Magickal Overload

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

Do you think more magick is being done now than in any other time in history? While our modern society can be considered secular, the growth of the population as a whole and the availability of resources—including popular books and now the internet combined with many magickal techniques being reframed as self-help and personal transformation—could result in an increase in magick. Or perhaps I’m low-balling ancient populations steeped in daily folk magick or even the ubiquitousness of magick in more recent Christian times. I don’t honestly know. But I think about it a lot.

My family had divination and Italian Catholic folk magick, but their usage wasn’t an everyday thing. It was either for “fun” or in emergencies. My relatives had a divinely inspired worldview, one of God and saints being directly involved in life, but it wasn’t a particularly magickal one. Nothing was rooted in the land, or even the ancestors.

Perhaps there is an illusion on social media of more people doing magick when really there are simply more people talking about magick and posting pretty photos. Perhaps it’s all flash and very little bang.

But I do think there has been a huge upswing in magick from, say, the 1940s to now, at least in the US. I would normally think that is great—a sign of the Aquarian Age with each individual stepping into their power and creating their life, making magick accessible to all—but last night’s 3 a.m. deep thoughts had me wondering about that assessment. What is our collective psychic landscape looking like with all that magick flying around? What is it doing to the collective consciousness?

There’s more magick, yes, but less training. Combine that with a tendency to take off the ethical training wheels before learning the consequences of our actions and you get more magick, yes, but also more curses. And while some are for justice, many are for petty reasons cast in anger or jealousy. And while our collective landscape has always had anger, jealousy, malice, and injustice, magick ritual carries more voltage than the average person’s daily thoughts.

Perhaps there are also more collective prayer requests focused on specific actions and times; these are most often Christian, due to “prayer warriors” being coordinated online, but also include group healing via Reiki and the like, which operate on a similar framework. Are they not also a form of magick as they cause change? Are they of the same voltage as a small prayer circle gathered in a church with a prayer list? I don’t know. But they do contribute to the churning energies.

While I think magick comes from your enchanted worldview and how you live your life, and I believe in magick permeating the everyday, bigger acts of magick have a true voltage. It’s hard to carry. In times past, our insulation was temple living, oriented to the sacred technologies and supported by community, protected by the solitude of the forest hedge or mountain cave. When we don’t take breaks from big magick, we burn out, imbalance our endocrine system, and short-circuit our energy networks. We can literally go mad as our magickal wires fry and our vessel cracks.

I look to our collective world and wonder if the level of bigger and more globally connected magick—often created in haphazard and selfish ways unrooted in egregore, tradition, or the ancestors—is doing good or causing harm?

Collectively there is a lot of talk about self-care (for many reasons in our modern society), but self-care is also a key to healing from magickal overload and burnout. On a personal level, I wonder about the intense attention and energy directed at individuals via social media. I think a point of success and failure with many modern film, TV, and musical stars (as well as politicians) is the intense energy, both good and bad, directed at them. Love, adoration, obsession, jealousy, and anger have a real voltage, even from ordinary people. That mechanic is now repeated on multiple small scales via social media, both for influencers and ordinary people who unwittingly go “viral.”

Now we have a generation of magickal social media stars, the next crop of what was once referred to as the Big Name Pagans, or BNP. The difference today with all of us is the continual stream of daily and weekly status updates instead of the occasional event, interview, or new book release from the relatively small group of BNP. Couple that with a magickal community with access to more technique, often less training and ethics, and a greater willingness to curse for smaller reasons, and you have a dangerous mix. When I see many social-media-savvy influencers and big names post some accomplishments or a controversial opinion and then post how they are repeatedly sick, it’s easy to think there is some malefica going on against them, be it a conscious curse or unconscious lashing out. Previous generations of Witches would never announce they were sick or traveling publicly until they were better or had arrived. Keeping such information close was a commonsense magickal precaution. No wonder experienced magickal practitioners are often aghast to see the new generation announce everything and then seem bewildered by their obstacles. Their past “fights” were in the slow-print pagan publications, the letter columns, and the community responses. The constant personal content whips up people, including the magickally inclined audience, filling the ethers more than ever before. Newer public figures deal with more of a public energetic response, good and bad, than ever before. Some may make you stronger, but not always.

While my future hopeful vision is a secular Aquarian world with freedom and support for all spiritual paths, I see magick being a huge part of that, at least for me. I think whatever our collective path, for survival and/or self-development, we will be using magick. Perhaps a time of more chaotic and random magick being thrown around now is part of that future’s growing pains.

Temple of Witchcraft