Is there Sacrifice in Magic?

Posted on June 11, 2013
Filed Under Magic | 2 Comments


Jack wrote an exasperated (but justified) response to the above meme, which has been circulating the magical and pagan blogs of late (evidently). The caption that is supposed to go with this picture is “All magic comes with a price, dearie!” Jack’s point is that none of us are being asked to sacrifice our first born children to magic, to get what we want, which in the show is something that Rumple expects from the various people he helps. All we are ever asked to sacrifice is the time we spend learning magic, practicing it and discovering who we are in the process. To my mind that’s not much of a sacrifice at all, but then I love studying and practicing magic.

But I think that Jack, and others miss perhaps a more subtle message that is implicit in that statement of magic coming at a price. It’s a negative message, a negative belief about magic and what it costs. If you watch Once Upon a Time, magic is treated as this corrupting force, this power that can’t really be controlled, which makes the people who practice it become complete asses to everyone. I don’t buy it, don’t really agree with it, but I see it as an example of mainstream culture using pop culture to comment on magic, to paint it in a very specific light (ironically in the process just making it more attractive). All magic comes with a price…and that price is the sacrifice of your child or something else you don’t want to give, but that you’ll willingly give for something you prize more. when magic is looked at that way it becomes both something tragic and malicious…pity the magician who has fallen sway to the forces of darkness, while recognizing all over again that magic is something a person shouldn’t dabble in.

Given the source, Disney, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Look at any of what’s been produced and magic is always treated as some force a person can never control, something that will corrupt the person who uses it. But that belief isn’t something Disney just cooked up. It’s something that was cooked up by the Christians, there way of demonizing the spiritual practices of the religions that weren’t Christian.

I don’t think there’s sacrifice in magic, unless you choose to make a sacrifice (and sometimes that can be appropriate). I think, if you’re doing it right, the price is your time and effort, or whatever you agree upon. Certainly I haven’t sold my soul to any capricious spirit for the dark delights of magic. Whatever agreements are made are ones that don’t demand a pound of flesh or an ounce of soul. It all boils down to this: You decide what you want to give and do…but don’t automatically assume there’s price. There’s only a price if you make it about a price.



It seems to me that there is a significant sacrifice that is made, of the one thing we all cling to with tenacity. We have to sacrifice our chains of ego. That is one of the most difficult sacrifices to make, because we do love them so very much. We have to sacrifice our demanding child-selves as we step up to the responsibilities of magical practice. If we fail to make these sacrifices (and others), all of our magic turns to corruption and rot.

The failure of Disney (in the abstract - consider this as a placeholder for all commercial entities) and pop culture to comprehend these things is the reason that they distort them into a portrayal of sacrifice of the Other instead of the unneeded but well-loved Self.

Magicexperiment moderator

@Faoladh That's a good point. I think it depends on what kinds of magic are being practiced. For example, practicing magic for a spiritual purpose definitely calls on us to make such sacrifices, whereas as doing it for practical purposes might have the opposite effect.