Writing a course for magical students… the unfurling….

When I first set out to put together the materials and people’s contributions towards ‘Choosing a Magical Path’, my intention was to have voices of various teachers, authors and adepts, all in one place, along with some resources, all freely available. It is interesting how things take on a life of their own and this project certainly has!  I had meant to just have a couple of basic lessons on each foundation subject of magic so that beginners could set out on their quest to find the right school with some basic skills under their arm. But while I am waiting for the various teachers and adepts to write their articles and essays, I found myself planning out more and more lessons and doing it in a way that I had not expected.

When I used to teach magic a lot, I would teach it in the form of weekend workshops, monthly classes and week long residentials. It sort of worked but sort of didn’t at the same time. And the way I would teach would be based upon the subject matter: I introduced people to realms, contacts and actions.

I noticed that a small amount of people in the groups would take the work and practice it, develop it and turn it into something appropriate for them, and many others would simply turn up, get a magic hit, and then do nothing again until the next class. To be honest I found it depressing as well as a major drain on my energetic resources: I was doing their work for them. It never ever occurred to me, because I can be incredibly dumb, that the way I was teaching, the way I was approaching the teaching, was all wrong. I should have known this as I taught other subjects as my ‘day job’ and I taught them very well. I just never made the connection between ‘it’s not working’ and ‘you are not using your knowledge of teaching’. Like I said…. dumb…


me and a group of magicians on a discussion panel for an occult conference.. Peter Gray, Julian Vayne, Me, and David Rankine

Stay with me on this one……

When I was a young whipper snapper, I trained professionally in ballet and then trained again as a teacher. It was a rather intense training, with not only the practical application, but technical theory, anatomy and physiology, psychology, child development, history, etc. After those few years, I then studied all the successful teachers, sat and listened to their classes, watched, took notes, asked questions and I also observed the great failures very closely.

From that I learned how to teach well. I went on to teach professionally at classical companies and their schools, and put a fair few hopefuls into professional careers. I also wrote a full eight year syllabus for 11 – 18yr old schools, and one for an undergraduate college course.

Why am I telling you this? Because I never thought to transfer everything I learned from that work into the arena of magic. Because I am dumb. And just in case there is anyone else out there as dumb as me who never thought to apply their hard earned skills into unusual corners.


Me teaching in 2002 at the grand old age of 40yrs old

Back to magic. It is only through putting together this resource, Choosing a Magical Path, that I realised what this all needs, magical training that is, is to be approached in the same way that I approached the teaching of classical ballet: the foundation bits need breaking right down, and they need to be taught in a way whereby the practical application is solidly based, is refined technique that is properly understood, properly explained, and intelligently applied. Hmm, now that IS a job!

When I started to write the visionary magic module, I realised how important it is that people understand the very basic structure of the practical application and that they practice certain techniques in absolute detail, in exactly the right way, in order to build up a pattern of behaviour in the consciousness and also in the body. That is no mean feat.

You see, once the basics are truly solidly in place, then the beginner becomes the initiate and can use that base solid foundation as a launching pad for any form of magic. The rest of magic can be learned through courses, personal experiment, whatever… but where I had been going wrong all along, and so many other teachers like me, is that the very base actions in magic, the really important ones that give a magician their true magical skills, were either not taught properly or were not taught at all: you were expected to either get it yourself or to fail. I had approached my own development of magic, in my young days, with the same focus, intent and discipline as I had used to approach my ballet training. That is what made me a successful magician. It never occurred to me before that I could re create that same pattern for other magicians. Duh.

This means there is a humongous mountain of work ahead of me, as this approach means tearing every single magical action apart to look at how the bits are pieced together, and to look at ways that those pieces fit back together in terms of training that is repeatable and predictable. Up until know, I and many other teachers taught magic in a way that helped the talented ones to grow and everyone else more or less either fell by the wayside, or gave up.


Vaganova teaching at the Imperial School In St Petersburg, Russia

That was how ballet was (and still is in some areas) taught for a long time until a proper training system was designed and implemented by a woman called Agrippina Vaganova (the irony of her first name has not been lost on me). She trained my teacher and that systematic approach was drilled into me from day one. That is what magic needs. I need to aspire to become the Vaganova of the magical world: that will give me a distant goal to work towards.

I don’t think it is appropriate to use that method right up to adept level as there are parts of the mysteries that people MUST find for themselves, it is part and parcel of the magical and spiritual development of the individual. However, if there is a proper systematic training foundation that they have to draw upon within themselves, that is the tool kit that an initiate can use to progress for themselves in magic.

A few years ago, I had a series of dream contact discussions with Ernie Butler, the brilliant man who wrote the course that is now used for the Servants of the Light, a magical teaching order in Britain. Ernie was showing me a pattern, a way of using power in teaching, ways of passing on magic, and a way to work with students. He showed me it over and over again, with great patience, but at the time I did not get what it was he was showing me. I also was not in a position to be able to act upon it (I was already working two full time jobs to support my family).

Just recently, I have started seeing Ernie Butler in my dreams again. He has returned with gusto and I feel him gently and patiently, but in typical Yorkshire no nonsense style, guiding me in this endeavour.It is a bit of a daunting mountain to climb but it is a comfort to know that there is someone willing to guide me a little through this monumental task.


W.E. Butler

What was intended to be a month or so’s work is now turning into an epic project – gulp… I already have other books I am committed to writing, I also have my restoration and creation work with Golbyn Market and the various other jobs I and my partner do to bring money in. But it is something that really needs doing and it is something that really needs to be out there and available for free.

Something like this should not be held back just to make a few bucks, it really is needed as a resource for students and teachers alike to be able to draw upon. So I will get to it. I do not know how long this is going to take, but it will be done. And I will post things as I finish them so that you can see the process unfurl.. and if I have to go back and change something because I have learned a better way to do it, I will leave the old version up on the site so that you can see the ‘before and after’ process: you can learn as much from someone’s mistakes and shortcomings as you can from their successes.

I hope that this will also inspire others – if you teach something, doesn’t matter what, look into applying the ‘Vaganova’ method: everything is broken down into tiny bits. Every single unit is practiced repeatedly and slowly in exactly the same way until it is perfect. Then it becomes second nature and is perfect in its execution. And the joy of that training method is that it doesn’t rely on talent: it relies on the application and hard work of the student, and the willingness of the teacher to observe every single action of the student and immediately correct them. It is tough, there is no room for egotism (another subject I need to get to grips with in this blog) and you are constantly being corrected and improving.


Vaganova’s training method in action

How can you help? There will be times when feedback is helpful, whether it is good or bad, doesn’t matter: everything is about learning. I will ask when I need a student view on something. I am also going to have to plead with some other adepts to help, as I do not have the level of knowledge in some aspects of magic, like astrology for example,  that are needed for such a project.

And this will take a lot of time. I already get up very early so I can write before my work day starts, and this will take time away from earning. So you can help; if you benefit from this course development, then help by passing on the word about Goblyn Market, http://www.goblynmarket.com/index.html

which is one way we earn some income, and the same with my books that are out there… just pass on the word, free advertising! Image

The other thing you can do, is if you benefit from the free work, and you have skills you can pass on freely, then do so. I truly understand that such giving is not always possible, as we all need to eat, pay rent and stay warm. And I have been in the situation many times in my life where I have had to work 60+ hours a week, which left no time at all for anything else. Now I work normal hours, I have time and space to be able to do these things. Many do not have that luxury.

But if you are in a position to be able to pass on a skill, even if it is to just one young person, we can really make the magical world, the magical community, a better place by taking some responsibility for the young ones. We are a large dysfunctional family of oddballs… and in this harsh cut throat world we now live in, pulling together even a little bit can make a major difference. This already happens in a big way in various corners of the Pagan and magical community, and it is a joy to see.

And for young ones on the receiving end, you can pay back by doing well, by blossoming from the teaching, by working hard and being your own task master.

                                                                                  choosing a magical pathImage




About Josephine McCarthy

This entry was posted in Magic, Magical Training and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Writing a course for magical students… the unfurling….

  1. Janet says:

    Now this is right! It’s lovely when all the dominoes fall properly. It is a huge task but you’re the one to do it. I’m not a bad editor (some days), if you need help there. And of course, I’ll promote your books and shop as best I can. May the force be with you! haha


  2. cynthia says:

    Fantastic post, Josie! You never fail to inspire me. I’m happy to support you and way that I can. xx


  3. Suzi says:

    Josephine – just stopped in to say I am so much more in awe of you, your never ending energy and SHARING……OMG….I an plodding along with your books, but cannot put them down and will work at my pace and then one day some young person will be the beneficiary (or maybe they-are right now as I “plod” along in this mundane world.) of this shared knowledge Thank you SO very much:-)


  4. Chris says:

    Josephine, you may enjoy the book The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. He elaborates on exactly the same topic….the process of learning and how to do it as quickly as possible. Except he approaches it from a martial arts and chess perspective. Its been very useful in my own practice.


  5. I absolutely agree that the Vaganova method can be applied to magick. I’ve been participating and helping facilitate a beginner’s energy group for about 3 years. We do drill the basics at least once every calendar year. I’m beginning my magickal adept path, and I’m passionate about passing on the fundamental skills to others just starting out. When you say, “We are a large dysfunctional family of oddballs… and in this harsh cut throat world we now live in, pulling together even a little bit can make a major difference”, you’re speaking a profound truth. I seek to heal or improve some of that dysfunction, as well as assist/facilitate in personal development so we’re each a bit less “odd”. Reading this blog keeps me inspired and gives me crucial points to consider as I put together curricula and presentations.


  6. Thanks for the comments, feedback and encouragement you guys, it is really appreciated.And I am glad folks are finding it useful, phew! xxx


  7. Fabiano Steemburgo says:

    Better expressed by Justin Moore on Sothis Media: “… another Herculean labor of love as a gift to the generation of magicians and teachers now coming up…”

    You never cease to inspire us… I hope one day we be able to repay what was given to us. Thank you!


  8. lancemfoster says:

    I am excited but you be sure and take care of yourself, even more now. I don’t want you to burn out, my friend. Do what you need to, but retreat and regroup too. The wise fox gathers eggs, but waits in its den for storms to pass. We want you around for many years to come.


    • Suzi says:

      There is a lot of wisdom here lancemfoster:-) and I concur with you on the point about taking time out to refresh.


    • yeah, I know… but there is just not enough hours in the day.. I need to learn to down time properly… sometimes it does get a bit like a hamster wheel!!


  9. tom says:

    Hi Josephine,
    I love what you have so far on http://www.choosingamagicalpath.org/. I also found your Magical knowledge trilogy wonderfully helpful.
    I have a fair amount of web development experience and I would be honored to help you in anyway on the site..
    Thanks for all your contributions,


    • thankyou Tom, that is very kind of you. It looks like the course is potentially growing into a monster size, so it will have its own website in the coming months. That will then stop it detracting from the other magician’s voices on the ‘choosing site’… I want to keep that site more about the magical community and their voices. So I may take you up on your offer at some point in the future! x


    • tmclaflin says:

      Great, i’m really looking forward to seeing what you have planned.


Comments are closed.