Magic Lessons

Our “sleepy dream time” potion infusing. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

The house grows still after another busy day. Upstairs, my husband’s voice rumbles like a purring cat as he reads to our daughter in bed. A moment ago, she sipped a “sleepy dream time” potion we made together.

Lately, Bee has been playing witch. I did the same thing when I was her age. I dug out a plastic cauldron and hat from the Halloween decor, then turned my dresser into a potion table complete with plastic spiders and fancy perfume bottles. My daughter is drawn to the magical aesthetic just as I was, but she has the advantage over the younger me: she has an adult polytheist to guide her for as long as she desires.

And she desires. Last night into this morning, she begged me to teach her spells. I reminded her, as always , that I’ve been doing that. I repeat the same refrain each time the topic comes up: real magic isn’t how Hollywood or most fantasy authors portray. Not usually, anyway. Real magic is about action rather than looks.

I model the best I can by making offerings, singing my gratitude to the plants, and reciting our protection prayer each night. Parenting continues to reveal my greatest strengths as well as my weaknesses. Until I became a mother, I didn’t realize how dreadfully impatient I can be. I suppose it’s because I must be so patient with my students, and a part of my always expects more from my daughter. So I grit my teeth and wait for her to change into her witch outfit then join me in the herb bed. We collect ingredients for the sleepy dream time tea I promised to teach her about. I reach deep inside, and often fail, to steady my breath and be as focused and disciplined as I tell her one must be when working magic. I wait for her to get her bear so that she, too, can join us in making a potion. We name the herbs and the effect we desire. I teach her the incantation I wrote and we say it three times, our hands hovering over the warm infusion.

We drink our tisane and I realize that we are teaching each other. As I impart my lessons, I recall the importance of play. Perhaps there is a place for the aesthetic part of magic after all, whatever the tradition. How many of us were drawn to Druidry, witchcraft, Wicca, etc because of a book cover or movie portrayal? And how often do we feel a shiver of inspiration when we see a beautiful piece of devotional art or a fellow celebrant dressed up as an avatar of the divine? I stayed and dug deeper because I sensed something more, something necessary to my well-being. My teachers helped, and gods know they were patient with me.

I sometimes worry that my daughter will grow bored of what I offer with the reality that I can’t make things float or turn on lights with the flick of a wand. But maybe, just maybe, in taking breaks from my own work and giving her my time, teaching her the slow ways with plants and poetry, she’ll discover the spirit of magic, of Druidry, of the spirits. While she may not embrace it all as an adult, at least, I hope, a cup of tea will conjure memories of me. Perhaps, in the end, that will be the greatest magic of all.

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