I know you've been waiting for it...magic! There are people who call themselves witches who do not practice magic. I am not one of those people. I love magic and do practice it. Before I talk about magic, I should probably try to define it. I will not insult your intelligence, as many witches have done, by beginning with a disclaimer that we don't shoot lightning out of our fingertips or fly on broomsticks. No shit, Sherlock. To quote Carole A. Smith, a Wiccan fired by the TSA after being accused of casting a spell on her colleague's car, “If I had that kind of power, I wouldn't be working for the TSA”. I humbly think I have a better employer than the TSA, but the statement stands and is applicable to me as well.
What is magic then? I think there are three principal elements. There are many definitions, but the first element present in all definitions of magic is the real world manifestation of the practitioner's intent. Obviously, we all do that to some extent or another in our own lives, but we wouldn't describe our each and every action as magical. Hence, another ever-present element in any definition of magic---that it be a facilitating factor. Even in fictional accounts of magic, telekinesis, for example, is only impressive because it allows someone to move an object with much less effort than it would take to do so physically. Can you imagine if it were more difficult? What would be the point of that? So on to the third element....The third element that exists in almost all definitions of magic (albeit not all) is that magical actions must also be symbolic in nature, at least partially.
So if we put it all together, magic is symbolic action meant to facilitate the manifestation in the real world of the magician's intent.
I thought of how to explain magic and how it works, at least according to my point of view. And I thought, why not use the song “Witchcraft” by Sinatra?
Magic is not supernatural, and is available to varying degrees to anyone.
“Fingers in my hair”, “sly come-hither stare” are natural movements available to anyone who has eyes, hair and fingers. Anyone can carry out symbolic actions meant to facilitate the manifestation of his or her will. It is the principle behind traditions such as blowing out a candle on your birthday. Another fact about these actions are that they are also explicable in purely natural terms. The performance of magic and its effects do not require belief in or intermission of the spirit world. This post on chaos magic refers to the main models used to explain magic, of which the main ones are spiritual, energetic, and psychological. The problem I have with the spirit model is that it's unfalsifiable. Anything achieved psychologically or energetically could be attributed to one's connections in the spirit world, and no one would be able to refute it. So I consider the spirit model indistinguishable from the other two. The energy model seems to be one that is widely accepted in the Pagan world. It's not impossible, but I don't think it can be proven as such. I've never put a Geiger counter next to my altar, and the results of magic seem to be much to personal and varied to chalk it up to a measurable type of "energy". To me the only model that has been substantiated is the psychological one.
Magic is personal and depends on the psychology of the person or people involved.
Magic is kind of like sex. Everyone can do it, but some people do it with more or less skill, more or less frequency and more or less success than others. Everyone has their own style. Hence the "craft" in "witchcraft". Also like sex, magic is very personal. What works for one person might not work for someone else. Would he have "no defense for it" if "it" was coming from her? Doesn't give a gay man the urge to switch teams, I must say. Similarly, magic depends on the psychological makeup of the practitioner. In many books about magic, there are set formulas but many contain disclaimers. They say that if you hate those ingredients, regardless of what their magical properties are supposed to be, don't use them because it won't work. In fact, many witches highlight the benefit in writing and performing one's own spells and some deride those who "think speaking a few words out of a book over a candle is how one makes magic."1
Magic on other people is most effective if they participate and give their consent.
He may say that he's "got no defense for it", but his heart says "yes, indeed", "proceed with what you're leading me to". Clearly, he wants to be bewitched. Sympathetic magic can work, but probably only if the person is willing to let it work. That to me explains why people can find any reason not to accept even the most perfect person who happens to fall in love with them. They don't really want to fall in love, so they don't. This is also probably, sadly, why it is said that one cannot help a substance addict until they admit that they need help. If they don't want to change, they won't. Same goes for magic.
All magic has an effect on the magician.
The witch in Sinatra's song wouldn't be giving him "come hither stares" if she didn't want something out of it. Wiccans call it the Threefold Law, which means that everyone feels the effect of all of their actions three times magnified. (This was sampled from the concept of karma, a phenomenon I referred to in a previous post). If taken absolutely literally, this idea goes against the laws of thermodynamics. However, we are all human beings and I'm assuming that if you're reading this, you were not born yesterday. You've come across both good people and bad people. Both actively loving and actively hating have effects on the human psyche. Focusing mostly on hurting people, or mostly on treating them well will generally have different effects on the person who chooses to do one or the other. If those different intentions have an effect on the person who has them, why would it not be the same for the symbolic manifestation of those intentions?
Magic is fun.
The bouncy beat played by an optimistic band, the flirtatious tone and the unmistakeable last line of “there ain't no nicer witch than you” are unmistakeable signs of how much fun Sinatra is having in being bewitched (or bewitching himself). Some people would say that rituals to affect change in one's life to be superfluous. What is the point of it if no supernatural entities exist? My answer? Because it's fun dammit! There's a reason why religions often have things like candles and incense built in—because people enjoy it! Christianity was a pain in multiple sphincters before the management got wise to the power of ritual on the human psyche. That's why Sinatra is not going to "switch" that "ancient pitch". (And why should he with all of that "heat" and "arousing the need" and whatnot). Neither will I.
(And once again, do listen to the song....It's worth listening to.)
1 Noble, Catherine. "Fluffy Bunnies". Wicca for the Rest of Us. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.