The unfolding of the many crises of our time offer an opportunity for magicians and esotericists to use our specialized knowledge to help the mineral, plant and animal communities around us -including the ever turbulent human social groups we find ourselves a part of.
If you take for granted and as a fact, that the American empire is on its rough way down, that the fossil fuels which power current western lifestyles are ever dwindling, and that climate change is a reality, these concurrent trends project a challenging future for all and sundry. It doesn’t matter whether you are already broke or are making a six figure income. Getting into a mindset of service can help you to deal with these realities in a constructive way.
John Michael Greer sums up the situation with his usual succinctness in these words from a post on the Archdruid Report, “Most people these days have noticed that for the last decade or so, each passing year has seen a broad worsening of conditions on a great many fronts. Here in America, certainly, jobs are becoming scarcer, and decent jobs with decent pay scarcer still, while costs for education, health care, and scores of other basic social goods are climbing steadily out of reach of an ever-larger fraction of the population. State and local governments are becoming less and less able to provide even essential services, while the federal government sinks ever further into partisan gridlock and bureaucratic paralysis, punctuated by outbursts of ineffectual violence flung petulantly outward at an ever more hostile world. The human and financial toll of natural disasters keeps going up while the capacity to do anything about the consequences keeps going down—and all the while, resource depletion and environmental disruption impose a rising toll on every human activity.”
By giving up on the idea that magic and spiritual arts can be used (and should be used as some public mages suggest) to give you a one up in life, or a better edge in moving up financial and corporate ladders whose rungs are already crumbling, you can instead turn your magical efforts towards working with the Land, helping people in the community, and in service to the inner worlds. This will in turn help you when a hungry family shows up at your door, when someone is dying and can’t get medical care, when a field is ruined by pollution and food cannot be grown or harvested there. These are just a few of the scenarios people will take as a matter of course as the institutions around us lose financial support and fall into disrepair, before finally disappearing. Sure, other things will replace those institutions, but they won’t necessarily be of the same scale or function in the exact same way.
Instead of focusing on doing spellwork to get a raise or a girlfriend, consider the following areas of magical focus/specialization as skills that can be useful in a world faced with the above crises (as well as ones I didn’t mention, like the population explosion, etc.). Or if you’ve just chosen magic as a mere lifestyle accessory and haven’t actually been putting in the necessary work, consider actually buckling down and getting on with it. The following have been traditional roles for both initiates and adepts to engage, as forms of outer altruistic work. These are some of the areas where your efforts can be put to good use, now, and during the long descent.
HEALING: This includes everything from herbalism and folk charming/curing, to energy work, shamanic soul retrieval and removal of etheric objects from individuals; to modalities of exercise, and the preventive aspect of care. Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Alchemy, Qi Gong, Herbalism, Shamanic Healing all offer different tools that can still be used in a low-tech way of life. They each have their own corpus of associated skill and learning, and of course those are only a few of the many traditional healing arts to be found in the world. Now most of these exist as forms of care used by a pampered Boomer generation, but they had their origin among the common folk. As corporate health care continues to disappear expect these methods to be taken up by the growing underclass. Being available to serve the needs of the needy will not only be commonplace, but a way of putting your skills to the test.
DEATH WORK: The houses of death will be close to the houses of healing and the worker in one will sometimes need to be able to crossover into this other area of work, and help the sick transition and cross the river of death. Getting comfortable with Death is part of the work of the initiate in any case. We can also expect untreatable plagues/disease, natural disasters, and violence to rise. It may often be that an initiate is put in the path of assisting. Americans, in general, have a lousy relationship with Death and it is part of the work of the Mysteries to not only prepare for your own death, by facing the mortality of the physical body, but to work on repairing our own traditions and houses of death.
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” -Ecclesiastes 7:2
EXORCIST: Sometimes there are spirits and beings around getting into people, places and things which kind of wreak havoc on the world around them. Restoring things to the proper balance, ushering these beings back into places proper to them, and the like is part of the work of an Exorcist. Josephine McCarthy‘s The Exorcists Handbook is the gold standard text. If this is an area of work thrown at you by the gods you would do well to get a copy of her book.
UPHOLDING THE LAND: Bioremediation is a word you will hear more of in coming years -a technique of using microorganisms to help neutralize pollution. Permaculture is one you’ve probably already heard of -, it in a nutshell is “Permaculture is a creative design process that is based on ethics and design principles. It guides us to mimic the patterns and relationships we can find in nature and can be applied to all aspects of human habitation, from agriculture to ecological building, from appropriate technology to education and even economics.” As magicians began to work in these areas, alongside spiritual work they may do with the genius loci things will get very interesting. Dana Lynn Driscoll is a Druid who is doing innovative work in this area.
Besides combining magical tech to bioremediation (something laboratory alchemists and verdelets might like to tackle) and permaculture practices, there is also the purely magical work of befriending the local land spirits, faery folk, talking to the weather and learning how it works in your bioregion from an inner point of view. From setting up shrines, to working with existing mounds and power spots, and perhaps in the temples, churches and cemeteries that are already a part of your neighborhood, a lot of useful work is waiting to be done in this area. For a longer discussion, see my review of Josephine McCarthy’s book The Magic of the Northgate.
THE BARDIC ARTS: The need for meaningful entertainment will remain, even as big cinemeplexes and Hollywood blockbusters themselves become a thing of the past. Bards -those Keepers of Sacred Memory, Tellers of Tales, and Carpenters of Song will weave communities together, and preserve the memory of ill deeds through satire. I see a true need for the continuing return of the Bard to our world.
If you find it helpful to step outside of a Celtic worldview in this instance (with the Bard) think of the Griots of West Africa. They are historians, praise singers, storytellers, musicians and poets and they help keep alive important lore, wisdom and knowledge.
The other fine arts, as well as handicrafts, will also continue to have a role in one form or another. In the absence of cheap renewable energy however, they will exist under a changing set of circumstances. The role of the arts in post-collapse society will continue to be a focus of inquiry on this blog.
MARTIAL ARTS: The Martial Arts have long been allied to spiritual and magical arts. It only takes a brief survey of those extant in the East to come to this conclusion. In China these arts are split into two broad categories: Internal, about the manipulation of Qi, and External, focused on improving muscular and cardiovascular fitness and agility. Though popular countercultures have been uncomfortable with the role of the Warrior for sometime, due to the abuses others have suffered by them, and the abuses the warriors themselves have been put to, our own warrior nature should not be ignored. In a future where police protection will have been replaced by drug warlords, gang leaders, mobsters and the like the role of being a warrior will once again become a thing of honor. The West has its own traditions of Warriorship. Just look at the Ulster Cycle for some great examples. These styles are in need of inner visionary investigation to be rebirthed at this time.
This list is just a starting point, a sampler. And remember, it’s not a matter of picking a few of these specializations, getting a few books and getting your hands dirty. If there is a need and a reason for you to be working in one or other of these areas, the universe will let you know by waving the flag of synchronicity and dream in front of your face.
Some of these areas already have strong traditions. All could use some applied innovation, and a few are in need of out and out reweaving. Working in one or other of these areas enriches all of the Western Mystery Tradition. And the long term benefits will be greater than if you’d spent your time conjuring for a pay raise at a job that might not even be there in the future or for a new car in a world running out of the very fuel to power it. The jobs listed above however have stood the test of time, and adding your own efforts to the furthering of these traditions can have effects which last for generations.