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Bringing Magic Back to a Muggle World

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We are just returning from an amazing four-day seminar in Brussels, in which we explored the role of story in transforming our lives. This workshop has inspired us toward our November 14-16th workshop with Peter Blum in Stone Ridge, New York (near Woodstock), in which we are explicitly focusing upon magic. How do we create magic in a Muggle [1] world?

Magic emerges whenever we invoke spirits, which is an essential aspect of indigenous spirituality. In this worldview, everything is spiritual, which means that everything is magical. Walt Whitman wrote about this when he said that every blade of grass was a perfect miracle. When we understand that everything in the world is conscious, then we see that everything is magical.

We are trying to make magic part of ordinary life. We are trying to avoid New Age interpretations and remain consistent with indigenous ideas in which magic is both profound and ordinary. It's ordinary that we can sit beside a tree and feel its consciousness, even communicate with it. Sometimes trees are grouchy, surly, unruly, and have nothing to say. That's life. They're not always full of lovely, uplifting messages for us. They're sometimes just angry at the way we're managing the forest. But, nevertheless, they are present and do have opinions. It's extraordinary in that energy moves matter and energy is invisible. Multiple cultures discovered the energy meridians of our bodies that move energy to keep us healthy. Energy also moved among us as we enter into the electromagnetic fields generated around our bodies by our heart's activity. Recently we reviewed a neural imaging study which showed that our brain activity synchronizes in several key areas when we communicate with each other. That's magic!

We can perceive magic when we appreciate that the clouds are alive, that trees communicate, that forces are at work, which are greater than all of us. However, the modern world makes this difficult. If we accept the indigenous worldview that everything is conscious, unless we are indigenous, we are backed into the corner of seeming New Age. We sound silly to the materialists who run the world. We run the risk of being perceived as supercilious. We sound stupid.

So how do we introduce magic into a Muggle world? In Brussels, we played with the idea of dialogue with the invisibles, of accepting that spirits are everywhere, that they can help us; that we can communicate with them, that they can guide us.

In ceremony, we invite the spirits, the invisibles to pay attention to us. We ask them to take a moment and notice us. We ask for their help. We attempt to demonstrate that we are sincere in our request and that we are worthy of their assistance. We ask the assistance of the greater spirits -- the sky spirits, the earth, the guardians of the four directions (who are also the four winds). We ask for whatever help we can get.

In our closing ceremony in Brussels, people wrote about the change in their lives that they had already made (from a perspective from the future). They offered these writings and their prayer ties [2] to the spirits in request for help in making this change already having had happened. Offering to the spirits means putting the prayer ties and the already written papers into the sacred fire. Each person made a personal entreaty to the spirits for what they wanted. We concluded with a pipe ceremony, which makes the prayers even more powerful, followed by a thank-you song.

This is magic -- the idea that invisible forces and energies can help us transform and change.

The next weekend we did a Cherokee Bodywork workshop in New York City. Cherokee bodywork is another kind of magic, that of how energy moves the physical matter of our bodies. We practiced affecting muscular aches and pains using energy medicine tools, specifically those indigenous to the Cherokee culture. It was magic. Headaches disappeared. Back and neck pains resolved. Abdominal cramps disappeared. People experienced directly how energy can change the physical matter of our bodies. Of course, osteopathic medicine is based upon this idea. Andrew Taylor Still, its American creator, grew up among the Cherokee, Shawnee, and the Pawnee, where his father was a missionary. His ideas for healing are strongly influenced by the concepts of these cultures.

We have the same question in medicine -- how do we reinvest medicine with magic. How do we bring magic into the Muggle world of medicine? By Muggle world, I mean a world constructed in a materialistic worldview. We need to believe in magic for magic to exist. The world's stories are consistent on this point. Non-believers, skeptics, and nay-sayers have difficulty with any magic. They do what they can to overthrow magic. It never disappears, but its flame becomes very small. Only a small pilot light remains.

We need each other to fuel the flame of magic. We need to meet together in ceremony and say small enough prayers and requests that we can see them come true. When we describe these small successes to each other, our faith in prayer is built. The more faith we have, the more magic we see. Magic is fueled by faith.

Materialism has all but convinced many people that magic is a pipe dream; that it doesn't exist. We have to bring it back. Ceremony helps. Being together in a healing circle in which we tell each other our stories helps. Magic arises when we see that our relationships, our intent, and our energies influence matter. Of course, these things can probably be described and explained at the quantum level, but that is beyond most of us, so we must step back and contemplate these phenomena from a more macroscopic level at which it all seems like magic. For a powerful example of this, I refer readers to Professor Stuart Hameroff's website ( in which he explains free will from a quantum perspective (I'm still struggling to understand the mathematics).

In an article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Megan Bang writes that how we think gives us different conceptualizations of nature and our place within it. Her research showed that epistemological orientations affect memory organization, ecological reasoning, and the perceived role of humans in nature. In other words, seeing nature as alive and conscious changes how we organize our memory, perform ecological reasoning, and perceive ourselves.

Cultural provides us with stories about how to make meaning, including beliefs about what sorts of things are relevant, worthy of attention and in need of explanation. A culture that accepts the influence of invisible beings and forces has very different stories about what matters than a materialist culture. For example, I learned in my childhood that being kind was more important than making money. This hasn't necessarily served my bank account, but it represents a difference in an indigenous or spiritual worldview and a materialist worldview. In the world in which I was raised, being kind was more valued than making money.

Megan Bang presents research showing that rural children, and especially rural Native American children, are less inclined than their urban counterparts to privilege humans as superior to the other animals. From our perspective, their universe is more magical in our way of talking about magic.

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)

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