Earlier this month, Frater SEA posited a question: what have you sacrificed for magic? It’s an important question for one to ask oneself, particularly for me as I begin escalating my practice with some thoughts of going semi-pro. As such, I’ve spent a lot of the last ten days contemplating it.
My initial reaction was somewhat pithy: I’ve given up the ability to relate intimately with people who don’t practice – or at very least believe in – magic. And there is definitely some truth to this. So much of my life revolves around my ritual devotion and magical work. All my hobbies take a back seat to it, where they don’t feed into it. I plan social engagements around the Sabats and Esbats. I chose my major, in part, to make me a better servant of my gods and my community. The reasons I do things frequently revolve around psychic impressions, and I will inevitably be subjected to any number ritual taboos – only Apollo has demanded such of me so far, but others will in time. But these things are only true up to a point. If I were better at the admonition to Keep Silent, I could dissemble about my obligations and motivations. If I were more willing to shield myself tightly, I would be less vulnerable to psychic storms and sickly auras. And yet, even as I pose these arguments, what I hear is “If only I weren’t so obviously queer, straight people would like me better.”
There are other obvious answers: I’ve sacrificed a great deal of money on books and ritual supplies; a great deal of time, energy, and money on moving those books and ritual supplies from one location to another. A bit of blood, a lot of sleep, my self-image more times than I can count.
But as I contemplate it, what seems to me like the thing which people treasure most that magical practice forces you to give up is the ability to pretend that actions don’t have consequences.
I’m not talking in the dangerous, white-light, The Secret, think-positive-or-all-your-suffering-is-your-own-damn-fault kind of actions:consequences relationship. I’m talking about interconnectivity – the idea/reality that everything is fundamentally connected, that nothing can act (or not act, or even exist) without influencing things around it. The idea that you can be involved in tainted rituals (Jack Faust again, because he makes the point so elegantly) without yourself becoming tainted is absurd. In feminism and other leftist intellectual outposts, this idea is called intersectionality, but I learned it first in magic.
I can’t pretend that invoking sexist tropes doesn’t reinforce sexist ideas in both my own mind and in the world around me. I can’t pretend that attending a ritual celebration (a dance, for instance, or a frat party) of something I oppose doesn’t make that thing stronger by lending it a seeming of credibility. If I break an oath, my oath is less valuable – in this world or the Other.
I also can’t pretend that I’ll always be able to see the chain of events that link actions and consequences. I can’t know the results of a kindness or a cruelty, a favor or a snub or even a mere absence, three or four exchanges down the line. I can’t pretend that I’m the beginning or the end of a chain. I can only work to improve myself and the world around me and hope it spreads, and returns.
Everyting is connected. Actions have consequences. I can’t pretend otherwise.