Is magic “magic” or is it psychological?

A guest post shared by Chloe. 

Guest posts on Little Red Tarot are submitted by readers. The aim is to offer a wide range of voices, views on, feelings about and approaches to tarot (and related topics). If you’d like to write a post for Little Red Tarot, check out this page.

Is magic “magic” or is it psychological?

I was asked this recently, and my answer is yes, and yes 😀


Let’s start with the psychological side of things…

As I understand it, magic is a way of effecting change in our lives by changing our own thoughts, words and actions.  The best way to do this is by tapping into our subconscious, what some people call our Higher Self, Younger Self, or Emotional Self.  When we do that, we can consciously make changes that will then alter the way we respond to life – the black box theory of magic.

The Black Box Theory of Magic

The basic idea here is that magic alters the way we respond to what happens in our life.  So, where before you might see chocolate and want to eat it, if you cast a spell to remove sugar cravings then when you next see chocolate you’ll respond quite differently to it.  And changing your response to chocolate is likely to also change your weight.  Therefore, the effect isn’t purely psychological, but will ripple out into the rest of your life.

It’s not only our own responses and behaviours that change, though.  By altering how we act, we will also influence how others perceive us, and respond to us.  For example, if you cast a spell to increase your self-confidence, you are likely to come off better in a job interview, and be more likely to get hired.  So, these effects ripple out to others, changing their view of you and how they act towards you.

There is another way we can influence others with magic, too: the placebo effect.

The Placebo Effect

Using the notion of a placebo, we can influence other people by helping to effect change in their own subconscious.  For example, if I cast a spell for healing someone else, then it will be more effective if they know that I have cast it.  Even better is if they in some way take part in the spell casting, or are present for it.

Still, as has been shown with Reiki and other distance energetic healing practices, as well as the power of prayer, it can be done remotely and still be effective.  Here, I believe we are helping the other person harness the power of their own mind.  As they think about us and our spell, it affects their own sense of what is happening, tapping into their own ability to heal themselves.

So, where’s the “magic”?

You might say this is a very psychological approach to magic, and that’s true, as far as it goes.  I trained as a psychotherapist, and that influences me.  And I have no hard evidence for a deeper, more spiritual or mystical side to magic.

My personal experience is that it is there, although I cannot explain it from a rational perspective. Faith is a quite personal matter, and I don’t like to push my spiritual beliefs on others. When I cast a spell for myself, though, I call on deity.

And, in a doubling back to a rational/psychological perspective, there are studies that show that having some kind of life-affirming faith improves medical outcomes, such as recovery from surgery.

I would encourage everyone to find any tiny spark of belief in magic or deity and fan it – it’s good for your psychological and physical well-being 🙂 So, there you have a psychological reason to believe in the wonders of magic!

If you’d like some help with creating some positive changes in your life, I will be running a webinar on Tarot Magic on 23rd May at 4pm.

More information here

It will give you all the tools you need to create effective, powerful spells.  We’ll design a spell during the webinar, and you’ll also get an ebook on Tarot Magic, as well as an mp3 of a magical meditation to activate your spell!

About Chloe

Chloë holds a Masters in Social Anthropology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Psychotherapy.  She has been practising magic since 2001, and reading tarot professionally since 2006. 

You can find her at

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  1. Ellen says:

    As long as it works it’s fine by me. I do enjoy the creative part of magic a lot. Choosing the words, cards and crystals etc, Bringing it all together is like creating a mandala with one focal point in the center; the purpose of the spell 🙂

    • chloetarot says:

      Yes, the creative part is one of my favourites. Still, you need the other bits, too 🙂 And like you, I go back and change and tweak things all the time 😀

  2. Ste says:

    Fab post. I have the same questions around tarot, and it’s a big love in my life (like you, I also trained as psychotherapist). I like to focus on the fact that these tools are wonderful and they work, rather than the “why”. I love this kind of open minded, yet positive approach to our passions! Ste / Tarot Cat x

    • chloetarot says:

      Thanks, Ste. I’m not sure about the “why” of things, but definitely getting better at the “what works” side – so it’s all good 🙂

  3. nikkiana says:

    This is something I’ve been thinking on quite a little lately as I’ve recently begun researching for a book that I’ve begun to write on this subject.

    I tend to take a rather practical and psychological outlook on ritual and divinatory magic…

    I see it as a process of using objects and rituals to help you either unlock your creativity around a situation and help you look at it from a different angle (as is the case with things like tarot, casing runes, reading tea leaves, etc) or to help you to remember to embody a particular set of traits (as in the traditional meanings of crystals and herbs), or to help you embody a particular intention for your life (like when you cast a spell).

    For me, what’s magical about it is the experience of taking the time to really focus intention and seeing how that simple act can ripple effect out into the rest of your life.

    • chloetarot says:

      Lovely perspective, nikkiana! Intention is a huge one in magic, for me. The only other bit I’d add in is the importance of imagination. I guess that’s about – if you can dream it, you can create it! 🙂

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