I Might Be A Realist, But I Still Believe In Magic

What’s not to believe in about a Patronus?

I was 10 years old when I first started delving deeper and deeper into the corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I’d received a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book in the series, as a birthday gift, years after its initial publishing date. Azkaban covers a significant year in the Wizarding World: A mysterious and dangerous convict is on the loose and trusted companions are revealed to be mortal enemies; time itself is turned around like clockwork; and all of this is happening alongside the daily horrors of magical puberty. I tore through page after page, learning about new spells—most significantly, the Patronus—and spiraled backward and forward through time as the exhilarating adventures of the three young wizards unfolded. 

As the rest of the series was released, and my high school years came to an end, I clicked and clacked the keys of my first laptop in an attempt to craft the perfect college application essay. My primary topic: magic. 

The idea of magic was what always had appealed to me. My first literary obsession was Alice In Wonderland. My love encompassed all the magic in the cinematic and literary world; I visited Neverland, Narnia, the Hundred Acre Wood, Ollivander’s, and Wonderland in an afternoon. And I still, to this day, have dreams of grand labyrinths, frosted protean cookies with disguised intentions, and beasts with enigmatic wisdom. Not only did I believe in the things that seemed impossible, I was allowed to be a part of them.

And yet, all that said, I admit that I consider myself to be a realist. I look at the real world with an open mind, but my inherent cynicism means that I accept its many failures and letdowns. But the magical worlds I love are complex—full of life, energy, and mystery—in a way that makes the actual one seem pretty dull. This is why I choose to look at the world through magical rose-colored glasses—it's a way to see the beauty in everything. Simply seeing things through the eyes of a realist makes me focus on what isn't there rather than all things that are—even if those things are only possibilities yet to manifest.

I spent many years waiting for my quest. It sounds pathetic, but I really thought that one day, I would be swept into something bigger, grander, and brighter. I waited for a guide, a mentor, a sign that there was something else I was supposed to be doing; that this world was merely a pale reflection of what truly existed. That day never came.

It took me a long time to accept that I wasn’t going to get sucked into a portal and drawn into a majestic adventure. Part of me still has that sliver of hope. I am still 100 percent open to becoming a skilled archer or visiting the clock-trees of Fillory on the back of a hippogriff. But my realism often shrouds those fantasies in a life-sucking smoke, flattening them back between the pages on my shelf.

When I see practitioners of Wicca or Pagan ideologies, I see religion. I don’t see magic in the fictitious sense. I see rituals, energy work, mindset shifts, and expanded consciousness and self-reflection. I believe that there can be power in centering your mind around crystals or chakras, breathing deeply as a way to calm down. I believe that reading your natal chart or your horoscope can provide you with new ways to perceive your world. I believe that there is power in believing that people are good and that we should be kind to one another. Sparks won’t be flying out of my fingertips, but with the right focus and energy, maybe I could realistically manifest the things I want into fruition. Not because I think the universe is listening to me closely, but because I think I’m listening more closely to myself. We do have power over our environments, and we usually access it through our actions and our brains, not with wands. 

People who know me as fundamentally a realist might be surprised to know that I have an altar in my bedroom. Atop it, I keep a tarot deck, a few photos, a dried bouquet of flowers, candles, crystals, and other small reminders of the things I love and want in my life. I light the candles, often draw a card from my deck and read up on its meaning. I have read my full astrological natal chart, I research moon cycles, and I fully believe in many homeopathic healing remedies. None of this contradicts the fact that I am a realist. Reality is based on perception; the things we know now about the stars and space are just as real as they were before we knew the ways of the universe.  

The world is really just like our old friend Schrodinger’s cat: Any outcome is real until we know for a fact that it isn't. And so maybe magical worlds can be real too until we know they aren’t. We can create magic in our own simple ways. And about that quest I'm waiting on? I still believe I'm going to be picked up for it any day now, and when it happens, I’ll say, “I knew it all along.”