Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Magical Projects

"A project is a finite endeavor (having specific start and completion dates) undertaken to create a unique product or service which brings about beneficial change or added value." - from Wikipedia's Project Management entry.

As you may know, I'm a priest in the cult of Project Management (PM). It's supposed to be a business methodology for accomplishing projects successfully and efficiently. Wikipedia says it's a discipline, but in real life, the disciples of PM are the true believers, the Project Management Office in major corporations are the Priests of their true God, and the rest of the team are heathens claiming to be converts to keep their jobs. The QA team is the Holy Inquisition, audits are their inquests, and ...

Ok, I can see I'll slip off into some weirdness if I keep comparing my job to a religion. So to the point!

Each project has a "life cycle" that can be broken down into basic phases. Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Control, and Closeout. It's all pretty much common sense, but having it codified makes things a lot easier to figure out how to make things work. It provides a template for developing your projects efficiently.

In my Great Work activities, I find that using the simple approach of PM helps immensely. It's not something I have to do nearly as strictly, but it provides a framework within which I can work and excel.

Usually when you decide to do a ritual, it's in response to a need that has become apparent to you in your life. Obvious, eh? I know, but writing it down helps the rest of the post.

When you've identified that something needs to be addressed Magically, you can enter the "Initiation" stage. In this stage, you identify what you want to happen, the result, or "deliverable" of the project. You identify when you want to start the project, and when you want it to finish. You loosely identify the scope, that is, the area of impact of your ritual, and put into writing exactly why you need or want to use magic to accomplish this result. You also figure out whether you can actually do the magic, whether you have the resources of time, skill, and information available to accomplish your desired result.

Many ideas for projects get tossed in the trash can after this phase in business. The place I work added a pre-initiation phase to their projects called "Discovery" to eliminate the number of projects that got started and shit-canned along the way. It saved them a lot of money because one person can do the discovery phase in a major corporation, while to do the Initiation phase properly, you end up using a lot of people and wasting everyone's time and cash.

Magicians don't have to worry about that. The primary value of going through the steps of an Initiation Phase in magical projects is that you have a time set aside to really think about the ritual and put some things in writing so you don't lose focus along the way. When you're finished with you Initiation Phase, you should have everything you need to begin the Planning phase. You should have on one piece of paper:
  • A start and finish date
  • A Statement of Intent
  • A paragraph or two explaining what it is you expect from the ritual, and how you want it to manifest.
The next phase is Planning. In this phase, you take your deliverable and reverse engineer the requirements and processes you'll need to be able to perform the ritual. In this phase, you identify what kind of spirit you'll be working with, for example, Angels, Daimons, Gods, or Heroes using Iamblichus' classifications of spiritual entities. You identify the planets, astrological influences, or which specific spirits you'll be working with. You identify the prerequisites, like whether you need to be more in tune with a particular power to be able to direct the subjects of a particular spirit. You gather information about what herbs, incenses, or elemental forces that are in harmony with your intent.

When you are finished with this phase, you will have a list of all the things related to your ritual that you will be using to perform the ritual. Writing these things down in bulleted lists grouped by subject area is an exercise that makes the following phase much easier.

The next phase is the Design phase. In this phase, you actually write up the ritual. On Mars day in Mars hour, you burn Mars herbs and call upon Martial Intelligence, Martial Spirit, and the Elemental King of Fire in the Martial Names of God while wearing the Martial Lamen and tracing the Seals of the spirits you will be working with. You'll write out your oration notes, and develop your basic Playbook. This is a document that details each step of the process you will be doing during the next phase, Execution. Personally my "playbook" will be written on 3x5" cards. The Orations are usually just noted with the specific names of the beings, and I have place holders for when I'm supposed to ring a bell or light incense or trace particular seals using particular elemental weapons. When this phase is complete, you should have the following:
  • A playbook that has detailed instructions and sequential process steps noted and arranged in the appropriate order
  • A checklist of things that need to be in place before you take the first step in the playbook.
Once you have all the planning and design finished, and you know specifically what you will be doing during the ritual, you're ready to begin the Execution phase. In this phase, you gather all the ingredients you've identified in your requirements, and you make sure you've got everything you need ready to go at the right time identified in your playbook. This is the phase where I'll be melting the copper and banging it into a disk to engrave in the appropriate hour, or performing preparatory kinetic meditations, or seeking initiation into the spheres I'll be working with if I haven't worked them before. This is the time that you set up your altar, if it isn't set up already. This is the time you make sure all the candles are in their holders, the lighter has fluid, and the charcoal is sitting in the brazier ready to be lit. The last thing you do before the Execution phase is complete is perform the ritual you have designed.

The next two stages are the ones most magicians don't bother with. In Monitoring and Control, you are supposed to be watching how the ritual you did is unfolding in your life. You're supposed to be checking to see that things are working as designed. Unfortunately, Crowley with his warnings about "lust for results" and the Chaos Magic meme's insistence on banishing with laughter and forgetting that you even did the rite have made a lot of magicians stupid. Between the time you perform the ritual and the time you expect it to manifest, you should be keeping tabs on the results without "lusting" after them. You do this by checking with the spirits to see where they're at in their processes, and by paying attention to the subject areas of your life related to the ritual. If something comes up that is obviously going to fuck up the result, you take steps to implement your controls, processes you design into the ritual to mitigate unforeseen risks to the successful completion of the project.

The final phase of a project is the Closeout stage. In business, this means you've delivered the deliverable, you've made sure it's working, and you pass on responsibility of ongoing maintenance to the appropriate business area "owner." In magic, you enter this phase when the result has been accomplished. You clean up any offerings that were left out for the spirits, you send your spiritual thank you notes to the spirits that attended, and you write up the results of the ritual in your Magical PM log. This write up should include any lessons you've learned that will make future projects go more smoothly.

Chances are you already use a process similar to this in your own Work. the steps are common sense, after all, but maybe you don't bother writing anything up along the way. By taking the time to formulate your statement of intent and the requirements and the playbook and the documentation of the manifestation and lessons learned, you'll have more repeatable, traceable, and consistent results. The planning that goes into each phase will help you identify any potential gaps that could become "showstoppers," the things that will totally derail your intended manifestation.


  1. Ye Gods I hate project management. DEMON BE GONE!

    I think I've stayed at startups and started my own company just to avoid the formalities of project management :P

  2. You are such an American ;) But its not a bad rubric to work with at all. Half the discipline comes before and after the "actual" magic; the followup and investigation is sometimes more important than the actual charm.

  3. QL: Yeah, I know, I hates it too, most days. I am a huge fan of process though, and I like to see things get repeatable. I loathe the GD initiatory structure, the industrialization of spirituality, but at the same time, ritual is something that is a repeatable process, and the PM discipline is transferable.

    This was sort of a testing the waters post to see about the viability of pursuing a book based on the concept. I think I'd need to change the terms and strip off some of the blatant moves, put in some more transformation logic in the extract and load. :D

  4. Opti: I know, I really am! You caught what I think the value of the process is though, putting more thought into your magic to get better results. Having gone through a spell of no-magic lately, I'm trying to get back on the horse, and this is sort of the manifestation of those attempts, I think. Maybe.


Thanks for your comments, your opinions are valued, even if I disagree with them. Please feel free to criticize my ideas and arguments, question my observations, and push back if you disagree.