Not all Pagans practice magic* similarly. There are many interpretations as to what magic is. Some have very strict codes about what is and isn’t acceptable. Some are very formal and others less so in their practice.
In my personal practice, my main magical workings tend to be theurgical, meaning that I do rituals with the intent of working with my spirit allies towards a goal. Often this is done through an exchange of sorts. In some cases, I meditate and trance with the purpose of communicating with a spirit about an issue I am having. That spirit may ask for something in exchange. I will then ritually present that desire along with prayers and chants of thanks and hope. Usually, there’s an understanding that more will come if my wish is granted. Sometimes my spirit allies laugh at me and explain that we can’t always get what we want.
I’ve found that one has to be very careful what one wishes for and how our hopes and dreams are put into words. In my experience, spirits, including the Gods, aren’t always able to bring about desired change. This is reflected in my limited work as, sometimes, a spirit ally expresses that he/she/it can merely try to put some extra power towards a goal while not guaranteeing the future. Sometimes we have to remember that not all things can be and the whole universe doesn’t revolve around us.
I usually stick to asking for general healing, inspiration, good harvests, safety, and protection. I try not to be very greedy. I try to accept limits and mortality. I always work hard at saying “thank you” for the blessings I have. I strive to make and maintain relationships with my spirit allies as they are in the Otherworld and more powerful at shaping what is yet to be. I do direct energy and intent, but I believe my allies are stronger and, with them, my work can be strengthened. I evoke them, thank them, toast them, dine them, and we work together. Some beings, like my caring ancestors or animal guides, are very interested in my well-being. Some Gods are very loving to their followers. I’ve found that Brighid, as a Goddess of the hearth, artisans, and women, is very sensitive to her followers and their tribes. She is very linked to human society and has a real kindness to her spirit. Other deities are not as concerned. They can be very aloof or have other interests – a desire for offerings, energy, attention… They don’t always listen or act which is why I think it’s best to meditate on a goal and/or divine whether or not the spirit is willing to even lend you support. It’s been important for me to get to know my allies and it’s an ever-evolving thing.
Sometimes I do kitchen and folk magic which is very informal. I put my love into the food I make to nourish my family and friends. I light candles and pray. I look to the sky and ask for rain. I use herbs for very practical things such as energizing teas, relaxing baths, soothing bed pillows, and calming balms. Candle magic is a favorite of mine. It’s very easy for me to put my intent into a candle that I imbue with symbols and oils then visualize my intentions going where they need to.
Occasionally, I use herbal tisanes, wine, or ointments for meditation or trance.
Art is part of my magical workings. Sachets to hold herbs, dolls to house spirits or represent desires, twine to hold drying herbs, or cloaks to envelop you while you meditate. I say prayers and chant when I create such items. Tools are ritually consecrated in the name of Fire, Well, and Tree. I put my love into them.
Although a majority of the magic I do is for personal gains (inspiration, protection of the home, banishing obnoxious people from my life) or general (rain during drought, healing for a disaster-struck area), I occasionally do magic for a friend or family member. I always insist that it not be a crutch – work must be done in the physical realm as well. You know… the classic example of filling out a job application and updating one’s resume in addition to a spell to find work.
Some argue that magic is all in the head. Some of it definitely is – I don’t know how much. Sometimes it’s meant to be in the head! I do know that I’ve had things happen after doing spells that seem more than coincidence. Sometimes it takes time or repetition… Other times you have to know when to accept what is. I don’t over rely on magic – I’m more content to be thankful for what comes naturally and learn how to deal with what I cannot control. But in a world where I’m mostly powerless, as are most people, there’s nothing wrong with trying to exert a little force in a certain direction. I don’t pretend to do things I cannot do. I respect the laws of Nature as a good Nature worshiper must, but I’m also open-minded about what is unknown.
Magic is part of Druidism. Some of us may do it or think about it differently, but it’s there. It’s not 100% what Druidism is about – but it’s there and is part of its beauty.