Originally published in Genii Magazine

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Every so often magicians will tell me that whenever they try to write presentations for their magic, their minds go blank. Just blank; no ideas at all. I am usually then asked if I ever experience this kind of creative blankness myself. Of course, I do! I'm experiencing it right now, in fact, as I ponder a subject for this month's column!

Part of the difficulty is that I am writing this in mid-October. Crisp leaves are falling from the trees and will soon fill Chicago's sidewalks and streets with vivid colors and the sounds and smells of autumn. I've been traveling quite a bit this year and I am happy to be home for a few weeks because autumn in Chicago is my favorite time of the year. Even though you will be reading these words in December, with its profound symbolism of stars and light, my psyche is presently caught up preparing itself for the darkness and mystery of Halloween. This Halloween, along with Will Rosenzweig and Jay Inglee, I will be summoning "Wine and Spirits" at the Belvedere Winery in Northern California. I've been busy preparing some new spirit materializations. Not exactly the state of mind to write a Genii Christmas essay.

Whoops! A self-correcting image just flashed before my mind: I was in Los Angeles a few months ago and stopped by The Magic Castle for Sunday Brunch. As you probably know, Sunday afternoon is the only time of the week (happily) when children are allowed in The Magic Castle. I was sitting in the Palace of Mystery enjoying the show when the performer on stage, the utterly delightful Jim Piper, noticed that one of the children in the audience was missing a few front teeth. Jim commented, "Well, we all know what you'll be wanting for Christmas." The five or six year old immediately replied, "We don't celebrate Christmas."

The self-contained little world in which I grew up seems to have disappeared. When I was in elementary school -- a Chicago public elementary school, I should add -- we always celebrated the Christmas season with a complete seven act Nativity pageant, including somber readings from the Gospel of Matthew! Once, wearing a bright plaid bathrobe, I got to play a shepherd boy along with Dennis Minsky, the only Jewish student in my class and one of four or five in my school. I don't think anyone ever asked Dennis what he thought about all this pageantry -- though we at least got the ethnicity of one of the shepherd boys right!

But those days are gone forever. During the 22 years that I have been a professional magician I have observed the magical transformation of corporate Christmas parties into more neutral Holiday parties -- with everyone evidently selecting the holiday of their choice to celebrate. These changes reflect our growing realization that we really do live in a pluralistic world -- a world in which we need to talk and relate to other people without feeling the need to convert them to our values. Fellowship across differences. Peace among persons of goodwill. These seem to be the general mottoes for the American "Holiday Season."

Well, if a Christmas essay is out, my next thought for a good subject was (obviously) the new Millennium. Here we are, facing the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st (which will be but days away as you read this). I hate to spoil the party but it all depends upon when you begin counting. In calendar reckoning, for example, Jesus' birthday was December 25 of the year 0, yet probably less than five percent of today's Biblical scholars would place his birthday in that year. Most seem to prefer 6 to 10 BCE as a more likely date. Some even suggest a BCE birth year. (The fascinating thing about Biblical scholarship is that no one seems to agree with anyone else about anything.)

As for the "New Millennium," I strongly suspect that around January or February of the year 2000, the cry will suddenly arise that we didn't really celebrate the "New" Millennium when the calendar went from 1999 to 2000; no, no, that transition happens when the calendar goes from 2000 to 2001. In this way, advertisers, marketers, and party goers will have yet another big party to celebrate at the end of 2000. It should be great for anyone in the party business. But, honestly, these numbers are all quite arbitrary because they all depend on when we start our counting.

And much the same applies for our basic New Year celebration as well. In the West, we place this in the winter. Other calendars put the beginning of the "New Year" at different times of the year.

What is interesting to me in all this is not that different cultures start the New Year at different times, but that they celebrate a new year at all. Yet the fact seems to be that a surprisingly large number of cultures around the world do look to this idea of a New Year and its symbolism of a new beginning for all life.

Why have we humans come to feel that such ideas are important? Why do we entertain them? These are celebrations that remind us that it is time to die to the old, to put it behind us, and to awaken to the new, to the gifts and challenges that await us. The New Year is a time for personal reflection and inner refreshment as we contemplate where we have been and where we might be going. These, I submit, are important activities for our own sanity -- and so even if there isn't a "New" year in fact, we must invent one to satisfy our deep inner need to move forward.

Will this be a New Year for my magic? Or will my magic simply reflect a thousand yesterdays? Shall I now die to the old in my magic and awaken to something new? And what would this mean? What would it be to do this? Will the coming year, 2000, really be a "new" year for your magic! This is the time for each of us to reflect upon such questions and, more than reflect, be moved to action.

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Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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