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How to Recognize I Can’t in Your Magical Work

By Taylor Ellwood

Sometimes what I find most fascinating about magic is what limitations people build into it. In other words, a person will say to themselves, I can’t do this in magical work. They’ll have various reasons for that ” I can’t” which can range from moral/ethical reasons, spiritual “laws” or personal hang-ups that tell them they can’t do x because of y. I do believe in the value of limits, and I think limitation, as a principle can be very effective for magical work, but when I talk about limitation I’m not referring to the “I can’ts” which are ultimately subjective, but rather to natural principles that structure, organize, and scaffold how magic can work. And its important remember that such limitations can be worked with quite productively, provided we understand them. The “I can’ts” on the other hand are wholly subjective, developed for various reasons that tend to be more harmful than useful in most situations.

When I was young, I was often told what I couldn’t do. I’d tell a family members one of my ideas and be told it would never work and that I couldn’t do it. Fortunately I never believed them, and if anything when I heard such discouragement, it encouraged me to prove them wrong. It’s fair to say that up until my mid twenties most of what I did was inspired by a desire to prove people wrong, to prove that what I couldn’t supposedly do, actually could be done. Even to this day, I still find that when someone says that something can’t be done, it gets me curious to see if in fact they are correct, or if it can be done. 100% of the time I find it (whatever it is) can be done provided you have enough motivation and willingness to experiment and try various possible solutions. What this indicates to me is that many times the only limitation people deal with is the one they impose on themselves or accept from other people.

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