Being ill is bad for magick

As I'm trying to write a blog about the real experience of living a magickal life, of trying to prioritise spirituality and what-not, I think it's important to point out that it doesn't always come easily.  In fact, sometimes it hardly comes at all.  Certain events, moods, or times in life just make it hard to do spiritual work, or hard to do magick.  One serious inhibitor of magickal excellence is simply being ill.

I've just had a cold.  Not devastating by any means, but it's hung around for a long time.  There were days when I was astonished by my mucus generating facilities.  There were days when my sneezing faculty seemed to be trying to explode my head.  There were more days when I just felt a bit rough… not "I'm so ill I deserve your sympathy, please run around and take care of me" rough, just "Ugh… everything's a bit hard today" rough.

During this time I was able to go to work, get on with sorting out the house, and despite feeling more tired than usual and wanting to go to bed earlier, I was living a 'normal' life.  But there was one thing I felt a huge impact on – magick.

As discussed at length, I have a daily practice – if I put in a reasonable amount of meditation it takes about an hour, and involves a couple of reasonably involved rituals.  Nothing about it is physically taxing, or even particularly mentally taxing after this amount of practice.  I move around a bit, wave my arms in the right pattern at the right time, say the right words, sing a few more words, and that's about it.  Nothing about it would seem to strain the system… and yet, when I'm ill it is *exhausting*.

We're all familiar with how a days physical labour makes us feel tired.  Most of us are familiar with how, at the end of a mentally taxing day, we can be mentally exhausted yet feel physically restless.  There are at least two different types of being tired.   Three if you count that strange, emotionally-wrung-out, feeling you get after a lengthy cry.  Magick can sometimes involve another form of being tired – which sadly I can only really describe as being 'energetically' tired – your 'subtle/body energies' feel all tired out and out of whack.  (Must write a blog post on the frustration of the ubiquitousness of the word 'energy' in any discussion of anything weirdshit)

I was at a talk once where someone said that Crowley had said one shouldn't practice magick whilst physically ill.  If Crowley gave a complete explanation of why, it wasn't passed on in the talk.  Crowley said one should, instead, study and read and wait for physical strength to return.

I don't have a clear explanation of what happens magickally when you're ill, so the following will naturally be extremely subjective – but this is what it feels like to me.  When I'm at my best performing a magickal act causes a shift of energy in my body – I can feel it.  Sometimes as a tingling feeling, or as a warmth, or just as 'wave of emotion' passing through part of my body.  It tends to feel rather pleasant, empowering, often with a thrill of excitement.  However, when I wasn't well these feelings were rather different – they felt stressful, the energy seemed to 'fizz' in a way that wasn't comfortable, it felt very much like if I 'pushed' much harder something might short circuit or overflow…

I'm not foolish enough to ignore the feelings I was experiencing – I backed way off in the work I was doing.  Going through the motions, but not focussing as much, not pushing as much, not trying to draw as much energy through me or into the room.  Whilst I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for anyone else, for me it felt important to 'keep turning up' – to keep up the daily work, even if it wasn't being done with the same vividness, energy and commitment as it had been before.  But I wanted to keep a firm connection with that part of me which is on this current spiritual journey, so I was effectively saying "I don't feel so good, I'm not going to do this so well, but I'm still here, I'm still keen, and I'll be ready to pick up again just as soon as my body recovers".  But actually doing the work wasn't particularly pleasant, and didn't feel very comfortable at times.  So I throttled back and took it very gently for a little while.

As I recovered from being ill the magickal acts started to feel more natural again.  Energy ceased to fizz in a disconcerting way, and started to flow again.  I could go deeper, focus more, push a little harder.

But it hasn't all been easy.  It turns out, moving house is bad for magick too.

2 Responses to "Being ill is bad for magick"

  1. Antara says:

    Very interesting article and I definitely do know where you are coming from although I would add a couple of points as food for thought. Largely because I think you are discussing one particular type or practice of Magick and I am not sure that is the whole story.

    1. Firstly prolonged periods of illness can be a catalyst for magickal and spiritual work and development. I know of several people who have had accelerated magickal development as a result of illness or or infirmity. Since illness can lead to periods of forced inactivity in the whole of your life, taking a pause in this way can open up new gateways for the mind to explore. There is a lovely, if fictional, description of this in Dion Fortune's "Sea Priestess" concerning the main character's asthma.

    2. This does pre-suppose that the only magick one does is of the type described above. I am currently ungergoing a period of trying to integrate my life with my magick and part of this is not seeing magick as a separate thing but as part of a way of living. Not to say that big powerful pieces do not have their place but they are not the only magick that can be done and that other magick isn't particularly problematic to engage in whilst ill. Possibly because the energy shifts are smaller. I'll use the analogy of exercise. In my life I do two types of exercise, the general day to day exercise I get from just walking to the shops, cycling to work – none of which requires anything special, it is just a part of my life. Then I go for runs, do aerobics and go swimming. This second variety needs time specially set aside, special clothing and leaves me tired, sweaty and with a faster pulse. If I am ill I won't do the second type of exercise but if I only have a cold I'll still be walking to the shops and cycling to work.

    So whilst I definitely agree that I wouldn't do a really heavy piece of ritual work whilst ill, I do think it is important to continue to walk to the shops.

    My main point though is that we need to acknowledge the different ways of doing Magick and what is appropriate when; but not concentrate on the really "big" stuff at the expense of other Magickal expression.

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