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5 Reasons Some Wiccans Don’t Use a ‘K’ in Magic

Updated on August 25, 2016
WiccanSage profile image

A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.

With or without the 'k'?

Spelling magic with a ‘k’ has become a very common thing in the Pagan community at large, particularly with Wiccans. As Wicca exploded in popularity in the 90’s, and more and more books came out, almost all of them seemed to include that ‘k’—books were not about magic, they were about magick .With the growth of the internet, websites followed suit. I’ve even heard on rare occasion people go so far as to say that you’re not a ‘real Pagan’ or not a ‘real Wiccan’ if you don’t use the ‘k’.

Not everyone uses the ‘k’ though. I myself do not, though I have no problem with people who do. I realize the vast majority of sources will explain why we should use the ‘k’. I thought an explanation for why it can be excluded was in order.

Magic vs. Magick

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Times Have Changed

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The Father of Wicca:

Witchcraft Today
Witchcraft Today

Guess what? He spelled it 'magic.'

 

Reason #1: We Don’t Speak Middle English Anymore

Just look at this snippet of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales:

WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

My spell check is having conniption fits. That’s Middle English; Old English is even more unrecognizable. Moral of the story: we don’t speak Middle English anymore. So why pluck the spelling of one isolated word out of the past? We have standardized spelling since then, and the word magic in our standardized modern spelling doesn’t have a ‘k’.

Some will argue “but that’s how Witches spelled it back then”. Maybe, but they also spelled it Aprille instead of April, and shoures instead of showers like Chaucer. Back then, the ‘k’ was not an attempt to sound archaic; it was the actual spelling. Things have changed.

Reason #2: It's Not Actually Original to Wicca.

Gerald Gardner—Wicca’s founder—used magic in all of his writings. So did Doreen Valiente. The ‘k’ didn’t catch on with Wiccans until the 1980s. Not that Gardner is a prophet, or that his word is law— and not that everyone who practices magic needs to do as Gardner did. But it’s often mistakenly believed to be a Wiccan tradition. There’s no actual historical relevance to the ‘k’ in Wicca. People didn't really start using it until long after Gardner was gone.

I Shouldn't Have to Tell Anyone that These Are Not Wiccans...

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Crowley & the 'K'

Book of the Law
Book of the Law

Crowley did use the 'k' in his writings of Ceremonial Magic; but then, he wasn't ever Wiccan.

 

Reason #3: No One is Going to Confuse Wicca with Stage Shows

When you write about Witchcraft, spells, or famous magicians like John Dee, do you really believe that without the ‘k’ people would think you meant sawing a lady in half? There are a lot of homonyms in the English language. Context is everything. When a doctor says you need a cast, no one thinks he means people putting on a show. When a tree surgeon mentions problematic bark, no one thinks he means a noisy yelp. When you as a Wiccan talk about magic with someone, rarely are they going to think you mean card tricks.

Reason #4: Magic and 'Magick' are Actually Not the Same Thing

Alister Crowley was the person responsible for using the ‘k’ in ‘magick’ in the 20th century. Crowley had also been the one to make the remark that it differentiates between ‘real’ and ‘stage’ magic, but this was more of a flippant answer because he loved attention. There was actually a functional reason he used the ‘k’.

The real reason Crowley began using the spelling magick was because he was referring to specific Ceremonial Magic purposes. He was trying to numerologically align the word to certain purposes.

When Crowley used the term magick, he used it not just to differentiate from stage magic, but from other forms of metaphysical magic as well. To Crowley, magick meant something one would do in order to achieve their Will (capital 'W'). The Will, to Crowley, is your life's true purpose; your highest purpose.

Vast majority of Wiccans don’t practice Ceremonial Magic, or High Magic; we practice Low Magic. Even among the most noble Wiccans, 90% of the time we’re not striving to reach our highest purpose in life—our magic is more practical and for daily living, like passing a test, getting a raise or finding those lost keys. If one is trying to follow Crowley's use of the word, substituting magic with magick would simply be inaccurate.

Oh, the Confusion!

The 'k' doesn't clarify our beliefs; it muddies them further.
The 'k' doesn't clarify our beliefs; it muddies them further. | Source

Reason #5: It's Hard to Take Us Seriously

While some Wiccans are very adamant that spelling it 'magick' is appropriate, we have to admit that after about 25 years of using that 'k', the rest of the world is just not getting it.

When debating the non-magical community, we have to give disclaimers about why we intentionally use archaic misspellings. Considering our religion is about 70 years old, this can make us come off as attention-seeking at best, and pretentious at worst. To the larger occult community, we’re misusing the term, and therefore come off as ignorant, if not posers. If we want our religion and practices to be taken seriously, deliberately spelling words incorrectly to look kewl is not going to help our case.

If you like using the ‘k’, I’m not about to argue with you. You have your own reasons, and most Wiccan sources at this point would agree with you and spell it magick. But for those who are uncomfortable with it, or who question using that infamous ‘k’, you can also rest easy and realize there’s good reasons not to use it, too.

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    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Very interesting! Our culture is so focused on external labels and symbols when we should instead concentrate on the internal, spiritual path. Saying that a person isn't really Wiccan because they don't spell a word a certain way seems pretty mundane!

    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 3 years ago from India

      Informative hub and interesting as well. Thank you.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      People get fixated on details sometimes that don't really mean anything, lol. I agree. Thanks for your comment!

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you dilipchandra12, glad you find it interesting!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Agreed! I've often wondered about that; thanks for the explanation.

      (I've also occasionally seen it as "magik" minus the 'c'.)

      Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      I've seen a lot of creative spelling over time: magick, magik, majick, majik, etc. I can get past the k since people have reasons for it, but sometimes people get a little too creative and it looks kind of ridiculous. Thanks MsLizzy!

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 3 years ago from New Zealand

      This is great work Wiccan. I remember reading this last week in my notifications and being fascinated by it, but I didn't have time to comment then. Reason #5 rang true for me a bit. I think I remember seeing `magick' used in Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible, though it's been about 10 years since I read it. I appreciated his philosophical arguments, but the whole `magick' part of the book really ruined it for me. Perhaps LaVey was following Crowley's use of it though? Again, very interesting hub. I do love hubs about the origins of words!

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks Thomas; yes, LaVey was definitely influenced by Crowley, as was Gardner. I appreciate your comments!

    • fivesenses profile image

      Leena 3 years ago from new delhi

      Actually I've also wondered about the k and c in magic...informative and interesting.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks fivesenses; it seems to be just one of those little oddities that caught on like wildfire to the point at which people forgot it wasn't necessary I guess. It just became 'the thing to do'. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      SilverDragon 5 months ago

      Although I see your perspective, I think that this article is mostly for those within the Wiccan community, no? As an Apprentice Wizard under Oberon Zell, I see a formulated difference between Magic and Magick based not on linguistic impact, but cultural impact. As you mentioned, Magick by Aleister Crowley had a higher place, a higher meaning. To me, and other Wizards I suppose you can place us in the 'other crowd', that we practice both High and Low Magick. From everyday practices to attaining a higher state of mind naturally, Magic is more for ceremony, illusion whereas Magick would be the "experimental science and art" as Oberon Zell says. Combining science with art and humanities, one can be influenced by a word more notably. In a world where 'words' do matter, I think it is imperative we fight to separate the meaning. While Foucault may not agree, I see truth in language and words.

      Great article nonetheless!

      Very respectfully and many blessings,

      Silver Dragon

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 5 months ago

      Hi Silver Dragon; Yes, it is directed towards Wiccans, which is why I even specifically refer to Wiccans in the title. It would be impossible to speak for groups of all magical systems. Keep in mind, Wiccans mainly practice Witchcraft, low magic, and are rarely trained in high magic.

      Personally I don't feel there is any more or less truth to the word or practices by adding a 'k' or not adding a 'k'. It doesn't change anything for me personally, and no matter how we spell it we're going to be challenged on it.

      I understand not everyone agrees; that's fine. I'm not telling people whether they should use a 'k' or not here; I'm not advocating any specific spelling. I'm only explaining why some of us don't use it... an explanation inspired by the many emails telling me that I'm spelling 'magick' wrong.

      Thanks for your comment, I always appreciate different perspectives being brought up.

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