Forget Charging, When Should You PAY For Magic?

Forget Charging, When Should You PAY For Magic?


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As the saying goes, “men plan, God laughs.”

Today began at dawn so that I could bowl through my work and perhaps knock off early to get some magic blogging done.

Except the plan to magic blog was derailed by a more pressing need for actual magic.

(I thought magic bloggers weren’t supposed to do magic. Isn’t that our thing?)

Granted, this wasn’t exactly forging Master Rings in secret, but it was clear that God was breaking into a chuckle when one of my London-based Brooklyn gays -I have two- messages to ask me if I ever thought I had been cursed.

Now, my Brooklyn gay’s life positively defines crossroads at the moment… work, relationship, place of residence… it’s all to play for.

I should mention that he’s a lawyer and as my father always says, “lawyers are more interested in their questions than your answers.”

This was clearly the case here.

Cue the standard wizard answer:

Not as far as I know, but reactions to perceived curses can often cause more fallout than blah blah blah. Also, any number of energetic conditions can present curse-like blah blah blah.

You know the answer. You’ve given it before.

I actually haven’t had this conversation for about six years but every other time, I usually follow it up with some comparatively harmless -which isn’t to say ineffective- folk remedies.

Then I had a Gandalf moment. When he’s standing before the cliffs of Moria and he can’t remember how to activate the door:

“I once knew every spell in all the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs, that was ever used for such a purpose. I can still remember ten score of them without searching my mind.”

That’s what it felt like. I knew what would do in this situation. But my friend is navigating from a very different map. I had map paralysis. Do I make a prayer recommendation? Don’t want to scare the guy off some helpful enchantment because it has too much woo…

My fingers were about to type some entry-level Europeanish herb magic that is easily achievable by anyone with access to a Waitrose and running water. (Since you didn’t ask… crush coriander seeds and Anglesey sea salt together, take it to the shower in a cup, fill with shower water and pour over yourself while bathing. Coriander having hex-reversal qualities as well as being associated with anxiety reduction and Anglesey sea salt doesn’t really require an explanation.) But at the last second I hesitate.

Why? Partially, it’s down to something Deb and I have discussed at length:

I don’t my want friend’s cooties all over my fate lines and he probably doesn’t want mine all over his. Because it simply isn’t my road or calling I am extremely wary when it comes to performing enchantments for other people. This wasn’t always the case. Far from it. In my misspent youth I’d just dive right on. For instance there was a protection spell once performed for a friend’s boyfriend -a drug dealer- who had had a hit put out on him by another drug dealer. Days later and he ends up living in my house while making plans to flee the country. (Once bitten, shall we say?)

This isn’t to say I have a problem with paid client work… indeed the entire post argues the complete opposite. It is simply to say that, unless you are first on the scene of a serious accident, surgery is best left to the people who have trained as surgeons.

So at the last second, I ask my (Cuban American) friend a question:

You’re Cuban. You don’t have an aunt or someone on the Christmas card list that does some Orisha work?

He’s all “are you kidding? My mom is like the biggest santera ever.”

My first internal reaction is: Why are we even having this conversation then? Oh right, not all gays have the same bizarre relationship with their magical mothers as I do. (Like that time we saw off a curse on my partner thrown by some Nigerian witches after he fired one of them for workplace bullying. It’s possible my family is a bit weird.)

My second is mild annoyance. He’s talking about picking up some Santa Barbara bracelets when he goes to Miami over Christmas and I was about to open with what we might charitably call the base notes for a really bland curry. (My third is to place an order for a bunch of Abre Camino soaps because I would much prefer to dispense them to friends than advice. And I feel very strongly about road openers. Got a question? Have a soap!)

This new information changes the game somewhat.

Unfortunately not enough to have the proper consultation I want to give him because it is dripping with woo. His work is moving him to Paris, the home sitch could be better, quite a few of his friends have left London, he’s lost and depressed and boy do I ever fucking know what it’s like when the universe decides to just rearrange all your shit without so much as a polite note on the fridge. Two complete tear-downs already and I’m only 31.

So I want to say that he isn’t cursed but rather that the path he is on is being wound up and yes it’s painful and it feels like it won’t ever end and when you have depression it’s like someone has cut the phone lines between you and Spirit just when you need it most… but I don’t. Instead I break out the Tarot cards.

And I throw the worst spread I have seen in maybe two years.

Let’s just say he is a little bit beyond coriander right now. He’s actually beyond mere charms of any kind. I tell him that if I didn’t know him or his partner then I would ask if he is the victim of domestic violence. That’s how dark it was. Dark and concealed. And there are things swimming around him. He’s crossed. No question.

A little diversion

Chaos magic regularly runs the same risk poststructuralism does… if you aren’t careful, you can can run afoul of the erroneous, implicit superiority of a narrative built on the notion that all narratives are limited. Let me assure you I have never personally thought that and, indeed, there is -for want of a better term- an ‘accidental hard polytheism’ almost built in to a chaos worldview. This briefly came up during my appearance on Deeper Down The Rabbit Hole… but basically, it’s not the part of the gods that is in my head that makes me cautious. It’s the part that isn’t.

Religion, to me, is like hugging a shark when you could otherwise let it swim by. Yes, it’s awesome and who wouldn’t want to? But it doesn’t have a human brain and it has teeth. Predicting its reaction to you is a fool’s errand. For sure, that’s some people’s jam and I totally respect that. But, contrary to what a cursory examination may suggest, chaos is not so much about randomness as it is antifragility. (Book review coming.)

Today was one of the examples of when that ‘accidental hard polytheism’ broke through.

When to pay for magic

I talk my friend through the reading and extract a promise from him that he really does seek out a worthwhile botancia when he gets to Miami and not just for a little shopping. (Taking recommendations if you have any.) As for charms? By the time he gets to Paris I want him to jingle like somebody kicked Santa down the stairs.

Aside from the crossed condition, there are some Big Things involved in his current state of flux and it’s a safe bet they don’t want my cooties anywhere near their work either. Between now and Christmas, I just need to rinse him off and send him back to his family.

So I get a wizard’s consult.

In our now traditional early morning gchats, I ask Jow his opinion and we settle on an uncrossing bubble bath. Not for us, of course. (Although I would be open to that. No? Okay then.) It just needs to patch my friend up for three weeks until he can place himself in more experienced hands.

One of the many things I adore about ‘low magic’ is how it can empower literally anyone and still hide in plain sight. It lives in the realm of necessity rather than ambition. My friend’s partner is not… how you say… ‘our people’. Pounding out half a curry paste and then stopping midway to take a shower for some reason looks suspicious. A bubble bath just looks really gay.

So when do you pay for magic?

When you need to navigate a complex situation with minimal cooties exposure whose outcome requires the subject take at least some action for themselves. When the investigation of a simple practical enchantment uncovers Big Things hiding behind small ones (as they invariably do). When you have enough respect for magic’s world to recognise that you are well and truly outgunned -a realisation you can only ever reach the hard way.

Or, if you’re me… when you, hypothetically of course, need an expert to manage the etheric as a preliminary to a ball-tripping boys’ weekend in Amsterdam with your Paris-based friend with absolutely no ulterior motive early in the new year and how are you feeling these days? Still a bit down?

I may have something for that.

Love what you do, kids. It’s important.

5 Comments

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  1. 1
    Andrew B. Watt

    You’re just a regular ball of sunshine these days…
    “We’re winning! … Keep slaying orcs.”
    “Don’t pay for magic… except when you need to.”
    “Our maps aren’t any more likely to get us where we need to go than anyone else’s.”

    Just keep swimming. And love what you do.

    Happy Advent, Gordon.

  2. 2
    Lonnie

    I’ve always had a hard time explaining my simultaneous fascination and distrust of the divine beings in our multiverse and heads. You did it in one brilliant sentence.

    “Religion is like hugging a shark when you could otherwise let it swim by.” Perfect!

    Great article again, Gordon! I love how it all boils down to an uncrossing bubble bath. The good stuff is usually in plain sight.

    On a side and unrelated note …Seth Godin has a trio of new releases coming to brighten your apocalypse!
    Lonnie´s last blog post ..Awakened Challenge: 100 Gratitudes

  3. 3
    Diana Rajchel

    I think that this might go under “when the shit hits the fan” magic, too. I deal with lot of people who are so far into the idea that curses are rare that they just won’t believe that they happen. Perhaps they don’t – within a singular culture. But if you’re exposed to multiple cultures on a regular basis (such as in the case of the Nigerian coworker) then yes, it does merit at least consideration and a reading.
    Diana Rajchel´s last blog post ..Montgomery Burns on the fiscal cliff

  4. 4
    Apel Mjausson

    Apparently I needed to be reminded today of why Epsom salt scrubs are good, not just for my physical body. Thanks for that, Gordon.

    Your UK bubble bath supplier looks really interesting. My local botanicas seem to have room after room of saintly novenas and Lucky Buddha room sprays but no such intriguing things as Road Opener soap or Hummingbird bath salts. Do you have any favorite US online suppliers?

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