Light Magic for Dark Times
Lisa Marie Basile
Fair Winds Press, 2018
I don’t know magic. I adore myth, whether ancient or contemporary. Flowing between our pragmatic lives of mundane acts of casual survival, the joy and pain of it, and our imaginative being prompted by wonder and invigorated by creativity is myth. It perhaps most readily finds its expression in religion, codified doctrine or ambiguous faith. As religion dies or fades, as it gives way to reason and is pulled out of dreamy escapism or ignoble justification it becomes something anyone can approach to see just how our species so loves story.
Narrative is how we make sense of the world. We tell ourselves and others stories whether they be fictions or nonfictions, poetry or bureaucracy, because doing so allows us to feel and understand most deeply. So while I don’t know magic, I know story. I revel in it. It is serious play. Fun, grim, silly, and serious all at once. It is enlivening and sustaining such is Lisa Marie Basile’s Light Magic for Dark Times. This grimoire of 100 spells and rituals intended as a kind of “manifestation process” giving readers and practitioners a means to respond “to the general feeling of helplessness and trauma…many of us are facing–globally and personally.”
Basile has “been practicing magic for so long—and in a really intimate, quiet, chaotic, eclectic and solitary way” and with this book provides a means for others to begin to do so as well as an expression of solidarity and support for the quiet horde of others doing the same as her. But there is more to Basile’s spellbook guide than self-care or spiritual exploration, which is what makes it such an exciting work. Here Basile models a means to craft engagement with the world and others beyond meditation or mindfulness (though, certainly, intimately tied to them).
It would be easy to see this book as something trivial or silly. It certainly can be for it is earnest. But to suppose this and dismiss it outright is the move of someone suffering through a poverty of imagination. Just as when we give ourselves over to music, reading this collection grants us permission and opportunity to nourish our inner life while being firmly grounded and moving with ordinary purpose in our outer one. Like listening to Lana Del Rey or the bloody love songs of Nick Cave, these spells allow us to embrace high melodrama. It a Faustian move, at once sensible and impractical, and such immanence provides a superb means to weave ourselves together.
Throughout Basile positions magic, “The use of nature and intuition and intention,” as a personal exercise akin to writing poetry meant as “a hyper-focused look at a moment, feeling, or desire.” Thus the paraphernalia of casting is less about whatever airy New Age trope is most popular and more centered around personal totems through which to focus one’s thought. Basile goes into crystals, candles, and herbs respecting each and every practice as she approaches them on their terms. To purpose being to give readers a foothold into forming their own practices, finding and imbuing their own totems. The intimacy of these spells and rituals demand a lot out of us. It’s easy to scoff. Our culture is dominated by the truncation of emotion, the dampening of intimacy, and contempt for self-reflection. Also, there’s the ever present impropriety of ostentation, the knowing cultivation of a shallow performative facade, or affectation. Basile’s process makes it a point to be intersectional without being appropriative as well as being vocally on-guard against it.
My favorite spells in Light Magic for Dark Times are those done utterly alone or silently demanding I overcome shame and embarrassment to manifest my bias, beliefs, fears, or hopes, for example, A Spell to Turn Feelings of Hate into an Act of Self-Love. They also give me a template to create my own unique and personal rituals. Basile covers so many areas (A Ritual to Get Rid of Imposter Syndrome, A Ritual to Encourage Growth After a Traumatic Event, or A Collaborative Word Magic Ritual for Building Love and Trust). The magic here is generated through deliberate attention so when her spells take us from the bedroom to the bath to the kitchen to handicrafts or sharing moments with others we draw around us a gravity of kindness.
Perhaps you find all this in your religion, in your chosen fandom, in your profession, or in your studies. There is nothing to say all of these areas along with Basile’s kind of magic can’t overlap or buttress each other. Mysticism is a path of deep study often traveled alone. To have Light Magic for Dark Times accompany you not only mitigates the lonesomeness but returns vigor to the journey. It is one of many ways to heal yourself from emotional and physical harm, to make yourself better.
About the Author
Lisa Marie Basile is a poet-witch and founding creative director of Luna Luna magazine—a diary of darkness and light, literature, identity, and magic. Her work encounters the intersection of ritual and wellness, chronic illness, magic, overcoming trauma, and poetry. She is the author of Light Magic for Dark Times and poetry collections Andalucia and Apocryphal, as well as the forthcoming Nympholepsy. She has written for the New York Times, Narratively, Grimoiremagazine, Venefica, The Establishment, Refinery 29, Bust, Hello Giggles, and more. Her work has been nominated for the Best American Experimental Writing anthology and for several Pushcart Prizes, and has appeared in The Best Small Fictions, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Robert Olen Butler. Lisa Marie earned a master’s degree in writing from The New School and studied literature and psychology at Pace University. She lives in New York City.