Try Magic: What have you got to lose?

If you’ve read this blog and/or my books for a while, you know that I don’t doubt the reality of magic. Magic is–or should be–an optional subset of mysticism, that is to say, a direct communion with the god of your heart. I have always thought magic worked better within the context of one’s belief system rather than as an end in itself.

When some people read books filled with promises–like “The Secret” they are often inspired to try what they otherwise might not try. Sometimes they succeed. They’re more likely to succeed right after reading the book because they are attuned to the idea that all things are possible. So, before doubts enter into their thoughts, they often see things happen that they might never have expected prior to reading the book.

Magic, and by that, I don’t mean the sleight of hand and illusions of stage magicians, is always part of a larger system of thought, a way of looking at the world that isn’t confined to the limitations of every-day logic. For example, the hoodoo practices I talk about in my Florida Folk Magic novels are part of the culture in which they thrive. One can’t extract the spells and modes of thinking from the culture and expect them to work.

The same could be said about magic within the “old religion” (true witchcraft rather than Wicca), Hawai’ian mysticism (Huna), the practices of shamans in multiple cultures, Celtic (Druid) worldviews, and others. The first problem many people have after they finish a book or a weekend retreat or a class on magic and/or psychic techniques is merging their new knowledge into their own culture.

If you live in, say, Orlando, Florida, it’s difficult to merge, for example, Huna practices into your daily life because Hawai’ian mysticism is not the world view of most people living in Orlando. So, whatever you have learned, you will be at a disadvantage unless you can shield yourself from the mainstream worldview where you live and work.

Magic need to be culturally dependent, that is, it can be eclectic and not an integral part of a specific culture. While the tenants of this magic don’t synchronize well with what most of one’s friends and colleagues believe in, they are easier to pursue than those that are part of a minority group or culture. Nonetheless, the magic is still part of an altered way of looking at truth and the world and the “big picture” and cannot be separated from it. I have found this an easier route than, say, following hoodoo or Huna or Native American belief systems. There is nothing wrong with those systems other than the fact that (for me) I’m not attuned to those cultures. So, my approach is based on my own culture instead of somebody else’s culture.

You can find magic and mysticism at The Rosicrucian Order and The Silva Method that aren’t based on the cultures and rituals of marginalized groups. These are, so to speak, somewhat generic. Or, if you’re looking for inspiration, perhaps you’ll find if at Duirweigh Studios or in the books by Joseph Campbell. These are all routes to magic.

One of the best books–which you can find free on the Internet–about magic is James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh. Really, this old book says it all. For magic to work in your life, your worldview–whether “generic” or based on a particular culture–must accept the tenants and practices of the magic. Seriously, the magic and everything that surrounds it must be part of your life.

When it comes down to the nitty gritty, magic won’t work if you don’t think it will work, or if you have doubts about it. That’s a tall order because we’re expected to believe before we have any proof. I know, that’s not logical, so you must set logic aside before you practice magic. And don’t rush it.

–Malcolm

Sunday Clatterings: magic to tennis to spring

When stuff falls on the floor, it (the stuff) clatters. This is what happens when people try to spring forward into daylight savings time when they first wake up. Florida’s trying to stay on daylight savings time. I’d rather see the whole country standardize on standard time instead of the “extra sunshine” nonsense. I love the sound of clocks hitting the floor: doesn’t everyone?

The day before the hard freeze.
  • Several days ago, I was convinced spring had arrived. Rain had jump-started this year’s crop of weeds in the yard. The buds on the Japanese Magnolia were about to zap into full bloom. Then we had a hard freeze and flowers everywhere got ruined. Then it rained again. At least we’re not living in East Glacier or Browning, Montana where February was a record snowy month.
  • Better vision today after going back to the ophthalmologist Wednesday so he could use his lase to get rid of the cloudiness in my right eye and, while I was there, touch up a few missed spots in my left eye.
  • For reasons unknown, everyone’s eyes glaze over on Facebook whenever I mention I’ve been watching tennis and/or that I’m happy that the Williams sisters won their matches at the tournament in Indian Wells, California. I guess most people don’t like tennis or are unaware that the Williams sisters have dominated women’s tennis for a quarter of a century. I thought I’d mention this in today’s post so your eyes would glaze over, too.
  • I pre-ordered my Scots language copy of the first book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stane. Amazon was proud of itself for saving me 5 cents because pre-orders lock in the price; then they had to apologize for delivering it late. It was supposed to arrive on the 8th and it’s still not here. If th’ book isnae ‘ere by Tuesday, a’m aff tae speil bagpipes in th’ amazon affice.
  • It’s comfort food week compliments of my wife’s dentist. He extracted a compacted molar several weeks ago. Things seemed to be going well with her gum healing up until the bone spurs appeared. (Think of chewing food with a cactus in your mouth.) So, we were back to the dentist two days ago so he could make another incision and grind down the spurs. That means soft food: mac & cheese, ravioli, ice cream.
  • I’ve been thinking about Angi Sullins’ comment in the introduction to her book Doorways and Dreams. She (and I agree) doesn’t see real magic as the stuff out of Harry Potter. Instead she says that it’s a “more-ness shimmering behind our everyday reality.” It shimmers in our dreams and meditations and sometimes in things one sees out of the corner of his eye. I figure that has long as it’s there, it’s a practical energy we can use to better understand and create the reality going on around us. If you’ve read my books, you’ve seen how it works.
  • If you like mystery/thrillers, see my review of Jane Harper’s Force of Nature. If you like satire, see my latest Jock Stewart post about hoodoo workers hexing Congress.

Have a great week.

–Malcolm

Where did I get the name for my previous blog?

In 2004, I self-published the first edition of my contemporary fantasy novel The Sun Singer. The second edition, from a small publisher, came out in 2010. When that edition went out of print, I self-published the current edition in 2015.

The story is about a young man named Robert Adams who travels to a look-alike version of Glacier National Park, Montana, where he finds a raging battle in progress between the evil king and a rebel group. While Robert has had some psychic skills for many years, he buried then as deep in his mind as possible because he stopped trusting them. Now, to survive the battles and find his way home to our world, he must rely on them once again.

The Sun Singer is a hero’s journey novel, that is to say, a story about a person who undertakes a journey and comes back from it forever changed. Oddly enough, I began dreaming about this story when I was in junior high school. On a visit to see my grandparents in Illinois, we visited Allerton Park, now owned by the University of Illinois, which serves as a convention center and nature preserve with a collection of outdoor statuary including The Sun Singer. It was almost as thought my seeing that statue created the connection to a story I was destined to write.

In some ways, I am the Sun Singer. Each of us is, when you consider the fact that our life’s journey seems to be intended to transform us into the very best we can be. With that in mind, it seemed fitting to name original blog “The Sun Singer’s Travels.” It was about the hero’s journey, my own journey through my published books, and–through its writing posts–the journeys each of us take when we write a novel or short story. A few months ago, I merged that blog into this one to reduce the amount of time it took to keep two blogs active and up to date.

The sequel to The Sun Singer, Sarabande, is a heroine’s journey novel in which a young woman comes from the look-alike world into our world to search for Robert Adams. She doesn’t have an easy time of it. Even though I’m no longer using the original blog name, I’m still focused on the same kinds of ideas and subject matter.

I’m very definitely a child of the new age, a long time student of magic, and a strong believer that each of us is much more powerful and complex than we appear. The challenge is finding out how and why that is so and then creating a world that mirrors our highest goals.

–Malcolm

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New Year, New Look, New URL

For the new year, I’ve changed the WordPress Theme for this blog’s look and feel as well as the URL:  https://malcolmsroundtable.com/

I used the previous theme for quite a few years and was especially fond of it. Who knows, maybe I’ll return to it some day. But for now, a clean slate for 2018.

The picture is all about magic, though I can’t promise my novels or blog posts will float in the air in a cloud of blue smoke. Being more consistent than usual, I’m using the same picture here as I do on my Conjure Woman’s Cat website.

The magic on this blog comes from my novels, at present the Florida Folk Magic series published by Thomas-Jacob Publishing in Florida. Already released are Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. I’ve promised my publisher the third book in the series by Spring.

You’ll also find magic in posts here that relate to life itself, the idea being that we’re all on a hero’s journey or a heroine’s journey in an attempt to become the best that we can be. Life transforms us. There’s a synchronicity to it that tends to put in our path the very things we need whether they’re experiences, people, epiphanies about the cosmos, the environment and our stewardship of it, or even books, music and songs.

As an author, I can’t help but talk about books, writing techniques, and publishing. Sometimes you’ll find a review of a book I enjoyed, or a tip about making stories and novels better, or an occasional feature called “Book Bits” that lists links to reviews, author interviews, and publishing news.

While I’ll often mention other books and authors from Thomas-Jacob Publishing, I don’t review my colleague’s books here or on Amazon or GoodReads because doing so just doesn’t look right. They don’t review my books either. But all of us talk a lot about the books we like for the same reason a NASCAR driver talks about a new engine: we can’t help it.

One thing you won’t find here very often is politics because, as I see on the news and on Facebook, that’s hard to discuss without getting into a shouting match. I don’t think those shouting matches make things better. Nonetheless, my old-school reporter character Jock Stewart (from my novel Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire) will occasionally contribute a satirical news story post about real or imagined events that probably have political overtones. (Authors really don’t have as much control over their characters as readers believe, so I’m innocent here when Jock writes what he writes.)

I really don’t think the New Year gives us a clean slate any more than any other day, but this seemed like a good moment for some shameless self-promotion about this blog and its new look. As always, I appreciate all of you who stop by and read my posts and hope that your journey through 2018 is everything you desire.

–Malcolm

 

 

Briefly Noted: ‘Old Style Conjure’ by Starr Casas

Those who know Mama Starr Casas from her Old Style Conjure website, need no introduction to this practical guidebook published in September. Like her website commentaries, it’s blunt, practical, based on the culture she grew up in, and overviews works (spells) and approaches in an easy to understand manner. The book reminds us that conjure (hoodoo, rootwork) is directly linked to African American ancestors, the Christian Bible, and common sense approaches to magic based on the materials at hand in a typical Southern household.

Conjure workers are usually Christian. I like Casas’ statement, “If you remove the Bible from Old Style Conjure work then what you are doing really isn’t Conjure work! It then becomes something else. If you can hold the greatest Conjure book ever written in your hands and learn the power from it; why in the world would you let anyone stop you?” She also doesn’t agree with people who mix hoodoo with other forms of magic in a roll-your-own approach.

Publisher’s Description:

Conjure, hoodoo, rootwork―these are all names for southern American folk magic. Conjure first emerged in the days of slavery and plantations and is widely considered among the most potent forms of magic. Its popularity continues to increase, both in the United States and worldwide. This book is a guide to using conjure to achieve love, success, safety, prosperity, and spiritual fulfillment. Author Starr Casas, a hereditary master of the art, introduces readers to the history and philosophy of conjure and provides practical information for using it. Featuring Casas’s own rituals, spells, and home recipes, the book provides useful information suitable for novices and seasoned practitioners alike.

In its pages, you’ll learn about:

  • Bone reading
  • Candle burning
  • Conjure bags
  • Building your own conjure altar

Research or Practical Use

This book is readable and should be very helpful to those who are interested in folk magic as an avocation, want to try out spell work themselves, or are fascinated by the history and culture of hoodoo. Students of magic will also enjoy the inspirational forward by Orion Foxwood.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two hoodoo novels, “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

Reading separate books together

“Sometimes they would sit in the parlor together, both reading – in entirely separate worlds, to be sure, but joined somehow. When this happened, other people in the family couldn’t bring themselves to disturb them. All that could be heard in the parlor was the sound of pages, turning.” ― Alice HoffmanBlackbird House

People who read together in silence–except for the sound of pages turning–in the same room are usually comfortable together. I’m thinking of families and friends, not passengers on a plane or people in a waiting room at the train station.

Some say that when you use the technique of astral projection, you imagine yourself away to other worlds as a shaman does, leaving your body unattended. To some extent, this happens when we read. Books carry us away upon spells of words just  as surely as dreams carry us away while we’re sleeping.

During a family visit, we all sat in the living room reading our very disparate books. We weren’t there, yet we were there, linked both by our trust in leaving our bodies unattended and by our common, quiet activity. It’s a good feeling, almost as good as lovers who feel secure in silence while they sit on a park bench and day dream, holding hands or leaning against each other.

In the evening, the living room lamps create pools of light where each reader sits. Yet those pools overlap and we are all one within our shared light. I suppose we could each do this with laptop computers or phones for texting, but the books truly have more magic in them making for a deeper experience.

I hope you have also found this to be true.

–Malcolm

Review: Alice Hoffman’s ‘The Rules of Magic’

The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Rules of Magic,” the prequel to Alice Hoffman’s 1995 bestseller “Practical Magic,” sparkles with the same wisdom and magical realism as the witching story of Sally and Gillian Owens did twenty two years ago. The characters, stories and writing style of this stunning prequel fit hand-in-glove with the characters, stories and writing style of “Practical Magic,” not an easy bit of conjuring for an author to face when going back to a story she told before she truly knew the magical rules when she first wrote about them.

This backstory about Sally and Gillian’s aunts Franny and Bridget (AKA “Jet”) focuses on a theme about life’s curses and blessings and what individuals wish to make of the fate and destiny they are given. Early on, Franny and Jet’s mother asks the sisters whether they’re opting for courage or caution in their unfolding lives. Their answers make for a cohesive story. Clearly, Alice Hoffman opted for courage when she traveled back to 1995 to continue the story of the Owens family.

The book contains wonderful surprises, making it much deeper than a family tree tacked on to the front of a famous novel many years later. The book offers its own multiple levels of depth and angst and joy while changing in positive ways the way many of us who read it will view the characters and themes of the original novel. (Emerging writers considering magical realism as a potential genre for their work will find both novels to be a demonstration of how an author can utilize magic and realism seamlessly in novels set in today’s world.”

While the ending of “The Rules of Magic” represents the best of all possible worlds for the two novels and their characters, turning the last page might be depressing for some readers. The reason is simply this: nobody wants the story to end because when it comes down to it, we need these characters, their joys and sorrows, and their magic in our lives.

View all my reviews

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.