DONUT POWER

Applied Magic(k): Donut Power
by the Center for Tactical Magic

Originally published in Arthur No. 22 (April 2006), available from The Arthur Store

Although people often associate the word “occult” with secret magical orders, demon-worshipers and ancient alchemical scrawlings, its root definition is simply “secret, concealed, or hidden.” But strangely enough, “occult” is rarely associated with those who are perhaps most invested in secrets and concealments: that is, government, military, corporations and even performing magicians. Perhaps this popular tendency to view “occultism” through an anachronistic mist is ultimately a concealment of its own accord.

If we regard an occult force as “that which is hidden,” it should come as no surprise to realize that we are constantly surrounded by the occult. Everywhere we look we don’t see it…at least not at first. Otherwise it wouldn’t be occult; it would be obvious and apparent. Unseen forces are indeed at play all around us. We often fail to recognize their presence for any number of reasons: the forces may seem insignificant to the situation, we are distracted by other factors, etc. Whether one favors ritual magick or performing magic, the first challenge is to recognize which forces are present, hidden or otherwise.

Fortunately, occult forces sometimes have a funny way of revealing themselves. In 2001, members of the Center for Tactical Magic were enjoying a leisurely tromp through downtown San Francisco with a few thousand other people protesting the 21st Century’s first major display of government occultism: George W. Bush’s inauguration. At the end of the trolley line at Powell and Market, the march lost momentum and gradually slowed to a jiggle. Some protesters scurried into cafes to get their latte fixes while others started break-dancing to boom boxes in the streets. Meanwhile, riot police began to huddle in the doorways of the GAP. There were other big department stores and icons of global capitalism nearby, but for reasons unknown the GAP seemed to be getting the bulk of police attention. (Perhaps it was one of those rare instances where Power reveals itself, as if the cops were hinting, “You’re already gathered to fight injustice, you might as well protest conformist fashion produced by sweatshop labor, too.”) At first, no one seemed to care, except possibly the few shoppers who hurried away at the first signs (namely, armored cops) that something might be amiss. Gradually though, activists seemed to take to the idea, and soon a small group settled down at the feet of the police line to sip their lattes and eat their lunches.

Please see exhibit A, the photo we’ve provided for your entertainment…

To most observers the scene appears obvious: two opposing forces have squared off against one another; protesters staging a sit-in were blockading the entrances to the GAP, and riot police had formed a security perimeter to protect GAP’s assets from looters and vandals. While this is true to some degree, those who understand magic(k) know better. Appearances are often deceiving. The nature of a good illusion is to cloak information by providing a specific perceptual framework. And the tendency to filter information leads to a hasty, oversimplified conclusion.

Upon closer inspection, one quickly realizes that the scene in the photo evidences no opposing forces whatsoever. In fact, the cops and the protesters are rather harmoniously accomplishing the same task. Both groups are blocking the doorway. Both groups are preventing patrons from entering. Both groups are preventing the GAP from doing any business whatsoever.

If you missed this dynamic at first glance, don’t worry. You’re not alone. The cops and the protesters lived it, and they didn’t get it. In fact, whenever this photo is shown in talks, lectures, and workshops, the audience response is almost always the same. People are so keyed in to a perceptual framework dominated by dichotomies and binary analysis (protester vs cop, good vs evil, black magick vs. white magick, etc) that it’s easy to miss what’s happening right before our very eyes.

Indeed, it has long since become a cliché of consciousness studies to say that at every instance our senses are bombarded by more information than our minds can process. In order to navigate the world around us, we learn how to filter information that we regard as unimportant. However, the act of filtering is not only influenced by matters of survival (predators, food, attraction, etc) but also by social cues and priorities (herd behavior, notions of productivity vs. leisure, conspicuous consumption, etc). Since the filtering process begins at such an early age and occurs at much the same time as socialization, it is often difficult to step outside of one’s perceptions and recognize exactly what is being filtered when and/or why. At best, we can occasionally inhibit our filtering processes (either through drugs, meditation, dancing, sensory deprivation, or other “unproductive” activities) or we can make concerted efforts to focus our attentions in areas less considered. Even the harbingers of progress have to admit that the latter option yields positive results. After all, modern medicine owes a great debt to those who were willing to peer through microscopes at bits, mites, motes, and droplets that are regularly ignored by the naked eye.

So where does this keen analysis get us? For starters, we become less inclined to take things at face value. While some would say this is a skeptical or even cynical approach to the world, we prefer to think of it as riddled with opportunity. The refusal of a static worldview opens one’s eyes to the dynamic occult forces swirling around us. The next trick is to figure out how to work with these forces.
After a few more hours of chanting, “Whose streets?…Our Streets!”, the miracle of the unified GAP blockade persisted, but the rest of the protest began to march down a reliable path. Buses pulled up and more riot cops in even more armor poured out. Tensions on both sides escalated, and the enjoyable expression of first amendment rights wavered under the immanent threat of the inevitable activist/authoritarian clash. For anyone who has ever been to a protest, this is familiar territory. This is the part where ugliness happens. Out come the batons, pepper spray, and plastic handcuffs. And anyone who gets beaten up also usually gets arrested and charged with assaulting an officer in order to justify any police misconduct.

Some would declare that this is merely a timeless confrontation between opposing forces. Perhaps. But we at the Center for Tactical Magic feel that occult forces were also present, active and largely unaccounted for. (No, we’re not referring to cops dressed as protesters… we’ll save that for our column on “disguise and infiltration”). Protesters and cops both fell victim to the same forces: they steadily grew tired, cold, hungry, and even a little bored. The activists want to leave, but of course can’t, because, well, they’re our streets. If we leave, then they’ll be their streets again. We can’t exactly let a hard day’s work go to waste now, can we? And the cops want desperately to make it home in time for Fox Sports, but they can’t exactly leave, because, well… how would it look if they let a bunch of anarchists run around an empty financial district thinking that they own the streets? Besides, double (or even triple) overtime pay is hard to say “no” to. For the cops, growling stomachs, Fox Sports and a can of Bud ultimately win out over a fatter paycheck. Out come the batons.

It was precisely at this moment that we decided to conduct a little experiment. Please note Exhibit B: the second photo provided for your entertainment.

Foregoing any ceremony, we quickly acquired a few boxes of donuts from a nearby Walgreen’s and began passing them out to protesters and cops alike. The action performed was the same for both groups; however, the responses were predictably dissimilar. Protesters responded with eager gratitude; happily stuffing their faces with the meager nourishment after a long day outdoors. The cops on the other hand were not so happy. They wanted the donuts. You could see it in their jaws-gone-slack and their craven eyes bursting out from behind mirrored glasses. But despite their hunger, they couldn’t take them. Pride and professionalism prevented them from doing so.

Obviously, cops are sensitive about donuts. It’s an old, played-out joke, and had we passed out cupcakes, maybe things would have been different. But isn’t that one of the crucial points of magic(k)? To work with what’s around you in such a way as to produce a desired outcome or effect? Within just a few moments, a single gesture shifted the dynamic between opposing sides. As activists giggled and jeered, the police officers shifted uneasily in their boots. Eager aggression and pumped-up adrenalin ebbed in the wake of sheepishness, annoyance, and humility. It was like watching a bully rip the seat of his pants in front of everyone.

In an effort to grab control of the situation, the commanding officer approached one of our agents (see photo) and threatened, “If you pass out one more donut, I’m taking you to jail!” To which our agent responded, “For what? Handing out food for free?” The officer then replied, “Not for handing it out. For distributing it!” Clearly, reality and rationality had shifted in mysterious ways. Please don’t misunderstand. We at the Center for Tactical Magic love a riot as much as anyone, and we’re not claiming that this one act of impromptu hijinks saved the day or anything. But shortly thereafter the cops stood down. The police lines withdrew. And many of the activists left feeling like they preferred their kitchens and their bars to their streets.

Throughout the long histories of magic(k) and religions, food has often played a transformational role. Whether consuming “the body and blood of the Lord” or making bowls of rice appear from thin air, food has a power that reaches beyond the symbolic. And the roots of its power are concealed by its relationship to such hidden forces as hunger, nutrition, comfort, repulsion, and social relations to name a few. Like so many other hidden forces, these have the ability to shift perceptions, priorities and outcomes. But to do so we must recognize their presence and figure out how to work with them. The following exercises are designed to encourage further exploration of hidden forces. You can treat them as magical experiments, interventions, or alternative forms of entertainment. Have fun and good luck, and please let us know how it was for you by emailing to: goodluck at tacticalmagic dot org

EXERCISES
1. Go to the grocery store without the intention of buying anything. Bring a pad of post-it notes and a pen. Respond to the products you see by writing a note and sticking it to the product. You might consider the following: the packaging/marketing strategy used to encourage your purchase; the way the product makes you feel when you see it, use it, or eat it; a message or a question to another potential consumer or store employee; a critique of the product or the company; a creative suggestion for alternate uses of the product.
* This is an exercise that shifts perception by changing the activity performed in an otherwise familiar environment. Like graffiti responding to a billboard, it also encourages a dialogue in an otherwise one-way relationship and breaks the illusion of a “neutral” exchange.

2. Once a week for at least a month, prepare a meal that uses ingredients for their symbolic value. Start by considering a desired outcome (a different wish, goal, etc for each meal). Next, consider the events that have to unfold in order to accomplish your goal. Associate one ingredient for each event. Your associations may be literal or abstract. Perhaps you’re not even sure why the ingredient reminds you of the event. The ingredients don’t all need to be cooked in the same pot, and it’s ok to use spices for flavor. Eat as much as fills you up.
* This is an exercise which relies on a natural survival behavior to process and manifest a desire through mental and physical consumption, digestion, and excretion. It works best if you find a way to make strange foods tastefully coexist on the same plate.

CHALLENGE
Most magic illusions are based on visual deceptions; however, the Oxford Companion to the Mind insists, “All the senses can suffer illusions…” Everyone knows the old trick that involves tasting an apple and a potato while holding pinching the nose closed. What other illusions rely on deceiving the sense of smell? If you come up with any answers, please let us know.


The Center for Tactical Magic is a moderate international think tank dedicated to the research, development and deployment of all types of magic in the service of positive social transformation. To find out more, check out tacticalmagic.org

ADULT WITCHCRAFT

Ancient diplomacy: Moses’ brother performs magic(k) before the pharoah and his court of magicians in this depiction of Exodus 7:12. What was the pharoah doing with all of those magicians anyway?


Applied Magic(k): Adult Witchcraft
by The Center for Tactical Magic

Originally published in Arthur No. 21 (Feb 2006), available from The Arthur Store

Like “art,” the word “magic” can be very confusing for people. It simultaneously conjures notions of trickery, witchcraft, illusion, mysticism, fantasy, and a vast array of products, services, and popular culture references. Many of these notions evoke a dismissive response from people when they encounter the term, partly because they tend to immediately latch onto a single notion of magic that they reproach—cheesy Las Vegas sideshow; dreadlocked Wiccan hippy; Dungeons & Dragons wannabe; Satanic drug fiend; pet psychic; reality escapist; and so forth. Of course, by conjuring such characters as Gandalf, Harry Potter, Sabrina and John Edwards, popular media does its best to fantasize, infantalize, and capitalize on our collective desires for more than another sequel to “Life as We’re Told It Is.” The Center for Tactical Magic does not exclusively align itself with any one interpretation of “magic,” in part, because the vastness of the interpretations of “magic” is what gives magic its power in the world of meaning. Therefore this column is likely to exploit many of your preconceptions of magic(k) in an effort to dislodge your comfortable sensibilities.

In nearly all of the permutations of magic(k), the conventions of presenting information are completely fucked with. A stage magic trick is a good example on many levels. For starters, a magician often uses “patter” or a story to provide a context for the audience’s experience of the illusion: “Ladies and Gents, as a special treat for you tonight, I’m going to make the president disappear. Now before anyone gets too excited, it’s an already dead president—Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill—our racist, Indian-killer president.” In the patter, the magician may or may not lie, but the intention is always to manipulate the audience’s perceptions. This is done easily enough because the information presented in the form of patter appears to coincide with the visual information presented through the magician’s movements and use of props. (Andrew Jackson does appear on the twenty dollar bill; however, historians debate whether or not he killed more Native Americans then some of our other racist presidents. And the $20 in the magician’s hands will disappear… from view, but not likely from material existence since s/he needs it for rent). And of course, the magician’s movements are deceptively “natural” in appearance: a well-placed cough or a hand on the hip doesn’t generally attract attention. Similarly, the props are shown to be beyond suspicion: an audience member inspects the bill; the magician’s clothing looks normal enough; the hands are shown to be empty; etc. If performed successfully, a good magic trick will have a convincing effect largely because the magician has presented several forms of discordant information in a harmonious manner. The verbal info, the body language, the sequence of events, and the overall physical appearance conform to the audience’s expectations of normalcy (i.e. the magician used a hidden gimmick to ditch the bill half way through the performance, yet kept a closed hand in plain view while continuing to discuss the merits of vanishing racist presidents). When the magician finally opens the fist to reveal not a twenty but a handful of pretzels the audience will attempt to bridge the gap between what they believe they have witnessed and what they formerly believed was possible.

In the Western traditions of ritual magic(k) and occult practices there is often a “lust for results” that demands linearity in the form of cause-and-effect. In such cases, practitioners become ill at ease when they summon a demon to defeat racist presidents and no one shows up to take the job. That said, nearly every other expression of magic across the globe regards the magical act as a liminal space that appears during the performance. This is a zone of transformation; a place where the rules of everyday life are suspended and alternative realities can trickle in. In some cases, a shaman will perform a conjuring trick as a way of illustrating the zone of transformation. Thus, it is not the “trick” which is magic, but the performance/perception. The tricks are part of a performance that leads the audience to a mental state where the real magic can take place: the shift occurs in the perception of the audience rather than in the hands of the shaman. The best stage magicians also recognize this dynamic among their own audiences and perform accordingly by designing and performing illusions and/or rituals that are relevant to people’s lives: Houdini emphasized self-liberation from the constraints of everyday life, such as prisons, handcuffs, safes, ropes and packing crates. Likewise, Cagliostro defied the strict 18th-century norms of society by allowing both men and women, aristocracy and commoners, to join a vast European network of Egyptian Masonry and partake in rites not likely described as modest even by today’s standards.

One goal of the following exercises is to create this meaningful shift in consciousness; to locate and inhabit this secret pocket. The shift may be immediate or in the form of a mental time-bomb. You can treat these magic exercises as experiments, interventions and alternative forms of entertainment. Have fun & good luck, and please let us know how it was for you by emailing to goodluck@tacticalmagic.org

EXERCISES IN MAGICAL THINKING, ANALYZING POWER, AND ACTIVATING HIDDEN FORCE…S

1) Plant three seeds of a vegetable plant of your choosing. Label each container respectively: positive, negative & control. Provide each plant with equal amounts of water, soil, and sun. Dedicate at least six minutes of each day (three minutes per plant—positive & negative only) on focusing positive & negative thoughts. Record your results and enjoy the fruits (vegetables) of your labor.
*This is an exercise in developing your telepathic abilities, exploring modes of unregulated communication, collaborating with non-humans, and bringing your thoughts and desires to fruition.

2) Write your own survey to elicit responses from other members of the general public. You may decide to pose questions, ask opinions, or provoke thought. Then, conduct the survey for at least three hours in a public space of your choosing, or until the “authorities” inform you that you are trespassing on public property.
*This is an exercise in activating public space, determining the limits of public space, and generating a non-commercial exchange of ideas among strangers. Most people are happy to express their opinions when asked, especially when they are informed that their participation does not involve a sales pitch, future mailings, religious conversion or product development.

3) Get a rope (at least 30 feet) and a friend (or a friendly stranger). Take turns tying each other up and escaping.
*This is an exercise that explores restriction, control, and self-liberation. You’ll be amazed to find how easily one can liberate oneself!

4) Get a group of friends together at night and find a public space to beautify as you see fit. Consider the site beforehand and plan your action thoroughly (but don’t bring along any evidence of your conspiring). Your materials should not be cumbersome, or they should be well-disguised. While some friends are in the act of beautifying, others should be posted on the lookout for “authorities” since they might not have the same sense of aesthetic appreciation as you and your friends. (If they don’t like it, they can make their own art!) If you decide to document your actions, it’s best to do it at a later time, and be sure that none of your friends’ faces are visible.
*This is an exercise in collaborative acts of meditation, willful engagement, and material transformation. You can do this in the daytime too, but nocturnal operations tend to be more mirthful and help induce perceptual shifts (both spatially and experientially).

5) Create a disguise for yourself that allows you to navigate everyday life without drawing much attention. This should be different from your normal attire. Spend the day in disguise performing leisurely or mildly adventuresome activities. Possibilities include:
a) Choose someone at random and follow them from a distance for at least 15 minutes. Then follow someone else. When you grow tired of following people, find someone who looks lost and try leading them to their destination.
b) Visit a factory or place of industry and ask for a tour. Ask lots of provocative questions, and then ask for a job. Tell them you can’t do much, but you’re interested in something at the executive level.
c) Go to at least three different places of worship. Check out the interior design. Explore a little. If someone is in attendance, strike up a conversation about the “afterlife” or “special religious foods.”
d) Go to a bank with your video camera and begin recording the bank interior. When the security guard or branch manager stops you and asks what you think you’re doing, explain that you’re trying to determine how many security cameras they have installed. If they ask “why?” tell them you’re “just doing research” or “conducting a survey of banks” or “interested in security.” Then say, “If you really want to be helpful, you can just tell me how many cameras you have and save me and the boys’ the trouble of watching this recording later and trying to count ‘em all.”
*This is an exercise in shape shifting, personal transformation, and casting illusions, as well as observing how “authorities” respond to subtle challenges beyond the status quo. The disguise will help empower you to act “out of character;” besides, if you can’t change yourself how do you expect to change the reality around you?

The Center for Tactical Magic is a moderate international think tank dedicated to the research, development and deployment of all types of magic in the service of positive social transformation. To find out more, check out tacticalmagic.org

EXORCISE DAILY!

Vanishing Act
by the Center for Tactical Magic

from the “Applied Magic(k)” column in Arthur No. 32 (Dec 2008)

One of the oldest themes in magic(k) is that of death and resurrection. Recurring in the origin stories of numerous religions, death and resurrection also played an important role in the initiation ceremonies of early shamans across the globe. By first descending into the depths of sickness, disease, and even death itself a Siberian shaman would make allegiances with spirit allies who could be called upon to help the living. But in order to do so, the shaman would have to survive the ordeal and return to life before s/he could act as an intermediary.

Anthropologists have observed similar tendencies in shamanic initiation throughout geographically divergent cultures. Although the story of Jesus Christ is perhaps our society’s most familiar example, scholars of world religion are quick to point out that many aspects of the Christ story are reflected in earlier religious beliefs surrounding such deities as Osiris, Dionysus, and Mithras to name but a few of the more notable, regional examples. However, the list of dying-and-rising gods numbers well into the dozens and extends across the world map to include the likes of Quetzalcoatl (Aztec), Odin (Norse), Ishtar (Mesopotamia), Julunggul (Aboriginal Australian), and Travolta (Hollywood).

While Tarantino’s resurrection of Travolta might not qualify him as a “god” worthy of the aforementioned pantheon, themes of death and resurrection have long played out on the stages of popular culture and entertainment. Early performers in Native America and in ancient Egypt would amaze audiences by bringing animals back to life. While in India, fakirs performing the famed “basket trick” would stuff a child into a woven container before perforating the basket (and presumably the child) with multiple swords, only to reveal a short moment later that the child was still alive and well. More recently, magicians P.T. Selbit and Horace Goldin might not have the popular name recognition today that they once shared in the 1920’s; however, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t recognize their famed (and misogynistic) illusion: sawing a woman in half.

A resurrection routine in theatrical magic often takes one of several forms: a transposition (in which the assistant disappears from one place and reappears somewhere else), a transformation (in which the assistant appears to change into something or someone else), or a restoration (in which the assistant is returned to normal after first being subjected to some sort of ghoulish sadism). A vanish on the other hand (in which the assistant simply disappears) is seldom used for a resurrection act because the audience is left ill-at-ease wondering what happened to the body after the magician stabbed, shot, burned, or cut it.

More commonly, vanishes are employed as a metaphorical reminder for the ephemeral and illusory nature of life. Coin vanishes are among the more familiar tricks in a conjurer’s repertoire, and audiences seem to have no trouble relating to the disappearance of money even when it happens inexplicably before their very eyes. Thurston, the great Vaudeville magician and master Mason, took the vanishing act a step further by introducing the “the vanishing Arabian steed” followed a few years later by “the vanishing automobile” along with its passengers. More than simply illustrating the technological trajectory of transportation, Thurston’s vanishes demonstrated to his audience that coins, cars, or other symbols of material wealth possess a value that is not lasting. Later magicians failed to recognize the potential for multiple levels of symbolic relevance and focused only on scale as a determining factor for their illusions by vanishing elephants and water buffalo.

However, the same cannot be said for David Copperfield’s famed vanishing of the Statue of Liberty. With 1984 looming and Ronald Reagan busy conjuring his own “voodoo economics” the disappearance of Lady Liberty probably should have spooked audiences more than it did. Clearly more prophetic than Thurston’s vanishing horse, Copperfield’s vanishing Liberty should have been regarded not as prime time entertainment but as a dire warning of politics to come. If treated as an omen, we can at least take comfort in the fact that Copperfield’s illusion is ultimately a restoration and not simply a vanish. If so, and the mystical vision holds true, we can expect the return of our civil liberties, cell phone privacy, and perhaps even the freeing of those who have been disappeared by government contracted “extraordinary rendition” aircraft and in the CIA-operated secret prisons abroad.

In stage magic, vanishes may rely on a range of methods to achieve the desired effect. The use of mirrors, trap doors, secret compartments, and doubles might be used to restore an assistant to a healthy state. While politics also utilizes no short supply of ruses, deceptions, and misdirections, it takes much more to return to a healthy state. Although we witnessed the vanishing of George Bush from the White House in January of 1993, we were left dumbstruck when a second George Bush reappeared in the Oval Office in 2001. Unlike the shamanic ascension from the underworld that affords mysterious new powers for helping treat the ailments of others, this hellish return was accompanied by two wars, an exploding national debt, a devastating economic crash, and mysterious new powers for government surveillance and the executive branch.

Thankfully the curtain call has come for that sad act. The stage has been reset and we are now eagerly awaiting the next Bush vanishing act from the halls of government. Hopefully this time it’s a permanent disappearance. And perhaps when the curtain goes up on this next act we’ll witness the resurrection of the long-dead spirit of democracy that has recently begun haunting our hopes and dreams again.

Undoubtedly, politicians and governments will continue to perform much as they have in the past. Yet, the mass mobilization around the Obama campaign has given the audience new clues in determining the outcome of the show. The close of the Obama/McCain election represented a political shift in more ways than one. For the first time in eight years (if not longer), people poured into the streets not to protest an act of government but to celebrate one. The jubilation went far beyond party politics because the triumph went not only to the Democrats. People could feel their own political power. Whether or not Obama lives up to his campaign promises and our highest expectations remains to be seen; yet, the real victory here is the empowerment of the grassroots to accomplish a major political mission. Hopefully, the next eight years brings the political utopian equivalent of unicorns and demons sharing the last slice of birthday cake under a shimmering rainbow. But if it doesn’t, we now have a road map for organizing that doesn’t just look like another weekend march with placards and puppets in the financial district of a major metropolis. On the contrary, the mobilization around Obama was widespread, sustained, contextual, and media-savvy. It utilized multiple outreach strategies, creative tactics, and a model of fundraising that accumulated millions of small donations into a mega-fund for manifesting a collective vision. And now that we see what we can accomplish, there’s no reason why we should stop there. The show must go on – locally, nationally, globally. Or else we may find ourselves sitting once again in a dark theater awaiting the resurrection of our political nightmares.

Print this out: HELPFUL “EXORCISE DAILY” PDF


HOW TO HEX A CORPORATION

Above: A CTM-designed sticker, easily adaptable for re-use by you.

APPLIED MAGIC(K): Hex Files
by the Center for Tactical Magic

Originally published in Arthur No. 30 (July 2008)

The Center for Tactical Magic is no stranger to controversy. Even when we’re not actively setting out to conjure a bit of mischief, the imps often make the effort to conjure us. Since our projects frequently trespass into different cultural territories, it’s not uncommon to encounter an occasional cold reception or heated debate. Typically, these center around what the Center is or isn’t. Activists? Occultists? Conjurers? Tricksters? Contemporary artists? Martial artists? Con artists? Most of the time we feel that these debates are more productive for everyone when we stay out of them and let folks figure things out on their own. However, we recently received some paradoxical antagonisms via email regarding one of our distribution projects and thought it might be helpful to clarify a few misunderstandings.

To begin, the project in question is a curse. It is a curse in the form of a sticker that is specifically designed to target corporations, institutions, agencies, and the like. And the ire that we raised from two different people couldn’t be more divergent. The first, a self-proclaimed “activist” wrote:

I like a lot of what you guys do, but some of it doesn’t seem very productive. I mean, curses? I just read your article in Arthur about the difference between “magical thinking” and “wishful thinking” and then you suggest “cursing” people in power? This seems hypocritical and/or delusional. I’m open to different people’s spiritual viewpoints, and I don’t mean any offense, but I don’t really see how a curse can be as effective as a protest or a petition.

The second critic, a self-proclaimed “Wiccan High Priestess” wrote:

I have long-admired the Center for Tactical Magic for your innovative interpretations of ancient magickal wisdom. However, I am deeply disturbed and taken aback by your “Diagrammatic Hex.” This curse clearly defies the Wiccan rede: “That ye hurt none, do what thou wilt.” Further, it beckons doom. “That which ye sendeth out, shall returneth three-fold!” This hex you have devised is of the darkest magick, and can only reap darkness in return. It is not only dangerous for you, but irresponsible towards those who would follow you down the Left-hand path to their own demise.

Before we directly address either of the aforementioned concerns, we should set the stage with a short history lesson. The origin of curses is ill-defined; yet, it’s certain that we find hexes, whammies, jinxes, the “evil eye” and all sorts of maleficia in cultures spanning time and geography. More often than not, curses have been cast over personal disputes, vindictive rages, and petty jealousies. However, there have also been instances where curses have been deployed in collective struggles.

In the Middle Ages, the peasant class had no easy avenue of representation through which they could air grievances against their feudal lords. So somewhere between total subjugation and full-scale revolt, curses became a tactic of dissent. By discretely attaching hexes to the property of the feudal lord, the ruling authorities could be made aware of the growing social distemper. While the nobility might be quick to dismiss the hexes as mere foolishness, the laborers of the manor, who belonged to the “superstitious” peasant class, could be relied upon to take the hexes a bit more seriously (and perhaps melodramatically). And unless the feudal lord took steps to remove the curse, the manor and the fief would slip into a dysfunctional mess. Of course, the way to remove the curse would involve rectifying any prevailing injustices.

It’s not too difficult to imagine that similar dramas were no doubt enacted hundreds of years later on plantations across the colonized globe. A bit of well-placed Hoodoo or Voodoo could serve to amplify the collective concerns of house slaves and field slaves alike. Even if the plantation owner took little heed of the “mumbo-jumbo” the workers would certainly make a fuss until things were set right.

Based on these precedents, as well as on our contemporary context of corporate neo-feudalism and wage-slavery, it seemed only fitting that we should revive and update this bit of mojo. As such, we suggest that the modern sticker-hex might produce several positive results:

1) The creation of a diagrammatic hex in the form of an easily applied sticker links modern street practices (like graffiti) to much older forms of magical resistance (such as the placing of curses on the property of feudal lords).

2) This user-friendly spell/tactic introduces people to a model of action: First, think through your issue to find a root cause(s). Then, find a way to physically address the offending source. This model contrasts starkly with more alienated reactions against abstracted frustrations. As opposed to feeling like the problems are poverty, or starvation, or war, we can begin to focus on financial institutions, agribusiness, or Halliburton.

3) Most people are far more superstitious than they are willing to admit. Even if the magical construction of the curse falls short, the mystical appearance of the sticker can often achieve certain desired effects. (In one instance, a cursed check sent to a credit card company went un-cashed for nearly three months!).

4) Lastly, if you have any doubts as to whether or not the curse works, just ask the folks over at Bear Stearns. (We’re not saying we’re responsible; we’re just saying…)

Hopefully that appeases our activist friend a bit. As for the Wiccan high priest, we’ll save the full conversation regarding the Black/White magic debate for a later date. In the meantime, we should be clear about our position. We are not openly advocating the cursing of individual people. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court re-interpreted the 14th Amendment (originally enacted to protect the rights of freed slaves) to grant corporations “personhood,” the inhuman conduct of some institutions, agencies, and corporations makes them worthy of any maledictions they might receive. While the Center for Tactical Magic does not ascribe to a belief system polarized into Black and White magic, it is nevertheless important to note that religious and secular circles alike largely agree that actively combating physical and spiritual injustice is a virtuous act that liberates oneself and others from the abuses of power. Even Gerald Gardner (oft regarded as the “Founding Father of Wicca”) is reputed to have organized his coven to curse Hitler and the Nazis during World War II (and we all know how that one ended).

Hopefully, the path we’re on now seems a little less scary. If not, don’t worry; we change directions all the time and often step off the path altogether. So sit tight or start a petition until we come back to our senses. For the rest of you, you too can flaunt taboos by cutting out this diagrammatic hex and following these magic words:

To cast the spell:

1) Relax. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Repeat.

2) Take a moment to reflect on the nasty policies, social ills, and community woes that need to be challenged and corrected.

3) Choose an issue that you feel particularly drawn to, and ask yourself, “What is most responsible for this dire situation? What obstacles stand in the way of a solution to this problem?” (If you’re not sure, do a little research).

4) Most likely, you will conclude that a large corporation, government agency, social institution, or other organizational entity is at least partially responsible for perpetuating the problem you seek to address. Write that name inside the red circle. (Note: this will not work against individuals, which unfortunately includes bosses, landlords, politicians, cops, etc.).

5) Close your eyes and envision the entire design, complete with the name written in the circle. Watch the name fade to nothingness. Now envision the positive results that would occur if your target’s vile actions were to disappear.

6) Open your eyes, and then, go attach the hex to the property of the encircled establishment. (you’ll need a glue stick)

7) Relax. Breathe freely. Smile. You have just completed your first act of street-level Tactical Magic by taking that difficult first step in mentally, spiritually, and physically addressing social injustice! Keep it up & let us know how it goes for you by emailing us at goodluck@tacticalmagic.org

Good Luck!

MAGIC(K) IN THE STREETS

An Open Invocation
by The Center for Tactical Magic

originally published in Arthur No. 31 (Oct 2008)

“Magic(k) works.” This declarative statement was recently hurled in our direction with a cautionary tone rather than a celebratory one. The sender of the warning was concerned that we didn’t take magic(k) seriously enough; that we were advocating its use willy-nilly like some sort of fun, new fad. But fear not. Although we don’t believe that fun and magic(k) are at odds with one another, we are nonetheless advocating its use very pointedly and with much consideration. And we are advocating its use precisely because it works.

As we’ve said in the past, one of the primary reasons why people don’t engage in magic(k) in the first place is out of a sense of dismissal. They dismiss magic(k) because they doubt it will produce results; and, they dismiss magic(k) because they fear it will produce results. Indeed, much of the bullshit that fertilizes the grand magic garden reeks of these airs of dismissal. Occult conspiracy theorists will even tell you that such bullshit is built up to protect the fruit from those who would dare set foot in the garden at all. Layers and layers of foul fluff and rotten rhetoric are woven into a formidable pile of vapid New Age-isms, Hollywood cheese, religious warnings, and occult elitism.

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