She sat on my couch and wept. Not because her husband left. Because he wanted the kid.
“He abuses him. He abuses both of us,” she said between sips of pekoe. “Now he’s going to take my son.”
I didn’t know if any of it was true. It wasn’t my job to judge, just to listen. At least for now.
The husband had hired a private investigator to dig up dirt. He also had a very expensive lawyer. The hearing was in a month and it didn’t look good.
She took a quiet tone. “Can you cast a spell?”
I remembered an ancient egg-shaped court case charm involving snake spit. I figured I could make a pretty good version of that. I warned her that a justice spell can backfire: it will favor whoever’s in the right. If she had misrepresented anything…
“No,” she said. “That’s fine with me. There’s no way he’s in the right.”
Snake spit isn’t sold at supermarkets. It took a week of phone calls to get it. I also procured snake skins, which I powdered and mixed with the spit, some honey, and clay mix. I shaped it all around the egg during the enchantment process, which borrowed its form from an old Breton justice spell.
I don’t remember what she paid me. Another magician would have charged $300 – and that’s fair. It took about 15 hours of work, and it was draining. But I was in the habit of telling clients to pay what they felt was right. Not a profitable solution, but one in line with my values as a priest.
Those same values are why I’m launching Magic to the People.
Magic to the People will be an an open-door shrine offering magic spells at no fixed cost. Anyone can walk in, and their ceremony is done immediately. They drop as much or little money in the jar as they like.
The skeptic’s objection
I believe we have the power to change our lives, and magic ceremony is my tool for doing that. Whether or not it’s supernatural its effects are potent. But skeptics still object to the practice.
Increasingly those objections are couched in ethical terms. Is it right to charge money for magic services?
It’s a question of getting what you pay for. Many magicians are aware that their spells have limits and are careful not to promise unrealistic results. But as one who believes spells might have purely psychological effects – and who writes openly about that for all my clients to see – I have to admit I’m in a minority.
The problem is that even if I’m very forthright about not promising anything supernatural, a portion of my clients nonetheless believe in supernatural agents. In other words, they are spending money on something that may not exist.
Poverty further complicates this. If you can hardly afford groceries, a charm to get a new job might be a great investment – if it does what you expect it to do. If it doesn’t, the expense actively hurts your family. (Though it’s worth noting that such a charm would actually help, whether the mechanism is supernatural or cognitive.)
But what if we took money out of the equation?
A social service
Instead of selling magic as a product, Magic to the People offers it as a social service. People who believe in magic do not have to spend money to access it. Affluent believers can make a donation if they feel good about doing so, but those on the brink can drop a symbolic penny in the hat and take part in an awe-stirring ceremony – that just might provoke a change in their life.
I believe this directly addresses the “ethical” concerns skeptics say they have – magic belief is not fraudulent and can be delivered in a way that avoids any such appearance. But it’s worth noting, too, that even calling for-pay magical services fraud is a step too far. Magic is as much an art form as is painting or drama, one that’s engaging and satisfying to both the magician and the recipient. I don’t know that it matters whether artists and their clientele have different explanations of what makes their work so useful.
Will this service be well received? Right now, Magic to the People is climbing toward our goal, and you can help. Whether you contribute money or simply help us spread the word, please check out the Magic to the People campaign and see what you think.
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