Magic, as I view it, is not complicated. Nor is it it inaccessible. It is a bit contradictory—the imprecise of art of gaining control over your own life through the embracing of the countless factors, all larger than you, that you cannot control.
To live in a world of magic is not like keeping a dog, where an exact set of commands are learned, given, and rewarded with proper behavior. The natural world is no one’s dog. Instead think of it as having a cat. You love the cat, and love the joy and affection it adds to your life, but you are not in charge.
The best you can do is live in harmony—arrange your home so that the cat goes to the bathroom in a place that won’t gross you out, remember not to leave glassware at the edge of countertops, keep your bedroom door open at night if you want pillow cuddles. You wouldn’t expect a cat to be anything but a cat.
This list, then, is my ways to stop trying to train the countless cats in your life and instead to enjoy living in a house that filled with cats from door to door, each with their own unique personality and temperamental quirks. The world doesn’t have to work with you, but you can always find better ways to work with the world.
1. For the outdoor portion of your daily commute, no matter how brief, pay attention to the topography and find something with a touch of wild in it. A patch of weeds, a tree box, or a vacant lot. Establish it as your day-to-day connection to the natural world or, for Mists of Avalon fans, a piece of the Goddess.
2. Make a point of looking at this patch of nature every day as you pass it, to study it, to see how it changes with the days and seasons. Notice that, if you look closely enough, you’ll probably find that it’s day-to-day conditions vary as much as the mood you wake up with or the kind of person you feel like being that day.
3. Appreciate that if you can do this, you’re beginning to internalize the scariest, most liberating truth there is: You are just a thing that grows on this planet, like a tree or a worm, and subject to the same inescapable governing forces of life as tree or a worm. When it rains, you get wet. You live without sun at night. At some time in the future you’re going to die.
4. To help with this realization, pay attention to whatever fauna happen to inhabit your patch. Are there pigeons, sparrows, some kind of hawk? A squirrel or a rat? Watch the animal for as long as you can - pay attention to their individual personalities, movements and facial expressions. Try to figure out if it has a particular branch or area that it defends as territory. See how they interact with each other. Look for the ways they survive in world around them and see if you can adopt any for yourself.
5. When you have a few minutes with your computer or smart phone, Google the symbolism and significance of the animals you saw that day. Or even wild critters that you just seem particularly drawn to or repulsed by. Humans have been imbuing the animal kingdom with their own mythology and personalities for ages—it says more about us than them. You can begin see the critters around you as little messages from the universe, giving you advice on what you need to do or be that day.
6. Once you start researching the symbolism of animals, research the symbolism of everything. Find something you see everyday that fascinates you. Shapes, plants, numbers, colors, letters, cardinal directions—chances are if you name it, someone’s written on the symbology of it or it has personal significance to the viewer. Study it in your free time with ten minutes here or there as something pops into your head as being worthy of future investigation.
7. Think of individual symbols as words and collections of such as sentences. Say you pass a billboard every day that pictures a duck on a green triangle, facing west. Put those three factors together to see if they form a greater message. Find what, if anything, in your life this message resonates with. If nothing’s obvious, make one up. The world is different depending on who’s looking at it.
8. Know that you understand yourself better than you think you do, but much of this understanding sits in your subconscious. Focusing your attention on an external object while letting your inner dialogue turn over a problem or question will tell you how you’re really feeling about something. Hearing your own true voice like this can feel like a psychic flash, but it’s really just your intuition speaking to you clearly. The external object just acts like a mirror to your own conscience.
9. As you continue to study the world, let your combined your learned facts on the meanings of things blur with your own inner voice. Let seemingly random objects and occurrences in your daily life resonate with you as carefully crafted cosmic messages, pointing you towards realizations (however large or small) about your place in the larger whole of things.
10. Congratulate yourself—you’ve learned to read the world like a tarot card, turning a seemingly random mess of images into a piece of insight on your past, present or desired future. You can do this with clouds, with puddles, with tea leaves, and coffee rings—just relax into yourself and ask a question, and see what answer you see.
11. If you’re still on track with this list, find a new age book store and pick up a tarot deck. Get advice from the store’s employee if necessary as they generally know the ins and outs. You can find a number of different deck motifs—King Arthur, The Orishas, even Star Wars—that fit with your specific interests and desired level of visual complexity. You can pick up a tarot guide book if you want a more exhaustive education, or use the one that comes in the box if you’d like to stick more with your own self-taught interpretations.
12. Get to know your cards; read your guidebook, flip through your deck. You can start with a “card of the day” for reading for yourself to get used to the cards and the reading process, and then progress to doing simple readings for yourself—three or four card spreads—as a way to learn the language of tarot and the ways you interpret it. All your experience in symbol reading should come in very handy at this point.
13. As you’re teaching yourself to read the cards, keep a few things in mind. The more general the question you ask, the better answer you can get. So “what is holding me back from finding a new job?” is better than “will I get the job I just applied for?” just as “what qualities should I be looking for in an ideal mate?” is better than “when will I find a boyfriend?” This also helps prevent you from simply seeing the answer you want to see. Finally, trust your intuition and go with hunches, even if they read against what your book says.
14. Outside of a reading, you can explore a few fun ways to figure out which cards are “your cards.” Different cards of the deck correspond to astrological signs and specific birthdays. One fun exercise is to put your birthday into this “birth card calculator” to see which cards you were born under. This is a way to both learn more about your own attributes and become comfortable using your birthday for personal understanding.
15. Go to the ever-helpful Astrolabe and get a free comprehensive birth chart cast for yourself. If it all possible, find out the exact time of your birth as this gives a much more accurate picture of where the stars were when you popped out. Try not to make the immature joke I always make about putting the letter “a” at the end of their URL.
16. Check your rising sign on your new birth chart. Your rising sign—the particular constellation rising in the sky at the time of your birth—is said to indicate both your public person and the side of you that people see. It’s like the mask you wear. A school of thought called esoteric astrology uses this as your soul’s sign, the one that carries with you from life to life. A person can learn a ton about themselves and how people see them by studying their rising sign.
17. Next up check your moon sign. If your personality was a house, your moon sign is your basement—it’s where your emotions, motivations, and hidden traits live. While not as dominant in your personality as the rising sign, the location of the moon in your chart will help you more fully understand what makes you tick.
18. While you’re at it, get to know more about your sun sign. That is, really know it—learn about its mythological implications, it’s corresponding battle of Hercules, what element it is, and whether you’re fixed, rising or cardinal. There’s more to your sun sign then comes with the six-word description above your daily horoscope in the newspaper.
19. Start tracking the moon, and find a reliable website to tell you when it is at full, quarter, and new. Learn which periods are best for starting, peaking, or winding down endeavors. Pay attention to you how you feel at the different phases. See if everyone actually does go crazy on full moons.
20. Track the moon through the 12 zodiac signs, as it changes every few days. Use it as a way to learn more about the signs that aren’t yours. See if you can spot their influences on the people around you from day to day: For instance, check if your friends seem chattier when the moon’s in Gemini.
21. Track the sun through the signs too. It stays in each one for a month, giving you ample time to read up on the various sun signs and see the effect their influence has on the world. For instance, frigid early January is when the sun’s in Capricorn. Capricorns are known for inner coldness. Is it any wonder the month after the holidays gets so lonely?
22. Pay attention to the day and night; the way that their lengthening and shortening changes people’s attitudes, their moods, and their desire to go out. Figure out what you do best during the day and what you do best at night—this is not a limitation, but a life hack. Night and day are different worlds and they’re for doing different things.
23. Go ahead and read up on the symbolism of the sun and the moon. That will lead you to the divine feminine/masculine, yin/yang, light/dark, and every other “two equal opposing forces come together as a perfect whole” story in existence. It didn’t begin with Star Wars, but the series does make a point about balance.
24. This tension is what makes things beautiful, like how a leaf shines brightest before it falls. So take all the new things you’ve learned and make something—whatever it is you like to make—and put a part of yourself in it. Don’t worry how it’ll be perceived by another. Just make sure it’s a pure reflection of you.
25. If you can make something you’re proud of simply for the joy of making it, put a wish into it. The kind of wish you can work towards. Pretend your wish will come together just as easily as the project in your hands. Then make it true.
26. Learn how to make wishes on everything: fill a bowl with water and toss a coin in it, write a goal on a cigarette and smoke it, or put a prayer into a deep breath and let it go into the sky. Something out there will mark your words, even if that something is a hidden and spectacular part of yourself.
27. Match all your wishes with gratitude—the world is a large, dangerous, and random place. Every day where you still have the strength to identify what you want and fight for it is it’s own piece of magic. If you don’t understand that, you’ve never had a truly hope-free day and you’re lucky.
28. Remember this writer’s number one rule for life: “Things come and go, and if you wait long enough they tend to come back.” Try and believe it when things don’t go as you desired.
29. Not only be careful what you wish for, but be careful of what you want. You tend to get it. And it takes twice as much work to get rid of it as it does to manifest.
30. Finally, and most importantly, don’t make decisions that cause harm others and don’t make decisions that harm yourself.