Real Magic

Etymologically, magic, magus, has to do with having, or harnessing power, which could be real, except the concept of real is much too recent to be closely associated with an old idea such as magic, which increasingly has fallen out of favor with cultural norms by reality-oriented schemes in which the materialism of science and the literalisms of religion and spirituality now dominate.

Let us then consider the ways in which language itself is a form of magic in which each of us serves as co-creators of the real, via the imaginal, as a continual approximation of the ever-nebulous Whole that we are, none-the-less, participants therein, more or less able to access, given the constraints of perceptual limits. Language is perhaps the most potent human power underlying all of our reality constructs, stories, calculations, schemes, and yet, can so easily be taken for granted. It’s like water to the fish and the air that we breathe. And although we can never fully get outside of its influence, meditating on the magic of language and its influence upon, not only us, but the co-created world our birth obligates us to participate in, can increase both the depth and style one’s approach to this earthly life.

Real (adj.)

early 14c., “actually existing, true;” mid-15c., “relating to things” (especially property), from Old French reel “real, actual,” from Late Latin realis “actual,” in Medieval Latin “belonging to the thing itself,” from Latin res “property, goods, matter, thing, affair,” which de Vaan traces to a PIE *Hreh-i- “wealth, goods,” source also of Sanskrit rayimrayah “property, goods,” Avestan raii-i- “wealth.”

The meaning “genuine” is recorded from 1550s; the sense of “unaffected, no-nonsense” is from 1847.

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. [Margery Williams, “The Velveteen Rabbit”]

When something is “real,” it’s associated with manifestation through some type of form or substance as truth, and ownership, a real estate. Ultimately, it serves as a value judgment by imparting meaning through that unavoidable sense of ownership we seem subject and responsible to. To use it in the sense of something true and substantive, or that which is living, as opposed to fake, the meaning in some ways becomes weaponized; the real then is that which is unarguably true. In this sense, even skepticism proclaims a truth.

Interestingly, the idea of the unreal is associated with something that has an element of surprise, or is unbelievable or perhaps unexpected.


Magic these days, is more frequently used as a way to marginalize an idea or belief, as in the idea of “magical thinking.” As well, magic, or magick, as Crowley * would have it, is a spiritual practice which has also been marginalized by the secret allies of science and religion.

In the secular sense, nowadays a magician is one who does parlor tricks for children or sometimes even inebriated adults. This understanding too, like the mythological idea of Santa Claus, serves the purpose as a way to instill the potential for a future disbelief. Then, as a reality revering adult, we may pride ourselves in our ability to discern and know the real, favoring it over all that may oppose it. One more battle won, one more duality duly noted.

Not only does Santa C. have to continually die and be reborn, but with his death in each of us, a permanent shift in our understanding of the imagination as it looks to sentimental nostalgic regret for the passing of that time in childhood where we innocently believed, not only because we could imagine, but because we were not yet aware of the idea that fantasy itself is now a threat to reality. But without an awareness of magic, do we not give away some of our deeply subjective power? This breakup with seeing the world through its images, influence and potential for confluence, in exchange for the sense of belonging to the real world of time, history, action and consequences, is just the beginning of what has come to pass for reality; a sober world, disenchanted, where quantity trumps quality, and where reality must be faced if we are to find success through the product of becoming a “self.” Are we not though, trading in one bad, or better yet, misunderstood story for an even worse one, a story that promotes consumerism and other addictions through promises relegated to power invested in a future where satisfaction finally guarantees more future, more time to find satisfaction?

Magic (n.)

Late 14c., magike, “art of influencing or predicting events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces,” also “supernatural art,” especially the art of controlling the actions of spiritual or superhuman beings; from Old French magique “magic; magical,” from Late Latin magice “sorcery, magic,” from Greek magike (presumably with tekhnΔ“ “art”), fem. of magikos “magical,” from magos “one of the members of the learned and priestly class,” from Old Persian magush, which is possibly from PIE root *magh- “to be able, have power.”


Words are weighty and depending on your relationship with language, whose meaning falls prey to the cementing of set, relegated, culturally agreed upon roles serving as a kind of linguistic fast food, palatable for the common tongue with sweet, if barely digestible agreements, promising a certain amount of insurance or safety, literalisms, freed from choice, the unknown, and sustained by a dread of the threat of one’s marginalization.

This making of reality when understood as a co-creation, is truly an amazing process in which all of us potentially could come to better understand the ways in which we participate in the common fate, but which few of us currently feel ourselves to have any power over. This lack of ownership is truly where what has been hidden in plain sight serves as a crumbling storage container, or perhaps a dumpster; a receptacle for all that must ultimately be rejected, either by, or through whatever choices remain. For as real as the co-created world we live in might become, the less it is, currently anyway, recognizable as either Mine, or Yours, as if we must reject what we now come to realize we never truly owned, or especially, wanted.

Where do we go from here?

Historically speaking, and until recently, these terms, “real” and “magic” had not had much occasion to cross paths. Magic, mage, magh, has roots thousands of years old. The notion of “real,” meaning “genuine,” is not used until the 19th century. Perhaps the idea of the real as actual follows a world steeped in magic with the intention of truly manifesting what magic seemingly couldn’t.

In many ways, their meanings both relate to kinds of power. When something is declared to be real, are we not giving it emphasis and validation? In this sense, the real is akin to fate, as something spoken through us. For us moderns, when something is magic, or magical, isn’t its validity or existence nullified, along with its value as a power? And again, isn’t the maintaining of sharp divisions between the two a false choice echoing throughout the land, serving only to bolster the fear of our own shadows or impotence over the real?

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Perhaps the recent introduction of the idea of reality, or the real, is a symptom of something we fervently want to be true, or to be known AND collectively agreed upon in reaction to the increasingly intangible interactions that technology facilitates – devaluing and potentially dominating human power – and in which the body human and planet earth have begun to revolt against. The real, as an idea that persists in us, then, has its own kind of magic to articulate and see through the madness.

Reality, then, as a concept which has gained favor by the collective, also serves as the vehicle of its opposite. Given enough time and currency, the idea of reality and its offspring, truth, join forces as a fortress constructed like any other fortress; to someday be deconstructed. The One, or the attempt to unify, necessarily births the many as it more clearly articulates the kinds of power available to each of us. Language is then, an articulation of the power of magic coming through us to see through its own constructs, and especially how ideas make manifest our deepest appreciation of fear, love, beauty, while deepening our understanding of the power of magic within the reality of the ebb and flow of change.

* From the Guardian article:
“A hundred years on, Crowley remains one of those figures often dismissed in public, but whose work is collected and studied in private. His immediate following may have been small, but his influence on modern culture is as pervasive as that of Freud or Jung. As an occultist, he can justly claim to have made a lasting change on the world, refashioning the occult with his famous dictum to combine the aim of religion with the method of science.

In the age of the crowned and conquering child, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in Crowley’s magick or not. Like Tarot or astrology, it’s not a question of belief; it’s whether and where the pattern fits. “Certain actions,” said Crowley, “produce certain results.” Sentiments worth bearing in mind for those curious about the life, work and legacy of this extraordinary, flawed, complex and often shocking figure.”

9 thoughts on “Real Magic

  1. theburningheart

    Great post Debra!
    All ancient cultures, and Religions know the power of language, the first Light itself was created by God’s power of Its Verb, who only has to speak a command for things to become a Reality.
    Adam proved to be superior to the Angels, because he could name every creature, and thing.
    And about Magic, we still, at least in Spanish the highest Institutions of Teaching it’s call Magisterium, and all teachers, have to be licensed by it, and under their supervision, as well. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the beginning was the Word! Thanks for that reminder.

      Interesting that you have a Magisterium and licensing. Does it cover divination practices?

      Here in the states, at least some states still have laws against fortune telling. I’m not sure how often they’re enforced though. Maybe the weather forecasters don’t want the competition. πŸ˜› But of course, that is science!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. theburningheart

        Now Debra, you are going into Harry Potter, J K Rowling’s territory! πŸ™‚
        However on Chaldean, and Sumerian, Egyptian, and other ancient civilizations, the Magi, and their Magisterium, was the Real Knowledge not of a divided Science in compartments, but a Holistic all embracing categories, encompassing all Knowledge and Wisdom, not the pitiful, fragmentated state of affairs we have now day.
        In my opinion specialization has brought great material progress, but lacks the Magisterial all encompassing Wisdom, as a compass to guide us, and therefore we live in a myopic dystopia, brought by intellectual knowledge that lacks Wisdom and goes for the utilitarian, rather than by the Spiritual values characteristic to a Society with values, based on Virtue, rather than Philistine, prosaic, mercantile concerns as their focus for living.
        And we wonder why in the middle of material progress, and plenty, we have the clowns who rule us , and the disfranchisement of everybody else, except the infamous 1% who may bring the World to a terrible disaster!
        Sad days indeed!
        The good thing by the Winter Solstice Saturn, and Jupiter leave Capricorn and enter into Aquarius. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Bravo! It’s almost as if division itself has become the ruler of the day. Is this Mars’ domain? Perhaps so.

        I remember a moment in my late teens when the idea of “differentiation” came into my awareness as if I had discovered the secret of the universe! It seemed that as long as I could differentiate between things and ideas, I’d be able to know anything. All that work just to believe in a false power. Now days, I am joyfully reminded, daily, of the more organistic relationship between Everything!

        As for our “leaders,” dare I say that the fascist we see outside of ourselves is the fascist we struggle with inside ourselves. It takes a bit of courage to, as Ram Dass boldly suggested, love everyone and tell the truth.

        With Jupiter and Saturn moving into Aquarius, we end one 200 year old cycle of their conjunctions in earth signs, and begin the next 200 year cycle in Air signs. It’s hard to say if anything will get better, but certainly should change the emphasis from the more material aspects of life to something a bit more ethereal.


  2. A few years back, I had a severe attack of looking into the creation stories that are associated with several sacred alphabets- hebrew, sanskrit etc. What they all had in common was describing the extra-ordinarily magical process by which we humans use the structure of our mouth and throat to influence our breath to create ‘seed sounds’ that could be organized into patterns that create ideas in other peoples heads.
    I am still recuperating from that plunge and still working on my own understanding of how words and shapes create a reality that we humans can communicate to other humans.
    But so far my conclusion is that the best hope for humanity as a whole is for more of us to start learning how the tools our own awareness takes for granted actually works.
    That pursuit very rapidly heads into the realms of spirituality and belief systems, which makes me unpopular. And when one is busy taking words apart, it gets really hard to talk. I compare it to checking how a car’s engine is working, when you have the hood up and the parts disassembled, you wont be taking the car for a drive. SO its been a pretty quiet private activity Satisfying tho. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Sara,
      Thanks for your note. In my esoteric reading, I’ve read that the teeth have a strong association to letters. It’s been a quiet, private time here too. Between Covid and big life changes, there’s plenty of disassembling going on here too. Best wishes for a successful, however you may define that, reassembly!


      1. Appreciate the good wishes;-) and yes, most creation stories agree that people generally use their teeth and tongue to make consonants. Then they use their breath and the shape of the mouth form the vowels. Then they marry vowels and consonants producing child syllables.
        Except no one seems to agree on the gender of vowels or consonants, or which one should follow the other to make the child sounds or pretty much anything else. Gotta give us humans for being creative though!

        Liked by 1 person

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