Everything is Not Under Your Control

You are not always the cat in this scenario.

can’t stop what’s coming/can’t stop what’s on its way/ Bells and footfalls and soldiers and dolls/ can’t stop loving/ can’t stop what is on its way/ and I see it coming/ and it’s on its way. . .

That’s like, the opposite of the rah-rah Gooooooooooooooooooooo Magic! cheer that everyone generally gives.

I think it’s rather cavalier to think that because you do magic and you can see what’s coming (sort of, murkily, sometimes, often more in hindsight) that you can make every life situation better for yourself.

Magic is a d20, it’s not a magic missile.  Sometimes, your odds to succeed/mitigate damage requires you to roll a natural 20 on your dice roll.  Possible?  Yes.  Likely?  No.  Okay, so you do magic and you do what you can in your mundane life to help the situation.  Awesome.  You’re being pro-active.  Now you need to roll an 18 or higher.  Are your odds now better?  Yes.  Is it likely that you’ll succeed?  Not particularly.

I think it’s very easy when things are going well to say that if you are alert enough, canny enough, good enough at magic that you can lessen the pain of all situations.



Sometimes, some things are bigger than you.  Sometimes, you’re pissing in the ocean.  Sometimes, you are too emotionally fucked up to Work correctly.  Sometimes, there is the matter of the Moirai.  Can you charm Them, beg Them, plead with Them, work magic to reweave bits of Their tapestry?  Of course.  But even the gods Themselves had to answer to Them.  There are some knots and breaks in the yarn that cannot be undone as I’ve learned as a Spinner and as a Worker.  Sometimes, the Moirai’s threads are unmovable.

If we’re not careful, it’s easy to find ourselves as Workers of all stripes to wind up stuck in the Secret trap – that if you were just better – a better Worker, a better manipulator, a better planner, a better everything, you wouldn’t have found yourself in the situation that is causing you unmitigated grief and despair.  You could have prevented this if you were better.  You deserve these terrible things that have happened to you because you didn’t work harder to prevent these situations.


Bull.  Shit.

Mercury was in retrograde and dear sweet baby Ganesha did I feel it.  My sister and I were fighting as only sisters can, with one hand on the nuke button, the other at each other’s throats, Jow’s sister needed a triple bypass heart surgery and we had to put down our beloved little orange man.

Did I deserve this because I didn’t do enough magic to prevent my sister and I from rubbing salt in years long wounds?   If Jow had prayed harder, could he have overcome his sister’s DNA when his dad had three heart attacks before he succumbed to cancer?  Because I didn’t reiki or say enough prayers to Bastet or better corralled the forces of live and death and renal failure in my cat who was perfectly healthy five days ago, knocking shit over, eating gluttonous amounts of food and getting into slap fights with my other cat?  

No.  That’s crazy talk.  That is some seriously for real crazy talk.  I refuse to believe that all of these incredibly painful events could have been mitigated if I just tried harder as a Worker.  You think I wasn’t praying as hard as I could pray?  You think I wasn’t crying as hard as I could cry?  You think I wasn’t Working as hard as I could Work?

I changed the dice roll as much as I could change it.  It wasn’t enough.  Sometimes, even the Gods Themselves can’t change a situation, They roll a 15 when they needed a 17.  You roll a 12 when you need a 15.  It’s shitty and sucky but it’s the way things work in the universe.  Not everything can be changed.

Older pantheons address this issue much better in my opinion.  Rather than a nebulous “this is God’s plan, suck it up and trust Him”, in Hinduism it’s said something more along the line of, “God* takes pleasure in creating beautiful and wonderful things for you and equal pleasure in destroying that which you love most.  It is Her/His way.  It is the way of Leela, the divine game that everyone plays.”

A traditional Leela game board. Snakes and Ladders has been played for thousands of years, it’s now played in the States as Chutes and Ladders by children to show the importance of responsibility and acting correctly.

Take Aways From This Lesson No One Wants to Hear, Especially When Shit Is Going Well:

1. Magic is a numbers game.  It’s why you should still try your hardest at it because while the odds are slim in rolling a natural 20 on a d20, it still happens.   Your goal as a Worker is to try to get the number you need for success down from a 20 to a 12**.

2. Because magic is a numbers game, it also means you will not always succeed in your dice roll.  Even when you do mundane work too.  Even when you try your hardest.  Everybody loses sometimes, no one likes to talk about it.

3. Losing does not make you a shitty Worker.  It means that you are involved with playing the game of Leela just like every other being in the Universe.  Sometimes it’s a snake, sometimes it’s a ladder, depending on your dice roll.

* Known by many names and forms in Hinduism

** In RPGs, when you need a 12 to succeed, it means you can roll a 12 or higher.  So on a d20, you could roll a 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 or 20 and succeed on that roll making your odds for success much greater.  However, if you roll a 1-11, you still fail.  If you roll a 1 (which is as statistically improbable as rolling a 2o), it means you botch.  Which means you don’t just fail, you epic fail.  Which is also possible.

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


2 Responses

  1. Looooooove this. A truth-bomb thrown at LARPers with a literal stone age capacity for philosophical thought.

    Also, as we’ve discussed in teh emailz, mega sorry for what’s going on.
    Gordon recently posted..Saint Sirius And The Dog DaysMy Profile

  2. Enormous hugs to both you and Jow, Deb; what a month this has been.

    But you are right; horrible things happen, and it is no bad reflection on us that we can’t always prevent them from happening. Odin couldn’t prevent the death of His son, after all, and if anyone had luck or the ability to skillfully manipulate fate, it would have been Him.
    Beth recently posted..Seidhr for July is now closedMy Profile

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