“Outside the Charmed Circle” is the book we all need

If you’re interested in queerness and magick, you either already follow or should seriously consider following Misha Magdalene, a nonbinary queer blogger on Patheos.

Misha has written an amazing book called “Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender & Sexuality in Magical Practice,” to be released Jan. 8, 2020. After a mutual friend connected us, I had the pleasure to interview Misha and read an advanced copy of their book as part of my research for the Queering Your Magickal Practice workshop.

Friends, the book blew me away. My persistent thought as I read it was, “Why did I not have this book in my life five years ago? Or ten?” It hooked me right from the beginning, with the statement:

Most modern forms of magical and devotional practice have valorized cisgender heterosexuality to the exclusion of other expressions of gender and sexuality and, in so doing, they’ve cut themselves off from both the full spectrum of lived experience and a depth of magical practice. By accepting and embracing the broad range of gender and sexuality as lived realities, we can reclaim not only our lost power, but our own experiences of the numinous.

(Can I get a “Hell yeah!”?)

Part of my work as a teacher in pagan, polytheist, and magical communities is to encourage people to question some of the “basic truths” we’re often taught in our early experiences with the occult. Much like how many people in modern culture never bother to deepen their understanding of sex and gender beyond what they’re taught about chromosomes in primary school (an incomplete and overly-simplified picture), many people who practice magick rely heavily on outdated, binary concepts, i.e. working with “masculine” and “feminine” energy. These simplified concepts have some utility and can be used as an introduction to different types of energy work, but just as sex chromosomes are so much more complicated than is taught in primary school, so is energy work. Stopping your education and understanding at “there are these two things that are opposites” not only shrinks your worldview, it stymies your potential as a magickal worker.

In “Outside the Charmed Circle,” Misha elegantly articulates this point and expands upon it in practical ways. They lay out some ways in which you can craft your magickal practice to be more inclusive, whether by building your practice from scratch, cobbling together pieces from existing forms, adapting existing concepts, or a combination thereof. They also point out some ways in which there is evident queerness even in ancient stories, which can be used as a jumping-off point for a queer devotional practice.

And, to my delight, Misha spends a significant chunk of the book on the concept of consent and its importance, not just between human practitioners, but also between humans and Spirit. That alone makes me want to share this book with just about everybody I know in pagan, polytheist, and magical communities.

When interviewing Misha, I asked what key message they’d like to share with all magical practitioners, and they laughingly responded, “Everything you love is queer – deal with it!” They then expanded on the point by saying:

Queerness has always been a part of paganism and polytheism and the occult. If we try to shut that out, we are cutting ourselves off from a huge and vital part of our own magic, whether we identify as queer or not.

While certain magical practices and traditions could certainly stand some upgrades and adaptations to make them more queer-inclusive, there’s a lot of magic that simply is inherently queer. We don’t have to shoehorn in anything new – we just need to shine a light on that which already exists.

This book is one I’m going to reference frequently in my work and teaching. If the concepts above resonate with you, I strongly encourage you to go get a copy of this book from your local, independent bookstore.

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