Teen Earth Magic:
An Empowerment Workbook
Interviews & excerpts from our new book!
The TEM Book features 350 pages of magical workings, rituals, activism, and more - plus interviews with campers and teachers from our annual Reclaiming Tradition teens' retreat, now in its twelfth year.
Here are links to the latest excerpts. If the links don't work, scroll down.
Teens Roundtable: Rituals, Grounding, Casting, Invoking - coming soon!
Teens Roundtable: What Is Magic?
Magic is one of those words that means something different to everyone who uses it. Whether or not we “believe in magic” or “do magic” often depends on what we mean by the word. Here’s what TEM participants think about magic.
What does magic mean to you?
Dusky: Magic is intentionally creating your own reality. I don’t mean that in a delusional sense. It’s like if you wake up in the morning and say, “I’m going to be happy today” – there’s a pretty good chance you’ll actually be happy. When I do magic that tries to affect the world outside me, that’s when the lines get blurry. I’ve always struggled with my scientific mind arguing against my magical self – is this real, or is this just me convincing myself?
Meagan: Magic is the ability we have to influence reality in non-linear ways, to generate energy for an outcome and transfer it through non-physical means. It’s intuitive, not rational. It can’t be fully explained. It’s mysterious.
KaeliMo: It’s super vague – it’s a mystery! It’s different for everybody, which is part of what’s cool – it’s a no-pressure way to learn and work things out, to figure out what I’m trying to do in the real world.
Miranda: I think magic is different for every person. Many times it’s within you, mental, or something within your heart, your intuition. It’s not like fairy magic, like a book or TV show. Magic is not going to just make something happen for you. Things will happen, but you have to help it through.
Mykel: It’s the ways that our beliefs and intentions fundamentally change the world. Something about myth/story, and how telling a different story about yourself changes your situation.
Rhys: Magic is energy. I think it exists in everything we do and everything we are. It’s difficult to put into words. I think I’m still defining the word.
What is the link between magic and energy?
Ola’i Wildboar: To me, magic is the energy of the Earth that flows all around us. It’s the little miracles we experience every day and the good feelings that make us light up inside. We are all capable of magic – from the little voice in our head that tells us right from wrong, to the compassion we feel for a friend in need – it’s all magic. Our living, breathing, consciously loving souls are magic.
Lucy: Magic is the energy created when thought or time or practice is put into something. I believe that everything we do, say, or think sends out vibrations and energy into the universe – to me, that is magic. Practicing magic is the focus on exactly what energy you are sending into the universe and why.
Ingrid: What I call magic is moments in time – the quality of the day, walking down the street and it’s perfectly sunny and warm, a slight breeze – I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m pretty sure everyone knows what I mean, and has felt like that. It’s a feeling of, to be completely cheesy, “wholeness” – why isn’t there a better word? More than just the moment – all-encompassing.
How does magic work?
Meagan: Magic creatively changes individual or group consciousness. By being present with an intention in ritual, a situation and desired outcome are dramatized, which opens up new ways of relating to the situation. It frees up brain cells and makes new neural connections, which allow for ideas and solutions that wouldn’t otherwise be thought of.
Mykel: For me, magic is something you do, a process – but it’s also a thing that just exists in everything, without us “doing” anything. Part of doing magic is opening up to that – that magic is in everything.
Max: Magic entails knowledge and use of science, universal laws, art, and mystery. Magic is wisdom and love woven into an art form of personal development and transformation.
Dusky: It’s making an intentional choice, then constantly reaffirming and renewing that choice – also sometimes having some little ritual you work around it. It’s like self-hypnotism in a way. That’s probably the main way I practice magic – intentionally telling myself how I’m going to experience the world. It really changes things.
Ola’i Wildboar: It’s something that happens within the thoughts and emotions, and the energy within us. It’s slower, more internal – not something that can be seen so quickly with our eyes.
Talise: I think that magic is about self-reflection, and reflection in general. There are a lot of ways to do that, like meditation, or working through things in a ritual – focusing on something and thinking about how it is in your life or in the world and maybe making a specific change. Magic is actively manifesting change.
How is magic different from things like meditation or seeing a counselor?
Miranda: In meditation, you get to know, like, this is a part of me I didn’t know, or this is something I want to change. With magic, it’s more like making charms, spell, rituals – it’s making the change itself. Meditation shows you what you might want to do. Magic can help you on the journey.
Talise: Yeah, magic helps you make change – not just to realize what needs to be done. You do an exercise and start the change.
How have your ideas about magic or spirituality changed?
Rhys: When I was a child, I thought of magic as a physical power. As I got older I realized that it exists more within myself and what is around me. It cannot be held, but felt.
Ola’i Wildboar: When I was little, I thought if I worked hard enough I could learn to fly or shoot lightning out of my fingertips. And I thought that with whatever spell I was doing, the results would be immediate. I realize now that although some magic can be visible or physical or immediate, that’s not all magic is, and that is not usually how magic works.
Lucy: For me, the realization that most magic doesn’t produce a result in a day. Some of the most powerful work I’ve seen and done is long-term. Thinking of magic as a journey has helped me progress as a spiritual being.
Ingrid: I used to like being identified as a Pagan or a witch. I was happy to have these basic guiding Reclaiming principles. Lately, I just want to love nature – it’s all I care about. Seriously, I’m sure I believe there’s something larger, deities and such. But the idea of deities has been less important to me. I’ve been exploring interacting with the natural world, figuring out how to integrate my daily life so I can be out in nature more – in the forest, the mountains.
Dusky: Over the years, I have been able to incorporate magic into my inclined-toward-science mind. That’s powerful to me, that I never have to choose between magic or science – it could be both. Magic is the science we haven’t yet “scienced,” that we haven’t yet been able to quantify.
Teens Roundtable: What Is Earth Magic?
Sequoia: It’s funny – I have this reaction that we’re on our hands on the ground, we’re directly in contact with the Earth, and we’re speaking the names of plants. It’s a visceral type of magic that immediately comes to mind. It’s so easy to get into this esoteric world of spells and song and poetry – I think Earth magic is specifically rooted in things that we can see and touch and speak to. Even when it appears in esoteric ways, it’s grounded, quite literally, in the real world.
Hilary: It’s the idea of Earth as divinity, the energetic engagement with this being that we reside on. It’s the connection to the mystery of the bones of the spells.
Dusky: What I believe is that the Earth and everything alive on it is connected, and there is some greater consciousness existing through that – there is something greater than the sum of its parts.
Hilary: It’s a wisdom that we both know and don’t know. It speaks to our bodies – to our energy bodies and our community bodies, our collective bio-diverse experiential bodies – it’s that web of connection, that interweaving of deity and plant and animal and mineral and unnamed mysterious cauldron – that’s what makes it “Earth” magic.
Sequoia: Earth magic is about recognizing the life and magic in the plants and animals we’re interacting with, and recognizing it as collaborative and interactive magic.
What’s unique about the practice of Earth magic?
Sequoia: There’s an older idea of magic as control over the elements – it’s a manipulative type of magic. In Reclaiming, we talk about the concept of power-over versus power-with – Earth magic is very much a power-with experience, allowing our concept of sentience to spread across beings that we can’t share words with.
Hilary: If you are invoking a deity, you are invoking the rocks of the stories of the people who created them, the fragments of the stories that are lost and are held in the drops of water at that place. If you invoke a tree, you invoke the idea of a tree, but you’re also invoking what the tree has to say, beyond metaphor. Even science – you look at a leaf and see that there’s not enough water, the edges are dryer, and know what that means for the ecosystem of the forest – that’s also Earth magic. It’s not just imagining and personifying butterfly or bee or salmon – it’s listening to what their Earth-bodies are telling us.
A living relationship with the Earth, you could say?
Hilary: I can’t help thinking about the chant we just sang in ritual:
We must let the land shape us
Let water carve canyons in us
Let the wind build and break us
Let fire remake us*
The song speaks to what Earth magic is – a dialectical relationship. It’s not “mastery over.”
It’s about learning skills of interaction or skills of community. It’s not like, ”I now have taken Elements of Magic, and I understand Elements of Magic so I get to level-up!” It’s about collectivity.
* – song by Nicole, Lindsay & Clarice / Free Cascadia WitchCamp.
Teens Roundtable: What Do We Believe?
How do you refer to your spiritual involvement? Are there names you use?
Ingrid: Up till a few months ago I would have labeled myself “Pagan.” Recently, my favorite expression is, “I find myself in nature.” I could go on for hours and hours trying to explain it, but if there’s one phrase that says what I feel right now, that’s it.
Dusky: I’ve been trying to find a word for the entirety of my spiritual existence. I even fluctuate between whether I refer to myself as a spiritual or religious person. Finding a concise word is not easy. I’m usually like, “I’m Wiccan-ish, I’m Pagan-ish.”
What about ‘witch’?
Mykel: I love the word “witch.” I like that it’s about being a powerful, purposeful person instead of being attached to any one religion. I don’t identify as a Wiccan because I associate that word with more theologically-rigid traditions that emphasize the gender binary.
Ingrid: I like “witch,” although it requires more explanation, and a lot of people look at you and do this weird smile.
Dusky: I like “witch,” even if I don’t literally believe what witches believed when the word first came into being. But I really identify with witches.
What does ‘witch’ mean to you?
Dusky: Being a rad, bad-ass feminist. Witches are spunky chicks. Witches weren’t afraid to be different, and that’s a really big part of my self-identity – that I’m okay with being weird and wackadoo and all that stuff. It’s part of my spirituality to be weird.
Mykel: The word “witch,” to me, means that a person practices the art of doing magic, instead of focusing on any particular theology.
Were you raised in a spiritual tradition?
Ari: I was raised Christian, taught that using magic (which is God’s power) was evil. But I was allowed to check out other religions. My dad was a Pagan and with him I attended rituals and Witchlets, where I began to look into Paganism. Both parents had a respect for each other’s religions and never put them down.
Ola’i Wildboar: My mother was raised strict Catholic but chose Native American and Wiccan practices in her early adulthood. My dad’s family was agnostic but did occasionally practice magic. Wicca especially resonated with me, so I chose to go deeper.
Damien: I was born into Reclaiming and went to rituals and camps when I was young. I created an altar on my bookcase and followed my own path in my early teen years. I enjoy our traditions and some of the practices. I’ve bought many tarot decks, magic stones, and pendulums.
Peter: At birth I was a multitude of stitched-together spiritualities. I attended Sunday school, led by my mother, at a small Methodist church where we would watch the sun rise on Solstice. I was baptized over a Mayan fire for peace and unification of the Earth. As I grew older we settled into Reclaiming and the Red Road.
Meagan: I was raised by a mom who used to pray for hours a day, pouring her woes to Jesus and saying Amen ten times at the end. She also taught me about astrology, and she avidly believed in reincarnation, seeing family members in every animal we came across. Now I attend a Quaker church. Quakers advocate “no dogma,” and offer many interpretations of traditional Christian texts and myths that are more resonant with my current worldview.
Mykel: My friend was involved in the Unitarian Church and they have a Pagan Interest Circle that does moon circles. I’d come along, and I was super into that from the beginning. It still feels good and natural to do that. I don’t think I have another part of my practice and identity that has stayed with me as long as this has.
KaeliMo: When I was young, our dad took us to a bunch of different traditions. We’d go to UUs (Unitarians) one week, then go meditate in a yurt, then the next week we’d go with our friends to a Catholic service. For a while in high school I practiced Orthodox Judaism. Partly because I’ve experienced a lot of different traditions, I kind of identify as an agnostic, Unitarian type of person.
How is it to follow in your parents’ tradition?
Peter: I always followed in my mother’s spiritual path because it felt right. I loved the empowerment of the Reclaiming community, and value the ethics and manners and the recognition of equally valuable traditions from the Red Road.
Ola’i Wildboar: Both my parents are open to all religions but especially to Earth-based ones. My parents have supported and taught me what I needed to know.
Lucy: My parents felt very strongly about raising me so that I would be free to choose any spiritual path, including none at all. While I am immensely thankful for that decision and the opportunities it has presented, I remember being very confused as a child.
What specifically was confusing?
Lucy: Most of my friends were Christian and I remember having a lot of struggle with being taught about the unknown, particularly about life after death. Fearing death as a child and fearing it being the end of everything has really shaped my personality in a positive way and given me a really thankful feeling toward every day of life.
What has drawn you to work with Teen Earth Magic and Reclaiming?
Miranda: Teen Earth Magic is a camp where a bunch of teenagers get to hang out, do a lot of different types of magic, learn about each other – and have a lot of fun. You learn a lot about how others do magic. And everyone was so welcoming. By the end, I really knew everyone and was completely part of the group.
Ingrid: I appreciate the activism, and the inclusive nature – wanting to accept and value being diverse. I love that about Reclaiming, that we make space for and value diversity in every sense.
Maeve: One of the things I remember about Witchlets is when I was eight and got to have a ritual role, and got to be around a bunch of other people who were doing roles, people of all different ages. I got to learn by watching and being treated like I was on the same level as the others.
Dusky: When I’m in a Reclaiming camp or group, I don’t feel like I have to be any one way. I initially thought I was supposed to be super magicky, super spiritual. But I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t the case, that there would be someone in the community that would want to join me in whatever goofball activity I wanted to do.
Sequoia: My first year at Witchlets, I was eleven, and I was finally getting to learn from people who knew about magic! Now I’m 25. In some ways that sense of mysticism is so normal for me now that I take it for granted.
What keeps you coming back?
Natasha: A big part of what brings me back is the people. They’re my family, people I’ve grown up with. It’s something I feel really lucky and blessed to have.
Sequoia: The experience of being a co-creator.
Maeve: The same for me. My first year at Witchlets I was three. It was new and exciting and unexpected at every turn – it was completely magical. Part of the role I now see myself in, as a Weaver and ritual planner and student teacher, is creating that magic again. There’s a different kind of magic that comes from being behind the scenes. But also keeping that spontaneity and unexpectedness and discovery for people who haven’t had the chance to experience this. It’s one of the most gratifying things, to pass on that sense of wonder and excitement even as I move on and go deeper with it.
Charlotte: I love having a space for young people to do magic in nature, people who are there for the same reason, who want to do Earth magic. There’s only so many
Download the latest (almost complete!) PDF at TeenEarthMagic.org/workbook