Magic Isn't Spelled with a "K"

Except when it is.

One of the lovely things to come out of the 2020 "pandemic days" for me was diving into the beautifully diverse world of podcasts. Many of said podcasts I enjoy are Witchcraft-related and I've been blown away by how much I've learned from them.

Having 20+ years of practice under my belt filled with near-constant research, it may seem strange that there's so much still to learn. But, truth be told, where I may continue studying and practicing through the years, I don't keep well in social circles, leaving me out of the loop of what the community consciousness is focusing on.

Here's a couple 2020 highlights for me:

  • "Wait! The word "smudging" came from where? Are you %*&%$*&^$ kidding me?"

  • "I can go to [insert event names] virtually now!"

  • "Witchual Workouts? Yay!"

But then we get to the topic of the spelling of "magic" versus "magick." The podcaster discussing her stance was clearly passionate about how use of the "k" was inexcusable in this day and age. Huh?

Anyone who knows me, has discussed this topic with me, or visited this website knows I'm all about that "k." Forget that "to differentiate [insert preferred definition of magick here] from stage magic" nonsense. I'm a writer. And I love fantasy.

"Magic" to me is pure fiction, limited to worlds of unlimited and ever-changing laws of pretend-physics. Meanwhile, "magick" is what real-life Witches (and other magickal practitioners) operating in this physical dimension--and bound by the physical laws of the universe we currently inhabit--practice.

When we speak, how you spell the word personally is irrelevant. Grammatically, either spelling is appropriate (yes, dictionaries currently spell it only as "magic," but I promise I'll explain as we move forward). Sure, there's been the occasional squabble over the spelling, but everyone just spoke their peace and went about their ways regardless. So imagine my surprise that this has suddenly become a hot-button issue.

Frequently, the addition of the "k" to "magic" gets credited to Aliester Crowley. This is what the passionately upset podcaster was zeroed in on.

Much of what influenced modern Witchcraft in its many varied forms today can trace something to Crowley, so it's not unusual for many of us to not question it. I mean, why, should we?

Well, he was kind of (understatement of the year!) a racist jerk who managed to push away all friends, colleagues, and their respect of him throughout his life as a result of his hugely discriminatory, prejudiced, "I'm better than all the rest of you" views of the world. It's probably fair to refer to him as a generally awful person.

But, much in the same way people still regularly listen to and enjoy the music of Michael Jackson even after the exposure of evidence of his wrong-doing, we continue to review, incorporate, and borrow from Crowley's writings and teachings that had some value when placed in good contexts. We're a bit like scavenger birds in this regard; pecking away and devouring the good bits and leaving behind what can't sustain us moving forward.

So in that breaking apart what value was there in the man's lifework, of all the things, what harm could there possibly be in keeping that "k"?

In trying to research this, I couldn't find any particularly vocal or well-thought-out arguments predating about 2016. So I tried digging around more on the "k-no-k" argument and kept finding again and again that Crowley was only ever "credited" with adding the k. The only sources saying he definitely did it began with arguments against the k starting in 2016.

Okay... This feels a bit like Gardner's "Wica." So where did Crowley get it?

And then it clicked. As I continued digging, it became clear that Crowley did not add the "k" to magick, he just re-popularized that spelling. It had been used well before him. One of the most notable within occult circles was Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa who lived hundred of years before Crowley (and presumably was a large influence on Crowley's occult interests).

Even though we know Agrippa spelled it with a "k" we still can't say for sure he was the one to give us "magick" as an alternative spelling. In those years, "magic" may well have been the alternative spelling. (Spelling didn't get standardized like it is now until around 200 years after Agrippa.)

So bringing the conversation back to today, is the "k" bad? Should we only ever spell the word as "magic"? Psh. No.

We're right back to the pre-2016 debate. If you personally don't like adding the "k" for whatever justification speaks to you, good on you.

However, the use of the spelling "magick" was not, is not, and never was the intellectual property of racist, prejudiced jerk faces. "Magick" was and continues to be a perfectly acceptable alternative spelling of "magic" in reference to what Witches and other magickal practitioners do within the metaphysical and occult world as it has been for at least 500 years.

If you have a complaint, take it up with the early dictionary writers who standardized spelling without input from our communities. :)

© 2020 by Evylyn Rose