The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 16, 2013

Magic moments, trying to understand the process

By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 — In our modern world of lightening-quick access to unlimited information and futuristic gadgets, the prominence of magic has fallen to the wayside, way to the side.

But, whether or not people want to believe it, I think magic is very much alive in the day to day lives of most Americans.

When I say magic, I don’t mean illusions or slight of hand (not that those two things can’t be magical); I mean the ability to affect the world through use of seemingly supernatural means and the cultural traditions that sustain these beliefs.

I also like to think of things as “magical,” or having a “magical effect.”

For my first example, I would like to reference the magic of wishing.

Americans wish on everything: a falling star, a penny cast into a fountain and, most popularly, a birthday cake.

Candles, representing one’s age, are placed in a cake, lit and presented to the birthday boy or girl.

What does the birthday boy do next? Does he just blow out the candles?

No, first he makes a wish and then blows out the candles, and if he gets them all in one breath, the wish is supposed to come true.

This is magic on a basic level.

Numerous religious traditions across the world envision fire and smoke as a means of reaching out to the gods, Daoist, Jewish and Christian ceremonies utilizing incense are some of the first to pop in my head. (Not to mention certain Neopagan ceremonies that specifically feature candle lighting and wish-making.)

Back to the cake.

After making the wish and blowing out the candles, the wish ascends with the smoke to the supernatural realms, where perhaps a benevolent deity will grant the wish.

And if that doesn’t tickle one’s fancy, the sheer psychological effect of a birthday wish is more than enough to qualify as “magic.”

An example of a different sort comes in the form of “well witching.”

As I’ve read, the process of well-witching involves using two copper rods to locate a source of water underground.

One carries the rods around, holding them parallel to one another and when the rods cross, that’s where the water is.

I’m sure one could easily find a scientific explanation for why this happens, but it sure sounds like magic to me.

Another example, one of my personal favorites, is what I like to call “Mommy magic.”

Moms have a variety of magical powers: They can heal anything from boo-boos to a broken heart.

Furthermore, mothers are the givers of life. What’s more, they don’t just grant life, but they sustain it, too. All of this done with just their bodies.

That’s an amazing feat in and of itself, certainly qualifying as magical if not miraculous.

One could argue the scientific theories rooted in each one of these “magical” acts, but I don’t think that lessens the impact of the magic.

Magic happens around us all the time, from the birth of a beautiful baby to the changing of the seasons.

Science has just provided a way for us to systemically understand and communicate this “magic.”

The “magic” isn’t in the thing but comes from the feeling it invokes when observed by the individual.

The “magic” is in the perception, and the proof is in the pudding.