"Bring me the love that is right for me now. There's someone out there longing for me. Bring us together so we can be happy. And give me a sign, so I'll recognize him."
With these words I ended my love spell and watched the smoke from the attraction incense I had made carry my spell into the future. I blew out the red candles, put the cap on the Aphrodite oil, and closed my magical circle.
Eight months passed and nothing was materializing, but I remembered the advice I always gave others: You have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with someone else. I threw myself into my work, which was always a source of personal growth for me.
And then one night, it happened. The sign I had asked for appeared in a dream. It was a waking or "big" dream--the kind that's so vivid you feel as if you're awake. And it was very cinematic: I was standing in the midst of the most beautiful clouds--all brilliantly lit by enormous klieg lights--when suddenly, a dark-haired man wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket and black jeans stepped out of the clouds. I couldn't see his face because he was lit from behind.
A motorcycle appeared next to him. It was black with lots of dazzling chrome shining in the light. I found myself climbing onto the back of the bike, and magically, he was seated in front of me. He gunned the engines and we took off into the clouds.
I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing, and I answered it, even though I was still half asleep. It was my best friend Mitchell, calling to persuade me to go out with a friend of his. He sounded like an interesting guy--a successful photographer with a studio in SoHo and a house on the ocean in the Hamptons. Mitchell said he was smart, funny, attractive, a "real man" --and, Mitchell added, "he rides a Harley."
"What color is it?" I asked, sitting bolt upright in bed.
"Black," he replied. "With a lot of chrome."
"I'll meet him."
Our second date was on the bike, and we were married a few years later.
Is the world really filled with magic? If you experience falling in love, you know the mystery, promise, and power of magic are all real. You feel as if you've been given a key to an enchanted kingdom where anything is possible, where dreams come true, and your heart's desires are yours for the asking.
But in our everyday lives, we find it hard to believe in such things. Look around you: turn on the television and watch the evening news, walk down the street and see the homeless folks, look at a strip-mined hillside, dolphins dying in a trawler's net, or another bloody war and it's not just hard, it's impossible to believe the world is filled with magic. There's no doubt that we humans treat the world as if it's the complete opposite of magical. In fact, we pretty much use it like a combination supply depot and garbage dump. And our own lives seem ensnared in endless details and responsibilities that couldn't seem further from magic.
We live in a world of sophisticated skeptics, where the word "magic" is dismissed with a sneer. It's a silly childhood belief that Hogwarts School can teach us to fly on brooms. We know it's just Hollywood special effects that enable beautiful babes to make furniture fly and demons explode. And it's elaborate props and mirrors that allow a Las Vegas lounge act to make a tiger "disappear." We enjoy the illusion, but we tell ourselves real magic is impossible, because we've been taught to believe in scientific, rational explanations. We've been told that magic is just a superstitious and illogical belief, defying science and the harsh realities of grown-up life. Yet, deep down inside, everyone longs for the power to heal the wounds of the world and to make their dreams come true.
The irony is that even when we've been told that it's foolish, even demonic, to believe in magic, the dominant patriarchal religions in our culture tell us that we should believe in their "miracles" --Moses parting the Red Sea, Jesus rising from the dead or walking on water. The difference, apparently, is that their "miracles" come from their "one true God." But this distinction is just an example of one religion demonizing another.
Throughout history there have always been magicians and mystics, and modern Wicca is one of the world's most magical religious traditions. Divine magic is an integral aspect of this spirituality, but what we practice is not your childhood abracadabra. So how do we make real magic?
To answer that, we have to look first at the traditional definitions of magic, see how they work, and then consider a new one.
The Traditional Craft Definitions of Magic
Over the years, two definitions of magic have had a major impact on the development of Wicca. "Magic is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will," wrote the controversial Aleister Crowley, enfant terrible of early twentieth-century magic. In keeping with this view of magic, practitioners of Wicca learn to visualize their goals, create thought forms, raise energy, direct that energy into the thought form, and project, direct, or will the energy into taking form--first in the realm of pure thought, and then in the realm of material manifestation. Mental focus and the projection of will are key to this magical approach. And it certainly works. But not all the time, and often not in the ways that one expects.
Another very popular definition of magic was provided by Dion Fortune, author and member of the Golden Dawn, a magical order from the early 1900s in England and Ireland. Her definition has had an enormous impact on contemporary Wicca and was later popularized by Starhawk: "Magic is the art of changing consciousness at will." And, once we have entered an altered state of consciousness, magic is then the art of changing events in the world by using heightened consciousness.
Wiccans employ a wide variety of simple yet very effective techniques to shift their consciousness from the mundane to the magical. It's one of the first things you learn in crafting yourself as a Witch, and something you will continue to explore for the rest of your magical life. Below are some basic, but critically important, Wiccan practices designed to "flip the switch" and get the part of your brain that you need to make magic working.
Changing Consciousness at Will through Meditation
Here's one of the easiest and most important of all Wiccan techniques for changing consciousness: basic meditation. It has many elements in common with the practices of yoga, Buddhism, and transcendental and other meditation traditions.
The actual meditation need not take more than five minutes when you first practice it. As you become more able to relax and focus, work on gradually increasing the time you devote to meditating. A half an hour is ideal.
If at all possible, find a secluded spot outdoors, or at least in a place where you can see and hear nature. If you are indoors, turn off your phone ringers and lower the sound on the answering machine.
Sit comfortably. Next, relax your muscles--begin by tightening the muscles of your face, then releasing them. Continue to tighten and release your muscles, as you gradually work down the length of your body to your toes. Exhale. Take a deep breath slowly, breathing in through your nose, and hold it for a count of three. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Take another breath through your nose, fully expanding your diaphragm as you inhale, hold it for a count of three, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat one more time, and then continue to breathe deeply, slowly, and fully throughout this meditation, inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth.
Feel yourself growing quiet, centered, peaceful. Thoughts may enter your mind. Let them float by, like a cup floating in the ocean. Don't be distracted by them--just concentrate on your breathing, on how it feels as the divine energy of life enters and moves through you. And as you exhale, release the tensions of the day. As you inhale, feel the tranquility flowing through you.
Continue breathing, deeply and fully, allowing thoughts to float by. If your mind starts to wander, bring it back by concentrating on your breathing. Feel your inner stillness, your peacefulness. As you sit, focusing only upon your breathing, you may also begin to experience a wonderful sense of freedom and joyfulness. Allow these feelings to rise and flow through you.
When you are ready, open your eyes. Sit quietly for a moment, observing your surroundings. Stretch, and enjoy your energized and calm state.
You may wish to write about your experience in your magical journal.
Why shift your consciousness? The simple answer is because it helps you to focus and to manifest your desires by projecting your will into carefully visualized thought forms. There are actually other very important reasons for shifting your consciousness from the daily cares we carry around with us to a magical form of consciousness, and we'll be exploring them a little further on in this chapter and throughout Witch Crafting.
The next step common in Wiccan magical training involves mastering practices that enhance your ability to create clear thought forms.
Visualization and Concentration
This first practice will help you to focus on specific images; to visualize them with precision, clarity, and confidence; and to concentrate on them without distraction. You should try to set aside about fifteen minutes a day, or at least every other day, to practice these visualization techniques. If you practice regularly, you'll find your skill growing quickly. But don't try to spend too much time each day--this exercise seems to work better when you practice it for a few minutes regularly than for longer stretches infrequently.
Don't worry if you find it difficult to see images in your mind's eye. Learning to visualize takes time, like appreciating art--the first time you saw a Picasso you probably said, "What's that?" So give yourself time to develop this skill. And because it's difficult for some folks to visualize, I've added tactile experiences to the learning process, which should make it much easier to master this important practice.
Begin with your basic meditation practice, keeping your eyes closed. When you feel yourself relaxed and your mind quieted, imagine a circle. See it clearly in your mind's eye. Next, with your eyes still closed, concentrate on the shape of a triangle, then a square. See them floating in space before you.
As you are able to hold the image without becoming distracted, try spinning or moving it in space. Turn the two-dimensional circle into a sphere, the triangle into a pyramid, the square into a cube. Visualize a star, and then visualize it in different colors--beginning with silver, then moving through the spectrum from red to orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and finally purple. You may also reverse the order of visualizing colors.
When you feel you have mastered geometrical shapes and basic colors, visualize a variety of organic objects such as an apple, a tree, or your pet.
This next step is particularly helpful if you have trouble visualizing. You are now going to add more sensations to your visualizations. Start with a distinct physical experience, then re-create it with your imagination. Light a candle and stare into it for several seconds. Now close your eyes and see the flames dancing, see the color and shape and movement. Repeat this until you can see the candle flame clearly and hold the image in your mind's eye. Next, work on imagining heat by placing your hands near the candle so that you can feel its warmth against your skin. Be careful not to burn yourself! Move your hands away, close your eyes, and imagine the feeling of heat on your skin.
The next time you practice your concentration and visualization skills, don't light the candle--just visualize and experience the feeling. Retrieve your memories as clearly as you can, and concentrate on them.
You can work with other sensations too, imagining the way an orange feels, tastes, and smells, for example. Peel the orange, inhale the fragrance, and taste it. Then remember/imagine the sensations and, on another day, imagine peeling and tasting an orange without holding the real orange first.
When you feel confident in your ability to visualize and concentrate on shapes, objects, and colors, taste, smell, and other sensations, it's time to begin creative visualization involving visionary experiences. This process is greatly enhanced by working with someone else (usually a Priestess or Priest) who can lead you through the technique that we call guided or creative visualization. (You can tape these for yourself.) Try to leave a half hour for these experiences.
First, decide where you will go in your creative visualization. Then close your eyes, meditate, and begin. It's often useful to start by visualizing yourself opening a large wooden door. Next, visualize a beautiful countryside before you. See yourself walking through green grass, sitting beneath a great tree, bathing in a pool of crystal clear water.
Now concentrate on the feelings you are experiencing--smell the fresh grass and flowers as you walk, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, feel a cool breeze as you sit beneath the tree, hear the birds singing, the leaves rustling, feel the refreshing silkiness of the water as you step into the pool. Pay careful attention to how each of these experiences affects and transforms you--how the warmth of the sun energizes you, how leaning against the tree gives you strength, how bathing in the pool refreshes and restores your sense of peace, well-being, and joy.
As you become more accomplished at creative visualization, allow yourself to wander and explore. Visit your place of power, a sacred grove, or a temple. You will begin to have genuinely magical adventures and receive extraordinary insights from the images and events that appear spontaneously.
The practices you're mastering will enable you to develop the skills necessary to make real magic. You can't manifest a desire if you can't visualize it first. And to visualize clearly, you must first learn to quiet your mind. You are learning to create a thought form on akashic, or psychic, planes of spiritual and magical energy. Once a thought form has been created there, you'll learn to animate or fill it with energy so it can manifest on the material plane.
Even if you don't have immediate and powerful experiences, with time and repetition eventually these techniques will enable you to experience the nonordinary aspects of reality, so be patient and keep practicing. You'll discover that what many think of as "supernatural" powers, such as receiving messages from the dead, having precognitive dreams, or knowing what's going to happen before it happens are not supernatural at all. These are natural abilities that we all have and can develop further through Wiccan practices.
Excerpted from Witch Crafting by Phylis Curott. Copyright © 2002 by Phylis Curott. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.