Jow says that my many years of Catholicism come out especially when I do magic. Because when in doubt, I Cast Science at it. He says my vetting process as to whether or not something is magical is similar to the Vatican when attempting to prove a miracle. I am also told that this is not as fun at magical gatherings as *I* perhaps think.
It’s not that I don’t believe that superwonky shit can happen magically, it’s that I don’t believe it just because someone’s telling me it happened.
How to Make Me (and Other Right Brained People) at Least Contemplate Your Story as True:
* Cross Examination. This is the segment especially disliked by Jow as it either sucks the fun out of the story he’s telling me or something about how it embarrasses him at an occult party. Look, I watch a lot of Judge Judy and she does typically have a way of ferreting out details of the story from people. But if you can answer sensible questions like, “Really? Okay, when’s the last time he ate?” “Which drugs was she rolling on that night?” “Has he tried looking for a job using boring items such as internet job searching and going to job fairs?” in a reasonable manner, then I’m more inclined to consider your magical act as possible.
* Multiple Factors. Your story is way more believable to me if you include “real world” possibilities in it. Such as: “I started to think maybe the house was haunted after having an exterminator, plumber, and contractor by. Also I found an article where it said that there were twelve murders in the house in 1812.” or “I made a kick ass money hand that really helped the money keep coming in, along with some temp work and quilting.”
* Admit Mistakes. This is surprisingly difficult for some of our occultist brethren, but I’m a lot more inclined to believe your story about how the sky opened up and started raining frogs in your living room if it’s also prefaced with, “So, um, it seemed that I made an error in translating the text. I thought it called for six dead frogs but really it was four live bats. . . ”
* Put it into Context. For instance, everyone rolls their eyes about the gamer who uses his or her gaming system as magical practice. OMG UR DOIN IT RONG! YOU MAKE THE REST OF US LOOK BAD! A few people have drunkenly confessed to me that Mage: The Ascension makes more sense to them magically than anything nonfiction they’ve read. Well, duh. Uncle Phil Brucato helped write it. He also wrote about real world magic for a Pagan magazine. White Wolf also worked much harder than other gaming publishers (I’m looking at you, Wizards of the Coast) to promote gender and race equality and when they wrote magical systems that came from indigenous people, they generally tried to get their facts straight. Were the actual facts always reported correctly? Were the systems of magic always related accurately? Um, no. But people, we argue with each other about things that are presented as *non* fiction and the questionable fact checking there (see: Silver Raven Wolf, Edain McCoy, DJ Conway, Alstair Crowley, etc., etc). So if The Spirit Ways works for you and you can put it into context, then rock out. But context means that some of the concepts resonate with you and you’ve been able to incorporate them into your magical work, not thinking you’re an ascended master, brah.
How Does This Translate into Your Meat Life, Deb?
Firstly, my friends are surprisingly laissez-faire about my foray into the Dark Arts. Most only vaguely believe magic is possible, but they seem to think it’s therapeutic for me so whatever. I have only just completed my first full trick involving the Dark Arts (. . . I suppose insisting on using a Harry Potter reference to talk about doing ill intended magic doesn’t help my case about this being srs work) yesterday so it is far too soon to tell if it worked or not, but I can say with absolute surety at the very least I feel better about the situation so it’s done that much for me already. The rest remains to be seen. But I can’t see myself taking all the “credit” for whatever happens with the situation I did my trick about, there’s a lot of other factors involved too. Maybe it is just internal therapy. Who knows? But I feel like I could answer reasonable questions about it if it does (in my estimation) work, and if it doesn’t or backlashes, I know I could admit those mistakes too. The more you know!
Secondly, I am indeed one of those people, bringing the rest of us down. Let me be honest, nothing I’ve ever learned in magic has stuck to me entirely. I choose to not be Catholic anymore, saying psalms as part of my magical practice in hoodoo squicks me. I’m a white girl in the suburbs with some shamanic training. I can’t be bothered to cast a circle every freaking time I want to accomplish something magically. The whole adf ritual is a great public ritual, but privately? No thank you. I’ve been too shy to go to a Hindu temple and too far out in the ‘burbs to get much formal Yoruba training. And those are just the parts that stuck, that’s not even counting the much larger sandbox of things that haven’t been able to stick at *all* that I am now constantly pestering others and reading about just to better educate myself.
While, yes, I ran a teeny tiny con that had many people thinking that I wore corsets and striped stockings and drank tea out of a matching tea set on the regular (which, gentle readers, is shamefully not so. Even while running it, I was more likely to be found wearing yoga pants and a tshirt drinking bagged tea out of a chipped mug) and I appreciated the gothic aesthetic primarily for dress up purposes and then reluctantly secondarily for the music, as an older goth, it’s not something you would immediately peg about me. I also don’t really believe (most days) that the world is just an exercise in nihilism.
I will confess, in magical practice at least, I identify most with being a Hollow One, more than any real life tradition. But why? I mean, firstly because the world takes a rather dim view on people trying to actually play out the Euthantos paradigm in an exciting but impractical Boondock Saints sort of manner and frankly I haven’t even killed a deer as yet, let alone a person. But joking aside, I do believe in Romance as an archetype. The way I feel about death, the after life, and rebirth is shaky and uncertain at best, though certainly hopeful about it. My view is more agnostic than dogmatic about all that. I tend to do magic simply, using whatever I have around the house most of the time (which is why Gordon’s grocery posts make me so happy). I try not to cobble together stuff in a non sensible sort of way (Yemaya and Kali Ma walk into a bar . . .), but I will change something if it doesn’t make sense to me. Though I try to learn as much as I can about it first. And if no one is around to help me figure out what to and there’s no information I can easily find . . .I make it up. Because, if it works, then it works. And if it doesn’t, well that’s my problem now isn’t it?
Oh FFS, Deb, I swear… If you weren't taken… And if I wasn't taken… And if I actually liked girls… Then we'd totally have to elope.
Yes, it's tenuous but I think you get the sentiment.
And I'm totally a fun-sucking Holy Roman Inquisitor myself.
I get annoyed by the, well are you actually looking for work too? question, because I feel like it can almost be assumed unless the person is displaying stupidity in other ways too. At least, I want folks to assume that about me, because I am an intelligent and diligent person. However, I have become shocked (outside the magic world) how many average Joes think that dropping off one or two applications and showing up to interviews if they are lucky enough to get them in casual attire is quite upsetting. Then they throw depressive fits and want magic to fix it when those things don't work.
I hold to many other people to my assumed standard. I have realized when people say, oh you lucky woman got a job. I respond, it wasn't luck, I applied to at least three jobs a week–usually more–with targeted well written cover letters, resumes and call backs. I interviewed for several jobs and I worked every day on getting a job. I did magic to get jobs, and got shitty jobs that treated me like garbage. I then was fired from said jobs for not taking garbage very well. Then I did more job magic and got other shitty jobs that eventually fired me for not taking shit well. I did magic to get jobs, but that wasn't working, so I did magic for more jobs to come about, and when there were more jobs around, I did magic to get a job. And then I did pretty magically get a job, despite all my hard work, the job came from a place I had not applied to, from a reference that I would never imagined would have gone to bat for me.
This was a great entry. I actually think the things you do to analyze stories you're told are all good. More people out there should be doing exactly that.
And finally: "Though I try to learn as much as I can about it first. And if no one is around to help me figure out what to and there's no information I can easily find . . .I make it up."
… Everyone does. Don't let the traditionalists lie to you. We're all making it up as we go along, unless better material falls into one's grubby fingers.
you make a great deal of sense.
Excellent post! You should never apologize when you "make it up". Especially when you do your research. Follow every branch down the family tree of any tradition and you will discover …they just made it up along the way too. As you said, if it works than it works.
@ Gordon – I *know*! You need to be my platonic European husband! It would give me mucho cache I think!
@ sara star – I feel the same way. I'm a "shoulder to the wheel" kind of girl and generally I assume that others are trying to find a job hardcore and . . .sometimes not so much actually.
@ Jack Faust & Lycan – Thanks for the confirmation! In my head, everyone is always way more organized and follows a tradition to the letter. It's nice being reminded that there are a lot of Hollow Ones out there 😉
I don't need to be drunk to admit it nor am I ashamed, but I have the original copy of Mage The Ascension proudly on my occult book shelves tucked between the Book of Lies (Disinfo Press) and Liber Null & Psychonaut. There's more "real" magic between the pages of that RPG than just about anything with a crescent moon on the book spine 😉