Proper Spelling

I spell it “magic”.  Not “magick”, not “magik”, not “majiq” (which I have seriously seen used before, probably by some McWiccan tween on reddit).  No K, no lack of C, no Qs or Xs.  “Magic”.  I understand it’s a really minor, trivial quibble to have, but I just wanted to make my own thoughts known.  As usual, I like to resort to etymology and historical usage to inform my choice.  From

magic (n.): late 14c., “art of influencing events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces,” from Old French magique “magic, magical,” from Late Latin magice “sorcery, magic,” from Greek magike (presumably with tekhne “art”), fem. of magikos “magical,” from magos “one of the members of the learned and priestly class,” from Old Persian magush, possibly from PIE *magh- (1) “to be able, to have power” (see machine). Transferred sense of “legerdemain, optical illusion, etc.” is from 1811. Displaced Old English wiccecræft (see witch); also drycræft, from dry “magician,” from Irish drui “priest, magician” (see druid).

Only in Greek do we find the use of a K in magic, only because Greek doesn’t have the letter C.  We find the use of a Q in French, only because the phonological evolution of French uses “que” to indicate a hard C or a K sound.  Latin uses “magia” or “mageia”, depending on how Greek it wants to seem, since it got the word from Greek, which got the word from ancient Persian.  You know, the home of the old astrologers, Chaldaeans, and the like, the Urheimat of most Western occultism.  Only in some nonstandard spellings in older texts do we find the variant “magick”; this doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it’s definitely not my preferred spelling any more than “shoppe” is for “shop” or “ich” is for “I” or other Middle English spellings today.

The distinction between “magic” and “magick” that I’ve seen is that “magick” is reserved for the “real” stuff, i.e. conjuration, alchemy, theurgy, thaumaturgy, and energy work.  This spelling was invented (or supposedly “revived”, depending on whom you ask) as a reaction to the use of the word “magic” to refer to prestidigitization, stage magic, optical illusions, and other practices that are often tied up with swindling, begging, and fraud.  This supposed debasement of a holy word to something common and vulgar is tripping us up from being the established, respected wise people we should be seen as.  Heavens forbid that people take us for some conjurers of cheap tricks!  We’re not trying to rob you, we’re trying to help you!

So what?

I don’t find the difference between magic-like-conjuration and magic-like-stage-magic to be that important, really.  In fact, working with illusions, tricking people, and providing them shocks is part and parcel of the work of the magician, no matter the altar or stage or field he chooses.  Magicians have always played the role of wise sage and street performer, providing help or harm as needed to people in any number of ways.  Keep in mind that, especially for Hermeticists, magicians fall at least partially under the archetype of Hermes and definitely within that sphere’s power.  Even the powerful and mystical Gandalf had fun and trickery with his fireworks for idle entertainment, despite that he was tasked by the gods of Middle-Earth for one of the gravest tasks of all.

Consider Trump I of the Tarot, often called the Magician in modern decks.  In older decks, like the Marseilles Tarot, he was called le Bateleur, “the Juggler”.  He had his Sword, his Cup, his Coins, and his Wands on the table, sure, but he also had his dice, his hat, his magic bag of holding.  With his baton he points out what to look at, distracting us from his hands while he juggles things behind the scenes before us.  He’s a trickster, and he’s inviting us to a show.  He sets up his altar, his portable playing-card table, out on some random spot on the road that’s natural, rugged, and completely real.  He wears brightly-colored, fun, and floppy clothing, wild hair tangled about in his lemniscatesque hat, partially to draw crowds, partially to distract, both of which are sources of his power in addition to the holiness of his garb.  He’s a holy fakir and wholly a faker, and that’s the whole point of being a magician.  When you’re wielding the forces of the cosmos, you need to have some way to relate it to other people here on Earth, whether it be through insightful metaphor or playful card trick.  Then again, what else is Tarot but both metaphor and trick played out on the same deck of cards?

It’s only later when the professionally fraudulent theurgic magicians wanted to separate themselves out from the fraudulently professional stage magicians that people started affecting a difference in appearance and spelling.  It corresponds more-or-less with trying to keep the occult science a science, much how astrologers have wanted to keep their art up to speed with discoveries in astronomy.   Thus we see an evolution from Marseilles’ Bateleur to Rider-Waite’s Magician: instead of a wild mane, we find a well-maintained solemn coif; instead of a roadside stand, we find a to-spec altar in a trimmed garden; instead of tools and gimmicks and toys filling the table, we find just the bare minimum and duly consecrated Weapons; instead of a playful hat indicating his connection to the cosmos, we find only symbolic metaphor.  We find utter seriousness where before we had fun.  This isn’t wrong, but it cuts out the liveliness and livelihood of the magician in the process for trying to obtain priestly acceptance and sacrosanct privilege.

Even in religious settings where the lines between priest, shaman, and magician are blurred, vulgar illusionry and divine experience both have their place.  Using hidden gears and wires to cause statues to move, pipes through walls to make rooms boom with unseen voices, and even ancient primitive batteries to provide devotees and dedicants with a shocking experience in multiple senses.  Jedi mind tricks and other mental stimuli can help produce trances, sometimes by brief distraction and sometimes through powerful hypnosis.  These illusions help move people out of the day-to-day, drawing them off the well-worn path just for a second to see that whole fields and lands exist besides just their already-familiar destination.  They might be for profound revelation of the spirit or for a brief distraction from daily toil, but illusions help people break out of their normal headspace and into a wider, more magical one.

We shouldn’t forget that just as stage magicians work in a world of illusions, so too do “real” magicians work in a cosmos of them.  We have to build and destroy illusions for both other people and ourselves, for profit greater than mere coin but by no means excluding it (the Weapon of Earth is, after all, the coin and all that it implies materialistically).  We aren’t necessarily priests, authorities, or establishment, and we don’t need to follow suit by filling the suit they expect their people to wear.  We need to do our own thing, use our own set of tools, and start playing games with the world and cosmos, wherever we may find ourselves.  Just as God made the planets to fly around the spheres, we need to learn to juggle those forces just as we juggle our own affairs down here.  All this isn’t even touching on those who live in more dangerous parts of the world for occultists, where magicians need some way to disguise themselves so that their phenomenal cosmic powers can fit into itty-bitty living spaces and social roles that push them to the social role of “silly entertainer” instead of “dangerous heretic”.

Still, it always trips me up when I read someone using the spelling “magickian”, because then I end up pronouncing it “mah-jik-kee-an” instead of “magician” and it crashes my train of thought.  I think we should just all use “magus” or “magos” instead, and save ourselves the keystrokes and quibbling.  (Kalagni, hon, you get a pass because you’re Canadian.  Nobody else has an excuse.  ♥)

Also, it’s spelled “altar” (n., a raised or prepared surface for worship and sacrifice), not “alter” (v., “to change or make something different”).

Be a ninja! Remain unseen! Here’s How

Face it, being able to walk around unseen, hiding under the noses of others, and performing all sorts of clandestine activity in public is awesome.  Whether it’s to seed a flash mob, sneak up on someone for a surprise, or lay down booby traps for ill-meaning authorities, knowing how to move around without being noticed is a useful skill.  Occultists have been doing it forever (how else would the arts and traditions survive?), whether it’s simply by not talking about themselves in public or by elaborate spells of concealment, either for protection of their goods, hiding the base from outlookers (cf. Hogwarts), or simply going around their day-to-day occult-natured tasks without being hindered by anyone.

For instance, sometimes i need to make a quick sacrifice to Mercury as thanks for helping me out on a road trip for safety and speed by dropping off a bottle of wine at a crossroads busstop; sometimes i need to make a trip to the Anacostia River to drop off a curse tablet and some chunks of raw steak; sometimes i need to wander around a forested park or graveyard at night and be able to slip in and out quietly.  Simple things for me to do, and harmless to the environment and those nearby (generally), but the general populace and authorities might take umbrage at how freely i dare use public grounds for my use.  Being able to get in, do my thing, and get out without being noticed or seen is important.  Hence, being a ninja.

It’s really not that hard to do, once you know a few tricks.  This post won’t go into what occultists and magicians of yore suggest to do, since they’re often not too pretty, but there are a lot of small things that can go a long way to helping you out.

  • Stick to abandoned or empty places.  Can’t be seen if there’s nobody to see you, after all.
  • Try to stick to dark places or nighttime.  It’s harder to be seen in general when there’s low contrast, especially by cameras if they’re not nightvision.
  • Do your thing like it ain’t no thing.  If you treat something as no big deal, everyone else around you will do likewise and think you’re going on the most mundane of errand-running.
  • Wear simple, generic clothing.  The louder, more eccentric, and more brightly-colored you are, the more attention you’re going to draw to yourself.  Stick to earth-tones, greys, blacks; wear business-casual or casual clothes.
  • Don’t make eye contact with others.  Don’t bump into others.  Walk at a relaxed pace in a relaxed gait.
  • Actually imagine yourself invisible.  Picture your body, but entirely see-through and, well, blank.  Alternatively, focus on the image of a nearby plain, unadorned, brick or cinderblock wall.  Imagine yourself filled with that wall, absolutely plain and unadorned, nothing special to look at.  Also focus on the word “invisible” or “not present” while moving around.
  • Change into a disguise once you reach your destination.  It could be as simple as taking off a jacket and putting it into a backpack, switching out a pair of glasses for sunglasses, letting down your hair, or even changing your whole outfit and makeup.
  • Take a different route back.  Even if it’s just switching sidewalks across the road, try to take a different course back so that nobody can peg you as sticking in any one location or track you.  (Works for spirits and ghosts, too.)

Of course, use caution with some of these tricks; don’t go climbing up dark alleyways in the inner city at night on a weekend, or try to follow subway tunnels under the Pentagon just because they’re not actively guarded.  Use common sense, please.

Any other tricks you might be willing to share?  Anything of a more occult nature?  Anything of a more mundane nature?