by Andy (EverFool)
Warning: This article is unlikely to interest those who neither practice magic, nor believe in its existence.
Sometimes people suggest that more people use magic than there are those who believe in it. These people will cite, for example, those who pray for specific outcomes to situations. Unfortunately this kind of assertion devolves into a "who's right contest." Either the magicians and witches are right, and prayer is a form of magic, or the prayers are right, and prayer is a different creature altogether. This article is not about that.
I am going to suggest that more people claim to believe in the existence of magic than in fact actually believe. What do I base this on? Well, I think people would be rather less casual about magic if they believed that it existed. I certainly think some people would behave differently if they thought that they themselves could perform magic.
Take love spells. Requests for spells and requests for advice can be quite common online. I've seen them appear in forums, and I expect many people reading this article have. If these people truly believed they were capable of performing magic, would they be so cavalier? Think of the ramifications: if you live in a large town, imagine being to zap one man or woman, and bending their mind and fate so that they were drawn towards you. Some advocate asking for love in general, rather than targeting someone specific. But let's face it, unless you're leaving it up to someone else to decide (which is a different argument), you have essentially announced "someone is going to love me." If you believe that you can do this, shouldn't you be scared, a little? Shouldn't you spend days and nights worrying about whether this is the right thing to do? Something that wouldn't have happened ordinarily is now going to happen because of you.
Or weather control. People can sometimes be off hand when talking about asking or casting for a sunny day. Think about that too -- if you can alter the weather, you're exerting your will upon a vast and powerful system.
If you spend any length of time online, or possibly on the pagan scene in real life, you will hear people talk about magic casually. I'm coming to the belief that anyone who treats magic as a casual thing doesn't believe in it. Some magic I have performed has left me feeling like I just violated my ethics, or has left me feeling afraid. I think that this is something any practitioner ought to feel, even if they work through the feeling so that it doesn't return again. Because if the ability to rework the world in your image, even on a minuscule and insignificant level, doesn't scare you slightly, I think there's two possibilities. The first is that you don't really believe you can, which allows you to duck the ethical and practical issues. The second is that you haven't really thought what you're doing through, which I find slightly more worrying.
I have seen people ask for rituals, for the sake of having something to experiment with. I find this worrying too. If magic is the act of exerting your Will, than asking someone to tell you what ritual to use is tantamount to submitting your Will to someone else's. It's like denying you have a Will.
That isn't the end of what I have to say however. I think there's something that a lot of us need to admit to ourselves. Magic is about power. It's about trying to get your way with the universe. Spells are usually aimed at correcting a situation or gaining something that the practitioner does not think he or she can achieve through other means. So I find it odd that some practitioners put clauses into their magic. "Let harm come to none" being one popular example. From my point of view, you might as well say "I'd like a new job, but I don't mind really." Or "I want to meet the man of my dreams. If that's okay with people." I find the approach bizarre. If you think that your actions might cause problems, maybe you shouldn't do it. But if you want to actually reach for something, reach for it whole-heartedly. You wouldn't drive down the wrong lane of a motorway chanting "let it harm none." I find it equally absurd that some people rely on outside entities or karmic laws to limit their own actions. If you believe you have the power to work magic, reclaim your power -- and your responsibility for how you use it.
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