As I continue to explore my spirituality and learn more about the craft, I occasionally stumble across words or phrases that need a little extra digging to fully understand. I’d seen the word “magick” used in other articles and presumed it was a quirky modern spelling meant to look archaic.
But is that really the case? Or was I missing something?
I decided to look deeper into the spelling of magic vs. magick, and I learned that there is, in fact, a difference between the two words. Here’s what I found…
The Definition of Magic
Witches believe in magic, although the type and source of that magic may vary depending on the individual.
Some witches worship one or more deities (such as the Christian God or the Wiccan God/Goddess) and believe in divine power. Others view magic in the sense of energy from the cosmos, nature, spirit plane, etc.
But what exactly is magic?
Merriam-Webster has three distinct definitions for magic. While the first two can align well with witchcraft, the third poses a problem:
“The art of producing illusions by sleight of hand” turns the noun “magic” into a cheap performance trick meant to fool and entertain. For those who practice genuine witchcraft, that definition is inaccurate.
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First Use of the “Magick” Spelling
The first documented use of the word “magick” is credited to Aleister Crowley, an extremely controversial occultist who called himself The Great Beast 666. The press referred to him as “The Wickedest Man in the World.”
He was born as Edward Alexander Crowley in 1875 and spent his early years as a devout Christian out of respect for his evangelical father. But when his father passed away when Crowley was only eleven, he began to turn his back on Christianity. He frequently pointed out inconsistencies in the Bible and started partaking in sinful activities such as smoking, doing drugs, masturbating, and having sex with prostitutes. His mother started calling him “the Beast” — a title he fully embraced.
In 1895 at the age of twenty, Crowley discarded his birth name and adopted the name Aleister (the Gaelic form of Alexander) instead. He eventually went on to found a new religion called Thelema, which draws its principal deities from Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. The motto of Thelema was, “Do what thou wilt.”
Crowley added the k in “magic” not only to separate his occultist craft from stage magicians, but also to separate the Thelema philosophy that magick describes any act(s) that bring a person closer to their “True Will.”
Aleister Crowley’s “True Will” Concept
Crowley believed that a person’s True Will is their destiny — their ultimate purpose in life. Your will is not the same as your wants. You may want a new car, or a bigger house, or a higher salary, but these present desires aren’t tied to your higher purpose.
According to Thelema, magick must align with your True Will, even if it’s a mundane task and not a complicated ritual.
For example, casting spells to get a new job for the sole purpose of paying bills wouldn’t be considered magick. Instead, you should be looking deeper to understand where your heart lies, what your passions are, and how you can reach your full potential in life by doing something that brings you joy and fulfillment.
The Difference Between Magick and Magic
Whether you believe in Crowley’s restrictive view of what qualifies as true magick, the spelling still serves its primary purpose as a way to differentiate between stage magic and supernatural magick used in witchcraft.
Magic is based on illusions and tricks for the sole purpose of entertainment. Magick taps into supernatural forces and is considered “real magic.”
When Crowley added the k to magic, he turned a five-letter word into a six-letter word. The number six is sacred in many religions and beliefs. Genesis says that God created man on the sixth day. It’s the first perfect number, and it’s the symbol of Venus, the goddess of love. The Star of David has six points. In Buddhism, the Wheel of Life (Saṃsāra) is represented by six spheres of existence.
The list goes on and on to illustrate six being a sacred number. But the letter k is also significant as the eleventh letter of the alphabet. Crowley wrote, “11 is the number of magick in itself.” His well-known phrase, Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law, is comprised of eleven words and eleven syllables.
Due to Crowley’s unsavory reputation as “the Wickedest Man in the World,” some people shy away from using the magick spelling to avoid any association. But, as modern witchcraft and paganism continue to grow in popularity, the spelling seems to be becoming more popular as well.
Essentially, the difference between magic and magick depends on whether you’re doing tricks to entertain people or performing real spells and rituals meant to tap into divine, earthly, spiritual, or cosmic energy. You don’t necessarily have to agree with Crowley that magick must always be tied directly to your True Will.
The beautiful thing about being a witch is there’s really no wrong way to explore your craft. It’s a personal journey. You can always do research and seek advice from others, but at the end of the day, we listen to our hearts and let them guide us.
Award-winning fantasy author, freelance writer, spiritual explorer, and sole founder of Green Witch Lunar Witch. She created her first website in 2016 and published her first novel two years later. Sara spends most of her time writing, creating, and daydreaming.