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Friday 9 January 2015

Real Magick in RPGs: "Spells", Part II

You know, I was very tempted to write a blog entry today dedicated to some of the utter bullshit I've seen in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but I already typed up a 2300 word article to be published next week at EveryJoe, so I should probably leave it at that.  

Suffice it to say, it is the height of hypocrisy to see assholes who four days ago would have called for the closure of the magazine as 'hate speech' today making self-serving expressions of solidarity and paying lip service to free speech, lip service WE ALL KNOW they're going to betray in another couple of weeks at most.

That is, those who can take a second to express solidarity at all, and aren't far too busy telling us all how terribly racist we are for giving a fuck about free speech, even now.

But anywho, I decided instead, based on some of the comments I got from the repost of the classic "real magick" series to elaborate a little bit on the mechanics of ritual magick and what you could call "spellcasting" within that system.

Now again, remember, before I proceed, that if you're using this in a modern occult RPG, you should note that 90% of the people who claim to be 'into' the occult will never, ever actually do any magick at all.  Some of them will, when pressed, admit they "tried the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram once, and nothing happened, so I didn't do it again".  
Only a tiny minority actually get to the place where they're even ATTEMPTING to do actual magick.

Then they want to imagine it looks all like this:

And once in a very long while it does, if you have a group, and a temple space, and a lot of money and support; but more often it looks like this:

Some guy in his basement trying to muddle through a spell with whatever resources he has.

And the thing is: the fancy groups with all the trappings?  Shitloads of time, they'll be worthless.  They're obviously successful enough to but together a coherent facade, so that means they've got more stability and won't be completely out to lunch, but they have to sacrifice too much to practicality and compromise, and so won't be very intense.  They might pull off decent initiations, or those sorts of group rituals where the goal is just that everyone walk away feeling good and all 'energized' about the experience, but the likelihood that they'll do anything really extreme or intense is very very low.

The dude in the basement?  90% of the time he'll be a nutcase pursuing a dead end. Or a slacker, cutting too many corners, too worried about looking cool with his pet snake (even though there's no one there to see him) and not bothering to memorize the ritual to actually do anything effectively.  But once in a while, he'll be the guy who can actually put enough raw intensity into the work to get something to happen.

And that's when the basement stops looking like the above, and starts looking like this:

So I guess the lesson in this long preamble is that the really effective magician will neither worry about appearances NOR cut corners.  They will not concern themselves with technicalities or visual impressiveness for its own sake, but will at the same time make every effort to do the best work and put the most intensity into the operation with whatever resources they have at hand.

Now, one important detail I think may have been still misunderstood from my explanation of "spells" in the original blog entry I reposted yesterday is that magick doesn't organize itself in terms of what effects you want to do.  The whole D&D paradigm of "this is the Fire Ball Spell!" or even "this is transmutation magick, which works in a specific way, and different from conjuration magick" is not correct.  I realized that people were making this mistake when someone looked at my list from yesterday and asked me "ok, but what if you want to do a curse?"

Magick is organized not by the effect you can do with a type of magick  (so it's not that there's "curse magic") but rather by what medium you use to have effects take place  (and whether you're dealing with 'higher' powers, 'lower' powers, trying to go to them, trying to get them to come to you, or making use of "linking" objects so that you and they can connect without either having to "go" anywhere).

So to explain:

Let's say you need money. You could do that through:

-An Invocation of the spirit of Jupiter

-an evocation of a Goetic spirit that is theoretically supposed to be able to bring you gold.

-by 'banishing' all the obstacles in the Earth Element that get in the way of your achieving financial stability.

-by performing a divination to determine what would be the best way to make some money.

-by doing a sigil with bindrune magick or chaos magick that is meant to attract money.

All of the above would have very different manifestations and delivery methods for what you're trying to achieve. They are different tools to the same end, but take different paths to get there.  Invoking Jupiter means trying to put a piece of the Archetypal God of Prosperity and Power inside you, to make that change you from within and impress on people without. Evoking a goetic spirit is where you are summoning up one of those unredeemed 'shadow side' shell-being non-entities that represents all those things within you and without you that sabotage your efforts to make a living, and turning it around so that it (and all of it's bad qualities) starts working for you, instead of against you. 
Banishing the earth element means trying to have a clean slate, to wipe out everything getting in your way, and knotting you up on the inside and out.
A divination is to try to connect yourself to your subconscious and to Superconsciousness, to achieve a moment of trance or clarity where the right choices and path become clear to you.
A sigil is taking your will (and often other stuff, like your Need, your strong emotions, your fear, your frustration, all your emotional energy, and all your ambition, and all your desire) and putting into a symbol that exists in a physical form in the world (usually on a piece of paper, but it could be carved into wood, or a rock, or engraved into metal), and doing some energized trance-based cathartic ritual of release of all these things into that symbol, which then manifests as an expression of Change in the world. 

Now, those are all the kind of things that happen with someone who is starting out, or getting a bit of practice.  The low-level practitioner.  For the beginner, the first timer, any of the above can go wrong, it can get fucked up, or nothing can happen; there can be not enough focus, not enough intensity, not enough understanding of what one's true Will really is demanding from one, or any number of other things that can generate failure.  Experience increases success and also makes it clearer what KIND of magick is best for any given situation.

But now, if you were particularly competent, you might already have a working relationship with a facet of a god that contacted you on the astral plane, and provided you with detailed instructions for how to create and consecrate a talismanic object that will resolve your financial difficulties, making clear the conditions that applied (like, for example, that you MUST accept whatever offer or opportunity for work comes your way).    You would receive information that would lead you to a coin of no known origin in a place it shouldn't be, then perform the appropriate consecration and invocation ceremony to the glory of this Jupiteran-Aspect God, and then take careful measurements of subsequent results as you use the talismanic coin with the special mudra that was indicated to you on the astral plane.

Adept-level magick looks like that last paragraph.  Where did you think Morrison got all that psychedelic stuff in The Invisibles from?


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