It seems like a weird question to be asking, but it stares us right in the face: what is magic? What is witchcraft? What do these words mean? I've been using them on the blog, sure, but I feel like I should explain what I means so that we're all on the same page. Much of Wicca and Druidry is tied to magic, and as I've been reconnecting with my spiritual self I have also been delving into magical practice. So it's high past time I talked about what magic is, what it isn't, what it can do and what it can't.
Creating Change Through Force of Will
Aleister Crowley famously defined magic as "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will." Aleister Crowley was also a racist dick bag, and I kid of hate him by reputation and have avoided most of his works. But this definition keeps popping up, probably because it is clean, precise, and well...accurate. Witch, wizard, druid, magus...all these people focus their will on a desired outcome and bring it into the reality. But there's a big hole that this definition leaves out: magic cannot do anything that violates the natural laws of the universe. For this reason, I prefer the following definition of the word "witch" by one Augusten Burroughs:
"I define a witch as someone - female, male, neither, other, both - who has the innate ability to focus on a desired outcome with such perfect clarity, intensity, and singularity that the desired outcome can materialize, provided it does not violate the natural laws of the universe. This is why a witch cannot turn a man into a goat, but a witch may very well know if a man five thousand miles away is about to be trampled by a goat." - Augusten Burroughs, Toil and Trouble
This is an almost perfect definition; my one complaint is that I do believe that the ability is not always innate and can be taught. Unlike Burroughs, I've not been doing magic since I was a kid. But I have been able to teach myself how to make things happen, with some success. I am largely self-taught, but the more I learn the easier it gets.
Therefore, I would like to submit my own definition of magic: Magic is the art and science of causing a change in one's surroundings, circumstances, or knowledge through the application of willpower, so long as the change does not violate the physical laws of the universe.
Magic is an art because it requires creativity, and it is a science because it requires experimentation. People often think of "art" and "science" as separate, but the two concepts meet more often than you would think, and they definitely meet in the realm of magic and witchcraft.
So What's With the Candles and Incense and Things?
Go into any magic or witchcraft shop and you will find rows upon rows of crystals, colored candles, herbs, tarot decks, and of course, books of spells. These things are all great things to draw on for your magical practice. None of them are one hundred percent necessary, however. Each practitioner of magic, whether they call themselves a witch, wizard, druid or whatever, has their own unique style. Some use candles, others don't. Some use potions made with herbs, and others use herbs for ornamental purposes and focus their magic using incantation and magical symbols drawn on paper. The specifics of magic are up to the individual.
What all of us practitioners have in common is an ability to focus our willpower to bring our desires into reality. It doesn't always work, but it works enough that we can feel confident saying that it is more than just coincidence. It's magic.