Magick as a contact sport

personal items on an alter table
Out of the Broomcloset photo of personal items on an alter table by Leon Calafiore

Out of the Broomcloset

We are a peculiar species. Though not unique, some of us have a penchant to gather unto us heaps of things, some generally regarded as precious, others not so much, except that they attract our attention in some way, enough to desire their possession. Ravens, those most intelligent of birds, are attracted to the bright, the shiny, the intriguing, which they hoard, and sometimes present to friendly humans as a gift. It might be supposed that they recognize in some of us a kindred spirit.

It’s a short span, mentally, going from “this is interesting” to “because this is ‘interesting,’ it has significance, it has a meaning.” This is one path by which many spiritual disciplines imbue objects with importance. From here, it’s a short path to having potency by association, the physical thing becoming a conduit or battery holding a residual charge, force, or dynamics, or the once-overused term in anthropology, “mana.” Things that become “sacred,” in part, by association. It’s one reason relatives might battle over possession of Aunt Irene’s tea kettle, or Venetians to steal the bones of St. Mark from Byzantium on a visit. Not because of intrinsic value, but, because in some ineffable way, they have become a power source.

In many varieties of Magickal practices, these concepts are one of the theoretical underpinnings explaining efficacy; the part not only stands in for the whole, it embodies the whole. Even popular literature takes note of this. Just one example would be in Rosemary’s Baby: one character’s tie is a stand-in for the person themself, to be acted upon. Harm to one is harm to the other. Ira Levin was following thousands of years of storytelling when picking up on this.

While a fictional work, it embodies a caution now often ignored. It wasn’t that many years ago that the by-products of personal grooming were treated as items to be disposed of with caution; nail clippings being wrapped up and buried, or the same with the hairs brushed out of one’s head.

They were treated with the same respect as, say, the transmission of a Communion host, for much the same reason; a Magickal practitioner could make use of them. In Hoodoo/root workings, just as one example, these are just some of the “go-to” items; even the dirt from a person’s footprint can serve as effective material.

In general, any personal item you can conceive of has been used in spell working, generally for inciting love/lust or to cause harm.

In our modern world, with so much emphasis on security, alarm systems, complicated locks, and face scans to unlock your phone or office, it is peculiar to have dropped our collective guard on these security areas.

For those of you who are disrupting a daily commute with your various shenanigans (don’t you love that word) my train stop is the last on the line, you do clip your nails on the train, scattering them on the floor. You might be a bit more careful, just saying.