The definition of magic(k) is somewhat of a challenge. For some, magick is the science of the impossible. For others magick is the possibilities beyond science. For some magick exists beyond nature. For others, magick is working with nature.
The word magic comes to us from the Latin magicus and the Greek magikos which in turn came from the the Persian Magi or Magians which was applied to Zoroastrian astrologer priests.
The "k" in Magick was adopted by Aleister Crowley, a 20th century occultist, in order to differentiate from the word magic as applied to stage magic or prestidigitation which was quite popular at the time. The "k" existed in older writings, but was not considered proper modern spelling then, or now.
According to Aleister Crowley, Magick is "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the Will."1 By this definition the act of boiling water, planting a seed and painting a wall may all be magical acts, if you are doing them according to your Will and indeed Crowley asserted that any intentional act is a magickal act. Many are not prepared to accept this and limit the definition of magic to those acts which bring about change in a way science cannot explain. Others believe that the definition holds if we specify that any act toward that change be an act of intention while others insist that subtle energies must be mentioned.
Donald Michael Kraig elaborated on Crowley's definition and defined magick as "the science and art of causing change (in consciousness) to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science"2 and Scott Cunningham went in a slightly different direction to Magick as "The movement of natural (but little understood) energies from the human body and from natural objects to manifest change."3 The difference in these definitions, I believe is an illustration of the differences between Ceremonial Magick and Folk Magick.
But these definitions are not satisfactory if we consider divination to be magic, as the origin of the word magic certainly applied to divination more than anything else. There are many people today who do not consider divination, astral projection, dream work, energy work and similar activities to be magick, but there are just as many who do.
There are four major ways in common practice for bringing about intentional change in in ways that science cannot easily explain way. These are ritual magick, astral magick, environmental magick and evocative magick. Most magic-users combine all or some of these in their practices.
Ritual Magick includes practices commonly known as ceremonial magick, spellcraft and some sympathetic magic though all of these magical types do tend to overlap. The idea behind ritual-based magick is that the ritual acts (chants, movements, the use of symbols and tools) cause the magick-user's attention and energy to be focused on the task at hand and then "raised" through repetition and finally released into the Universe to bring about the desired change. Ritual magic is commonly practiced by people who combine their magical and religious practices, especially practitioners of various spiritual Witchcraft Traditions, including Wicca and traditional witchcraft and other magico-religious traditions like Kabbalah and Thelema.
This sort of magick is sometimes referred to as High Magick, however, there are many Low Magick techniques that are ritualistic in nature. Many sympathetic magic and candle magic spells are ritualistic in nature, though they are often lumped under the low magick category.
When a practitioner goes into a trance state and leaves his or her body in order to seek out knowledge on the Astral Plane, to visit another location on the physical plane or to cause something to happen on the physical plane, this is called Astral Magic(k). Astral Magick is also used by many people who incorporate their magical practices with their religious practices.
There is some disagreement among practitioners as to whether dream work falls into this category mainly because there is some disagreement to whether dream space exists on the astral plane or not.
Ritual magic can also be combined with astral magic as practitioners may perform rituals on the astral plane, manifesting whatever environment or tools they need as thought forms as their astral self acts out the ritual just as the physical self might in a physical space.
Environmental magic(k) refers to the energies inherent in all things. Certain stones, herbs, colors, and other objects, even animals, may be employed to bring their certain energetic flavors into magical working. Someone may, for example, carry a bloodstone on his person to help fight off infections. This sort of magic is often considered Low Magic or Folk Magic though an object may be ritually charged to enhance and target its natural energies.
Many complicated magical systems use environmental magic as well. An Alchemist my combine certain stones, metals and herbs into a talisman or elixir and a Kitchen Witch may take the natural properties of her ingredients into consideration when preparing a meal to bring about family harmony or stimulate desire in a potential lover. Feng Shui may be considered a form of environmental magic as well.
Environmental magic is often used in conjunction with other types of magic to enhance effects and help focus energy.
Evocative magic (from the word evoke) involves enlisting the aid of spirit beings such as Gods, elemental spirits, djinn, angels, saints, demons, and ancestors to bring about the desired change. Sometimes these spirits are asked nicely and offered gifts in exchange for their help, but in some cases the spirits are bound, threatened and otherwise forced into helping the magic user, as in Goetia.
Many people who combine their religious and magical practices use evocative magic. Some would disagree that this sort of evocative magic is magic at all and define it instead as elaborate prayer. Also, there are those who believe that evocation involves summoning archetypes that are part of your own psyche and therefore there's nothing mystical involved.
Theurgy involves the evocation of Gods and other spirit beings with the intention of discovering greater truths, becoming one with the divine and achieving a higher state of being.
Enochian magick is a system of magick that depends on the command of various angelic beings, though it has a heavy Astral component as well.
Catholics might call upon the aid of Saints, burning special candles to attract their attention and help, carrying or wearing medals of their patron Saints for protection or other blessings.
Adherants of Voodoo, or Santeria or Umbanda may invoke their deities (Lwa, Orishas or Orixás respectively) allowing them to ride them while delivering messages from the spirit world or may otherwise appeal to them much the way Catholics appeal to the saints.
In many new age witchcraft practices, one or more Gods and Goddesses may be evoked according to their realm of influence in a non-religious sense, simply to make use of the energies they represent. For example Aphrodite, Venus, or Ishtar (or all three) may be evoked simply for the purpose of a love spell. This is especially common among those with a Jungian cosmology, who believe that the Gods are not literal but aspects of ourselves or archetypes of our collective conscious.
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