was going to write an introductory statement here about why one would want to be a magical person, but you know what? That's nonsense. In a society that seems determined to make life as mundane as possible, the allure of being magic ought to be self-evident. So on we go!
THINGS MAGICAL PEOPLE DO
PLAY. This, more than any other trait, separates the magical from the mundane around us. Magical people are most likely never to have lost the instinct for play that they had in childhood, or have rediscovered that joy as adults. Playing is a way of dancing with life. So: fly kites. Blow bubbles. Play with yo-yos. Learn a few simple magic tricks. Juggle (anything from plucking scarves out of the air to juggling bean bags to full-on contact juggling like Michael Moschen in Labyrinth). And if you have boring errands to run and other adult responsibilities to fulfill, find ways to turn them into a game. There are a myriad ways to make everyday life more like play -- and thus more magical.
Create. Makers are magicians, and ANYONE can harness creativity. More specifically, try some of these:
- Paper magic. Start by folding simple origami models. The great thing about origami is that you can do it practically anywhere -- all you really need is flexible paper, a flat place to fold it on, and a bit of manual dexterity. This is also a nifty way to recycle scrap paper. Once you have mastered a few basic patterns, you can amaze people with your skills. (I make flowers or cranes to give to friends and little kids.) If you have a lot more dexterity with scissors than I do, scherenschnitte is another option. And if you want the completed object to have a little magic of its own, whisper a friendly little spell to it as you make it.
- Play an instrument, particularly a portable one. Small instruments, such as harmonica, mouth harp, tinwhistle or ocarina, are especially magical -- and, with the possible exception of the mouth harp, just about anyone can play a simple tune on the first try.
- Sing dumb songs. Better yet, try neat folk tunes if they don't have too many verses. If you absolutely cannot carry a tune, poetry or storytelling is an excellent alternative. (Don't know how to tell a good story? Take a storytelling class!) For a good collection of dumb, novelty, folk and other weird and funny songs and skits, find the Doctor Demento Show archives online or check podcasts for novelty song goodness.
Be curious. Magical people are most likely to be curious about the world around them and the wonders it holds, and are always looking for opportunities to learn or try new things that will fill them with delight, whether it's marbling paper, sampling an unfamiliar food, cosplaying, stargazing, geocaching or bungee jumping. Recognize that the world is full of marvels to be sampled and enjoyed, and be open to trying as many as you can.
Be confident. Start each day with the expectation that something wonderful is going to happen -- because you will make it happen. Enter contests. Smile at strangers. Stand up for what's right. Assume you will be lucky and things are going to go well. Keep a wellspring of optimism inside you. If you're not used to being confident, practice confidence -- ask yourself, "How would I proceed if I were a confident person?" and then do it that way.
Be subtly whimsical and/or a little bit mysterious. Real magic isn't like stage magic; it doesn't draw undue attention to itself, because it doesn't need to. The right people will notice and draw near. Commit everyday acts of whimsy that you find fun, even if others think they're silly -- do the Jedi hand-wave at an automatic door, put your coat on with a theatrical sweep, give the shopping cart a gentle push so it glides forward and you can walk along behind it without touching it, learn how to crack open an egg one-handed, leave a tiny toy in an unexpected place. Also, consider cultivating a little touch of mystery in your interactions with others. People don't need to know everything about you right off. Share a little something magical just in passing that leaves them curious to know more.
Practice story magic with other people. My mother, who would never have described herself as magical, had a superpower. She could sit down next to a stranger, smile, start chatting, ask a few open-ended questions about that person's life, then actively listen. More often than not, she could learn someone's life story in about 20 minutes. Most people like to talk about themselves, and if you give them an open invitation to do so, they usually won't let you down. Active listening, where you pay attention to details and ask follow-up questions, is paramount. If you practice this particular magic, you will quickly discover that EVERYONE has a story, and most are fascinating.
Expand your vocabulary. Don't speak another language? Time to get curious and try something new. If this particular magic doesn't come easily to you, discover rare or unusual words in your own language. Finding the perfect word to describe a concept is powerful stuff.
Find magical places near you. These can be wonderful little shops, special restaurants or bakeries, unexpected red-brick roads, hidden parks in the middle of big cities, caches full of tiny treasures -- the possibilities are vast. My personal resources for finding such places include Atlas Obscura, Geocaching.com and Waymarking.com, but there are many, many others.
Track down and enjoy magical media. My particular media magic of choice is books, and I have a huge list of books I consider magic -- Under Plum Lake by Lionel Davidson, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, C. S. Lewis' Narnia books, the People stories by Zenna Henderson, etc. For those with a preference for animated movies, the Studio Ghibli version of Howl's Moving Castle or Tomm Moore's Song of the Sea are likely places to start. And then there's music -- your life's soundtrack. Mozart, Vivaldi, Cosmo Sheldrake, Loreena McKennitt, Sissel Kyrkjebø, Regina Spektor, whatever makes your heart leap when you hear it. I personally recommend going to YouTube and looking up cover versions of the song "Nature Boy" by eden ahbez (the Emmelie de Forest version is a delight).
Notice little magical things and write them down. My theory is that small magical things happen around us all the time, but our mundane minds usually forget them unless we take the time to record them. I carry a small notepad and pen with me, and every time I experience something that seems magical, I write a brief note about it.
Perform random acts of kindness. Pay the bridge toll for the stranger behind you, or randomly spring for someone else's purchase. Offer a heartfelt, unexpected compliment. Write down a favorite quote or song lyric on a notecard and leave it in public for someone else to discover. (Or make a treasure map for someone to find, then actually leave a small treasure at the X!) Make a mixtape for someone (OK, cassettes have gone the way of the dodo, but you can put all kinds of musical mixes onto a thumb drive, so DO EET). Bring a stressed friend a gift of emergency chocolate, a bouquet of seasonal flowers, a favorite book or game, or some other small personal token as a reminder of your friendship. There are many more suggestions for random acts of kindness online if you need some pointers to get started.
THE ART OF THE MAGICAL HOME
Curate a collection of magical household items. Seek out household objects that have a touch of magic to them. Yes, you could just keep your liquid soap in a plastic bottle, or you could put it into a green cut-crystal dispenser. You could make tea in a basic brown teapot, or one painted with a black dragon that turns all sorts of wonderful colors when it's filled with boiling water. (Or both, if you've got the room and the inclination!) These items don't have to be expensive. My elephant-shaped glass container, which I use to hold cotton balls in the bathroom, was purchased in a secondhand store for a pittance, and most of my teacups and saucers were thrifted. The idea is to look for functional items that speak to your soul and create a little splash of unexpected color or beauty in your home. And part of the point is to collect a magical trove that's unique to you, not put together by anyone else. Don't expect to do this in one fell swoop; it takes time.
Clean, not tidy. A magical home is regularly cleaned and well cared for, but also definitely lived in. It's all right to have a little creative chaos in progress, whether it's a partially-finished bit of knitting, a painting being worked on, a potion being brewed, a vision board for a future project, etc. (Just don't be like me and have ALL these projects out at once. There is a difference between creative chaos and COMPLETE chaos.)
Gracious magic. Old-fashioned manners, particularly if they're flexible, are a form of magic -- specifically, a formal way of showing even strangers that you care about their comfort. Handwritten thank-you notes are rare and beautiful these days, and worth the time to create for those who have shown you kindness. (If you enjoy the practice, beautiful handwriting is a bonus.) It's worth the time it takes to learn how to host, serve and eat a meal gracefully and with confidence. And you are free to take up forms of politeness from other cultures if they appeal to you. Someone I know uses the Japanese word "Itadakimasu" before each meal; it essentially means "I humbly receive" and is a formalized way to thank all those entities, human and otherwise, who made the meal possible.
Become a kitchen witch. Cookbooks are grimoires of the most ancient and arcane sort, and food and drink are some of the most potent magic known to mankind. Learn to cook (or bake) at least a few special things. If you find you have a knack for it, branch out and try mastering more. Share your creations with friends, or with persons who will soon become your friends. Start putting your own twist on things -- slip a little coconut extract into your hot cocoa, or a pinch of cayenne, or some powdered cardamom, and see what happens. (Spices are definitely magical.)
Grow things. NOTE: This isn't a magic for which I have much natural talent. However, I know several magical people who are expert gardeners -- and who slip all sorts of esoteric and enchanted plants into their homes, food, baths, gifts, everything as a result. Even if all you have is a fire escape or an apartment balcony, you can grow herbs or flowers in containers. Plus it's quite possible that a properly tended, lush garden invites fairies to move in. I'm just saying.
Have a familiar. It could be a cat, a fish, a frog, a bearded dragon, a wiener dog, a hamster, a ball python, any kind of animal with which you have a special affinity. Keeping an animal companion in your home ties in with the above-mentioned practice of growing things, in that it's a way of practicing empathy toward a different kind of living being than oneself. The world is full of creatures who have just as much a right to live and flourish as we do, and learning to appreciate the quirks and traits of a non-human creature is a kind of magic. (And yes, of course, feel free to use "pet" instead of "familiar" if you're more comfortable with the term.)
Develop household rituals. One magical acquaintance of mine lights candles on the table before every evening meal, and invites teatime guests to pick their own cups from her substantial teacup collection. Another magical friend ties mellow-sounding bells to the trees in his yard, so they ring softly every time the wind stirs the branches. Yet another friend is well-versed in kitchen garden magic and creates household potions and possets from the herbs in her yard. Over time, you'll find rituals that suit you best and blend them seamlessly into your life.
Scent. Is. Magic. Go into a shop that specializes in perfumes, and find a scent that transports you. Candles and incense and other whatsits for scent delivery are pleasant ways to start, but nothing beats straight-up perfume oils for staying power. If you don't have a shop nearby that specializes in scents, Possets and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab are places to start online (and both offer small samples of their larger-sized scents). If you show a knack or a fondness for it, you may go on to mixing your own scents for your home.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember that magic is gracious. Some of your friends may be sensitive to strong scents, and triggering a friend's migraine is in no way magical. In such cases, going fragrance-free is the kindest choice.
Discover the art of self-pampering. This looks a bit different for everyone. Some folks love getting manicures. Others enjoy having their brows threaded and shaped to perfection. Still others find bliss in a good back massage. And others prefer a do-it-yourself attitude and put together their own homemade day spas. In any case, personal cleanliness and pampering rituals are a way of being kind to yourself, of honoring the body that holds your particular magic. It's not indulgent, it's supportive! (I feel it's important to spell this out: pampering is not exclusively "girly." Masculine folk, for instance, can and should enjoy bubble baths if they feel like it.)
Drink potions. Any day you feel like it, make or find a potion. This can be anything delightfully drinkable, from rich hot chocolate to ginger beer to herbal tea to some truly exotic homemade concoction, though I do recommend that it not be anything seriously habit-forming. Determine before drinking what this potion will do: give you wisdom, intelligence, wit, humor, beauty, lovability, or any other specific personal trait you're looking to cultivate. Concentrate firmly on this trait as you drink the potion. Watch magic unfold.
Give yourself permission to enjoy occasional treats. For me, the key is to space them out enough that they remain special and still feel like "treats," not just thoughtless habits. My magical treat of choice is quality chocolate, and one of my very favorites is a concoction called a dark Florentine bar, made by a chocolatier called Brugges Chocolates in Redmond, Washington. (It is definitely a magical place.) Even though Brugges is perilously close to my home, I deliberately choose to separate my visits there by one to two months (or longer) so that each visit remains special. Of course, treats don't have to be edible. You can also give yourself permission to buy (or pick) bouquets of flowers, permission to create a fairy door in your house, permission to try a new hobby or craft... it's pretty open-ended. You know what constitutes a treat for you.
So this isn't an exhaustive list by any means, which means you should add to it! Also, I'm curious: are you magical, or do you know any magical people? If so, what traits have you observed that you consider magical? Share in the comments below.