Last week I spent five and a half glorious days at the Grey School's Pacific Northwest Conclave in Central Oregon. We spent our time in workshops, ritual, deep discussion, and relaxing. It was a wonderful "time out of time" sort of experience. It was wonderful to spend time with so many good friends and to deepen my relationships with my peers. One of the workshop's I taught was on the nature of magickal intent. As both a Witch and a professional mediator, I have a rather particular view of intent. I believe that no magickal can truly come to fruition if you don't really understand what it is you're trying to do, so here's my handout from conclave to help.
Magickal Intent - presented at the 2011 PNW Conclave
Practitioners do magick when they want to change something. That change could be getting something they don't have, achieving something difficult, a subtle internal change...almost anything. However, for that change to really take effect, the wizard has to really know what it is that they want – inside and out. Saying something like “I will that my life be better” is a wish, not a spell. Now, do it long enough and it can turn into one, but in and of itself that wish is just far too general to be effective magick. To do really effective magick you need to know what you really need to accomplish your goals, not just what you think you want.
To clarify your magickal intent, to really know what you want, you need to identify your underlying interests in the situation.
By understanding your underlying interests you can tailor your magick to help you get exactly what you really need. All the magickal know-how and power in the world won't help you if you're asking for the wrong things. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the stereotypical use of a love spell. We all know the basic story, a young person is desperately crushing on a particular person and does a love spell to make that person fall in love; this inevitably fails utterly or backfires in spectacular fashion. In such a scenario the young person thinks what they want is that other person, but why? The young person sees the other as the person that will give him or her the affection and companionship that is lacking. Why does the young person want that? The young person is lonely and needs a self-esteem boost. What the young person should have done was a spell to boost self-confidence and to attract the kind of person that would assuage his or her loneliness in a positive way.
An underlying interest is root level interest that is impinged upon by the conflict. It's what's left when you ask yourself why you want the change, and then ask why, and then ask why. If you ask yourself “why do I want that” and there's more than one possible answer, then you haven't found your underlying interest yet. Underlying interests tend to be straightforward things like safety, pride, comfort, love, health, etc. For example:
Joe is annoyed by his co-worker Dave. Why? Dave gets paid more than Joe for doing the same job. Why is this a problem? This makes Joe feel undervalued and unappreciated. Why is that important? It hurts Joe's pride and self-esteem. Joe's underlying interests in this conflict are pride and self-esteem.
Once we understand our underlying interests we can apply our magick to create the change that will actually resolve the conflict. In the example above, had Joe not identified his underlying interests he might have decided that the best way to resolve the situation was to do a spell to help him convince his boss to give him a raise. This would have equalized the pay disparity and resolved the surface issue, but may or may not have really satisfied his underlying interests. Instead, knowing his underlying interests, Joe might do a spell to help him achieve the recognition and value that he feels he deserved. Now, that might manifest similarly (in a raise) but it will probably get to that end in a very different way.
Knowing your underlying interests tells you where to stick your magickal fulcrum so that you can move the most weight with the least amount of effort. The problem with addressing only surface concerns is that the conflict never really resolves and you'll have to keep fixing more surface concerns as they manifest from your unsettled interest. For example, if Erin doesn't get along with her co-workers and does a spell to get a new job, and then finds she doesn't like her co-workers at her new job she's going to keep doing spells to find new jobs until she finally finds people she can work with. If she had just addressed the source of the conflict in the first place she could have done one spell to fix things rather than ten. Know what you really want and do magick to get it and suddenly all of those surface issues will resolve themselves. Clarify your magickal intent by understanding your underlying interests and see what happens.
Based on concepts used in professional mediation.
Branscomb, Melinda. Mediation, Mediation Advocacy, and Collaborative Law Workbook. Spring 2009.
Frenkel, Douglas, and James Stark. The Practice of Mediation. Aspen. New York: 2008.