In magical practice, a lot of weight is put on things that feel strange or exotic. It feels like we have to have something that feels different to us, in order to have something that's effective. In my experiences with clients, I find that often folks are surprised by my asking about their cultural or religious background. They come to me for things that are not rooted in that, because they feel like they will get better results. That couldn't be farther in many cases from the truth.
What I've experienced, is that what you were raised in runs deep. Even if you're not a believer in what you once were, those symbols and patterns still settle deep into our minds, and in our souls. There's a power in the symbols and things that have been with us for a long time. It's a religious thing sure, but also in some other symbols as well. There are some things that just feel powerful or sacred.
The familiar, the exotic, and cultural appropriation
I've avoided the cultural appropriation topic for a long time. In many ways I will still be avoiding it. It's a hot button topic that everyone IS just going to decide exactly where they fall on this cultural appropriation vs. gatekeeping thing. What I will say is this. I tried many things when I first started to learn magic. I'm not prepared to put all the details out there, but my introduction to practical magic was driven by things where lives were literally on the line, so I explored many things. What I discovered was this. When you go too far from your base symbolic framework, things no longer mean things to you. That means they won't work. It's really that simple. I figure to understand the symbolism on a deep, actually meaningful level for anything means getting to know the people and the culture, in ways that are incompatible with snatching what you want from a culture because you think it's cool. It simply won't work.
How to believe in the familiar
So, here's the problem with the familiar. If it's things you've been raised with, and are actually comfortable with, it seems routine or mundane, and you can have a hard time feeling the power behind it. Yeah, I get that. What I find works for me is to take the underlying symbolism of the familiar, and let that be the guide or base for building layers of things that FEEL like magic. For example, Catholics might be familiar with candles, prayers, and the like that are intended for specific saints. To this, I would suggest adding things like dressing the candles in proper herbs, or choosing the right timing for your goals, things like that. What that does is give you something that you really trust to mean something, but adds something that speaks of power. It's a blend of things that feel like they're both familiar and powerful.
I'll be writing a whole post about this later, but to me, this is how you really have the familiar become something powerful. Figure out what you believe to be an underlying framework for magical practice. Kind of a sorting system if you will. Then you figure out and build your personal symbolic sets under these frameworks, including the parts that are familiar. This gives you this grounding for how or why things work going forward. Again, this might very well be my next post, so I just wanted to tease it out a bit.
The familiar becomes routine.
When you pull the familiar into your magical practice, it becomes way easier to find ways to live the magic every day. Because you've spent time making sure your magical practice isn't so foreign to you, it becomes something you can do every day. That allows you to find not only daily ways to live in the magic, but roots the familiar in magic. There's powerful family building in our traditions, that hold a quiet magic, binding the family gently together, even if nobody calls it magic. Magic doesn't need to be exotic. Sometimes the things that are the closest to us, can bring our magic closer than anything exotic.