What I Learned From a Year of Magical Silence

I guess it’s what it sounds like on the tin: a year ago, on May 24th or 25th (my journal is inexact), I vowed, very quietly, to avoid talking about my magical practice for one year.

This did not seem, at the time, to be particularly onerous. I had exactly three people I could really talk to about it. One listens politely, one, at the time, was less interested than now, and one is my partner, who is sort of contractually obligated to listen to me run at the mouth, at least a little. But then, three months into this year of magical silence, I joined the predecessor of the HHoL. It is much worse to keep silence when you’re in a big community of people who share the interest and the practice. Shit.

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Secondary World part 2: Visiting Other Worlds of Magic

Last week, I talked about how Coleridge’s "suspension of disbelief" can be used to understand how more than one magical system can make sense, even if they’re mutually exclusive. In short, a work of art that is not convincingly "realistic" tugs on your heart by reminding you of "inward truths," and I compared that to how one might sympathize with Yggdrasil not because one believes the world hangs from the boughs of a tree, but because one believes trees are central to the survival of our ecosystem on Earth.

This week we’ll go even further. Tolkien’s famous essay "On Fairy-stories" developed an idea called the "secondary world" and we can conceive of magical systems as secondary worlds that we visit. If they’re coherent, we may keep coming back!

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The Secondary World of Magical Texts and Traditions

Recently, on the Hermetic House of Life server, we were engaged in a conversation about how exactly a magical text “makes sense.” A friend, Nicholas Chapel, said something I will quote below, but which sort of comes down to the idea that a text should have what he called a “holistic integrity” which can be present even if the text is fragmentary, but which is about whether it “holds up” so to speak.

This gave me Thoughts, as you might imagine. Magical worldviews are a little like maps of the world: they are, to some degree, arbitrary, and therefore they all differ from one another. But they are all representing the same thing: the world itself. And when you’re approaching a magical worldview for the first time, or approaching one outside your own tradition, you have to do so with certain techniques if you want to avoid everything from colonialism to just being kind of shitty to people. Now, normally we’d just call that “being polite” and move on, but I think it will be helpful to dig down into the way that “everything is true” even if two people can have diametrically opposed views of how something like magic works. I’m going to use Samuel Taylor Coleridge and J. R. R. Tolkien to discuss how that works.

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A Nebbish Tries Geomancy

I’ve spent the past week prepping for a surgery, and while it’s not the most worrying sort of surgery imaginable, there’s enough to do and to worry about that I sort of accepted that I wasn’t writing a brand spanking new post for everybody this time around. In fact, I probably will be laid up and messed up on pain killers afterwards for long enough that next week is probably a wash as well.

For this week, I’m posting something that I put in the Hermetic House of Life discord server last month. It’s a silly but somewhat instructive story of my first attempt to use geomancy to find a lost item. It’s been lightly edited, but still reads very much like something I wrote on my phone before going to bed in a forum instead of something drafted in Word to be posted on a blog.

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