I’ve been reading, and enjoying the heck out of, Diary of a Witchcraft Shop Volumes One and Two by Trevor Jones and Liz Williams. Imagine the woes of retail augmented by the esoteric, strange, and occasionally unhinged, and you get a sense of what the books are about. Liz and Trevor have a very healthy perspective about occult practitioners of all sorts of flavors, and wrote two very entertaining and enjoyable books.
This got me started musing about magic and the occult in real life. I’ll start by saying that I do not practice any form of magic, unless you count the occasional wish upon the first star of evening, or crossing my fingers and tapping on wood when someone says things like “It’s supposed to rain today” or “Lovely flight, isn’t it?” (less than an hour into a 10 hour trans-Atlantic jaunt in June). I avoid the esoteric for several reasons. First, I’ve seen fragile people go off the deep end by getting involved in various occult practices. Second, a lot of the New Agey, rainbows and crystals stuff strikes me as profoundly selfish. Third, some doors should stay closed.
What do I mean by that? I’ve been interested in magic since I was a kid, both stage illusion and “real” occult practices, notably ritual magic. During my first swing through college, I made friends with several young ladies who practiced forms of Wicca, used the tarot, and did other stuff. And two of them got in over their heads big time. Did they accidentally tap into something bigger and hungrier than they were? Did they trigger already present psychiatric problems? No idea, but you can imagine that watching someone go seriously round-the-bend in front of you is a little off-putting. A third “Wicca” practitioner made a lot of other students unhappy by pushing her beliefs onto them (she was an RA in the student housing), not a practice with a good track record of selling people on any belief system.
So I steered clear of tarot and other things. But I hung out on the fringes of the New Age movement, watching and making mental notes. And giggling at some of the things I heard, saw, and read about during my research trips and vacations to the American Southwest, notably Santa Fe, Taos, and Sedona. Harmless for the most part, sometimes blatant scams, but what I encountered caused me to more-or-less write off 90% of aura adjustment/crystals/past-life counseling/faux Native American Indian spirituality/ faux Asian Indian spirituality/geomancy and Earth Healing/ and so on. That said, I still suspected that, in some cases, with enough intent or ignorance people could still get into big trouble. And then I had an educational experience.
I’d found a book about the Quest for the Holy Grail, back in the 1990s when the Grail became trendy (pre Dan Brown). IIRC it was by Caitlin Matthews or her husband, both of whose writings about Merlin, shamanism, and other Celtic topics I’d read before. I got through the first chapter and started reading the meditation guide for that chapter. And a very strong “don’t go there” feeling hit. Something was warning me off. Before you wonder about my sanity, let me add that I’d ignored that feeling before and the results were two car wrecks, a broken rib, and a damaged airplane (four separate occasions). Even I can learn to listen. So when I got that very strong “don’t touch that!” warning, I paid attention, skipped the meditations and skimmed through the rest of the book. I suspect that there’s a door in my mind that does not need to be opened, and that something about those meditations might have proved very bad for me.
Do I believe in the occult? Yes, even though the main branches of the two religions I’m closest to discourage such beliefs. If people will something hard enough, long enough, I truly suspect that they can cause certain effects in their own life, or in the lives of those close to them. Positive and negative energy seem to stay in places and around people, and may take the aspect of what those individuals most strongly believe in, for good or for ill. Pour enough hatred, rage, and mental venom into a place or desire and something bad will happen. And I suspect that some individuals don’t pay enough attention to what they want or are doing, and open themselves to emotional, intellectual, and/or physical predators by messing with magic.
I say messing with for a reason. Most serious practitioners of a belief system, be it a variety of Wicca, Christian or Jewish mysticism, the Tao, Sufi mysticism, shamanism, or something else, tell potential converts up front about the difficulties and risks of beginning initiation into their worship praxis. A serious Christian, for example, will not say that believing in Jesus and G-d will make everything perfect, cure all ills, and cause money to flow to the new believer. A good pagan would caution that casting a love charm on someone who left because the would-be-caster is needy, selfish, and reluctant to bathe, is going to backfire, in part due to the caster’s selfish intent. It’s people who dabble without thinking of the consequences, or without understanding that all is not sweetness, light, and greeting-card angles, who get in real trouble, spiritual and otherwise.
The second sight is enough for me to deal with. I leave magic alone. But I really enjoyed Diary of a Witchcraft Shop and recommend both volumes highly.
FCC Disclaimer: I purchased both books with my own money and received no financial or other compensation from the authors for this review.