In my previous post I talked about the aesthetics of magic and why that perspective can be a useful part of your process of magic. Now I want to explore why its useful to question your aesthetics and how that can benefit your magical practice. While your aesthetics of magic is useful for helping you understand what makes a magic working magical, it’s not a good idea to treat your aesthetics as set in stone. If anything, questioning your aesthetic filter can help you recognize how it might limit you magically, or what you could change about a magical working.
In the example, I used in the previous post, the person mentioned that sigils didn’t look magical, which was why trying to do magic with them didn’t work. One question I found myself asking was, “What could this person change about the sigils to make them look magical (and therefore buy into them being a viable magical operation)?”
It’s important to recognize that the Aesthetics isn’t limited to the appearance. When I think of an aesthetics of magic, I’m thinking of what makes the experience magical, which can include (but is not limited to) visual appearance, but can also include the smells, sounds, feelings, taste, as well as movement and stillness (and whatever else you might think of that contributes to creating the experience). This distinction is important to note because if we’re going to question our own aesthetics, we need to recognize what we are specifically focusing on.
So how do we question our Aesthetics?
First you need to decide what is aesthetically part of your magical workings. I suggest looking at a number of magical workings you’ve done over a period of time to identify the aesthetic elements that consistently show up in those workings. This will tell you which aesthetic elements are considered necessary on your part in order to make a magical working happen.
For example if you find that you consistently use candles in your workings, then candles would be an essential aesthetic element of your magical practice.
Now take a look at what aesthetic elements don’t show up in your ritual or workings. For instance, you might not do chanting, because you might think its a distraction or that it doesn’t sound magical (or whatever the reason is).
List the aesthetic elements that you consider essential in one column and in the other column put the elements that are non-essential.
Why are the aesthetic elements in the essential column necessary for your magical working?
This is the question to ask yourself. Beside each element write down your response. No answer is wrong. The point of this exercise is to understand what makes a given aesthetic element essential to your magical practice.
Why are the aesthetic elements in the non-essential column unnecessary for your magical working?
Just as with the previous question, write down why a given aesthetic element is unnecessary or not magical enough for you. Again there’s no right or wrong answer. The point of this exercise is to help you understand why a given element isn’t aesthetic enough for your workings.
Now it’s time to try something new…
You know what the essential and non-essential aesthetic elements of magic are and why they are or aren’t essential to your practice, but it can be a useful exercise to try something new with your magical practice. Try putting together a magical working where you don’t use all the aesthetic elements you normally use, or where you mix in some aesthetics that you normally wouldn’t use. Then record what the results are, but be willing to do this multiple times, to see if there are any differences.
Also if you’re using an aesthetic element of magic that you normally wouldn’t use, ask yourself what you could do to make it magical. Don’t be afraid to make some changes. For instance, in the case where the sigils didn’t appear magical, the person could try drawing the sigils differently or using colors or try a different sigil technique.
The benefit of experimenting with the aesthetic elements is that it gives you an opportunity to challenge what you consider to be essential. And even if you come away with realizing that what’s essential is really what works to make a working magical, at least you’ve questioned and challenged your aesthetics and discovered for yourself why those elements are essential.
The benefit of working with aesthetic elements you don’t consider essential is that it allows you to discover if you can make them essential to your practice and also provides you an opportunity to challenge your ideas about what is or isn’t magical.
Share your results with this exercise in the comments below. I’d love to discover what you learned 🙂
And if you’d like to see my answers, check this video out.