Not All Magic Has to be Instagram-Worthy

It’s been said that there is magic in beauty and beauty in magic. While this is certainly true and surely a thing to harness if one can, I wonder at times if our era of social media, cellphone cameras and perfectly curated aesthetics diminishes the willingness of some people to just get out there and do cast some spells. In fact, I’ve been wondering this for some time. 

Just out of frame of the most gorgeous candle spell you ever had the good fortune to scroll past is a pile of dirty laundry (literal or in the cases of many in the occult community, metaphorical) looming sinister over all the effort to obfuscate it. Behind the camera of every occult Instagram reel or well-staged TikTok footage of a spell going on may well be a sorcerer in flannel pajama pants and a worn band t-shirt. Rather than widening the aperture of our gazes in this world of ours, we find ourselves corralled into focus by expertly placed art.

These words oughtn’t dissuade people from appreciating the mystique of their spells or finding beauty in the melting wax of figure candles. Far from it. But I do hope to point out that an act of spellcraft needn’t be perfectly staged to be effective. I’ve had a few students come to me a bit bashful or even self-conscious because their spells, particularly their non-ceremonial spells, aren’t exactly gorgeous. To that end, let me provide some examples. 

Think of a baking tray. Nothing special on its face. I don’t mean a baking tray turned Trithemian Table of Practice, either. I just mean a sheet of metal upon which cookies and the like come to fruition. I’ve seen the ugliest candle spells ever put together take shape and change lives burn down on a baking tray. When asked why she chose that particular item, the woman under whom I was studying looked at me like I’d asked something stupid and replied, “it’s fire-proof.” 

A response so simple and, yet, so complete. She had no audience. This particular person was an older conjure woman who teaches you across her kitchen table for the service of you cleaning her house in the summer. A real treasure in how much she knew and, more to the point of this post, how much she could do with no posturing. She wasn’t accustomed to being observed or her spells being perceived by anyone beyond the spirits she called and, so, they didn’t need to be put on display. 

Her poppets? Ugly as sin. Either a napkin bunched up and bound so it looked like a ghost with a “head” into which the botanical or enchanted load was placed or a vaguely humanoid cut-out of paper upon which hair or other links were scotch-taped. “A powerful doll,” she’d tell me, “not a beautiful one.” She’d say this with a chuckle and a shrug. She’d often point out how she wasn’t the most crafty individual but you didn’t need to be. You only needed to be able to conjure. All you had to do was know “how to move the power.”

Consider a person in a one-bedroom apartment. Maybe they can set a corner aside for a small altar. Maybe they, like many of us, work multiple arcanas and use a single altar space for a whole host of pantheons. That’s pearl-clutch worthy to some people out there but, let me assure you, it’s more commonly done than is admitted. Keeping statuary, tables of practice (the very point of which is to have a mobile, portable and collapsible altar) and working components in a box under an end-table is as time-honored a tradition in the past few centuries as anything else, I’d wager. 

Even the concept of an altar is an interesting one. A few folk-magicians I’ve had the good fortune to learn under or speak to would point out that an altar was in a church. They didn’t do magic (if they even called it that. Magic and witchcraft were evil. They conjured. They worked people. But they didn’t do sorcery or anything like that. Surely) on an altar. They had a “working space” which was often their kitchen table or any reasonably flat surface they could get their hands on. This isn’t even to speak of how often occultists would use various aspects of their home like the hearth, a chain upon which a cauldron was hung, the back porch with its myriad wind-chimes and spirit-traps hung upon it, the freezer in the back of which enemies are kept or the toilet on the back of which a poppet of your most hated foe is affixed so you can, quite literally, shit on their life. 

Well-and-truly, any place can be a staging ground for your magic and your magic doesn’t need to pass muster in terms of a beauty pageant. 

Do I have nice-looking shit? Absolutely. Do I bulk-order pre-made poppets because it’s easier and nicer-looking than the ones I can make myself? Sure do. Do I take aesthetic photographs of spells-gone-by for the ‘Gram so that my social media can thrive? Doubtless, I do. But am I limited to that? Do the spells I chalk onto a concrete slab behind my home work as well as some of those I do on my fairly elaborate altars? Do the spells I cast in the forest that I don’t have time or resources to pretty-up hit like a truck? One hundred percent they do. 

There’s a place for any extreme in this question and for anything along the spectrum between them in a person’s magic. Pointing out the ubiquitous, mundane and, in some cases, stealthy aesthetic nature of a lot of folk magic is done in this post to simply show someone a few things. Your spells aren’t less-than because they aren’t as shiny-looking as some you see online. The results matter above all else. So much magic was done astrally, hidden from the prying eyes of others and called down in secret, observed by nobody. 

If you can master the whole of the spectrum from Absolutely Gorgeous Ritual Temple to I Hope Nobody Sees This Janky Shit, you’ve got it going on. At least that’s my opinion. 

Alexander Moore
Author: Alexander Moore

My name is Alexander Moore and I am a practicing esotericist with over two decades of active experience in several occult systems including Solomonic Magic, Conjure and other folk practices and Traditional Witchcraft. I am proud to provide coaching, mentorship and divination for occultists who are interested in taking their magic and their lives to the next level in a changing world.