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Thoughts FromThe Four Gates

  • Writer's pictureKai

You get what you put in

Updated: Dec 24, 2022



As most of you have figured out by now, I'm pretty lazy. I'm also busy. So if I can make something easier for me, I'm gonna do that right? You'd think that. Here's the thing about magical work though. You kind of get what you put into it. What I mean is this.

In ancient texts, and stuff like that, they talk about needing these particular ingredients that were hard to get or expensive. Then you had this precision of action that was hard. There was a LOT of effort that was put into magical work.

In modern times, there's a lot of adapting to the modern world, and we have to. Materials that would have been hard to find, a quest in itself, are often as simple as an order on Amazon, or at least are a Google search away. Timing and pacing things becomes a nightmare, because we have day jobs. The meaning of these things completely changes in the modern era.

So to adapt, we need to examine WHY those who went before us did things the way they did. What is (you guessed it) the symbolism behind the action, and how do we do something symbolically appropriate?

Let's take something extreme here. I'm in a modern Western context. My food comes from Wal-Mart. The idea and act of animal sacrifice is NOT symbolically the same as someone for whom the killing of an animal for food was a regular, if distasteful part of life. For me, this is a traumatic, dark experience, that in many cases is NOT actually called for in the ritual. In context, a sacrifice is often more about cashing in a resource and offering that up to the Divine. A sacrifice was often even something that the community was invited to, and served to feed the community, and draw folks together. Even if the ritual aspects aren't openly acknowledged, the sacrifice wasn't a dark ritual, but symbolically filled a role more like hosting a picnic or barbecue. Moral issues aside, THIS is why I don't do it. It just doesn't mean the same thing for me.

So something that I do is crossroads stuff. This is a strange one, because the symbolism hasn't changed, but often we don't understand it. It's kind of a very specific crossroads we're looking for. What we need here is a limnal space. Not really one thing or another. A lonely crossroads in the middle of nowhere is a start, but you almost have to learn to feel it. When these were designed, that was kind of the only thing available that your neighbors wouldn't have been right next to you at, so nobody needed to specify. Now, because we can miss the limnal quality, you might struggle to find the right crossroads.

Sometimes the amount of effort is different. Effort in magical ritual is a way of adding energy into a spell. Sometimes an ingredient is easier or harder to source and the old way of finding it would make that more (or less) work. You also see weird constraints in how or when you source things (cut in moonlight with a silver blade or some such) that makes this ingredient "sacred". You can't exactly ignore this stuff, although you can in most cases rewrite this to be more symbolically appropriate to you. The point to much of this IS the effort you would've taken. Often if something isn't at my local store, I find a good way to do this is having to find this ingredient in person and not have it shipped.

You can and should also add things like making your own tools to make them hold "more energy" through the work put into their creation, physical steps that can take more effort, or other such things as ways of filling your ritual with importance, meaning, and "energy".

It's not usually about getting it "right", but the effort involved in trying. This idea is also influenced by both skill/ability and physical limitation. I'm a lousy fiber crafter, but i always make my own poppets. They look like crap, but they hold power, because there's real energy and effort involved. I'm getting better though. My mentor had trouble getting around sometimes, and she would write in circumnabulation (fancy word for walking in circles for ritual) in ways that added nothing to rituals for me, but put real energy and effort in for her.

Magic takes effort, because if it's important, we put the effort in. Effort is energy or intent. If you don't do your best, why expect the best from the universe?

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