Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Wednesday Whimsy: A little Practical Magic

Let’s begin this with a disclaimer. If you think practical magic is something to do with spells, charms or incantations then you’ve come to the wrong place. Magic isn’t something we invoke; it’s something that’s there all around us waiting to be used.

So to practical magic and where better to begin than with Frazer:

“Regarded as a system of natural law, that is, as a statement of the rules which determine the sequence of events throughout the world, it may be called Theoretical Magic: regarded as a set of precepts which human beings observe in order to compass their ends, it may be called Practical Magic.”

So the practice of magic isn’t about spiritual salvation, doesn’t concern itself with god or gods and cannot provide a guide to living. But just as much the practice of magic isn’t about power as we tend to understand power in our frantic modern lives. To understand this you must understand what we mean when we say ‘magic’. In part an exclamation of joy, pleasure or excitement, magic also represents an expression of disbelief.

“How did he do that?” We exclaim, “Its magic!”

But magic is more an expression of synergy – yes, an awesome, magical sunset can be described prosaically by a scientist. But that does not explain why it is magical – the synergy between nature’s genius, our mood and our senses produces the magic. And we know we can use that magic for our ends – to further our desires. As Hoagy sang:

Ole buttermilk sky
Don'cha fail me when I'm needin' you most
Hang a moon above her hitchin' post
And hitch me to the one I love

The strength of practical magic lies not in compulsion but in mood. There is no magic to be found in rage, it is a thing of calm. Speed holds plenty of awe, masses of excitement but little magic. For magic we slow down, take a deep breath, sigh, look about us and say, “what a great place.” Then we see the magic that makes us love, the magic of contentment and the ultimate magic of shared experience.

People who look to magic for power, control or destruction are fools. The magician understands – as Himmagery in Sherri Tepper’s True Game – that people need only recognise his command of magic, there is not need to exercise that command. Practical magic does not need practice to be effective.

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