I don’t remember where I first heard the phrase “in order to create a new reality, we must first be able to imagine it.” That phrase is especially true when the reality around us is challenging. As I am writing this, we’re in a Code Red air day due to smoke from the fires in Canada. The very real results of climate change are here. The political landscape continues to horrify with oppressive legislation rolling out across the country and hateful rhetoric flowing through our various media sources. The gap between the haves and have–nots continues to widen. It’s tough right now, and there’s no sign of a reprieve on the horizon. It can be hard to hang onto hope when the world around us looks bleak.
Along with all the situational factors, most adults grew up in an environment that squashed imagination and imaginative play. At some point, the majority of us were told to stop daydreaming, to get our heads out of the clouds, or were lectured about what is and is not possible. Many of us were criticized for the material we were feeding our imaginations – fantasy novels and movies, comic books, and role playing games have all come under fire from the Seriousness Police in our culture. However, one of the most overlooked yet also vital ingredients in any spell or working is imagination. And, like the other techniques of magic – raising and directing energy, visualization, etc., – imagination can be strengthened in order to make our spells and workings more effective.
Somehow, we must take this reality and make something new with it. We must feed our imaginations in order to connect the dots between this world and the one we hope to create. We must find ways to work around the patterns that suppress imagination.
Getting “serious” about imagination is a bit of an oxymoron here – more white–knuckling reality isn’t going to help us come up with new ideas. Instead, I think we need to get ridiculous about it.
I recently attended the New York Faerie Festival as part of Kindred Crow and was reminded again of the power of imagination and play. It was wonderful to be in an environment where fantasy ran free – where faeries, satyrs, gnomes, trolls, merfolk, dryads, and more roamed freely. Where children and adults could interact as whatever version of themselves they wished to. Anytime I’m in a fantasy environment, I think about the way people are being more truthful – the Self they are presenting the world is a real one, but one that in most cases stays hidden during the navigation of day–to–day life. In those spaces of fantastical truth, new possibilities are born. By shaking up the everyday, new patterns emerge in the pieces when they land again. Those patterns are often the seeds of new possibilities.
So, how do we get started? If we need to lighten up, how do we really do that given *gestures broadly at everything*? As always, I have some ideas.
- Consider what you’re feeding your brain. All the media we consume is input into our imagination. Along with the news and social media, add some seriously whimsical stuff. Been a while since you hit up some high fantasy fiction? Add it in whether that’s books, TV shows, movies, or comics. Also, consider adjusting your social media to include fantasy feeds – there are dozens of hashtags involving the word “fairy/faerie” you can follow on Instagram. #fairygarden alone has over 700K posts. #blackfairy has more than 20K. Deliberately cultivate some whimsy and escapism.
- Play make–believe. Got some alone time? Great. Put on some music you love and pretend to be a wizard – the fantasy kind. You’ve been dropped into the real world and are exploring a mundane person’s living space and you have your magic wand. Experiment. Pretend to be a unicorn or a satyr or a dragon or whatever floats your boat. No one can see you, no one will know. It may feel weird and uncomfortable at first. Do it anyway – it just means those muscles haven’t been stretched in a while. It gets easier as you go. I still regularly play “secretly a magical–elf–princess–warrior–being that the animals can talk to if they choose.” It’s a great mental break.
- Write a really, really bad story. One of the things that stops many of us from making art, writing, or otherwise expressing our imaginations is the idea that the result has to be good. So, let go of that part. Pick the tropiest trope out of fantasy writing and write a terrible fantasy story. Have fun. Include all the silliest stuff if you’d like – glittery vampires! wise elves! dragons that let you ride them! Go for broke and make yourself giggle while also creating something wholly imagined. Not a storyteller? Fine. Put it in a drawing or painting. Again, make it BAD. We’re not going for fine art here. You can destroy the results of your efforts afterwards, but a better plan would be to hide those results somewhere you’ll forget about for a while (in the attic with the holiday decorations or something) and then giggle all over again when you find your story/drawing/whatever.
- Rediculate. I love this word – I learned it as meaning to deliberately do something silly and potentially involve others in that silly. Throw an absurd theme gathering. Grab some hula hoops and a tutu and head to the park. Begin adding whimsical touches to your wardrobe (remember Goodwill and thrift stores for stuff like this). Put in a fairy garden at your home or apartment. Too much? Find your local playground and go swing on the swings. Start small if the discomfort is making you squirm (and it’s okay if it is – many of us have been told that as adults, play is wrong).
- Bonus points: create something whimsical for others. I have a history of making found–object fairy houses and hiding them along the C&O canal. I was involved in a wonderful Ostara prank one year where we filled plastic eggs with silly phrases like “great, now I need a new eggshell” and “contents under one atmosphere of pressure” and hid them all over a downtown area. Add to the whimsy of the world even when you don’t get to see the results.
- Go to the fantasy places. In the mid–Atlantic where I live, spring through autumn are Festival Season. If you are financially and geographically able to do so, include some straight–up fantasy environments like Renaissance and Faery festivals in your schedule. Then, lean in. Wear a costume assembled from stuff you already own/acquire on the cheap. Create a character and be it. Interact with the cast members who want to interact with you. Play.
- Get involved with an event. All those “how to make friends after 30” articles are weird to me – I’m constantly meeting new friends. But, I know it’s because I’m involved with big projects that require a group of folks to pull off. Every festival you’ve ever heard of needs volunteers. Like, desperately. Find a fantasy event that looks fun and get involved with helping pull it off. You’ll make new friends who are prioritizing imagination and fantasy. For folks in the Maryland–Virginia– Pennsylvania–Delaware region, Big Whimsy keeps a running list of Faerie Faires/events on their website.
- Allow for wonder. Stay with me here, because this one is starting with a story. I have really low blood pressure. It’s hereditary – I didn’t do anything to deserve it and it’s not the result of lifestyle. I’ve been this way since I was a kid. That means that sometimes, I see little twinkles of light when I stand up, or randomly when my blood pressure is struggling to keep my circulation where it’s supposed to be. I didn’t understand what those sparkles of light were when I was a child. I was talking about it with my Mom when I was a teenager, and told her that when I was little, I thought the sparkles of light were faeries. Mom’s response? “Maybe they are.” Allow the world to be more. Go to beautiful places and allow the beauty to wash over you. Maybe the gorgeous cave system was built by gnomes. Maybe earth spirits live there. Maybe the rolling valley is where the faeries dance at night. Maybe the deep forest is where the centaurs live. Let it all be more. Let yourself feel wonder at it all.
There’s no prize for being the most serious and down to earth. Indeed, we know for a fact that the problems of the world require imagination to solve. We also know that imagination is something we can practice and strengthen. And remember, hope is a practice too. It requires support, and growing our imaginations is a great way to keep that tender flame of possibility glowing brightly.
So, those are my suggestions for bringing in a little more wonder, whimsy, and imagination into your life and your magic. What are yours? Hit me up in the comments.
Irene Glasse is a Heathen witch based in Western Maryland. She is a longtime teacher of witchcraft, meditation, and magic in the mid-Atlantic. Visit https://glassewitchcottage.com/ for more.