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What is Magic? Empty What is Magic?

Post  TipsyCad147 on Fri Jun 26, 2009 3:53 am

What is Magic?

by John Palmer

What is magic? I kept asking myself that question, because it seemed to be awfully important. I mean, I was studying all this spiritual stuff, and I was studying the things that made me weird, and part of that study had to hinge on the meaning of magic.

I finally came up with my answer.

The wording of that statement is part of the answer. I found my answer, not an answer that will necessarily work for anyone else. You see, we’re all different; we have different thoughts, feelings and perceptions. You might think my answer is limited, or overblown, and you might be right… from your perspective. You might have a much better answer for what magic is; one
that is perfectly aligned with your own thoughts, feelings and perceptions.

Keep that idea in mind even if you think it’s wrong. It helps you to understand where I’m going here.

When I heard Widdershins was going to have an issue devoted to kitchen witchery, the first thing I thought about was the kitchen itself; specifically, a household kitchen versus a four-star restaurant’s kitchen. I view kitchen witchery as being akin to a mere cook preparing a meal in an ordinary kitchen rather than a master chef and staff working in the restaurant. And what’s the difference?

Well, there’s a difference in the preparation, in the presentation, in the complexity, and in the tools that are used. A chef pays much greater attention to every step of the process, from ingredient selection, to preparation, to presentation. Everything will be done just so, in a way that achieves precisely the effect the chef wants. A cook is just trying to put together a tasty meal. That is certainly one type of difference between a master chef and crew’s best effort and a cook’s thrown-together meal.

But in the end, nutrition is a chemical issue. You could run all of the food through a blender, and slurp it down, and get the same physical effects from it. Also, some days a plate of macaroni and cheese or a bowl of chili might serve your needs better than a chef’s grand efforts.

Magic is magic, just like food is food. Sure, there are times when a large, intricate ritual is what you want, or need; but there are also times when the quickly and skillfully thrown-together spell is better suited to the situation. Those are the times when the skills of the kitchen witch should rise to the fore.

Really, I don’t feel a person is a complete witch if they can’t do at least a little of both, and I consider the difference to be primarily a matter of taste and talent. Some people will flourish in a more ceremonial environment; others can only shine in a less structured, more free-form environment. In the end, it’s the same energy we’re working with; it’s the same things we can accomplish. Just like it’s the nutrients in the food that determine the effect on the body, it’s the workings of the will that determine the effect of the magic.

Now, I grant that this is biased by my view of what magic is. I’ve seen ceremonialists make claims of oath-bound truths that might possibly change my mind. Until that happens, though, I can only work with what I’m able to perceive, and that relegates magic-working to being defined by the will.

So I can look with wonder at those who have tables of correspondences, more elaborately scripted rituals, and long traditions with a great deal of learning shared amongst them equally. I look at them with wonder and can be impressed and appreciative of what they do. But I can look with equal wonder and pride at my own workings.

I suppose it might seem strange that I can see and appreciate a large, intricate ritual yet look at my own kitchen-witchy workings as equally worthy of pride. If so, well, I’m sure that it helps that I work magic predominately for the things that are part of my nature. I work magic for healing of the mind and spirit; that is where my talents seem strongest. Perhaps if I expected something bigger and flashier out of my magical workings, I’d have less reason to be impressed with what I can do.

I honestly don’t know. I’ve always tried to be realistic about magic (as oxymoronic as that might seem), so that also affects my views. Nevertheless, I think most folks would find that they get some pretty impressive results with their kitchen-witch work if they follow some of the same rules that I’ve learned.

Rules of Kitchen Witchery

First, remember that magic is about the will. When I work ritual, I’m trying to tickle my unconscious mind to set it in accordance with my conscious will. The first rule, then, is to find the things that do this. For me, sandalwood is a very good scent that gives a feeling of home and hearth; cinnamon works as well. If I am blessing my home, then I’ll burn some sandalwood or some cinnamon. I don’t care what the correspondences are, because these will create a sense of home for me. The scent of either will establish my purpose deep in my mind.

The second rule is a spin-off of the first. Keep your options open. Find things that you think might work for you. I often pick up odd pieces of wood, and when I enter a bead store (or other store selling semi-precious stones), I can become like a kid in a candy store. I like to have a variety of incenses around the house, and since I make candles, I often have candles of different colors and scents at the ready. If I think a particular type of incense or color of candle is just right for a bit of work, then I’m likely to find it in my supplies.

The third rule might seem curious for a kitchen witch, but for me, it’s essential. Never settle. If you don’t have something that works for you, and you’ve searched your knick-knacks and odds and ends and still don’t have something that works for you, it’s time to go shopping or to run the ritual without the particular type of item you’re missing. If I don’t have my sandalwood or cinnamon for a home blessing, I’ll go shopping or skip the incense. Settling on something that I know in my heart isn’t “just right” is defeating the very purpose of seeking items to focus my will.

Let me emphasize this: I’m not saying you shouldn’t make a substitution, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t make do with what you have. I’m saying you shouldn’t lie to yourself, telling yourself a tool that you don’t want to use is good enough. If you’ve rejected that wooden spoon (“I’m casting a circle, not making soup!”), then you’re probably better using your index finger instead of a proper wand. On the other hand, if you’ve finally admitted that you really did leave your wand at home and realize that a wooden spoon is the next best thing, go for it. Make positive choices when you find yourself making a substitution: “This will work!” instead of “I guess this will have to do.”

The fourth rule is not to reject those who follow a more structured path. I have never found an herb or incense that seemed especially spiritually cleansing to me, nor found one that seemed like a good offering to friendly spirits, so I use sage for cleansing and cedar for welcoming. They’re traditional; there’s not a darn thing wrong with that!

Just as some ceremonialists disdain kitchen witches, some kitchen witches feel a bit of disdain for ceremonialists, and it’s silly. As I said earlier, it’s all the same magic being worked in the end, it’s just a difference in style. So, listen to the ceremonialists, and learn from them. Every tool that they have is one that’s worked for someone, or it wouldn’t be part of the tradition. Maybe it’ll work for you.

All of these rules revolve around one central theme, of course, and that theme is to know yourself. Learn about your own mind, your own set of feelings and your own perceptions. The better you know yourself, the better you can sort through a pile of knick-knacks and find tools for powerful magic, because you know what holds the most meaning for you.

This is why I think every witch should be at least a bit of a kitchen witch. By working with minimal tools, by having to learn to dig a bit more deeply to find something useful, you have to learn more about yourself, how you function and what your own specific talents and preferences are, magically speaking. As time goes on, you may find that there can be more power in kitchen witchery for you than there is in the deepest, oldest, most powerful rituals. Conversely, you may find that you work better with a stronger structure and more artwork. In either case, you will emerge with more knowledge about yourself, the universe, and that special corner of the universe that you can influence.

Isn’t that a large part of what all witchcraft is about?


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