Magicians, especially chaos magicians, tend to stick apart. While we love the fellowship and face-to-face technique-sharing of groups such as the IOT, we are mostly on our own. If you live in the British Isles you have a cultural reluctance to travel more than 40 miles to a meeting. And if you live in the Bible Belt of the USA you might have to keep your head below the parapet or risk the angry mob, torches and pitchforks. And you come to suspect that you are indeed the only one in the village.
It isn’t easy going it alone. Fellow magicians can give you feedback on how you’re doing and cautionary tales to match the gleeful accounts of successes. This alone may prevent you falling into serious practice errors or simply becoming deluded and, frankly, batshit crazy.
It’s particularly hard because our culture doesn’t have any place for what we’re doing and would basically like us to stop. We are broadly expected to be good little consumers, pay down our debts and passively support the runaway crony capitalism that will eventually grind us down. And we should definitely — DEFINITELY! — not rock the boat.
We rock the boat with our accounts of impossible coincidences, of aesthetics that owe little to the fashion industry, of dealing with forces beyond the acceptable god and of exploring alternatives to the blind selfishness of materialism.
And our culture pushes back, bombarding us with consumer entrainment — every website teaching us to be better consumers; with journalism that swings between banal irrelevancies (celebrititis — is that a word?) and fear-mongering propaganda; with education indoctrinating us from the start with the lie that we are each lonely ghosts in meat suits, ignorant and lost in a world that may not even be real. A world where magic is a children’s entertainment and the hole in your life is best filled with toys.
Being on your own in this shitstorm is no easy matter. As Gordon White points out, we appear to be heading for interesting times. There are big waves coming, and not only do we need to get ready to surf them, but in this broken culture of ours there’s a crying need for magicians to pull together when the surf’s up. Hence our concern to find the others.
The Internet? Well, yes, it has its uses. Online communities with shared values around magic can help us offset the daily brainwash. Of the people we find on the Web, some will be close enough to meet. We can connect, even do magic together, via video conferencing. Swapping information has never been easier, and there’s never been so much of it to swap.
It’s almost as good as the real thing. Almost.
Face-to-face still matters. Pheromones or something. And body language, gesture, voice tonality and so on that you just can’t get in a format like … well, this. Text. Even with pictures. It’s only when you do video conferencing that you realise just how inadequate it is. And let’s not try to comfort ourselves by pretending that it’s only a matter of time before ‘they’ get the technology right. ‘Their’ technology gives us targeted adverts that are more important to them than making better occultniks. So let’s not place too much faith in ‘them.’ It’s not a tech issue.
So what then? You live in Somewhere, Arizona. Chances are you’re in the majority of people who live in an urban setting. How do you find the others? Here are some strategies which have been proven to work.
First, use that funky Internet and put the call out. “Anyone here from or near Somewhere, Arizona?” For bonus points try “Anyone here know anyone in Somewhere, Arizona that could hook up?”
Second, do the rounds of the known groups of anyone related to occultism. You know the sort of thing: the stuff that American born-agains keep saying are gateways to the occult. They’re right. Go through those gateways. Go to all these places the seekers go, because you’re seeking.
Down my way there are pagan moots. Lots of them. Then there are meditation groups, psychics, mediums, non-standard religions, certain martial arts (Qigong is basically energy magic, yeah?), those with alternative lifestyles, especially goths and LGBTetc., LARP and other roleplay groups (Yes. A wonderful witch friend of mine started out as a LARPer until it occurred to her that the role could be a reality also), even … new-agers. Now don’t be snooty: go and see before judging.
What you’re unlikely to find is a group with your name on. That’s okay, because you’re not looking for a perfect match here; you’re looking for others with some angle into magic in whatever form they have it.
So leave that smartmouth shitposting Internet version of you at the keyboard and go and talk to these people. So what that it’s not quite what you’re looking for? They count as ‘the others’ for our purposes. Chat to them, get to know them, find out what they’re into. You might even learn something along the way. You may even make — gulp! — real friends among them. Because they’re going to be very different from you, you’ll need to play nicely, disclosing what you’re about in as gentle a manner as possible. You may need to prove your good intentions over time.
Then there are the places. Browse the occult section of your nearest bookshop (you were doing this anyway, weren’t you?) until you start to recognise other browsers. Same for the library. And whatever places in town sell witchy stuff. Chat to the people behind the counter. They might know who you’re looking for.
Look for the signs. Someone at a party is wearing a pentagram ring. Tell them it looks nice and ask them what it means to them. You’re in the supermarket and bump into someone with ‘Do What Thou Wilt’ tattooed across their chest (yes, I do know someone …). Subtle stuff like that. Forget the black metal tee shirt people though. Most are in it only for the music.
And of course, give some sign yourself. If a pentagram is a bit blatant for your town, try wearing a chaostar pendant or a triskele. Just don’t try to signal by acting ‘spooky.’ You’ll only come across like an utter twat.
And the events. Hunt the Internet and the noticeboards at the witchy shop, the psychic centre, the library, whatever and pick up contacts from there, especially notifications of events: festivals, courses, workshops, groups. Go to something, if only to expand your mind and your social network and maybe learn something (again). And of anyone you come across, remember that even if they are not what you’re looking for, they might know of someone who is. Ask.
This will take months, and you could keep this up for years. You’ll be very fortunate indeed if you get lucky on the first flush of making contacts. Be prepared to stick at it. Don’t just have a bash at it and give up because you found nobody straight away.
And then …? Well, you’ve been doing the rounds, finding these people. You didn’t find a badass chaos magic group to join. Godsdamit! Now what?
As with all resources, if you can’t find it, make it yourself. If you’ve been doing this much, you already know a couple of people who might like to do something magical. So arrange it. Just the few of you. See how it goes. If it works out okay, arrange another. And so on. Together you can build a group that suits each of you in it. You want to do chaos magic? Show them how it goes. They want to do a Wiccan rite? Bite the bullet and Call those Quarters. You could even combine the two. Want to explore a different magic? Explore it together. Nobody has to own anyone. Nobody has to sign anything.
Get a group, however informal, up and running and you’ll attract creeps like shit attracts flies and you will need to exercise a bit of leadership and shut them out. Look out for three main sorts:
- Needy people. These are looking for help. If allowed, their needs and problems will vampirize your group’s activity and your conversations. While it’s sad that these people have problems, you are not there to be their therapist. So don’t get sucked in. Rather, send them off to find help elsewhere.
- Weirdos. Yeah. Irony alert. But these weirdos have poor social skills or they’re obsessive and/or deluded about something, and they are strange and off-putting, and sometimes physically gross. They will destroy your group by driving away the sort of people you actually wanted. Drive the weirdos away first.
- Predators. Whenever you build something of value someone will turn up and try to take it off you for their own purposes. Typically, it’s a wannabe puppet-master who is too incompetent to build something themselves, but they will charm and manipulate their way into your confidence and then make their move. It’s difficult to spot these in time, but never give away your autonomy and always be prepared to expel the infiltrator.
These cautionary notes shouldn’t scare you off making connections, forming associations, making friends, learning loads, building a group. Do something small and local, choose your people, keep it worthwhile for each member, and it should flourish. I have done this over many years and I guarantee it works. The magical network is the new magical order. Good luck and good hunting in finding the others.