The (in)famous occultist Aleister Crowley once explained his theory on magic, “Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will,” by noting that the act of writing a book was a magic(k)al act.
“It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take “magickal weapons”, pen, ink, and paper; I write “incantations” — these sentences — in the “magickal language” ie, that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth “spirits”, such as printers, publishers, booksellers and so forth and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of Magick by which I cause Changes to take place in conformity with my Will.”
This has always been the definition of magic I’ve preferred when explaining its practice within modern Pagan religions to the uninitiated. These are exercises of our Will, we see our actions in this world as magical acts that create changes around us. For that reason I’ve often seen the activism of someone like Starhawk, as unified with her magical practice, something she asserts often in her writings. So it has been fascinating for me to witness the activities of my friend Alley Valkyrie here in Eugene, Oregon.
Alley is a Feri initiate and Witch who runs a small local gift and clothing business in town called Practical Rabbit, and has become a central activist regarding how the homeless are treated in Eugene, Oregon. This solidarity with the homeless rose to new levels when she became involved in the local Occupy movement a year ago, and continued as Occupy Eugene splintered into smaller, more focused, organizations, with the battles over Eugene’s controversial “exclusion zone.”
Jean Stacey said police use the law to harass and exclude homeless people from downtown. “We are ruining people’s lives,” she said. Alley Valkyrie said the ordinance provides the perception that downtown is safer. “Who are we as a people?” Valkyrie said. “Do we exclude? Do we really think it works or do we bow down to perception?”
Now, Alley is a part of SLEEPS which aims to “establish and maintain safe, legally entitled, emergency places to sleep for those who are currently unhoused and want or need such a place.” In Eugene, it is illegal camp on public property, and the homeless in Eugene are often cited for carrying camping equipment. As a result, Eugene’s homeless often sleep in isolated spots and are exposed to violence and environmental hazards. To draw attention to this issue a coalition of homeless and housed activists have been publicly camping at targeted public spots, including the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza, where Valkyrie was recently arrested after defying an order to shut down and vacate the space.
“Immediately after Valkyrie was arrested Thursday, the protest group that had camped outside the county courthouse earlier in the week returned to the Federal Building property and pitched about a dozen tents there.”
I recently sat down with Alley Valkyrie to talk to her about SLEEPS, working with the homeless, and the practice of activism as a form of magic.
Obviously not everyone will want to become an activist in solidarity with the homeless, but I think Alley’s experience highlights how magical practice unifies with the choices we make in our lives, and brings a sense of sacred purpose to what we do. Magic is just as much about what we do, as what we believe or ritually practice. With magic we become increasingly aware of the ripples we create with the choices we make, and act accordingly, with intent in all things. You may not want to be arrested as a form of magic, but every magical act should be weighed as seriously.