An act of magic does not begin only upon the release of the cone of power, the empowerment of the sigil, the charging of the talisman or spirit-aid. An act of magic does not begin with the casting of the circle. It does not even begin with the purifying bath before the ritual begins. An act of magic begins the moment you set your will to an end, and echoes, still, after you achieve your result.
This is a thing that, I think, we all know, but which we all forget.
This is why, if you plan your rituals thoroughly or even just a few days in advance, you begin to see results before you have charged your sigils or talismans, or even finished arranging your correspondences. I find that this is particularly common with multi-stage rituals, or when you’re doing magic for other people: frequently, Aradia’s mother will ask her to enchant for something, and then receive it while the offering candles are still burning.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to follow through with the ritual. I think this is what a lot of people are talking about when they say they “manifested” something, but then get dodgy when you ask about their technique. This is, interestingly, one the phenomena I have seen scare people away from magic in their earliest experiments. (When my sister gave me back the magic books I had lent and bought her, she told me with wide-eyed terror about how, when she wanted things, “they just happened!”)
Conversely, when you are attempting something particularly difficult – an exorcism was the example that came up Gordon’s recent podcast interview with Jenny McCarthy – you can begin to encounter resistance as soon as you declare your intent. Personally, I find this phenomenon most pervasive with my social justice magic: the apathy and depression which beset me when I begin to contemplate how best to undermine the structures of Archonic power; the mind-numbing blank, so much worse than normal writers block, which I struggle against when I attempt to work on my hypersigil novels; the reflexive planning-stage push-back I get from people who were down for the cause until the moment I announced I would actually take action.
I know a great number of magical people who rely too heavily on the first two of these three phenomena. They are accustomed to the path opening for them effortlessly. They mistake effective magic for destiny and, as a result, take every obstacle they do encounter as a cosmic DO NOT ENTER sign. These are the same people who spend their lives wondering, “what am I supposed to do?” and flinch at the question, “what do I want?”
Linear time and causality are the meat and bread of historians, but they are illusions of mortal consciousness. We are witches and sorcerers and magicians and priest/esses. We are subject to illness and doomed to die, but in all other regards we disdain the limits of mortality. The past pushes. The future pulls. Things outside of time – ourselves included – stir the pot.
Sometimes, of course, we do encounter DO NOT ENTER signs. And sometimes we should even heed them.
But we are witches. We are sorcerers. We are wizards. We are priests and priestesses and healers and mystics. We are crossers of the hedge, climbers of the World Tree, explorers of the astral realms. We are dabblers in forces forbidden to mortals. We are possessors of knowledge others fear to face.
If we have any ambition at all, the obstacles we face become challenges which must be surmounted or circumnavigated. We must set banquet tables for strange gods, even if we must then strangle them in their sleep. We must slay or subdue or even seduce the dragons.
When you set out on a quest, the resistance you face is pro often of that you are going in the right direction. Take solace in the stretches of easy, open road, and rest when you can. And don’t take every challenge personally. But remember that some of the obstacles arose in opposition to your intention; crush them and use the rubble as stepping stones.
And when you see a DO NOT ENTER sign on a side path, consider that it might be a challenge to be accepted.