New years resolutions, new life goals, savings plans, and losing weight are a few of the common conversations that circulate in social media during January. However, the transition from 2016 to 2017 hasn’t been average. From the highly intense political climate to the most recent celebrity death, the sliding into this new year has clearly been a much bumpier ride for many people. Some have expressed relief from what felt like a year of death, while others have expressed concern and fear for the future. From preparation of protests, to a highly contested inauguration, to lots of knitted “pussy hats,” the start to 2017 has been anything but normal.Transition itself is challenging, whether it is a welcomed or dreaded, and people often fall back on their religious or spiritual beliefs in these times of change. Practitioners of modern Paganism or other magical practices often use…. well, magic.
In speaking to the power and necessity of magic, I reference it in all its many forms, not just the most commonly known, such as candle-lit spell casting rituals. The action of participating in the outcome of our personal lives, situations in society, and even political change can be empowering and effective in many ways. A magical intervention in such work can be defined by whatever methods a person uses to put energy toward change.
How are people seeing the role of magic during these troubling times in society?
Many people are openly talking about and wrestling with the political angst from the incoming administration, a marked increase in hate crimes, continued political unrest, police brutality, and the momentum of attack against policies that protect people of color and women. Is 2017 shaping out to be a year of action and magic?
My own reaction to the increasing need for protection and safety brings me to a variety of thoughts regarding my own magical practice. Many forms of witchcraft, folk magic, and magical intervention come from a lineage of response to the contemporary needs of protection and safety. Are others asking themselves the same questions about how their spiritual path and systems of magic apply to today’s climate?
I reached out a group of magical practitioners to ask if they feel that there is a special need for magic in 2017, or what role they see magic playing within today’s shifting world.
I am a naturalist pagan, so I don’t personally take magic literally in the sense that it’s a supernatural force where you do a spell here and something over there changes in response. I see magic in the power of bonding as a community, in the power of collective action and will. I see magic in the wonder and awe experienced when we remember our place in the greater ecosystem of nature, whether in a wilderness setting or a tiny urban garden. I see magic in a person’s resilience when they’re able to keep moving forward in spite of great adversity. I see magic in the rituals we create to bring us together, to celebrate the world we share, to state our will for all to hear. Do we need that sort of magic in 2017? Absolutely. – Lupa Greenwolf
Every magical action gives us an inherent opportunity for transformation and that is the basis of witchcraft in its most poignant form. Magical action requires us to first recognize the world as it truly is without illusion, artifice, or self deception and then call into existence a new vision, or way of being which is divorced from restriction and all forms of domination. Political engagement and magical action are inexorably intertwined in that the political body becomes the form through which magical action manifests. If we want to not only resist the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy but become liberated from it, it is our duty as medicine holders and witches to continually work our magics in order to enact new possibilities for the worlds we inhabit. – Lou Florez-Tanti
It seems to me that so many signs have been pointing to more and more folks embracing non-traditional spirituality and the practices inherent within – magick, spellcraft, ritual, meditation, ecstatic movement, etc – all in the last few years. That includes all the various P-word branches – witchcraft, Wicca, Druidry, polytheism, pantheism, animism – getting back to roots, in touch with our bodies, and connecting with the world around us. I remember the last big growth spurt in the late 90’s, but this time around, there’s an even deeper sense of social issues, historical context and research, examining ethics and practices. I believe it’s a response to what we need as a global society to make the changes necessary for the survival of the planet and everyone on it.
And when I look at the current political climate and how the usual protocol has lead us here – it’s hard to see or believe how more of the same will get us out of this insanity. Witchcraft in its many forms has long been a way to bring power to the marginal, the disenfranchised, the ignored voices. It’s a way to take the matter into our own hands when all other methods have been exhausted. Or is it? If we consider magick to be the power to cause change with our will, to influence the word around us – then there’s no better time to start putting that practice into action on a large scale. So perhaps magick will be the flapping of the butterfly’s wings to cause the new revolution of change that is needed. With a heck of a lot of butterflies involved I hope. – Laura Tempest Zakroff
I very much feel that there is a need for magic in 2017. For me magic is not just about communicating my intentions about something I’m trying to accomplish, to the universe. Magic also encompasses feeling connected and offering thanks and Counting blessings. It helps me to remember that I absolutely have a place in this world. So for me really the role that magic plays in the coming year is to remind me that I am connected to all things. And I really need that at this time because lots of things seem to feel so uncertain. Magic allows me to have a sense of peacefulness. – Sarah Penn
The need for magic is multiplied in troubling times, and the political climate of 2017 is shaping up to be quite troubling. Those of us in magical communities will need to fortify our relationship to both our magic and our community, following whatever spells we might do in candlelit rooms with actions taken in soup kitchens and the streets. We should not shrink from using magic to target those who oppress us, and never hesitate to use our powers for the betterment of our kindred. I hope to see folk coming together to plan collective magical actions against those who would deny us our rights and endanger our land. And in coming together I hope we can create spaces in which to share our fears, express our outrage, and renewed each other with laughter and bold plans for better days ahead. – Chas Bogan
I think there is always a need for magic, and given the instability and uncertainty I’m feeling at all levels of society, I think we need magic now more than ever!
For me, “magic” is the act of increasing the possibility of some kind of change occurring, of influencing the odds of things happening (for good or ill). “Magic”, as I understand it, won’t guarantee a result, but will influence the likelihood of an outcome. In my experience as priest and witch, uncertain times are the times when magic has the greatest potential for influence. It’s harder to influence something that’s already a done deal, but it’s comparatively easier to influence things still in motion, and there is an awful lot in motion right now.
We are gearing up for hard times. We are already in hard times, and the trajectories are looking pretty grim for a lot of us individually and collectively. Magic won’t single-handedly change this, but magic can give us hope, and hope is necessary to keep us fighting to make things better. Hope can help to strengthen faith, and faith keeps us in loving dialogue with our Blessed Powers and Ancestors, however we understand them. Magic may be the thing that can tip the balance, keep despair at bay, bring a little more safety and a little more peace and a little more stability to our own families and small immediate communities. If enough of us throw good strong magic, in coordinated ways, that positive impact may be even stronger and wider reaching.
We need magic. We need faith, however we define that for ourselves. We need real prayer, both the kind where we ask our Blessed Powers and our Ancestors for their blessings and help, and the kind where we sit still to receive their advice and wisdom. We need to do our living human parts too; the Powers and Ancestors will do a lot for us but we have to meet them part way. Magic, faith and prayer are not an alternative to calling our government officials, protesting, working our contacts with folks with more power, protecting and caring for our communities in all the ways we do so with our feet and hands and creativity and voices, but it is a powerful supplement to all that other needed work. Magic may just help tip the scales towards keeping us and our loved ones in a good way, and help move us out of knee-jerk reacting or shutting down, and into sustainable, positive and effective action. – River Devora
I sometimes struggle with the word magic. I used to say it’s just science we don’t understand yet, though the main definition I use these days is, all the work I did behind the scenes that you didn’t see. And I think that we very much need that in 2017, Work with a capital W. Personal and spiritual work to transform who we are, work to shift our own consciousness at will, and work to shift the consciousness of many others. However, there’s another more intangible essence of the word; it evokes a sense of wonder, of transcendence. We need that too, that inspiration, that connection to the divine, that sense that we are part of the universe, that connection to our own power and life force.
We need magic to transform ourselves; part of that magic (and behind the scenes) work for me is I’m seeking out therapy to deal with my anxiety. A number of factors, including the current political climate, have consistently triggered me and I need to be able to cope with it, to be able to function, so that I’m a useful servant of my community. We need magic to sustain us, to give us the life force to get through difficult times. And we need magic to help us resist. Advertising and political rhetoric is powerful magic, and there are few people better at enchantment and trance language than people trained in politics, the media, and advertising. Words are magic. I believe there is absolutely a need for magic right now, a need for each person to level up, so to speak. To gain skills, to gain strength, and to serve our highest selves and our communities, and the generations that come after us. – Shauna Aura Knight
The overwhelming theme that came from those who shared their words in this piece include the reality of “needs” and that the definition of magic extends beyond any one practice or action. And while many different circumstances, practices, political views, and experiences lead people in different directions with different perspectives, the need for change couldn’t be more evident than it is in today’s society.
As the year unfolds it will be interesting to see how practitioners within the Pagan and Polytheist communities utilize their spiritual practices and various forms of magic to shift the balance of what seems like a very unbalanced world. Whether for protection of those who are the most marginalized, women’s rights, affordable health care, or justice in the courtrooms, it is clear that there are important reasons for us all to stay present and invested in the shifts in society and in where we are all going together.
Once again there are many different questions to ask within our individual belief systems and within our communities. What are we willing to utilize to create changes toward a healthier society? How can we collectively engage as community to manifest the 2017 that we feel we want? These are complicated questions for a complex world and an even more complex religious community.