I’ve been big proponent of magical journals for a while, even though historically their use seems rather rare—and limited to literate practitioners. The argument that the practice comes out of a Victorian culture with classist associations—Do you have the time to write? Do you have the thing to write in?—has merit. The occult commonplace was that a practitioner must keep magical journals if they ever hope to seriously develop their practice and discipline; however, the overwhelming majority of the history of magic on Earth would seem to repudiate that requirement.
That said, I have always journaled (to varying degrees), and I have always found the practice beneficial. In the past, this blog has been focused around that practice. I currently have a blue, plain paper journal I use (with the black pen I favor) for my daily magical journaling, and I have a dream journal practice, as well.
So, I wonder what and why does this work for me if it’s not necessary?
I think part of it is that I work in a very textual profession and have always been very textual, lexical (that is, wordy) myself. I am, in fact, reflecting meta-textually on my magical textual response to my textual lifestyle. For me, I know how much fades away and slips from my imaginal grasp if I don’t articulate it in a journal in some way. I know how much would now be lost to me of my experience if I hadn’t been writing. These days, I have the luxury of buying dedicated journals—I used to buy cheap little spiral notebooks to do so. I also have the luxury of time to journal.
So, in that sense, the practice helps reify my subjective experiences and provides me with a memory prosthetic. I could use other techniques to develop my memory in this regard, but I’m also aware of how my journaling leads me to contextualize my experiences, to relate them to others. In transcribing my journals (which I do because I’m like that and want to be able to easily search them), I also often come at those experiences again in a different context—often the next day after I’ve slept and dreamt.
I think journaling also lets me assert—or lay claim?—to my self-narrativization. As I navigate a world that has become yet more visually stimulating (memes, media, etc.), I also find that it has grown even more textually stimulating (social media, web sites, etc.). As I constantly confront others’ attempts to contextualize my experience, my subjectivity, and my self within explicitly political and consumerist and other power discourses–that is, as media and people try to tell me how to think about the world and myself–I find I treasure a space where I can author myself, contextualize myself.
In a sense, then, my magical journaling is also my private journaling—my journal is my journal, and it also is my magical journal? In many cases, it’s also my note-taking as I read or watch things, my reflection on those notes, my synthesis of what I’ve considered and learned. I find that using a physical journal and pen helps ground my attention in the matter at hand—I find it entirely too easy for doing it at a keyboard and monitor to distract or to feel abstracted. I can also use them while outside.
In my dream journal practice, though, I have found that waking up, pulling over the phone (that’s been on airplane mode overnight), and tapping out in my notes app what I remember and then emailing the note to myself for later transcription works more often than not if I have the time to do so while waking up. In my transcription, I will also color-code dream elements: yellow for anxiety dream-stuff; red for lucidity cues; light green for stuff I realize is recurring in some way (which has shown me how much of my dreaming features recurring locations that only exist in my dreams); and purple for weird magic shit. I don’t reflect on the dreams in the journal—that usually happens in the current main journal.
On reflection, and in thinking back on what most books and persons have said a magical journal should be—I have to say that I always found that shit absolutely, dreadfully boring and a complete disincentive to doing magic. “Well, okay, let me look up all the astrological space weather and delineate the precise sequence of shit I did and any unusual feelings I had.” There’s an attempt to render the magical journal as scientific log book, and that scientification of enchantment always threatened to suck the life out of what I was doing, especially as the primary contextualization of what I’ve done. I have adopted using astrological timing, but I track all that on a Google calendar and using Lunarium and other stuff. I actually journal my experiences.
All this said, I also recognize that I am reifying my magical and spiritual experiences in writing them out, even if only for myself. I want to remain aware that the experience goes beyond whatever was on the page—but believe me, I’m often annoyed by how inadequate the journal page feels in comparison to whatever I’d done or felt. There is an argument that we will remember whatever we need to remember–if it’s real, it can take the pressure?–but I would still like to remember more. And for me, journaling helps me bring more of myself into my conscious awareness, even as I have to acknowledge that what I’m after consciously and egoically is not my conscious or ego but what’s on the other side of that mirror my ego surrounds itself with.
Featured Image: Gerard ter Borch, Woman Writing a Letter (ca. 1655)