“Magic’s just somebody else’s technology, that we don’t happen to understand. Yet.”
— Nick Valentine’s paraphrase of Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law.
To those first coming upon the Art Magical it may seem a hopeless tangle of terms and jargon, superstition and nonsense, chants and candles, weird symbols and arcane diagrams, revolting ingredients and mysterious rites, all drawn from moldy and sinister old books or lurid-covered new ones on the paperback racks.
Indeed. Much the same sort of scene greets those first coming upon chemistry, physics or any other scientific field. Here, though, as anywhere else there are rules and laws upon which all else is built. So let’s drop back to Magic Arts 101 and see just what framework underlies all that baffling stuff on top.
In my own experience there seem to be just seven basic laws:
1. The Law of Similarity. “Like attracts like,” or more broadly “Things that look alike can affect each other.” Not a physical law in any sense, but a mnemonic device. It’s your mind, after all, that does the magic. So if you want to affect Thing “X”, let’s say a 1957 Chevy – maybe bring one into your life? – you might include a picture or even a model of it in your spell.
2. The Law of Contagion. “What once has touched, will always be touching.” Physics is catching on to this with the idea of entanglement. Take a handkerchief to a car show, home in on that Chevy or another like it, and unobtrusively polish a side mirror or run the cloth down the car’s length. One of my Associate friends calls this “getting cooties off it.” Then fold the cloth to keep the “cooties” safe until you’re ready to use them.
3. The Components Law. “A part is the whole.” A special case of Contagion, where something not only touched Thing “X” but was actually a part of it. So to really get that Chevy coming, you might get some actual piece of one – check ebay for vintage parts! – or failing that some rust flakes or something from one in a junkyard.
4. The Law of Repetition. “Nothing works the first time.” Don’t do your spell just once and expect results. Persist! Some traditions say you should repeat it seven times, or nine or even thirteen, for best results. Others follow the moon: use the waxing half of the cycle, from new moon to full, to draw something in; the other half to push something away and out of your life. Thus to get the Chevy you’d use the waxing half.
5. The Law of Consensus. Just like repetition, this puts your spell before the Gods (or Spirit, or what-have-you) in multiple copies. Consensus is powerful. That’s why there are covens, or on the other side of the aisle, congregations. Who among your Pagan friends might like a ride in that Chevy? Get them to help!
6. The Law of Precedents. Another corollary of Repetition. A spell, or part of one, that’s survived the ages probably did because it worked…and having worked once, or many times, is more likely to work again. “Tried and true!” Thus have arisen vast (though often dusty) volumes of lore, color magic, rune magic, number magic, magic of herbs and stones and planetary influences and so forth. For instance, among runes you might represent that Chevy with Ehwaz as a “horse” for travel.
7. And finally, The Law of Balance. Nothing comes for free. How badly do you really want that Chevy? What are you willing to swap for it? Fasting (from food, or certain foods, sex, alcohol, drugs, etc.) at least shows sincerity. Service, like helping the poor or cleaning up the landscape, is better. You can promise it for the future as long as you then KEEP THE PROMISE. Please, though, don’t sacrifice living things. That NEVER ends well.
So there are the Laws as I’ve come to know them through fifty-odd years of practice. Use them well!