I’ve returned from a sojourn in the gorgeous city of Prague. Prague is my kind of city, a place that has no patience for fakery and yet, indulges in heights of fantasy and the fantastic; that exudes the harsh pragmatism that all northern cities seem to have, yet also spits in the face of minimalism. Incidentally, it is also where the legendary magicians, John Dee and Edward Kelly, practiced for some years.

I can’t imagine how fun it must have been to create the Alchemical Museum

I had to drop by the Alchemical Museum which is ostensibly housed in the very building where Kelly lived and worked. This is fairly questionable, but certainly he was in the area. The museum is mainly tourist fodder, providing a series of inventive, somewhat cheesy interactive dioramas and some explanatory placards, a number of which were not factual, but rather, apocryphal tales of local alchemists and charlatans of the day. I should mention here that Prague is home to a number of these quirky, independent museums run by locals that have nothing of the institutional, objective presence that you commonly find in N. America.

I did approach the gentleman at the receptionist’s desk to inquire as to whether the OTO had a lodge in the city, but he stated he’d never heard of the group. When I went into greater detail, he stated emphatically that he did not approve of “secret societies.” (I realized upon afterthought that having secret societies would not be the most welcome idea in a former Communist state.) But we did have a lively conversation about astrology and I can confidently say that the practice of astrology is very much alive and well in Prague.

Prague’s handy astronomical clock allows you to track the movements of the sun and moon through the zodiac

The magical highlight of the trip however, was without a doubt, meeting Karen Mahoney and Alex Ukolov, creators of a number of popular tarot decks. Although I am not a deck collector, I am a proud owner of the marvelous Tarot of Prague, a collage/illustration deck that transports you into the imaginary life of the city, for Prague is, if anything, a visual city. I had anticipated that we would talk tarot, but we ended up discussing politics and history instead, meeting twice in Malá Strana’s winding streets and little cafes. Right before leaving my wonderful hosts for a dinner date, Karen asked me why I was interested in magic.

It was a very good question because although I have always known that magic was a valuable pursuit, I had never had to articulate this to someone and to be honest, I’d never bothered to explain it to myself. I responded that I had always had a vivid and intense dream life, which often served a compensatory function to conscious life, and that magic was just an extension of the dreaming. The answer, thought up on the spot, dissatisfied me.

Prior to this, Karen and I had been discussing the strategies we use to navigate modern life and politics. She had a very interesting idea of simply ignoring limitations and finding ways to disappear within the system. And really, that is what magic is to me. It’s a rich, seemingly empty space teeming with resources that are completely discredited, and so, ignored. It is a font of true power that our current power systems are completely blind to. And because the power in magical practice doesn’t exist in the eyes of the state, no one is trying to control access to that power, to put boundaries around it, to hoard it all for themselves. If everyone thinks that my astrological studies, my tarot readings, my LBRPs and all my rituals amount to naught more than a total waste of time, no one is going to try to stop me from doing these things. Only when these practices are viewed as giving me power will that occur. With magic, one operates in a lacuna within the dominant power structures of our time.

The Sedlec Ossuary has nothing to do with the content of the post. It is a church located just outside Prague in Kutná Hora decorated with human bones which is AWESOME.

Is Prague itself a magical lacuna of a city? Karen likes to call it magical and certainly, one has the sense here that the measured linearity and faith in science that one finds in N. America is simply not as strong. I was only in Prague a short period of time, so I will reserve my judgment on this matter. You’ll have to visit the city’s winding streets and pathways to discover this for yourself.