A wee bit o’ cantraip

This is one of my favourite words for magic. I like it because it’s old and it’s a Scots word. The English say “cantrip” and use the word to refer to ‘scam.”

The English need to get their minds right about this.

My ancestry is Scots, with a strong dash of Irish from my mother’s side of the family. That means I was born with an affinity for cantraip whether it was the spell of a witch or the mischief out of the faerie world.

In The Life of Robert Burns, which you can find in Project Guttenberg, he says:  “I owed much to an old woman (Jenny Wilson) who resided in the family, remarkable for her credulity and superstition. She had, I suppose, the largest collection in the country of tales and songs, concerning devils, ghosts, fairies, brownies, witches, warlocks, spunkies, kelpies, elf-candles, dead-lights, wraiths, apparitions, cantraips, giants, enchanted towers, dragons, and other trumpery. This cultivated the latent seeds of poesie; but had so strong an effect upon my imagination that to this hour, in my nocturnal rambles, I sometimes keep a look-out on suspicious places.”

I grew up reading Bobby Burns’s lowland Scots poems and perhaps that influenced me as much as my DNA to always be seeking a fair bit o’ cantraip in every dark wood and every dark woman.

Truth be told, I expect that the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and panpsychism will ultimately explain many things that are best-considered cantraip at present.  Quantum physics is science and panpsychism is superstition (or so some say), but they have a lot more in common than the followers of either viewpoint are willing to acknowledge yet. I’m enchanted by both–call it a Scots Irish thing.

Cantraip is never sleight of hand, the kind of “magic” you see during most magic shows on TV or conventions. I did like Erin Morgenstern’s novel The Night Circus wherein the magicians were using real magic while pretending it was sleight of hand. Whenever I see purported sleights of hand, I wonder, “hmm, is that real magic or practices misdirection?”

Sleight of hand, it seems, is much easier for audiences to believe in. Audiences want to be fooled, and they are. The great sucess of Penn and Teller is evidence of that. If you saw Tony Randal in the 1964 movie 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, you may remember that the audience was far more excited over the splashy sleight of hand than Merlin’s real magic.

You fools, I thought.

The world might be better if we could buy faerie dust at Walmart. We need a wee bit o’ cantraip to give us hope, make us smile, and prove that Washington’s politicians don’t know everything.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Magic: Who Are You and Why Are You Here?

Twelve years ago, Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret was in the news. The description on the home page of the book’s website says of Byrne, in part, “In The Secret, she explains with simplicity the law that is governing all lives, and offers the knowledge of how to create – intentionally and effortlessly – a joyful life.” People bought the book and sought out other books and websites that spoke of the law of attraction and how to make it work in our lives. Some people have called the book a placebo while others claim it changed their lives.

Long-time students of magic claimed that most of the information in the book had been around for a long time, but that Byrne had repackaged the information in a new way for today’s audience. In a way, she did for our time what James Allen did for his time with the publication in 1903 of his now-famous book As a Man Thinketh. (Allen’s book is available on Amazon and can also be found in various free versions.) I read As a Man Thinketh when I was in high school because my father had an early edition of the book on the living room shelf.

The purpose of this post is not to critique The Secret or even Allen’s book. Nor do I have access to any statistics that show what percentage of those who bought either book found within their pages the route to a joyful life. As I read The Secret and a related books, it seemed to me that many people were focusing on the law of attraction for health and wealth. I’m not surprised. Needless to say, if a person is physically ill and living in a slum, health and wealth sound like reasonable goals as long as one isn’t greedy and wants to become a superman or superwoman and have a billion dollars in his or her checking account.

Magic, whether it comes from the ancient crafts, hoodoo, the mystery schools, or self-help books like The Secret can, I think, change us, especially when our approach includes a reverence for the Earth and the spiritual mysteries of all life. Yet, any study of it begins with who we are and why we’re here (on Earth in this time period) before we begin our study. Some say it takes a lifetime to understand just who we are–consciously, unconsciously, and at the soul level–so before one begins to study magic, s/he must learn that “his or her lot in life” prior to magic was of his or her own making, consciously or otherwise.

As one looks inward to discover who they are, they might also learn why they’re here. That is to say, are they here to work on personal issues of long standing, impact the lives of specific people, or add their voice to those fighting against one form of injustice or another? Self-help magic books tend to ignore the fact that those who buy them have a lot of skills and/or baggage before they begin to read. Some readers will recognize ideas they have pondered already; some readers will become very enthusiastic as the words in such books “strike a chord” and their eyes are opened again; others will become lost because the self-help magic books are about as effective as handing an award winning cookbook to a person who has no idea what a kitchen is.

I’m not convinced that the first goal of magic and/or a spiritual outlook is a joyful life. Yes, joy is very nice depending on how we define it. But I think our joy is a result of of who we are and whether or not we’ve discovered why we’re here. Yes, we can be healthy. Yes, we can attract enough income (however it’s defined) to live without worrying how we’re going to pay the rent. But I do not see either of those situations as the primary goals of magic and, in fact, believe we sabotage ourselves by looking at external gratifications before looking at and understanding our inner lives.

We can change our lives in an instant if we believe we can change our lives in an instant. To fully believe this, we have a lot of, shall we say, brainwashing to get around that has given us reasons for the way the world is as it is. As a long-time fan of Erice Berne (Games People Play) and Thomas Harris (I’m OK, You’re OK), I see hundreds of ways how parents and other authority figures sent their children down roads to ruin. Some call this “negative programming,” that is, a psychological rationale for why you think you’re behind the eight ball or think that you’re not behind it.

So, I don’t think a magic recipe book is going to be a quick fix, though it can inspire us to the possibilities of self-discovery and a journey toward self-actualization (as Abraham Maslow called being fully alive). You are who you are with or without magic. I suspect you’re here right now for a reason that may or may not include magic. I’ve chosen magic because that is how I see the world. I would feel empty without it and so would my books.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Thanks for trying out the free copies

I appreciate everyone who grabbed up a free copy of my Kindle short story “Waking Plain.” There used to be a TV bit called “Fractured Fairy Tales;” I suspect I got brainwashed by that so that I take sweet old stories and turn them upside down.

Meanwhile, my soon-to-be released novel Lena has made it past the editor. One always worries about hearing something like, “Malcolm, you know that guy who dies on page 23? How did he come back to life on page 97?” Oops.

Lena is the third and final book (you can quote me on that) in the Florida Folk Magic Series published by Thomas-Jacob. With luck, we’ll be able to show you the cover soon and then announce a release date.

Meanwhile, we have another late afternoon thunderstorm roaring through northwest Georgia. This is getting tedious because the low barometric pressure impacts both our (my wife and I) sinus conditions while all that water makes the grass grow faster than we can keep it mowed.

Fortunately, I have beef stew to warm up in the Dutch oven for supper, so no cooking required tonight. And, the cats have been fed; that means they’ve stopped hovering around my desk and bothering me.

My brother and his wife and grandson will be stopping here briefly next week. Oh hell, that means we have to clean up the house. We’ll have fun while they’re here, though.

Malcolm

Sunday’s Tatterings

Like most writers who claim there is madness in our methods, I occasionally wonder if we’re simply suffering from wall-to-wall insanity. If so, there are times when the world seems tattered; if not, there are also times when the world seems tattered. One of my favorite poets, the late Lucie Brock-Broido, once said, “I came to poetry because I felt I couldn’t live properly in the real world.” I feel that way about prose and magical realism.

  • I think I’m more or less done with my recent series of posts on this blog about magic. For those of you who liked it, thanks for reading. For those of you who didn’t, thanks for waiting for it to run its course. Magic of one kind or another is part of most of the books I write. So, the series of magic posts show why this is the case as well as my belief that intuition is everyone’s birthright.
  • After my fellow author Smoky Zeidel at Thomas-Jacob Publishing wrote many Facebook status updates about Monarch butterflies in various stages of of development in her garden, I’m happy to see her monarch ranching has become a new book.
  • My wife and I finally found a series of dry days to work in the yard. The good news is, the yard looks better. The bad news is, we both feel like we just came home from a 30-mile mountain hike. Gosh, you’d think we were both a hundred years old and tottering around with walkers.
  • Coping with the aches and pains of yard work, my wife was awake at dawn when the moon was setting and captured this picture.
  • While going through the shelves looking for something to read, I found a copy of Karleen Koen’s Through a Glass Darkly. It’s been on our bookshelves for 32 years and I’m finally reading it. Will I finish it? Too soon to tell. It’s a historical romance, and that’s not my favorite genre.
  • Within my favorite genre (magical realism), I think I might be nearing the end of my work in progress, Lena, which will be the third book in my Florida Folk Magic series (following Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman) released by Thomas-Jacob Publishing.. There have been days when I didn’t think I’d figure out how to write this story. In a Facebook post on my author’s page in which I said I don’t like “sensitivity readers,” I mentioned that if I offend the KKK and white supremacists with this series of novels, it makes my day. I don’t need a sensitivity reader saying, “Well, Malcolm, this novel might offend bigots.” Okay, so what?
  • I see rain is on the way. Perhaps that means no yard work after supper. I could use another nap.

Malcolm

 

Magic: Imagination flowing into intuition – Part One

There’s a fair amount of discussion on the Internet about the difference between imagination and intuition. In a sense, imagination is active, sometimes day dreaming play and sometimes the mind working to figure out what something is like or might be like whether it’s a novel, a prospective new job, a relationship, or a thousand other “what if” kinds of questions.

Intuition is passive, listening to what’s variously described as one’s inner self in contact with events or people we cannot–at that moment–see or hear or otherwise logically know about.

Participants in mental improvement courses, such as The Silva Method and others that lean toward the development of intuition, often begin exercises by being asked to imagine something. The intent of this is to focus and connect the relaxed mind on, say, a person or a place, and then allow one’s attention to to take over and begin providing impressions, visual or otherwise, about what is really happening (outside the scope of what we could possibly have known already).

Beginning with one’s imagination is easy because most of us can imagine just about anything. There’s no pressure in that. Since there isn’t any pressure, the mind is now free to widen that imagination into “seeing” what we previously didn’t know about.

When your imagination “switches” over to intuition, you will–as people often say–experience stronger feelings about the images, along with an inner knowing that they are true. When you are practicing, try to get feedback.

For example, have your spouse or your friend tell you (when you’re in a relaxed state) the name and location of a person you don’t know and have never heard about. Imagine that you see that person in your mind’s eye, and then just start talking about what you’re “seeing.” While you’re doing this, your spouse or friend might blurt out “OMG” and other surprised comments when you get something right. Or, they might wait until you finish “your reading” and then say where you were accurate.

The more you do this, the better you will get at it because you will begin to know what the intuited information feels like.

If you have nobody to practice with, you can pick out a town or other location that you’ve never visited, never seen on the news or the Internet, and never heard about. Just pick the name of a town off a list of the towns in one state or another. Then imagine you are there and see what you see. After doing this, Google the town and find some pictures and see how many of the parks, streets, and building match your impressions.

I have always found imagination to be a perfect doorway into intuition, though over time the need for lengthy imagination becomes less unnecessary. Some people are born with “psychic abilities” and know things without having to walk through that “doorway.” For the rest of us, imagination is a wonderful threshold into the innate abilities of our minds that we are working to develop.

Yes, it seems like magic.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s novels and short stories almost always include magic because that’s how he sees the world.

 

We have been speaking of magic

It’s almost impossible to make a list of magical techniques that could possibly serve as a recipe or a how-to manual for those wanting to learn. The techniques are varied, usually arise out of one’s belief system and/or life’s path, and depend upon the seriousness of those approaching the art and craft of the methods that resonate with them.

Personally, I think we can produce “magical results” without the need of rituals, candles, wands, athames, Tarot cards, and other paraphernalia. The power is within us, not the equipment. If the equipment, crutches as I view them, helps, then there is not need to avoid it. We all use what facilitates our intentions.

For many, the “equipment” helps because society in general tends to discount magic, so it’s often difficult to practice it in a negative environment of science and logic. I have found Tarot cards to be helpful as well as readings from the I Ching.  When I have used candles, it was for focusing my gaze more than for their color or for the herbs that hoodoo uses to “dress” them.

If spells and paraphernalia help you achieve results. there’s no need to get rid of them.  Altars and herbs and candles don’t fit my lifestyle, so I don’t use them. However, they may work for you.

Your mind’s focus is the important thing whether your embrace traditional witchcraft, Wicca, Transcendental Mediation, the Seth Materials, Rosicrucian techniques, various Lightworker approaches, or a mystic attunement based on your religion or spiritual outlook.

In the final analysis, we create our own realities whether we use spells, meditation, various forms of biofeedback and self-hypnosis, dreams, or a positive-thinking approach to life. Such things seem more important to our success than the spells and rituals of one system or another.

It takes courage and perseverance, I think, to approach the world from a mystic’s or psychic’s point of view, and to suggest to family and friends that there’s more to reality than logic or the inputs produced by the five senses. Perhaps it’s best to remain quiet about such thing rather than to be labeled by society as a crazy person.

An author can hide behind his stories by using magic in them that s/he doesn’t mention in every day life. What one says about one’s beliefs is a difficult choice to make,

–Malcolm

 

Magic: what should I do first?

“Alpha waves are one type of brain waves detected either by electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography(MEG) and predominantly originate from the occipital lobe during wakeful relaxation with closed eyes. Alpha waves are reduced with open eyes, drowsiness and sleep. Historically, they were thought to represent the activity of the visual cortex in an idle state. More recent papers have argued that they inhibit areas of the cortex not in use, or alternatively that they play an active role in network coordination and communication.[2] Occipital alpha waves during periods of eyes closed are the strongest EEG brain signals.” – Wikipedia

I have included a quotation here about alpha waves because they represent the level of relaxed brain activity used for intuition. As the Silva Method teaches, your intuition works best at the alpha level–as opposed to the beta level of our usual waking world functioning. I can’t reproduce their technique here other than to say that when you count down from ten to one (or something similar) and visualize yourself becoming more and more relaxed, you will tend to be producing alpha waves.

So, in many ways, what one does first is enter into a state of relaxation conducive to visualization and intuition. That’s a given. Many people have found that recorded guided visualizations help them reach an alpha level.

Assuming you can relax, take a step away from your worries and goals, and silence the ever-chattering voice inside your head, the first step is belief.

Some people see belief as a catch-22 trick foisted on the rest of us by those who write books about magic. The so-called “trick” is, if you don’t believe, the magic won’t work, though until you’ve seen evidence of it working, you have no basis for belief. I suggest approaching this issue in a spirit of play. Pretend you’re playing with the techniques rather than trying to prove anything one way or another the first time out. In time, you’ll begin to think, “hmm, this seems to be working.”

Some people, especially those whose focus is ancient ritual magic, say will power comes first. This is not altogether wrong, though I shy away from saying that because in today’s world, I think will power suggests a brute-force, logical approach. I’d rather use the term “intention.” For magic–however you define it–to work, your intention cannot be scattered with distracting thoughts about daily concerns. Your intention should also be highly focused, that is, on a specific result rather than a vague, open-ended result.

Those of us who believe in magic also believe that belief and intention play a large role in the reality we experience, and that includes the results that we see from our goals, hopes, and dreams. That is, your are already using intention and belief subconsciously, so why not use it “properly” for better results.

A generic approach to self improvement

“Properly” means not only using relaxation techniques and focusing your process, but avoiding second-guessing it later. A lot of people “undo” their best of intentions by thinking negative thoughts about them the rest of the day. Stop doing that.

Magic also works better when you can imagine the end result. All of us can see things in our mind’s eye. That’s what we do when we remember people we’ve known and places we used to live. We can see all that quite clearly. In the same way, we can imagine what things will be like when our goals–and our magic–come to pass. If you have visualized yourself moving into a better home, think of that place in your idle time: imagine the yard, the gardens, the front door, the entry hall, and the other rooms. Pretend you are there fixing a meal or watching television. What is is like?

Workable magic is usually very dependent on a relaxed level of mind, a belief in what you’re doing, a well-focused intention, and on the ability to imagine what you are creating.

Malcolm

 

 

Magic: Your Favorite Place of Relaxation

Whether you’re meditating, using affirmations to improve your outlook on life, beginning a shamanic journey, visualizing a friend’s health needs, or listening to the promptings of your inner self (AKA conscience, subconscious mind), many “systems” will suggest that you begin by going to your favorite place of relaxation.

This place can be either real or imagined. Many people choose places associated with quiet and beauty–a mountain meadow, a shimmering pool,a moonlit lake, or even an easy chair in a room filled with books and perhaps a stone fireplace. The idea here, is that over time, you will be able to imagine/visualize this setting as a place of peace and serenity.

I use an imagined mountain cabin in a real place. Once I close my eyes and pretend to be there, my blood pressure goes down, my brainwaves slow, and I find myself in a state of mind where it’s easier to “do” magic.

At the beginning, you may need to monitor your breathing as you slow yourself down and think of this place. You may find that it takes you a while to fully believe you are “in” that visualized spot where you are at one with yourself. With practice, you’ll be able to simply think of it and find yourself in a state of relaxation that facilitates meditation.

It’s difficult to focus on magic, psychic visualizations, and healing yourself and others if you are in a logical frame of mind, worse yet, worried or uptight or feeling driven. Being able to silence our mind’s constant chattering and “go” (mentally) to a real of imagined relaxing place is a signal–almost like a post-hypnotic suggestion–that you are operating at a deeper level of mind than the one you use most of the time in your waking moments.

With practice, many people can slow down their brainwaves and breathing without having to (or visualizing) a relaxing scene. For others, the relaxing scene helps. For those it helps, the place becomes something of a place of power. That is to say, while one is imagining s/he is in this place, s/he can “see” the world in a different way than we do when we’re commuting to work or sitting at a computer. At first, what we “see” may appear to be imaginary, but in time, we discover that it is a mystical connection with “the big picture” and/or psychic impressions about the problem or issue on our minds.

When I began doing magic, I found it easier to start in my imagined favorite place of relaxation. I would spend time there in idleness before doing anything else. Later, I found that I no longer needed that place, that I could feel my relaxation and attunement with my intended plans without stopping by that place.

The place we select, though, is always available to us, as a retreat from the world, as a sanctuary, and as a place of mental power. It’s a powerful spot.

Malcolm

ion

Magic: preliminary ideas

As the future unfolds, I expect much that much of what we now label as magic will no longer be regarded as superstition, wishful thinking, charlatan fabrications, occult (in the negative sense as championed by Hollywood films), or general idiocy, and will be shown to have its basis in quantum-related mental powers that can be proven and replicated and taught to others as easily as the courses in a high school curriculum.

While magic takes practice like any other natural activity–swimming, jogging, hiking–it is at it’s basis very simple. The apparent complexities arise in part because many individuals and groups that support or teach one magical approach or another and use symbols and names for their techniques that are difficult to compare with other approaches.

This is a pet peeve of mine, one that began when I was in high school and discovered–with every book or article I read–that the authors wrote about their system as though no other system existed.

What I wanted was synthesis and evolving knowledge rather than the impression that every system was unique and had no correlation with other systems. It always seemed to me that the neophyte’s life would be so much easier if, say, a book on system ABC said that our technique #1 is similar to system XYZ’s technique #2. I see many symbols and techniques that are similar in purpose and intent that it would be so easy for authors to compare and contrast in a chart in the books’ appendices.

In general, we should take a distinction between mysticism and psychic abilities and other so-called magical techniques. The intent of a mystic is usually direct attunement with the Creator so that s/he will be able to align his/her life and thoughts with the Creator’s ways, means, and intentions. Many mystics regard psychic phenomena as secondary, and sometimes an annoying byproduct, of their primary goals.

When I was young, I clashed with “church fathers” over the benefits of mysticism because–as it seemed to me–the Christian church was against mysticism for everyone but the religion’s founders. We were taught, in part, from the writings of ancient Christian mystics, but scolded if we dared to practice mysticism ourselves. Of course, if a church allows mysticism, it no longer controls the message.

Hollywood, and many occult novelists, have clouded the waters of magic by suggesting that various natural occult principles are “devil worship.” I think the organized church has been a party to this. This makes it difficult to speak of magic in a generic sense as part of every individual’s birthright because they have been brought up too think that expanding their mental capacities is evil.

I approach magic from what has often been called “esoteric Christianity” as well as the mystery schools and Kabalistic ideas about “the big picture.” This puts me at odds with the organized Christian church. If you are a firm believer within one religion or another, this may well be your starting point when you consider magic’s larger ideas. This, I think, is easier and more natural than stepping into the cultural and religious beliefs of another religion from another part of the world.

I tend to think in terms of spirituality rather than religion. This approach makes a person open to whatever enhances his/her development within a universe that is much larger than what we perceive in our day-to-day jobs, hobbies, and interactions with others.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and paranormal novels and short stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic and the theme parks

When my daughter was ten years old (give or take), my wife and I took her to see Disney World. She remembered. So this spring, she went back to Disney World and Universal Studios with her husband and two daughters. It was nice to meet them there and watch the reactions of another generation. As before, my brother and his wife were there for this visit.

Gringott’s at Universal Studios in Orlando – Malcolm R. Campbell photo

At my age, walking through theme parks for four days is hard on the legs and ankles and dangerous when one is hit by parents wielding strollers and run into by people gawking at the sights rather than watching where they are going. In spite of the sun screen, it’s hard to avoid getting sunburned.

On this trip, my wife and I enjoyed the nostalgia of the carousels. When it comes to riding in a car on rails combined with 3-D animation, life-sized automaton characters, and the design of the rooms, I thought the most creative ride at Universal Studios was the tour of Gringott’s Bank in Diagon Alley. The train ride to Hogwarts was also fun.

Unlike the children, I see the theme parks as huge, money making enterprises that play on the popularity of films to bring people into crowded attractions where the time spent waiting in lines is the longest part of the experience. Plus, I cannot help but note that the exit to every ride and attraction leads out through a gift shop. I see this for what it is.

I also see it has an experience that, for the children–and the children within each of us–can re-ignite the magical experiences of the films, and also create a few new memories. Anything that reminds us of the magic has my stamp of approval in spite of the commercialization of it. Parents need to hold the reins on spending, of course, but allowing the children time to let their imaginations run free is a wonderful gift.

The magic is certainly well-orchestrated by the parks, but it is nonetheless very real to all who believe,

Malcolm

I use magic in most of my novels and short stories, most recently “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman,”