The Keys to Success in Magic
I recently asked a student to drop doing spells for specific things and focus on regular practice of a few key exercises. After a couple weeks she started getting everything that she was looking for and a clear path emerged for going forwards. She was surprised at both the advice and the result. She remarked that she figured that Strategic Sorcery was mostly about doing specific hardcore spells and manipulation of reality.
As I was preparing this post over the last several days, Gordon over at Rune Soup posted his Org Chart of Practical Magic. If you haven’t read it yet you should. He wrote it in terms of what to tell someone new to magic looking for self-initiation, but it actually serves well to illustrate the importance of different practices. For me, the two major changes I would make to Gordon’s chart would be the inclusion of Offerings, and Devotion’s as separate stand alone categories like Meditation and Energy Work.
In fact, once you use sorcery to help get your life set up the way you want it, the need for constant spell casting kind of goes away. Yes, of course you want to support your activities here and there with the occasional bit of sorcery, but for the most part your life will have a momentum where you not need or want to grasp at spells for every last thing. In fact, life will start to serve up opportunities and boons that you had not even considered before.
My Org Chart looks like this:
MEDITATION: I was going to place meditation next to offerings, devotions, and energy work, but honestly it is more important than they are and effects everything else – not just in magic but in life. There is nothing more fundamental than the base of your awareness, ergo meditation is at the top. Now, I know that not all, or even most, traditions of magic place meditation like that, or even incorporate meditation at all. All I can say is: they are missing out. It CAN be incorporated into any practice and will make that practice better. I have said it before, and Gordon did a great job of defending the point in his post: there is no substitution for Meditation.
OFFERINGS: Many western magicians and witches are getting hip to the power of offerings – mostly thanks to the influence of ATR’s. This is a very good thing. I however learned offerings mostly from a Tantric perspective. In fact one of the things that kind of blew me away about Buddhism, this non-theistic mind-oriented path that insists on the illusion of reality and selfness is that we spend a TON of time making offerings. Offerings to Buddhas, offerings to Nagas, offerings to Demons, offerings to hungry ghosts, offerings to other sentient beings. We make offerings to beings that have done us favors, and offerings to beings that have done us harm. We make offerings to beings who are so exalted that they do not require the offering at all, and we make offerings to beings who are no needy that the only sustenance they receive is smoke. Offerings are central to sorcery in Tantrism and I have made them central to Strategic Sorcery as well. If you want to experience a near instance change in your life circumstances, start making offerings.
DEVOTIONS: Devotion connects you to something greater than yourself, your small and grasping self. This will serve as your compass in life and on the path. Even in Tantric Buddhism where there is no God, there is a massive emphasis on devotion. The Guru, the devas, the dakinis, the lineage, the spirits. Even a devotion to your own potential self rather than small ego is something helpful. Devotion is in itself a type of offering and will strengthen your connection to the powers that you work with in sorcery.
ENERGY WORK: This is really too broad a category for one box, but it will have to do. There are practices which strengthen the energy body, practices which circulate prana for longevity and strength. Other practices heat up and alchemically transform you into spiritual gold.
SORCERY: Sorcery is an umbrella for too many practices to even name: sympathetic magic, directed energy, spirit evocation, targeted prayer. Very often it can look like any one of the above. The thing is that unless you, like me, are a professional Sorcerer working for others, chances are you are not doing sorcery day in and day out. When you do need it though it will be way more effective if you have a regular practice that incorporates at least some of the above.
Experienced Mages (Witches, Sorcerers, Priests, Tatas, whatever) tend to have a regular practice, a way, above and beyond targeted spell work. Some traditions emphasize one or two of these over others, but this is how I view them and their importance in my practice. Points of importance are:
1. Regular practices establish a life of magic rather than something that happens when casting a spell.
2. When you do need sorcery for something specific, it will work better if you have regular practices to support it.