Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Magic on the Small Scale

I've been thinking a lot about occult practice in regards to personal transitions. What happens when an occultist has to pickup shop? Close his books, roll up his tapestries, zip his robes into suit bags, wrap up his quarter tablets, and say good by to his permanent outer temple. What then?

When the vicissitudes of life necessitate a certain flexibility of personal property, how does the practitioner of a religious art which basically necessitates the building of holy ground and the equivalent of a church in one's own home cope with the loss of the space and tools necessary to properly perform his art?

This question is probably one that every Magus has faced at one point or another in his existence. We are just as prone to economic, social, and personal distress as practitioners of any other faith or practice.

Understand that I am in no way discounting the Inner Temple, mental practice, “it's all in your head, you just have no idea how big your head is” (thanks Lon) philosophy of magic. However, when a practitioner become accustomed to a certain level of theatricality and high ritual, how is the Magus affected by having to 'settle' for a purely mental or less than ideal magical environment.

As an illustration: While meal supplements can nourish our bodies and be nutritiously valuable, when we are used to meat and potatoes downgrading to liquid protean has to cause some amount of withdrawal and cravings.

So how does a practitioner who has downgraded his Outer Temple cope with the cravings for the grand Temple he was used to? How does he replace the accoutrements of his trade with simple, portable, and affordable substitutions?

I don't quite have an answer yet, but I am considering a few options. The first is parchment. Lots and lots of parchment. Parchment is portable, and can be pinned to walls easily. Does it replace nicely carved quarter tablets, or framed paintings. Maybe not. But it is easily replaceable, and with enough time and investment a Magus can make even parchment tools into personal extensions of his will.

Any other suggestions? Replacements for robes? Temporary tools? Simpler rituals?

Looking for input here :)


  1. From an ocultist friend of mine:
    This is a great topic to bring up. It’s definitely something most of us have gone through, and other magicians have at least pondered. RO can attest to huge changes he underwent with a previous physical location. Although I don’t remember him mentioning so, I imagine he must have lost some magical equipment as well. Regardless, he jumped right back in the game after a very difficult ‘transition.’
    I dread having to go through such an experience myself as I’ve amassed such a collection of magical goodies that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. My room is a haven and immediate removal (escape) from the mundane. Complete luxuries but not necessities….Unless I am doing traditional grimoric work that is.
    If I had to start all over it would be a while before I’d be doing any Goetia, Alamdel (any Lemegeton work besides the Notary Arts), Solomonic or otherwise. I’ve no real interest in simplified, abridged, forms of these types of magic so it would be heartbreaking for me, I admit.

    In this sort of ‘outer temple closing’, I would be forced to really change my magical focus for a time as I could not just start over right away. I wouldn’t have the heart, nor near the money to do so anyway. ::shivers:::

    Many times, it’s not just the physical loss of a working space or equipment, but emotional or circumstantial issues which also arise. Situations which take priority for a time and disrupt routine practices are not rare. None of us are monks who have removed themselves from society and social obligations. We each have personal relationships, other employment to attend to, and family to keep in healthy working order. What matters is that we ‘keep going’ and eventually pick up where we left off. A magician is someone who continues to do magic even after a crisis, a dry spell (pun…sorta intended), a physical loss, or a personal upheaval. There’s a breaking down point, but eventually they rebuild. Why? Because magic is in the very nature of the individual. Just like a true athlete or martial artist, they will continue to train even after an injury or even when they felt like they weren’t improving…they keep going. A true practitioner is one who continues on after disaster or failure.

    Another phenomena which Joseph L. describes in his book ‘Howlings’ is a period where intense magical practices eventually take a toll on the individual and there is a shut down period. During this time, a person cannot bring themselves to conduct even the simplest of magical exercises. I think I’ve hit that point before earlier in my life when I was doing the same rigorous practice day in and day out. Just like we need sleep, sometimes we need a resting point in our practices to let energies stabilize within, naturally. Apparently, sometimes we need upheaval as well to reset our priorities and manner of working. Life/God/ The universe seem to present situations where they are needed. Not always warranted but sometimes necessary.

  2. (cont...)

    During a fairly difficult point in my life, magically and otherwise, I had moved out of my first apartment, had all of my magical gear packed away in a storage unit, and lived at my dad’s cabin. I worked at a lumber yard for about a year while trying to get my life back in order. I had very few possessions which were mine at my Dad’s place. Life seemed rather bland and wearing at that time. I ceased all of my daily exercises and training.
    I remember talking to my Sensei around that time, complaining how I didn’t feel like I was “fulfilling my purpose”. He told me to pay attention to where I was so that I didn’t miss the lesson I was currently supposed to be learning. “You won’t be at this job forever Bryan so don’t worry about it, learn what you’re here to learn, then, when you’re ready, you’ll move on.”

    I didn’t do much of anything magical during that time, and didn’t experience much of anything either which really made me feel depressed. My whole involvement in the magical arts was inspired from the numerous experiences I had while growing up. All through my adolescence and teen years, things happened to me and my family which didn’t seem to happen to other people. It defined my role in the world early on and continued into my early twenties. Extended periods of not witnessing anything left me feeling ‘cut off’ and ….plain.
    I’ve learned to be more patient in my current state as I rarely find myself alone in the deep forests, or examining disturbed houses for local folks like I use to. My wife lets me have my magical lab, make expensive magical implements, and conduct rituals which sometimes drives her nuts. I’m very spoiled in my freedom to explore grimoric arts at the moment.

    Nothing ever stays the same though and I’ll have to adapt to whatever lies ahead. {Types this all the while knocking on wood and chanting anti-irony spells}

    So to answer more simply to what happens when a true occultist is forced to pack up, and close the outer temple:
    They grieve, struggle on, and eventually discover their new arena of working.
    To fulfill the “many are called, but few are chosen” axiom, each will be presented with the new way in which their gifts can be utilized, the true occultist decides to act on this discovery. –A priest, still a priest even when his miter is knocked from his head-

  3. ((Thank You for your input Bryan))

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