Citations in Magic

January 27, 2007 by  
Filed under magick

Citations in Magic

One of the aspects of the occult writing industry that often puzzles me is the lack of internal citations. There’s usually a bibliography in the back of each book, but in the actual text there are rarely any internal citations, which show how the author has drawn on the material from the bibliography. Instead the reader finds a book where the author is essentially claiming all the ideas for hir own, and in that process blatantly plagiarizing the works of other authors that s/he draws from. The bibliography is a token gesture; all the references are placed in the back of the book where no one will likely bother to look at them. If a person does decide to look at the bibliography to get an idea of where the author got hir ideas, the problem that’s encountered is that without the specific internal cite reference, the person has to buy every book on the list to find out where the author got a particular idea. Not everyone can afford to do this, nor does everyone want to.

Besides that, there is the ethical issue of plagiarism, an issue that both publishers and writers should be held accountable to. The publishers should enforce and demand that an in-text citational style be used by writers who draw on sources, and at the same time the writers should be ethically responsible enough to put the in-text citations in. There is no excuse for laziness on the part of any writer who draws on the ideas of other people. There is no recommended style of citation as yet for occult works. I prefer to use APA citation, but that’s a result of my academic schooling.

Ironically, the choice to not do in-text citations not only detracts from the credibility of the writers and publishers, but also cuts down on potential sales. If I put a quote in here and you find the concepts in the quote intriguing, chances are you’ll actually consider buying the book. If I don’t, and claim the idea as my own, you might see the book referenced in the bibliography, but with no in-text citation, you’ll have no reference or reason to even consider exploring the ideas within that book further.

Besides the publishing and writing issues, however there is a magical side to using citations that most people never even consider. Using citations can be a form of literary necromancy, when you cite the works of authors who are dead. It’;s also a form of contemporary magic when you cite an author that’s read now. Let’s consider each of these ideas separately.

When you’re citing an occult book, you’re investing in the ideas and concepts that went into it. You put more life into the concepts that the book embodies, and to some degree into the persona of the author. The persona of the author is a construct, not quite the actual person, but having an existence of its own. Yes, I’m a real human being, but I also have an author persona that people imagine when they think of me in context of my writing. Whether it’s accurate to the real me or not, this persona exists and it’s to that persona that the attention, the fandom and interest of people (all of it energy) goes. This process still continues even for a writer who is no longer contemporary. So long as a book is owned, read, and even glanced through, some energy is going to the book and author. And when that work is cited, awareness is brought to the reader and consequent potential interest arises that can be directed toward the cited source.

Likewise, a form of literary necromancy is performed in the case of authors that are dead. Though these authors are dead, the books they wrote and indeed the personae of the authors live on and can be invoked, to be worked. I frequently invoke such authors when I start to write a book, to show respect to them, but also to draw inspiration from them. Every citation of a book by a dead author is an energy gateway to the ideas of that author, and indeed an offering to that author that hir ideas will be respected and drawn upon and that people might buy hir works to further honor hir.

By extension, in taking this perspective and invoking the different authors you choose to cite, you are also getting their blessings, which in turn can help you improve your ability to write, but can also increase potential sales. It may even help you with the presentations you make, if you do workshops, as again you’re drawing on their blessings. Even if you disagree with their ideas, by citing other writers, you essentially are not only giving them credit, but also making sure other people acknowledge their work. Usually my invocations involve taking a bit of text by the author that I’m citing and saying at the end that I invoke [name of author]’s blessing on my writing that it might draw attention to hir works as well as my own writing. This seems to work and is respectful to the author.

However, you can make this more elaborate, right up to making an altar to the author, with a picture, copies of his/her book (autographed are even better), and any other relevant information you think will help with the blessing of the author. I use my bookcases as altars, since that taps into their purpose of holding the books. While you’re writing a book, use the bookcase as an altar, and when invoking the writer you can even leave out some food and wine.

Using in-text citations is in and of itself a magical act, and with the invocation, it becomes even more so such an act. As writers, we stand to lose nothing by acknowledging the shoulders we stand on and can even get some magical aid. As readers, we learn more about where a given author is getting hir ideas, specifically, and we can use this to learn more about a given subject.

On the other hand, not using internal citations disrespects the author you drew the ideas from, and disrespects the writing industry you’re in. You’re pissing in your own drinking water when you don’t responsibly cite another author. To apply this principle to magic, by not citing an author, you corrupt the energy you put into the writing, harming your own efforts and the efforts of others.

It’s important to use citations, regardless of whether you perceive the use of them to be magical or just important for literary purposes. It’s your responsibility as a writer (if you write) to acknowledge where you got your ideas. To not do so is an act of theft, and as such taints the energy of your writings, stains your name, and does dishonor to occultism. While we should never take ourselves too seriously, we should make the effort to respect the work of others. It’s my hope that more authors will use internal citations or footnotes so that interested readers can benefit fully from the effort of their work.

©2007 by Taylor Ellwood. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.com/.

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