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By Witchipedia, Magical Religions and Spiritual Paths

Magick: Etymology & A List of Magical Modalities

Updated on:


Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)


Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Magick is accomplishing change according to one’s will using methods beyond the realm of general understanding.

The definition of magic(k) is somewhat of a challenge. For some, magick is the science of the impossible. For others, magick is the possibilities beyond science. For some magick exists beyond nature.

For others, magick is working with nature. Some believe that magick exists outside of science, while others believe that science will one day explain magick as it has explained so many things that once seemed magical; which begs the question, if we understand how it works, does that make it less magickal?


The term “Magick” has its origins in the writings of occultist Aleister Crowley, who added the “k” to distinguish it from stage magic, emphasizing the spiritual and transformative aspects.

Magick encompasses a wide range of practices and beliefs, including but not limited to ritual magick, astral magick, environmental magick, and evocative magick.

Ritual magick involves the use of specific ceremonies, symbols, and tools to create a sacred space and invoke supernatural forces, drawing on ancient traditions like Hermeticism and the Golden Dawn.

Astral magick focuses on the exploration of the astral plane through meditation and lucid dreaming, allowing practitioners to gain insights, heal, and connect with higher realms.


The word magic comes to us from the Latin magicus and the Greek magikos which in turn came from the Persian Magi or Magians which was applied to Zoroastrian astrologer priests.

The “k” in Magick was adopted by Aleister Crowley, a 20th-century occultist, in order to differentiate from the word magic as applied to stage magic or prestidigitation which was quite popular at the time. The “k” existed in older writings, but was not considered proper modern spelling then, or now.


According to Aleister Crowley, Magick is “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the Will.”((Magick in Theory and Practice by Aleister Crowley)) By this definition, the act of boiling water, planting a seed, and painting a wall may all be magical acts, if you are doing them according to your Will!  Indeed Crowley asserted that any intentional act is a magickal act.

Many are not prepared to accept this and limit the definition of magic to those acts which bring about change in a way science cannot explain. Others believe that the definition holds if we specify that any act toward that change be an act of intention while others insist that subtle energies must be mentioned.

Donald Michael Kraig elaborated on Crowley’s definition and defined magick as “the science and art of causing change (in consciousness) to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science”((Modern Magick by Donald Micheal Kraig))  and Scott Cunningham went in a slightly different direction defining Magick as “The movement of natural (but little understood) energies from the human body and from natural objects to manifest change.”((Dreaming the Divine by Scott Cunningham))

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But these definitions are not satisfactory if we consider divination to be magic, as the origin of the word magic certainly applied to those whose activities were focused more on divination than anything else.

Divination is about gathering wisdom, not affecting change. There are many people today who do not consider divination, astral projectiondream workenergy work, and similar activities to be magick, but there are just as many who do.

Magical Modalities

Exploring some of the modalities employed by magick users may help further our understanding of magick itself.

There are four major ways in common practice for bringing about intentional change in ways that science cannot easily explain way.

These are ritual, astral, environmental, and evocative magick. Most magic users combine all or some of these in their practices.

Ritual Magick

Ritual Magick includes practices commonly known as ceremonial magickspellcraft, and some sympathetic magic though all of these magical types do tend to overlap. The idea behind ritual-based magick is that the ritual acts (chants, movements, the use of symbols and tools) cause the magic-user’s attention and energy to be focused on the task at hand and then “raised” through repetition and finally released into the Universe to bring about the desired change.

Ritual magic is commonly practiced by people who combine their magical and religious practices, especially practitioners of various spiritual Witchcraft Traditions, including Wicca and traditional witchcraft and other magico-religious traditions like Kabbalah and Thelema, but ritual can certainly exist outside of religion.

Not all ritual magicians are religious. For example, practitioners of Chaos Magick generally do not attach religion to their magical practice and many (but certainly not all) are Atheist.

This sort of magick is sometimes referred to as High Magick. However, many Low Magick techniques are ritualistic in nature.

Many sympathetic magic and candle magic spells are ritualistic in nature, though they are often lumped under the low magick category.

Astral Magic(k)

When a practitioner goes into a trance state and leaves his or her body in order to seek out knowledge on the Astral Plane, to visit another location on the physical plane or to cause something to happen on the physical plane, this is called Astral Magic(k).

Astral Magick is also used by many people who incorporate their magical practices with their religious practices.

There is some disagreement among practitioners as to whether dream work falls into this category mainly because there is some disagreement as to whether dream space exists on the astral plane or not.

Ritual magic can also be combined with astral magic as practitioners may perform rituals on the astral plane, manifesting whatever environment or tools they need as thought-forms as their astral self acts out the ritual just as the physical self might in a physical space.

Astral magic is utilized by many practitioners of Shamanism and Hedge Witchery, but not exclusively by any means.

Environmental Magic(k)

Environmental magic(k) refers to the use of the energies inherent in all things. Locations and natural objects may be chosen based on the energy they already contain in order to bring these energies into the magical work.

Locations may be powerfully energetic based on the natural materials present or the history and traditional usage of the place, while some areas carry energy that is less easily defined. 

These sites may be specifically chosen as the location for spellwork or stones or dirt (ex. graveyard dirt) may be gathered from these places to bring their energy into spellwork performed elsewhere.

Certain stones, herbs, colors, and other objects, even animals, may be employed to bring their certain energetic flavors into magical working. Someone may, for example, carry a bloodstone on his person to help fight off infections. This sort of magic is often considered Low Magic or Folk Magic though an object may be ritually charged to enhance and target its natural energies.

Kitchen Witches may take the natural properties of her ingredients into consideration when preparing meals to bring about family harmony or stimulate desire in a potential lover.

Many complicated magical systems use environmental magic as well. An Alchemist my combine certain stones, metals, and herbs into a talisman or elixir. Many very complicated spells in the old sorcerers’ grimoires include herbs, metals, and stones as well.

Feng Shui may be considered a form of environmental magic as well and ley lines are related lore.

Environmental magic is often used in conjunction with other types of magic to enhance effects and help focus energy.

Evocative Magic(k)

Evocative magic (from the word evoke) involves enlisting the aid of spirit beings such as deities, elemental spirits, djinn, angelssaints, demons, and ancestors to bring about the desired change. Sometimes these spirits are asked nicely and offered gifts in exchange for their help, but in some cases, the spirits are bound, threatened, and otherwise forced into helping the magic-user, as in Goetia.

Many people who combine their religious and magical practices use evocative magic. Some would disagree that this sort of evocative magic is magic at all and define it instead as elaborate prayer, i.e. religion, while others would argue that magick and religion are two sides of the same coin.

Some believe that evocation involves summoning archetypes that are part of your own psyche and therefore there are no actual outside beings involved.

Theurgy involves the evocation of Gods and other spirit beings to discover greater truths, becoming one with the divine, and achieving a higher state of being.

Goetia is a system of magick that revolves around summoning and commanding demons and djinn.

Enochian magick is a system of magick that depends on the command of various angelic beings, though it has a heavy Astral component as well.

Catholics might call upon the aid of Saints, burning special candles to attract their attention and help, carrying or wearing medals of their patron Saints for protection or other blessings.

Adherents of Voodoo, or Santeria or Umbanda may invoke their deities (Lwa, Orishas or Orixás respectively) allowing them to ride them while delivering messages from the spirit world or may otherwise appeal to them much the way Catholics appeal to the saints.

In modern Wicca, invoking the Goddess is often called Drawing Down the Moon.

In many new-age witchcraft practices, one or more Gods and Goddesses may be evoked according to their realm of influence in a non-religious sense, to make use of the energies they represent.

For example, AphroditeVenus, or Ishtar (or all three) may be evoked simply for the purpose of a love spell. This is especially common among those with a Jungian view of cosmology, who believe that the Gods are not literal but aspects of ourselves or archetypes of our collective consciousness.

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About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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