also a factor.

Then there’s what happens in the moment. When you step into a space and decide how to perform what you’ve brought with you. The more confident you are, the better. The more sure of your material you are, the better. But there’s also always that scope for something magical to enter in and influence what you do. Performance itself can be inspired, and when it is, there is a considerable difference.

Creativity is a way of being in the world, a way of being open and interacting with the material, the spaces, the audience. Inspiration is a strange, glorious process that can strike at any time. Anything we do can be lit up with inspiration and can be made more wonderful by having that extra spark in it.


Magical thinking

When we think we can manifest what we need, we’re at the risk of mistaking our own worldly privilege for magic. Alongside this we may be persuaded that people suffer because they are unworthy – not because of capitalism, oppressive systems, systemic prejudice and so forth. It can make us unkind and complacent, complicit in the exploitation of others, and needlessly smug. It also means we are in no way equipped to deal with personal setbacks. Not being able to manifest what you need can turn out to be distressing.

Expectations are an important consideration for anyone exploring spells or prayer, seeking transformation through ritual or journeying. We can change ourselves through our intent, that is certain. By focusing our intent, we can change how we move through the world. If the world is consciousness made manifest then the scope of intent to influence things might be considerable. 

Whatever your beliefs are, it is important to consider what happens if magic doesn’t work. How is your faith going to be impacted by prayers that go unanswered? What effect will it have on your confidence if you invest heavily in magic that does not work? What if there is no healing? What if things are awful and all you can do is slog through? Magical thinking may incline us to believe that magically, it will all be ok, but this can leave a person even more exposed when things go wrong.

If you ask for the means to cope, rather than everything handed to you on a plate, all you have to do is keep going. If you ask to see the opportunities around you, to be given a chance, a sign, an insight – these kinds of things are reliably available. If you ask for the inner resources you need, that works, too. 

Magic that is basically about having material success and doing well in an exploitative capitalist system that is killing the planet… has never seemed inherently that magical to me. I think it’s usually existing privilege manifesting and not people manifesting anything magical anyway. For me, the idea of magic has always been more about relationship and engagement. It’s a way of moving through the world, not a way of making the world give you what you want. 

If you believe, as I do, that everything has at least the capacity for will and intention, then reality as we know it is a massive weave of many different desires and plans. When those coincide, amazing, serendipitous things may seem to occur. When we’re all pushing and shoving against each other, nothing much gets done. Real magic, for me, is what happens when enough intentions are aligned that things happen easily. Which in turn means that the most magical thing is to enter states of harmony and cooperation that make this possible. I prefer magic as power-with to the idea of power-over.


To keep talking

In witchcraft, keeping silent can be an important part of what you do. In Druidry however, I think it is more powerful and important to keep talking. Our magic doesn’t depend on secrecy anything like as much as it depends on communicating. Bard magic is very much not about keeping silent.

Talking, writing and communicating are key parts of activism. If you’re interested in peaceful protest and non-violent ways of making change, then it has to be all about communication. Education, information sharing, awareness raising – it all counts. Speaking truth to power, speaking personal truth to anyone who needs to hear it – this is all part of the Druid’s work. In many circumstances, silence is complicity.

There is magic in what we can share with each other. We can enchant, uplift, support and encourage each other with music and with words. We can put beauty into the world, comfort the uncomfortable, challenge the people who are too comfortable.

Druidry tends not to be secretive. We meet in daylight, often, we meet in public places. Many Druid groups offer public ritual at least some of the time. The heart of our magic is inspiration and for many people its also found in the transformative power of ritual. This is the kind of magic where to keep talking is more powerful than to keep silent. We all benefit from ideas shared and knowledge passed on.


Intuitive Magical Practice – a review

Pagan Portals - Intuitive Magic Practice

Intuitive Magical Practice by Natalia Clarke is one of those  books I had the privilege of reading long before it came out. That’s been tricky because it had a significant impact on me and I didn’t want to pre-empt the book too much by talking about that.

This is a small book that offers things you can do to bring your intuition into your practice. It’s a gentle, generous book with a lot to offer in this regard, written by someone for whom intuition is at the heart of magic. Its clear reading this book that Natalia had to work to find and reclaim her intuition, and that raised a lot of questions for me.

It seems obvious – especially after reading this book – that magic should be intuitive. It shouldn’t be entirely prescriptive of about going through someone else’s instructions. I know there are intensely prescriptive high ceremonial approaches to magic out there, but those leave me cold. There should be room for wonder, and surprise, and… well… magic.

Reading this book made me ask a lot of questions about my own relationship with intuition. When did I stop trusting it, and why? How do I feel about it now? I came to the conclusion that it was something I wanted back. Natalia’s book was really timely for me, and it set me on a path that has radically impacted on my life. During 2020 I did a number of things that were leaps of faith, based on gut feelings and intuition. I started making space in my life for intuition and started acting on it. This has had a huge impact on me.

I’ve also tested my intuition a great deal. I’ve had some challenging opportunities to explore what I might intuit, and was later blessed with feedback about how well I’d done – and it was certainly enough to have steered by, and steered well in adverse circumstances.

This book opened a door for me. It also brought a lot of uneasy questions about my past, and it was good to be able to work that through. If you’re reading this review and wondering about your own intuition, and whether you have any, and whether you could work with it, then very likely this book is for you. If it feels right, go for it.

More about the book here –  https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/pagan-portals-intuitive-magical-practice


Druidry and Magic

Recently I encountered a chap who said that the only magic in Druidry is communing with the ancestors. I offered a counter list – communing with the land and the old Gods, the magic of inspiration, or beauty, spirits of place, and so forth. He said that was magical, not magic. I have no problem with disagreeing, but it struck me as curious.

I know there are Druids who go in for spells – Kris Hughes talks about it, inspired by the magician Gwyidion, from the Welsh myths. Druidry is certainly not short of polytheists, and a prayer to a God is most assuredly an act of magical intent. I know for many Druids, magic is less about ‘doing’ and more about connection, about the numinous experience and a sense of wonder created by encountering wild beauty. You don’t have to believe in anything much to be a Druid. Magic can be found in the transformative power of ritual – whether you think that’s woo-woo magic or a simple consequence of showing up and doing the things.

The magic I have most deliberately sought it the magic of inspiration. I know no more powerful or glorious feeling than the moment when it crashes into me.

There are many ways of defining magic. Which is excellent. There are many ways of experiencing magic, feeling something as magical and feeling like a participant in something magical. There is however a world of difference between saying ‘this is what magic means to me’ and insisting that your take on magic is the only one available. Magic is personal, Druids are diverse, Druidry is full of possibilities. There is more wonder and delight to be found by being open to other people’s experiences than by insisting that yours is the only real one.


The Fiery Crown – a review

Here is a truly beautiful thing. The Fiery Crown is a comic written and illustrated by Charles Cutting. The cover art is indicative of what’s on the inside so it is easy to tell if the art style is for you. It’s full colour and lush and has that arty, painterly quality throughout. It’s a style that fits the story perfectly.

The Fiery Crown is set in some-when that resembles England in the early twentieth century, but clearly isn’t England as we know it. Much of the difference seems to hinge on a play called The Winter Solstice, and the story around it of the human who wiped out the fiery folk. Only it seems as though at least some of the characters are alive, and passably well and have plans.

This story does one of the things I love most. It tells a tale that feels like folklore. It feels like tradition and fairy lore and it is almost, but not quite familiar. It does draw on tradition, but it isn’t a straight borrowing from tradition, it is largely new, but with its roots deep in the rich soil of folklore. Charles Cutting clearly gets fairy folklore and is thus able to write something that both feels right, but is original. So I have no idea what’s going on or how the story will play out in future instalments and this makes me really happy.

I was fortunate enough to be sent a hard copy for review – it is a beautiful object. There are, I gather, 12 copies remaining from a limited edition print run, at time of writing this. You can pick up one of those here – http://charlescutting.com/The-Fiery-Crown

Or, if you don’t manage to snag a hard copy, there’s also a Comixology option over here – https://www.comixology.co.uk/The-Fiery-Crown-Act-1/digital-comic/897850?

Heartily recommended for anyone who loves fairies and living tradition, or who finds themselves in need of a bit of uplifting magic.