Green Lion Publishing

(How) Does Magic Work?

October 14, 2020

Rituals have effects. They just do. I have seen it happen many times, I've watched rituals unfold quickly, within hours; and slowly, over many years. Personally, I have no doubt that magic works, and ritual seems to be one mechanism by which to work magic. It is not the only mechanism, but it's the one I'm most familiar with.

One thing I have found regarding the efficacy of working magic is that if the people involved do not believe that the ritual or ceremony will have effect, then it is likely to have no effect - but it is not guaranteed to have no effect. Sometimes even when you disbelieve, things will happen; and often these things end up appearing to us as very symbolic and meaningful to the experiencer.

Another thing which makes ritual extra complicated is that it appears that you do not have to follow existing prescribed rituals to a 'T'. It seems that one can work a ritual with modifications and still receive desired outcomes (as much as if they had done it by the book). That being said, there are many people who swear by doing it by the book; these people claim that part of the efficacy of the ritual working comes from the authenticity of the work itself - making sure that you're pronouncing words correctly, making sure you're wearing the proper dress and amulets, using the proper oils and candles and perfumes, etc.

However, I have also found that people who don't even do rituals, but express their intent and put in the Work in other ways, still receive their desired outcomes - often in "magical" or unexpected ways. This makes it so hard to objectively discover what exactly it is in magical practice that makes it work; which makes it hard to create and tailor effective rituals in good faith. One of the most powerful magical effects I have ever experienced involved simply drawing a bunch of sigils on a sticky note, while I was feeling intense emotions, and burning that sticky note.

The closest approximation I can come up with is something like this:

Magic causes real effects. It takes belief. It takes intention. It takes work. Magic can be done in any way that feels right to the operant, and seems to benefit from consistency, and embedded meaning in the work itself. There is no right or wrong way to do magic. One must simply do it, in some way, and it'll probably work, in some way.

When I use the word "magic" I am not referring specifically to this kind of ritual or that kind of prayer, I mean anything a person does which they believe will cause a desired outcome in their life or the life of someone they are doing magic for, and which results in either the desired outcome which was expected, or some other spontaneous type of Change which has similar outcomes to what was desired, or at least some kind of outcome which appears, in retrospect, to have been needed.

It is true that people interpret superstitions with more meaning than they may deserve on their face, but the fact of the matter is we live in a world that is literally made of meaning and symbolism. We talk and write in words which are abstract sigils full of meaning which a reader interprets. Our economies operate on small, inherently worthless pieces of cotton paper with intricate symbols and faces printed on them, which we value somewhat arbitrarily - and inconsistently. Nowadays we don't even bother to use the paper, we just give people a numeric value in their bank account which we all pretend means the same thing as having that amount in cash. Our entertainment sources - such as movies, music, and books to name a few - convey stories and complex ideas through the lives of people or characters which aren't even real (not unlike the Greek divine dramas). We live in a magical world, so it makes perfect sense to me that magic works.

I'm not surprised that magic occasionally does not work for people who believe it won't work, because it seems that at some level the "magic" isn't really the dance and song of ritual, it is just the way that we express our will into our world, and by the virtue and power of belief in this will. We create our world by thinking about it, and in more ways than one.

One of the trickiest aspects of this subject is that it has been ridiculed for decades - if not hundreds of years - by a Scientific establishment of materialist thinkers who believe (and yes, I do mean believe) that the world is wholly objective, physical, and describable; and because of this, these people find no room in their beliefs for the "utter nonsense" of magic.

I do not feel obligated to provide evidence or explanation for the claim that magic is real or works, because anyone who believes the claims will not need evidence - except for their own practice and experience proving to them the reality of it all - and anyone who disbelieves is not going to be persuaded by the mountains of anecdotes that have accumulated across every single culture for literally all of human history, including all those decades or centuries of the recent past which have been dominated by Scientifically minded folks who have been so hurt and abused by religious zealots and theocratic fools.

If you want to know for yourself whether magic is real, why not try something? Give it a chance, and go into the experience at least half-believing that it might work. You'll be amazed. I was. Then again, maybe I'm crazy. Maybe we're all crazy. Doesn't make it any less meaningful.

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