Better Living Through Magic
When you’re a witch, certain popular turns of phrase just hit you differently.
“Like magic, this happened…”
“I can’t just make this happen, I’m not a magician!”
“I wish I had a magic wand so I could make your pain go away.”
The popular depiction of magic is that it is powerful, instantaneous and comprehensive. When you are in possession of magic, the trope goes, you can make impossible things happen on cue. If you have a magical life, everything must come easy to you. You can wrinkle your nose and the dishes get done by themselves. If you want a romantic partner, you can drink a potion and the right person will suddenly be irresistibly attracted to you. Need money? Follow the simple steps of a spell and watch the cash come rolling in. Most public witches I know have received a desperate plea via email from a stranger wanting us to provide an instant solution to their very desperate problem — add magic and stir.
Magic works, make no mistake about that. But magic does not happen without work. That’s the thing that separates actual magic from magical thinking. Magical thinking is the belief that all you need to do is think something hard enough and you can cause it to happen. The “love and light” crowd loves to talk about their “vision boards” and how they’re “manifesting” some part of their “best life” by visualizing what they want and then thinking about how it will feel when they have that new job, that new lover, or that new home.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Visualization is a key skill in doing magic. You must be able to see and articulate the objective of your magical efforts clearly to be successful at bending the Universe to create it. But merely sitting in front of an altar and saying “I will get a new car by Christmas” every day for six months is not magic, and you’ll still be riding the bus come December.
The key difference is in the actions you take, that use that articulation in your head to reach out into the Universe to proactively make it a reality. This transforms a thing from being merely what you want, into being what you will. That is where magic lies. Let’s say I want a new job. I can create a “vision board” for my new job, or write down on a piece of paper all the things I want from a new job. And I can sit in front of my altar every day and think about what it would feel like to sit at a new desk, and do the things that I articulated on that piece of paper.
But if I am not scouring job listings and sending out applications, if I am not actively networking, if I am not acquiring the skills that I know the job I want requires me to have, then I am not doing magic. But wait a minute, you say, all of those things are things I would do to find a job even if I’d never heard of magic! And you’d be right. Magic does not wait for the Universe to hand you things. It is not a replacement for mundane work.
Now, in addition to visualizing, and doing the hard mundane aspects of the job search, I am also actively “witching up” all the parts of my job search. I might intone some key runes right before a networking event or a job interview to make sure that I am communicating well. I might do some smoke cleansing of my workspace where I am working on my job search, to help me write better cover letters. I might create some magical charms to help as I negotiate my new salary. All along the way as I do the mundane work, I am supplementing with magical work to support the execution of what I am willing into being.
And then, in a few months, I have acquired a new job, one that is actually two steps above the one I held previously, with a significant increase in pay to go with it.
I cannot say with absolute certainty that I would not have gotten that job but for the magic I did. That would not be fully honest. Did the magic help? Yes, it did. Could I have gotten that job without magic? Perhaps. The truth is I can’t say for sure. And I am okay operating in that space. Because I’ve seen magic work enough times to honor its contribution to my life.
Magic doesn’t always make things easier, by the way. To be an effective magical practitioner requires more than just having an arsenal of tips and tricks to “witch up” your life. As I’ve discussed before, walking this path will demand that you engage with the parts of yourself that you might not want to acknowledge, the shadow self. If you’re serious about your Craft and your path, you’ll have to authentically show up and be an honest broker of your feelings, your actions, your needs, your habits, your attitudes, your relationships and just about everything else in your life. These days I would go even one step further and say that a witch that isn’t pursuing the work of self-awareness actively alongside their magical knowledge is a danger to themselves and others. Because pursuing the power of magic without engaging in a process that seeks reflection and responsibility for who you are as a person using that power will make you into something truly ugly and reprehensible. A magical life is not an easy life.
That said, one thing that I think is important for witches to remember is that it’s okay to use their magic to seek good things for themselves. Yes, the power of the Craft should engender some sense of responsibility. I have said before that as a witch I personally feel a responsibility to stand up for those who need my voice and my power, and for those who are marginalized. My Craft is not just for my betterment, but for the support of my community. That said, you are allowed to be kind and support yourself too. In fact, I tell my son, “The most important thing is to be kind, and the first person you must be kind to is yourself.” Self-love and self-care are the bedrock that allows you to love and care for others in a more powerful and authentic way. It is not selfish to use the Craft not just to solve problems, but to seek the good things you want.
So yes, it’s okay to use magic to find a new job. It’s okay to use magic to help attract a partner — whether it’s a romantic partner, a business partner or someone to play bridge with. (Though it’s unwise and unethical to do so in a way that supersedes a person’s free will.) It’s okay to use magic to help you achieve a treasured goal — like taking a trip to Alaska, or saving up for a down payment on a house.
You do not need to apologize to the Universe for wanting good things in your life. As it says in the Charge of the Goddess: “Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold! I am the Mother of all things and my love is poured out upon the earth.” You are a child of the Goddess, and need nothing else to be deserving of love and blessings. And you can have those things in abundance.
There is, of course, the issue of greed. If you think of magic as giving you an advantage, and if you use that advantage for your own benefit, at what point does being good to yourself tip over the line and become inappropriate selfishness? There is, of course, no formula for that. As a pagan I’m not big on telling other people where the True North on their moral compass ought to be. I believe in their inherent ability to find it for themselves if they look for it with integrity and diligence. This is why I think it’s so important for magical practitioners to have a personal practice aimed at self-awareness and accountability. It’s an insurance policy against taking things too far.
Of course, there is also the fact that the Universe itself is always seeking balance, and is perfectly capable of saying “no” to someone who is asking it for more than the Universe is inclined to give. Pay attention when the magic stops working, or the omens turn against you. The Universe is saying no for a reason. Sometimes it’s because you need to back off and get some perspective on what you’re doing. Sometimes the Universe says no because it wants you to wait for something better. Sometimes it’s just not your time or your turn yet, for whatever reason. Remember, sometimes no is only for a time, not forever.
But “no” is a complete sentence, whether you are saying it or it is being said to you. It’s important to take no for an answer when it comes in a clear and unmistakable way. Sometimes we linger in our pursuit of things that the Universe has already given its answer on, because we are stubborn, and think that the magic will overcome all the odds. Magic needs humility, because it is not omnipotent. The Craft only bends the arc of the Universe — it cannot break reality at your whim. And it tends to react with some force when we don’t listen.
Magic is a facilitator. Magic can provide a lever or a ladder or a hammer. It can smooth a path or create a swath of destruction. But without the will of the witch to direct it, and the Universe’s tacit agreement, it doesn’t do much. Magic will change your life, and can make it better. And witches can and should use magic to that purpose. But it’s important to remember that in the end, it is the witch who changes the Universe, using magic as their tool. And like any tool, magic is only ever as good as the witch who uses it.