5 Reasons Some Wiccans Don’t Use a ‘K’ in Magic
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
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.
Times Have Changed
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.
I Shouldn't Have to Tell Anyone that These Are Not Wiccans...
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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Mackenzie Sage Wright