Butterflies and Boats: Why times of chaos are the best times for magic

Magic, as I understand it, is based on aligning oneself with the forces of nature  in the same way  a sailor adjusts her sail to move her boat along in the direction she wants.

The sailor has no control over which way the wind is blowing, or water currents are flowing, but can still move her boat most of the directions she’d like to go through skillful tacking and shaping of her boat’s response to the wind.

Sailboats in day time
Photo by Eva M. on Unsplash

There is a wonderful teaching metaphor in chaos theory called ‘the Butterfly Effect‘ which also relates to magic. The butterfly effect is named for a theoretical butterfly, whose beating wings at a pivotal point in time could alter the time and path of a hurricane. Theorists have demonstrated that this actually, literally, possible.

The butterfly effect depends on the thing being altered having a path of cause and effect (deterministic) and having the potential for large outcomes from small inputs (non-linear). A pandemic is a good example fo a deterministic non-linear system – small actions, such as the interaction of a person with an animal or another person, at an early point in time, can cause large effects that are out of scale with those small actions.

In pandemics, these non-linear effects can be used for good (staying home to prevent the exponential explosion of transmission that can come from a single infected person) or ill (the reverse).

When I craft a spell, I am relying on both of these principles – the sailboat principles along with the butterfly effect.

Magic, prayer, energy working can be powerful, but they are butterfles, guided by the divine.  The craft is in knowing where and how to place the butterfly.

Oh, right, the divine. Where does the Divine fit in?

The divine is the wind. The divine is the sun that drives the water and wind cycle that powers the hurricane. The divine is that force that provides meaning and life and love and hope in the universe, whatever you name it.

The pandemic and our response to it as a society is chaotic and complex but is deterministic and non-linear. It’s too complex for any one person to completely understand or predict. In the best possible of all future realities,  having a large portion of the country (or world) unemployed and self-isolating, could allow us to switch our economies over to sustainable, localized production of what is truly needed with much less inertia and disruption. The wind is shifting direction, and we could tack our boat another way.

In times of great complexity, there are non-linear affects, and anything is possible if you know exactly where to beat your wings.

So where do we apply the butterfly wings of our energy, our magic, our prayers, our imaginations?

Do good as you see it. Envision and believe in the outcome.

When I do not know where to apply my energies, I have a system I use. I say, pray, beat my fragile wings in the direction of “everything is working out in the best possible way.”  During a turning point in my life, where I was continally anxious and so stressed that my legs literally gave out beneath me because my cortisol system stopped working, I sang a chant in my head almost continually. It is playful, and about as sophisticated melodically as a jingle, but it earworms well, which is what we want for this kind of thing. I invite you to use it if you like.

“Everything is working out in the best possible way, hey! Everything is working out in the best possible way. (Repeat as long as you like, it’s great for replacing worried thoughts.)

I chanted this in my head continually during a very anxious time, and you know what? Everything did work out in the best possible way.  I left the destructive home I was in and moved somewhere so much better and where I am to this day. And it all came together, almost, or perhaps, literally, miraculously.

I have used it frequently since, generally when I can do nothing else, when I had no idea what the outcome would be, but ardently need it to be a good one.

Here’s the sound file of the chant. Flap those butterfly wings.


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