Magic is a motion, a series of changes, a flow.
At first you might assume that you can draw closer and closer to it until you’re totally immersed in the experience, and in a way that’s true.
Once you’re in, though, it becomes increasingly obvious that this isn’t a still pool. There are waves in the magical ocean.
A lot has been written about the nature of magical cycles, most notably the alchemical progression summed up in the famous phrase solve et coagula (dissolve and reform). On Becoming an Alchemist, by Catherine MacCoun, does a great job of describing these traditional steps in contemporary magical terms – it’s an interesting system.
Personally, though, I experience the magical cycle on simpler terms. It can be dramatic and overwhelming, at times, but is fundamentally predictable. While the cycle feels more or less out of control, understanding it helps me take advantage of each phase and catch the magical wave at the best possible moment. The length of time spent in each stage varies dramatically, so the only way I know to track the cycle accurately is to watch for the signs of each phase.
Ironically, there’s a part of the magical cycle that doesn’t feel particularly magical at all. These moments manifest differently for everyone, but for me it’s always a sign when I suddenly feel more like browsing through cookbooks than metaphysical literature. While this phase can feel anticlimactic and definitely drag on a bit, it can also be really useful.
Do you feel like cleaning your house when you’re caught up in some magical adventure? I sure don’t. I try to take advantage of the waiting period by getting organized, staying healthy, and enjoying life. Once you’re experienced with this cycle, you can rest in the knowledge that magical days will come again, regardless of how distant they might seem.
helpful magical practices: meditation, energetic and physical exercise like yoga, healthy eating and rest, dedicating daily tasks to helpful spirits and magical goals, gratitude
After a period of waiting, inspiration starts to creep in again. The magical resurgence may begin in the form of vivid dreams, synchronicities, powerful desires or intuition, or maybe just a general feeling of waking up after a dormant period. Like the calm before a storm, you may start to feel electrified, and physical and emotional sensations may become more intense.
While the magical wave is on the horizon, you will probably be unable to tell exactly what form it will take in your life.
helpful magical practices: divination and omen seeking, open-ended creative exploration, open-ended world exploration, stream of consciousness journaling, research, trying new things
The feeling of magical energy builds, accompanied by an increasing pressure to act. While this is an exciting phase, it can also be confusing and overwhelming. Increasing synchronicities and signs may be pointing toward particular fields of action, but you may feel fearful or even unclear about exactly what action to take.
I often experience a strong temptation to keep waiting, with the understanding that eventually the tension will be resolved and the confusing ideas swirling around in my brain will become more clear. The good news is that this is often true, and the confusion of the tension period will eventually clear up regardless of whether you act on it or not.
The bad news (in a way) is that the tension phase is the most powerful for magical action. If you want to take advantage of the power of this phase, you absolutely must jump before the destination is clear. Luckily this usually works out, at least on a magical level, although the repercussions can be dramatic and unexpected.
helpful magical practices: starting new projects, taking risks, major workings, wild leaps of faith, grounding (especially if overwhelmed)
Regardless of how you handle the tension phase, it will eventually come to an end. Magical action will start to seem less pressing. Following through with what you’ve started is important, though thoughtful adjustments to your course may be necessary as the confusion starts to resolve and you see your path more clearly.
Despite having peaked, the energy may still feel powerful, making it easier than usual to get into magical states of flow.
helpful magical practices: following through on projects, reflection, being in nature, recording results, adjusting direction as necessary, minor workings, getting excess magical energy all over everything
Of course, this is only a basic model.
Phases may overlap in relation to different projects, or seem to come and go before moving on completely. Still, I’ve found it helpful to contemplate – especially the importance of diving in during the tension phase.
Whatever you do, you can depend on the fact that the magic will continue to flow. Feel like you might have missed a wave? Keep your eyes on the horizon, the next one should be coming along soon.
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