Magic is Work

I’m still mulling over my own lack of activity, but I assure you, I am getting off my ass and getting back to the Work.  I’m making to-do lists of multiple types and marking my calendar down with tasks and planning things out, and getting back into the fray so I can patch up the frayed tapestry of my threads.  I’m already daunted by what I need to do, but I’ve put this shit off for long enough.  Enough is enough.  I’m wasting my time if I’m not doing work, and I’m of no use to anyone like this.

It’s interesting, because based on the feedback I’ve been getting and from the mumbles and grumbles across my blogroll, it seems like I’m not the only one who’s been in the doldrums of inactivity.  It’s no excuse for my own laziness and emptiness of agenda, but it is curious to note that many others have been suffering from a lack of spiritual perception, things to do, or otherwise just…not doing the Work.  My colleague and bromancer Pallas Renatus and I were discussing it recently; I assumed everyone who’s tapped into the general Hermetic current is suffering from the same sort of blah-ness, like there was something in the aetherial Water, so to speak.  But then, he brought up that maybe it’s the opposite case; perhaps there was something out there that caused a surge of activity across multiple people and places, which would certainly explain a massive mini-renaissance in Hermetic studies and paths, but it was only a temporary and ephemeral surge.  If such a surge indeed happened, then it could be that the power that’s been luring so many has petered out, causing everyone to come crashing down from the magical high we were all riding.  It’s an interesting idea, definitely, but one beyond my ken to understand.

Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a surge that’s dying out or something in the aether that’s keeping us all down.  I’ve tasted blood, and I want more.  I refuse to let the whimsy of aetheric currents determine my well-being in such a bullshit way.

So, one of the first things I decided to do was to get the benefit and guidance of one of the most respected teachers I have, Saint Cyprian of Antioch.  You know, the patron saint of magicians, sorcerers, necromancers, and occultists?  I’m in the middle of a novena in his honor, and I’m spending time with him in contemplation just going over what he did, what lessons his life has to teach me and others, and how I relate to them.  After all, dude isn’t the patron saint of magoi for nothing; he was raised from birth to be a master magos in every respect, and converted to Christ only after seeing the immense power of God there.  After all, you’d be a fool of a magician to not recognize and go after power, even if that power is just a side-effect of something greater.  Regardless, I thought a bit about what it meant for Cyprian to be a mage, and then what it means for me to be a mage.

In essence, we can say that a common division of magic is two-fold: theurgy and thaumaturgy.  It’s not the best way to divide magic up, but for the purposes of this post, it works.  The former comes from the Greek for “god-working”, θευργεια, and can generally be thought of as “high magic” or divine magic, stuff you do to become closer to God or the gods, whether it be henosis or apotheosis or nirvana or whatever.  The latter, thaumaturgy or θαυματυργεια, literally means “wonder-working”, and can mean the manifestation of miracles or obtaining worldly results, often with a fair bit of flair, through spirits, the elements, the planets, or other occult forces.  The thing is, however, that both words share a common element, “-urgy”, ultimately from Greek εργο, meaning “work”.

Magic, no matter the type or purpose, is work.  Magic is work.  It’s not just The Work, but it’s work, which is why we call the things we do “workings” and that we are sometimes called “workers”.  Magic can be laborious, slow, painful, costly work; it is hardly ever done with a graceful swish-and-flick.  You will pay for magic in tears, sweat, blood, and more in order to obtain the treasures that magic provides.  Magic is work.  As the Greek alphabet oracle has for the letter Mu, “it is necessary to work, but the change will be admirable”.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter how the aetherial currents ebb or flow, nor how the planets course in their heavens, nor the archons dictate from their thrones.  As is often said in astrological circles, “the stars only impel, they do not compel”; no matter what influences are pressed down upon us and no matter how strong those influences are, we are not doomed to be subject to them unless we choose to remain subject to them.  Yes, the system can be hard to fight, both down here as it is up there, but as human beings made in the likeness of the One with the blessing of Nous and Logos, we have the power to overcome any and all obstacles before us.  We can bridge the aetherial currents better than Xerxes could the Hellespont, and we can overcome the planets brighter than any supernova.  That is one of the many powers of magic: to make the world ours to live in and experience for our own ends and according to our true Will.  It’s nothing to scoff at, and no amount of poetic waxing or alchemical metaphorization can do this task justice.

It’s just that…well, while the Great Work is the overall goal, it is not taken in one single step.  It is built up from smaller steps, ranging from the theoretical studies of ritual and theology to the utterly mundane practices of keeping your house in order.  There is nothing that does not contribute to the Work, this is true; there are so many things, however, that it’s easy to get lost in the myriad things to do and get done.  That’s one of my big issues: there are so many things to do, and so many things I can think of to do, that I end up nearly immediately overwhelmed and unclear of where even to focus on my to-do list, much less start doing any particular ritual.

Then again, I had this problem back in college, too, when I was swamped with work from all sides.  That’s the glory of a to-do list: crossing things off one item at a time, one day at a time.  One thing at a time.  It builds up, slowly, sometimes in immeasurably small amounts, but it builds up all the same.

One of the problems I have is that, well, I have a pretty good life going for me.  I’m in a stable, fantastic relationship with the love of my life; we live in a stable, comfortable, safe household where it’s quiet and private and away from the hustle and bustle of the city; I have an excellent job that’s interesting, rigorous, and well-paying; I have good health of mind and body; I’m paying off my debts.  I have an incredibly privileged life, all told.  It’s difficult for me to figure out where to begin with keeping up my own life because it’s already mostly taken care of, whether though my own efforts or the blessings of the gods or some mixture of the two.  Still, that’s no excuse, since my life is not perfect, or as perfect as it could be.  There are tiny things, small adjustments, tweaks here and there that belie deeper issues, and I know I have my own internal issues that definitely need to be resolved sooner or later that have no apparent effect on the external issues of my life.  Plus, there’s always the cruel twists of fate and fortune that could easily smash everything I have into dust and scatter it into the wind; having some protection against that would be good.  Just because I’m comfortable doesn’t mean I should be complacent; it means that, being so comfortable, I’m afforded more opportunities than most for introspection and close, critical evaluation of myself and my surroundings that should afford me more things to Work on.

And after that?  Say I truly run out of things to work and maintain on myself, or that I end up becoming so blind (gods forbid) that I can no longer inspect myself critically and have nobody to do the task for me.  What then?  I know that I’m doing well, but I also know that many, many others aren’t.  As I’ve said before on my blog, and as Kalagni also said recently, the world is a shitty, awful place.  It’s beautiful, but it’s also fundamentally broken in some pretty severe ways, and it’s really up to us to do the change.  Just because I’m doing well and can afford the time to do some introspection doesn’t mean that my Work stops there, far from it!  If I can afford the time and energy, after I’ve made myself well enough to work, I am then capable and responsible to work for the benefit of the world and those around me.  Between everything that is me and everything that is not-me, I truly have a neverending list of things to do, and that becomes even more apparent once the realization is made that there isn’t really a boundary at all between me and not-me.  I may not be ultimately from this world, but I’m sure as hell living in it, and if I don’t like living in a shithole for a house, then I logically shouldn’t like living in a shithole for a world.

Even picking up an empty soda can off the ground, whether from the floor of the kitchen or the sidewalk by the train, is an improvement in my surroundings.  Even a kind word or a small boon, whether to the love of my life or to a complete stranger I may never meet, is enough to help things get better for everyone, including myself.  It may not be the most glamorous of jobs, but it’s still part of the Work.

Now to get back to gathering those threads.

Give for what you get.

No, friends, I’m not dead, nor have I hung up my robes.  Metaphorically speaking, I mean; I hang them up after every ritual, and even on occasion get them dry-cleaned.  But no, I’m still here.  I haven’t been writing much on magic because I haven’t been doing much with magic, and from what I gather, that seems to be a fairly common thing these past few months with a lot of the magicians I know.  Whether it’s a matter of collective and communal burnout or fatigue or just something in the stars affecting large swathes of occultists is beyond me, but I do feel bad all the same.  I feel disrespectful towards my spirits, towards my practices and traditions, and towards my teachers that I’ve been doing so little this year.  I am making an effort, however, to get back up and running; baby steps first, though, and slow work is in the foreseeable future for the time being.

That said, I haven’t been completely inactive.

A while back, about two months tops (time doesn’t really register between awake-time and sleep-time during the summer), a new job opening was posted in my office.  I applied, since it’s an increase of pay and rank, and I figured I had nothing to lose.  A few weeks later, I interviewed with three managers, one of them being my current manager; I had thought before that it was just an opening in the current office and branch where I currently work, but it turns out that it was similar openings in three different offices handling completely different programs.  Last week, I was offered the job I applied for, and I accepted it earlier this week.  Thing was, the job I got wasn’t the one I expected; I expected it to be in my branch, but the one I got was in a different branch.  Funnily enough, it’s the other branch and manager that interviewed me five years ago when I got my current job, and I turned her down then in favor of my current manager.

I asked my spirits to help out along this whole thing, and I reminded myself of a very important aspect in working with spirits directly.  I’m used to simply calling on favors after making regular offerings and building a relationship, but not all spirits (especially ones you only introduced to your household earlier this year) operate on that kind of practice.  I called on some of my spirits to open the ways and help me out through this job application process, and they did, right up through the time I got the job offer.  However, because I got a job offer from a source I didn’t expect, I held off on accepting it until I ascertained whether it was really the one they had helped with.  To that end, I had three divination readings done: one directly consulting the spirits who were helping, one with geomancy on whether I should take the job, and one done by a friend.

The first reading I did was with the spirits, and the interchange went something like this:

  • Should I take the job offer I was extended?  “Nope.”
  • …uh…just to make sure I got that clear, should I not take the job offer? “That’s correct.”
  • …this is the job you guys helped me out with in the application and interview, right? “Yup!”
  • And this is the job I asked for?  “Mmhm!”
  • And I should not take the job offer?  “You got it.”
  • …okay, then.  Anything else I should be aware of?  “Nah, you got it.”

Admittedly, I didn’t feel like the reading was complete when I closed it after that final question, and there was an air of…sarcasm, an aura of a smirking child hiding something politely over the place where I consulted the spirit.  Needless to say, I was confused, since my gut and my intellect were both telling me to take the job.  Additionally, my geomancy reading strongly and favorably confirmed that I should take the job; to check that reading, I did an inverse reading (“should I not take the job offer”) which was thoroughly denied with geomancy.  And, add to it all, the reading my friend graciously performed for me again verified that I should take the job I was extended.

So here I was, faced with conflicting and confusing information.  Happily, I wasn’t embarrassed as a diviner when it came to these answers, since the readings were all completely correct and valid.  It wasn’t a problem with the divination, but with how I approached the spirits themselves; it was another friend who pointed out to me that, yes, this particular kind of spirit can be very sarcastic when he replies; there was definitely more to the story than I was guessing at.  Worse, I realized that throughout the whole process of this, I asked for help but never extended anything in return for getting the spirit’s help.

Herp derp.  That’d’ve been my issue right there: you can’t get something for nothing, after all.  Regular offerings are good because the spirits and gods deserve them as spirits and gods, but a bit of rum or wine here and there doesn’t always translate to payment when it comes to real work being done.  For some spirits, that method works, but not so with this one.  I went back and consulted the spirit again, and confirmed that, yeah, they gave me all this help that I asked for, but weren’t about to give me the all-clear until I had promised at least something in return.  I checked out what they wanted (nothing much, nothing unexpected, but all worth it in the end), confirmed that they wanted it in exchange for this, and that in doing so they gave me the all-clear I was after and much more favorably than before.  No lingering smirks in the air this time, but broad smiles.  So I went ahead, finally accepted the offer, made a beeline for the local store, and got exactly what the spirits asked for.  Everybody’s content, especially me.

So what’s the moral of the story here?  Simple: you can’t get something for nothing.  Building up a relationship is one thing, and if you get to the point with a spirit where you can call on them for favors without promising or vowing anything, awesome!  That’s the exception to the rule, however, and the rule is that for everything you ask, you make a payment.  If the spirit doesn’t come through, don’t pay them, and figure out what happened along the way; if the spirit comes through, you should, too, and fulfill your end of the bargain.  Even if it’s something innocuous, if you want the spirits’ help, you give them something in return for it.  It could be just for their mere pleasure, or it could be to sustain them throughout the work, but something should be given regardless.  If a car can’t drive on an empty tank, or if a man can’t work on an empty wallet, then a spirit can’t work on an empty plate, either.


Being a WordPress user, I’m fond of the sometimes silly and sweet things it does for me like any overdesigned fun information system should.  Today, it told me that this is my four-year anniversary of joining WordPress.  Before that, I was using Blogger, and was envious of some of the bloggers who had fancier features than I did.  About that time, too, I was still getting my bearings in the magical world and was only just starting to practice conjuration.

What a wild ride it’s been in just a measly four years.  I went from talking about my mistakes in making natron to giving talks on theory at conferences, from showing off my first-ever woodburning projects to making them commercially, from reading about geomancy to teaching it to others.  It really has been a wild ride, and I’d like to thank you, especially, for sticking with me through all these times, no matter when you stepped in to pay attention to lil’ ol’ me.

To those who have stuck around longer than a few months, you’ll note that I haven’t been posting as much lately as I’m known to do usually.  I don’t apologize for that; after all, this is my blog, and I post when I want, what I want, and how I want.  That’s a good bit of advice for those who have blogs of their own or who want to start one; you’re beholden to nobody by blogging alone, and it is your platform, after all, so use it however and whenever you feel like you should.

The thing is, things have been slow lately.  My writing is tied to my activities, my Word to my Work as it were, and since I’m not doing much Work, I don’t have many Words.

My life is good.  There are always things to improve upon, and those are getting knocked out in slow but steady order.  I’m working towards my goals for this year day by day, but some days, just not a lot is happening.  I’m definitely on a plateau, but it’s not a bad one, and that’s okay; taking it slow is something I’m fond of, and things are going well.  The gods and spirits treat me well, and I try to uphold my bargains and offerings and honor to them; I have few pressing problems to worry about, and can spend my time in leisure and work without stress or concern.  I am blessed with good health, good friends, and good money, and I can’t complain for want of that.  I could always use more, of course, but that’s a matter for my own work.

But what work would that be, though?  I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve hit a slow spot, just as I’m not afraid to defiantly not post for longer than a few days at a time, but surely there’s work to be done, and there certainly is.  I’m a far cry from a master in any way of any art, despite how far I’ve come; after all, to someone still at home, a mile is a far ways to walk, but there’s a world of difference between walking across town and walking across the world.

Basically, I’ve been slow lately to the point of laziness.  For that, the self-made cause to the symptom of having little to write about, I apologize.  So let me get back on the ball, get back to working, get back to writing, and get back to the world I’m meant to create.  After all, that shit won’t do itself.

Workplace Magic

Most people spend their time in two places: at home or at work.  Not everyone, of course; some of us aren’t employed, and some of us work out of our own homes.  Sadly, the number of people in unemployment is rising and will likely continue to rise for quite some time, and I personally hope to see more and more people working home-based jobs for crafting, machining, and engineering as time goes on, but in our society it’s still common and the norm for people to work outside of their home in some sort of environment like an office, a factory, a restaurant, a store, or some other place that provides goods or services to our larger society.  Add to it, many people who are employed tend to work long hours, not including commuting to and from work which itself might be nontrivial.

Of the people who work outside the home, a smaller number of people do magic.  Myself, for instance: I’m fortunate enough to be employed in a sit-down office environment (which is still a surprise to me and my family), and I’m also a Hermetic magician (which may come as a surprise to some of you).  The problem for magicians like you and me is that the things we do typically takes a fair bit of time, and when considered alongside time commitments for work, we typically have to compromise our practices or overlap certain things to maintain both our spiritual development as well as our regularly-scheduled income.  For instance, for myself, my commute is about an hour and a half one way, plus seven to eight hours in the office; that’s ten hours out of my day that I’m not at home, and sometimes I work longer than just eight hours, though sometimes I work less, and sometimes I work for longer hours at home so I don’t have to work as long at the office.  That’s just my situation, too; I know some people with longer commutes and who also work longer hours on a more frequent basis than I do, so while my situation might seem icky, I know for a fact I don’t have it that bad.

Then again, a good amount of magic is in discretion, secrecy, and hiding things in plain sight.  Sure, we might be in a public space, perhaps surrounded by people, but that’s no reason to say that we can’t use our time out of the house to do magic or keep up our practice.  Of course, depending on where you work, not all types of practices will be available to you; performing meditation throughout the day at a desk won’t be possible if you’re working on a standing factory line, for instance, nor could you chant mantras repeatedly if you’ve got to do customer service throughout the day.  That said, there’s still plenty of opportunity to keep up your practices during the workday with good success and good secrecy.

That last bit is important: you want to be discreet and secret about this.  Many places across the US and the world generally frown on magical practices, and you may be subject to no small amount of discrimination if you’re found out to be one who does magic.  You might be ridiculed, barred from promotion, demoted, fired, or worse, depending on the type of people around you and their own beliefs, so any way you can keep your practice on the down low is a good way.  That is, of course, if you choose to do magic at all in the workplace; given how easy it can be, however, it’s not that hard to do.

I won’t be elaborate and give you details on conjuring angels or demons in the broom closet, but here are some things you might consider:

  • Any place where you have a modicum of privacy and time can be used for magic.  If you drive to work, use your car on your breaks.  Use empty conference rooms or neglected spaces, but nothing too suspicious like a broom closet.
  • If you get a break of any substantial length, take a walk to a nearby park.  Explore your surroundings for abandoned buildings or other desolate (but reasonably safe) places.
  • If you have a desk, set up one of the corners as a modest and incognito shrine; if you’re bold, go ahead and use statues or other explicit representations of your gods, but stick to the more innocuous things like attributes or abstract images.
  • If you want to tie your magic closer to your work without having much of your magic in your workplace, use things like business cards, dirt or dust or rocks from your office, and the like at home to do workings there from afar.  Similarly, take a bit of dirt, stone, or other part of where you live/do your Work to where you work and make that link from the other side.  Even better, do both!
  • If you have someone you want to lay a trick on, use whatever you can discreetly in the office or workplace to do so.  Any leftover pairs of shoes, cups or drinking-bottles, doorknob handles to offices, the threshold of their cubicles, their keyboards and pens, and all the like are fair game so long as it’s not suspicious for you to be hovering or touching these things without them present.
  • Protection in the office is huge; given all the politics and backstabbing and gossip, you want to keep yourself safe magically.  Use a protective oil on your desk or office walls to block out things, and reanoint these surfaces every month or season.  Set out a glass of water weekly to “collect” the ick passing around you in the office, and clean yourself off every morning into the glass.  Set out a Rose of Jericho to keep the spiritual airs clean and to also bring prosperity.  Lay out a line of salt leading into your cubicle or office.  Wear protective charms under your clothing when possible/safe to do so.
  • Set out a small mirror where you can to act as a means of communication or scrying with spirits.  Similarly, those ornate blown-glass paperweights can do the same.
  • If you’re more of a technologically-minded mage and have access to a computer, don’t forget that using hard disk or server space can be a fascinating and subtle way to spread magical influence.  I’ve done this by storing a massive text file consisting of prayers on several server arrays; as the had drives spin, they generate those prayers an unimaginably huge number of times not unlike Buddhist prayer wheels.
  • If you’re not bound to a particular uniform, try to color some of your clothes according to the planetary colors on different days of the week to align yourself to different overall workings or bring those planets’ influences into your office.  In my informal clothes, I wear a bandanna of a particular color in my back pocket (purple for Monday, red for Tuesday, etc.); on more formal days, I’ll wear a tie of that color.  Bonus: consider using Kalagni’s correspondence of tie knots with planets!
  • Most workplaces don’t let you have fire, but consider using an essential oil diffuser instead to spread particular smells around a place for a given effect.  If you move around a lot, consider wearing them (safely) on your own person or anointing a particular bit of fabric with them.
  • If you insist on having a set of magical tools in your office, keep them innocuous.  For instance, for the elemental weapons, you might consider a shaved pencil, a letter-opener, a coffee mug, and a CD your wand, sword, cup, and coin.  Use small coins consecrated to different gods or planets as their token talismans.  Use printouts as altar cloths, if you insist.
  • Never forget the importance of astral magic.  If you have the ability to doze off, you have the ability to go astral even for a short while (or do a half-projection using the mental faculties).
  • If you have downtime and aren’t using it for ritual or doing activity, always see if you can read and study, instead.  Hell, I’ve done more than half my occult research in my office between projects and on breaks, to say nothing of my occult writing and planning!

Got any other ideas you’d care to share?  Feel free to post them in the comments!