You might wonder where magick comes from. Has it been around for millennia, centuries or just a few years? Is it unchanged or constantly modified?
Magick is constantly being invented, discovered and honed, but there is also a tradition of magick being shared in absolute secret. What’s happening today is that secrets from many previously hidden sources are being shared with the public.
In the The Keys to the Gateway of Magic, Skinner and Rankine repeat and summarise their belief that magick is not much to do with secret societies. They also suggest that magick was not passed down through the traditional village ‘cunning-man’. Instead, they say, it was handed down from one scholar-magician to the next. It’s no surprise that these two great academic writers (great scholars, that is), would believe such a thing. We can’t be too surprised that they’ve summed up the whole history of Western magickal transmission in this way. They go on to add that magick tended to belong to one social class – the upper class Establishment.
I like a lot of what they they say in their book, but I think these particular points contain too much academic study, and not enough experience of magick in the modern world. Magick comes from many places. If you only do your research in places like the British Library, you miss the rich reality of modern magick.
Of course it’s true that the Establishment would record magick most effectively – they wrote books, and secret documents which were indeed passed between high-society friends. But that is not the whole story. If the lower classes didn’t record their magick so well, that’s more to do with the fact that publishing was reserved for the elite. But if you read The Cunning Man’s Handbook by Jim Baker (for which Rankine himself wrote a glowing Foreword), it is clear that the ordinary folk did have access to spells, sigils and seals that were supposedly reserved for the upper classes.
I admire the way Skinner and Rankine have tried to distance practical magick from the Illuminati and Freemasonry and such like – it’s just too easy to say that all magick is being held by the super-powerful people who hide it to retain power. And it’s not true. I know, from personal experience that people from all walks of life have access to magick, use magick and make great gains with the magick they use.
Magick may have been beautifully recorded by lawyers and judges of old, as Skinner and Rankine note, but I think it is also true that magick has long been used by the village occultists, as well as by secret societies composed of more ordinary people. People who aimed for more. These societies were (and are) small, private groups of individuals. These people were not obviously running the world, but influencing aspects of it.
Magick brings power, but that power isn’t always walking the corridors of Whitehall (or Congress, or anywhere else). There have been secret societies in publishing, in music, in the theatre, in trade and transport, and even education – it’s not all governments and banks. I have encountered several such societies in my life, and have been a member of more than one.
It’s strange that we often talk about the ‘chaos magick movement’ as being an invention of the 1970s, when magicians boldly simplified magick and broke the rules, finding that even with lots of changes the magick still worked. If that’s what chaos magick is, then it’s been going on for centuries. While the scholar magicians passed down their secret ideas, other secrets were passed between occultists in the more ordinary world. They were shared and adapted, tested and changed. They were made to work.
But who has the best magick? Isn’t the purest magick, passed down by scholars the best? Would you rather have the magick of a wealthy Lord or a normal businessman who’s a member of some small unknown group? Remember that the power of Lords was inherited, not earned, and I think this point is often missed. Those already in power do not need the results that magick can provide as much as those who are struggling. They may be fascinated and curious, but they do not need to work with magick the same way that others do.
Ordinary people, aiming for more, achieved great magickal work. It was clear to these people that you could rise to a certain level through hard work and ingenuity, but it was also apparent that you could not leave your social and economic class easily. Not without magick. And that’s what many people did. Modern magick was not a blurring of the truth found in ancient documents, but was a genuine search for magick that works, led by people who needed the results. This is more real and exciting than reading an old, pure document.
Much of the magick being shared today is a blend of magick from many origins. It comes from small secret societies that tested and developed the magick through personal experiment. These societies are not yet catalogued by academics, and they have drawn on many sources, creating magick that works. This is what I hope to share through my books: the hidden magick that has been used, quietly and effectively, by ordinary people who seek to live in a way that is more than ordinary.
– Ben Woodcroft