What is magic?
Dion Fortune defined magic as 'the art of changing consciousness at will'. That's certainly part of it. Karl C Klein says 'Magic is the science of hidden relationships' (http://spiritualvision.org/Being/Magic.html). That's part of it too!
All that exists is energy. We are energy, matter is energy, and thought is energy. Witches have a saying - 'thoughts are things'. That means that what you think has it's own reality.
Imagine life as a flowing river. Everyone's actions, thoughts
and the energy of all things determine the particular direction of the
flow. Our behaviour and our thoughts influence this flow. Magic is like
changing the flow by carefully placing small rocks into the river at just
the right place.
Magic is a craft, so it takes time and care. It's shifting our awareness to connect with other beings and weaving symbols with energy to create a channel for shifting subtle flows of creation.
What is Eco-magic?
Eco-magic (sometimes spelt 'Eco-magick') is almost impossible to define. It's an evolving practice that blurs into a whole ideology of change, an organic, shifting, evolving energy that refuses to be shut up in a box. There's an old Zen saying: 'To define is to limit'.
That said, Dragon has usefully defined eco-magic as 'The use of magical & spiritual techniques for the benefit or protection of the environment'.
We believe that magic backed by practical action is more effective, so eco-magic often supports conventional campaigning or is integrated with direct action. (See Starhawk, The Spiral Dance).
In principle, almost any magical tradition or technique can be adapted to eco-magic and we work with a wide variety of deities.
But there are exceptions. For some people, the idea of magic conjures up a vision of a magician (almost always a man), standing in his Circle of Power and commanding the spirits to do his bidding. As you'd expect, this isn't eco-magic! Some Ceremonial Western magical traditions treat Nature Spirits as inferior beings and that's completely wrong-headed.
That kind of controlling magic is very 'heady' and more formal than eco-magic. Our style of magic is organic and can be done very simply, with the minimum of tools or ritualizing or words.
Dragon eco-magic has certain distinctive qualities.
It tends to be a quite physical way of working that often uses elements of performance, especially drumming, dance and chanting.
There are certain symbols and myths we use a lot. We often work with the goddess Gaia and the Green Man, the Dragon, (symbol of Earth energy), spirals and runic talismans (e.g. the Dragon Tree Rune).
Eco-magic often involves working with the ‘Genius Loci’ of the place, the Devas or Faery Folk who can be teachers and allies in our work.
The Faery or 'Fair Folk' are the Spirits of the Place, of the trees, plants and streams. It is very important to honour the Fair Folk. If you are outside ask if it is appropriate for you to work in that particular place. If you are working in doors, at least invite the Folk to join you.
Dragon eco-magic is non-violent, non-hierarchical, and strives towards wholistic solutions. It is a magic that works toward building a relationship between the natural world and human kind. It never includes cursing or similar 'aggressive' magic. Everything is connected, so any harm you do will also be harmful to yourself.
Working with Power
Starhawk expresses this principle very well in her discussion of power. She describes three forms of power; 'Power-over', 'Power-with', and 'Power-from-within':
"…power-over sees the world as an object, made up of many separate, isolated parts that have no intrinsic life, awareness, or value…human beings have no inherent worth; value must be earned or granted…Power-over motivates through fear…"
"Power-from-within…sees the world itself as a living being, made up of dynamic aspects…where there are no solid separations and no simple cause and effects. In such a world, all things have inherent value…its motivations are erotic in the broadest sense of the deep drives in us to experience and share pleasure, to connect, to create, to see our impact on others and on the world…"
"Power-with…bridges the value systems of power-from-within and power-over. Power-with sees the world as a pattern of relationships, but its interest is in how that pattern can be shaped, molded, shifted. It values beings, forces and people according to how they affect others and according to a history based on experience"
Starhawk, Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery, pages 14-15
So illuminating or awakening magic is a much better way of working - and people are more fun when they're switched on!
Any magic or activism that uses 'power over' is anti-ecological. Audre Lorde, who described herself as a 'black lesbian, mother, warrior, poet', once wrote:
"For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may temporarily allow us to beat him down at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change."
The word 'power' comes from the Middle English, 'to be able'. This is worth remembering, as we sometimes tend to have negative associations around power - well, those of us with an anarchist history do anyway! - but it's originally about our ability to do something.
Eco-magic, like Liberation Theology, explicitly connects the political and the spiritual. For us "the personal is political is spiritual" (Harvey 1997.).
Eco-magic sometimes blurs the distinction between political action and magical work. During the recent peace marches people combined magic and activism through public rituals: "When political action moves into the realm of symbols it becomes magical". (Starhawk Dreaming the Dark, p. 169).
Walking the Talk!
It's important to reinforce whatever spiritual work we do with physical action. You probably already do a lot of these things, but it's part of eco-magic to recycle, compost, write letters, plant trees, consume carefully, and work with environmental action groups.
Dragon is a decentralized network, & we have no 'book of rules', but we have evolved a set of basic principles:
Dragon aims to:
There's lots of information on the Dragon website: http://www.dragonnetwork.org/
Harris, Dragon Decade – A personal Perspective on eco-magic. Dragon Eco-Magic Journal, June 2001.On the web at: http://www.dragonnetwork.org/journal/adrian.htm
Harvey, Religious Experience in Contemporary Society, Religious Experience Research Centre, 1997
Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, (10th Anniversary Edition) HarperCollins 1989
Starhawk, Truth or Dare, Harper and Row 1987
Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark, Beacon Press 1982