As a heathen shaman who practices rune-based magick and divination, I am sometimes asked to explain what I mean by the term “magick”. First, I will address the spelling choice. This is simply a way to discern between magic as an illusionary trick and magick as a means to alter the flow of energies outside of our physical self in congruence with our will. I believe this secondary spelling started with Aleister Crowley for the same purpose, and for me, it’s reasonable. I would use the term seiðr, which is the old Norse term for the practice of telling and shaping the future. But in English, Crowley’s magick is more readily understood.
The definition of magick I use is: “influencing the course of events through some mysterious or supernatural power.”
Many religions incorporate it in their practices. Christians call it “prayer”. A skeptical person might counter that there is no scientific evidence of the power of magick and it should be relegated to the domains of faith and fantasy. I disagree with this conclusion. The scientific term used for observable magick is the placebo effect.
A placebo is any treatment that, for the receiver, appears to be real but in fact is not. For example, in a clinical trial of a medication to reduce blood pressure, someone could be given a gel tablet filled with water instead of the medication. This is a placebo pill. The purpose is try and measure just how effective the medicine is.
But some people who receive the placebo pill will have a response to it as if they had received the actual medication. These responses can include the benefits as well as the side effects. There are even conditions where a person can have results from a placebo despite knowing they are taking a placebo.
“Research on the placebo effect has focused on the relationship of mind and body. One of the most common theories is that the placebo effect is due to a person’s expectations. If a person expects a pill to do something, then it’s possible that the body’s own chemistry can cause effects similar to what a medication might have caused.” – WebMD
This theory is a scientific correlation between mind/will and measurable effects. There is no concrete explanation for how mere expectations can cause the exact same effects as actual chemical medications. This means that for now, it is a mystery. The term supernatural means “attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding“. Thus the placebo effect describes the influence of an event through some mysterious or supernatural power.
I’ve also heard the term “power of suggestion” used, although that’s not as scientific. This too correlates words and ideas with actual physical changes in one or more people.
There is much in our universe that remains a mystery and is, by definition, supernatural. We cannot discount the existence of any process or manipulation based solely on our lack of scientific understanding of it. We cannot say that, since we don’t understand something scientifically, it cannot be implemented by anyone.
The methods I use as a seiðrmann to aid, influence and protect others are not rational and scientific. Their origins are a mixture of belief, will, intent and expectation. I trust science. I’m also a firm believer in things that are still beyond what we can explain scientifically. I believe spirits and various energetic flows exist but cannot yet be quantified or measured by our scientific tools. Perhaps one day they will. But for now, they are magick.