Magic: A Personal Essay

From prayers and rituals to astrology and necromancy, magic predates written language. Depending on your views and spiritual background, the conversion of magic and religion can be a delightful interaction or a forsaken rendezvous. Within my daily life, I am captivated by finding the magical moments, or the blessings, that enhance my existence. 

In quandam society, magic was both embraced and renounced depending on the century. In today’s society, the current attitude is dismissive; after all, with all of our technological advancements, should we not replace magical thinking for concrete data? But the more we inspect our habits and customs, the more we can find bits and pieces of magic in our everyday lives.

When I was a child, I was obsessed with magic. Before elementary school, I remember being enchanted by the outdoors and fairies. I commend Cicely Mary Barker’s A Treasury of Flower Fairies for this obsession. If there was a flower, I inspected it for tiny limbs and camouflaged wings. Of course, I never found anything, but I did some invaluable learning on stamens and petals and leaves. 

When I was in the second grade, Harry Potter became a household name. Before the controversy with she who shall not be named, this series brought magic and wonder into countless lives, including my own. In advance of the boom of this series, I read Nancy Drew and Mary-Kate and Ashley books. After, these books were a gateway to the entire fantasy genre. From here, I discovered Robin McKinely and Diane Duane and Philip Pullman. Like all children who crave escapism, I found consistency and friendship where I might not have found it in my daily life. Growing up in the Catholic Church, I also experienced the clashing of the fantasy genre and religion. Essays denouncing the entire Harry Potter and the His Dark Materials series were published in the weekly bulletin. To me, these books were magical antidotes for loneliness and social anxiety. There was nothing evil about them, and it was silly to fear magical thinking. I didn’t need to prove my Catholicism by renouncing an entire genre of literature.

As I got older, I consumed every fantasy book I could get my hands on. To this day, I will reread Robin McKinley’s Sunshine and Dragonhaven books on a yearly cycle. I revere Maggie Stiefvater’s writing, a mixture of daily life and magical elements. Magical realism, once a confusing venture for me, is now a welcome adventure. However, I also find myself craving contemporary fiction more and more. Magic seems closer than before, and I don’t need spells and the supernatural to find it.

There is a peculiar way that westerners act superior to past generations. This superiority complex, in my opinion, hinges on the age of technology. However, we can find tiny traditions that add up to more than a dose of superstition. For example, I make a mixture of a prayer and a wish every day at 11:11. I check my weekly astrology report (I’m a Pisces). When I can’t find something around the house, I pray that Saint Anthony intercedes and helps me find it. I don’t believe in keeping a mirror across from the bed, just in case of bad energy finding me in my sleep. Pre-Covid, I picked up every penny I came across. I knock on wood after making grand statements of the future. And when an umbrella is opened indoors, I feel a mixture of indignation and rage.

I find my greatest experiences of magic and blessings within small moments: the sunrise while drinking a morning coffee, birdsong on a snowy day, or a smile from a loved one. The magical quality of these moments is the feeling of suspended, elastic time. Joy is unbridled, but not so self-aware as to take away from the moment. It’s allowing yourself to act childish and to experience a child-like awe. 

One of my most favorite memories of a magical moment is from over a decade ago when I was in high school. It was a cold but sunny winter day, and an all-consuming golden-hour light filled my family’s kitchen while I was baking chocolate chip cookies. My mom napped on the couch with our family dog while Neil Gaiman’s Stardust played on TV. I remember feeling so much peace with that moment. Time stretched itself, and I got to enjoy the convergence of a kitchen full of sunshine, a fantastical movie, and the calming presence of loved ones.

Another magical moment happened this summer. It was during the in-between phases of the pandemic: cases were going down and things were opening back up. Donning our masks, my boyfriend and I went to a downtown ice cream store that offers vegan options. I ordered a sprinkle-infested vegan milkshake, and he ordered a chocolate explosion. We walked and walked and walked, enjoying the sunshine and the relatively empty downtown streets. There was a freedom in our date night. Life could only get better, and we could walk around without fear. 

More recently, Indianapolis was dumped with snow. As it fell, its heaviness pressed upon the windows and doors, sticking instantaneously. The nighttime snow, an abrupt change in weather, was enough to seem otherworldly, but to top it off, the eleven-inch accumulation was both unexpected and a welcome change from the humdrum of quarantine life. There is a magic to both the first snowfall as well as the first big snow of the year. Indianapolis hasn’t seen this much snow in years, and so far, this has been a very mild winter. With the excitement of children, my boyfriend, dog, and I ran outside. My dog, Coco, intentionally hopped into the biggest snowbanks to bite and shake the snow in her mouth like a helpless prey animal. My boyfriend, Morgan, laid down to do snow angels, asking to get his picture taken. And after I got my picture taken, too, I was pelted with snowball after snowball until we were both laughing and red in the face from the cold. Time started again, and we went inside to warm up.

In each of these moments, I get a physical shiver that starts in my soul and travels into my extremities. It’s a somatic wake-up call to pay attention, to enjoy that time while I still can. I don’t need crystals or spells to experience magic. Small joys are enchanting, too. And I hope you can find them as often as I do.


2 responses to “Magic: A Personal Essay”

  1. Such magical moments are forgotten as you age. You’re bring a world of wonder as a child. I did so believe on fairies, seen them of course. So many wonders I can yet explore, they are ageless. Love G💕

    1. Kaitlynn McShea Avatar
      Kaitlynn McShea

      Thank you so much!

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