This post has been sitting in draft this whole time, along with the two other related posts. I had been stuck on the second game write up, which felt inadequate and trivial against the realities of life right now. Even though I know there are ways in which it is not. I finally realized the way through my block was to reverse the series and explain myself first. My apologies for the delay.
There are many definitions of magic, but one I see often enough in public workshops is the idea that magic is going into liminal space, making a change, and returning to where you started having created the potential for change. We can have different opinions about the immediacy of change, if the change is individual or directly applied to something larger, whether the scope of change is internal or observable, and many other categories of the scope of the change. And those may be good posts later. But I think many of us can agree. Magic can be an engine of change.
This small series of posts was sparked when I was at a gathering, talking to the nurturer of a family, and we got to talking about children. I knew they liked games, but it wasn’t part of their family culture. And, it turns out, the children are a little bit too young for what I was offering. But it got me thinking.
I wanted to gift that family a specific game, which I will post in the comments later. The game has mutable rules. In the game, you can practice authority by changing the rules. You can practice rule structures by picking which categories of rules to have up, and at what strength. You can practice cunning by waiting to change, or not change, the rules. You can practice what it feels like to have transparency of rules, because in this game all the rules are out in the open for everyone to see as long as the rules are active. You can practice awareness in learning how having the rules changed against your will or desire feels. You can practice resilience in the face of changing rules. These are all skills that were taught and mentored in me by my family’s love of games. Even in a fixed rule game, like chess, it is a separate reality where I can try over and over again. I can be bold. I can be patient. I can be passive. I can be assertive. I can fail and it can hurt less if my challenger is respectful. If I am playing with a person, the relationship with that person might be changed but mostly games are a space set apart.
Games then, are liminal workshops.
Which I knew on some level, even if I don’t know if I’ve ever written that sentence before. I’ve spent 15+ years in the hospitality suite of a metaphysical convention. The drinks, snacks, chill, and companionship are important. Of course, the social parts are important too. Flirting over Liar’s Dice is fun. But we also tried to make sure we were serving our specific population. People come to the convention and experience intensities they were not expecting. People come to the convention and experience connections they were not expecting. In both cases, I would bring my games from home to be there as tools for the community. Say you were invited to use the drum of a traveling shaman from another continent while in a ritual circle and afterward you are feeling a little different. The shaman tells you to go do something simple with your hands. The simple counting and smooth stones of mancala could be very grounding then. Say there was a lot of chanting and journey work, and you don’t feel safe to drive home yet because you are loopy from the breathwork and the alpha waves. A silly game of Old Maid can give you time to mellow out without being revv’ed back-up the way talking about the chanting might. Say you have a cluster of friends of friends and you are eager to circle, but want to feel each out out? Something collaborative but competitive like dominos could work. Say your world was destroyed and you are not ready to talk about it yet. Sorting the jumping checkers rainbow of different color pegs into groups and patterns on the six-sided star-shaped board can give you a focus to just be.
Games then, are liminal base camps.
Back to that family I am going to gift some games. They don’t have my inheritance of authority, craft, and reliance. I am sure they have their own, but – to be blunt – my family are accredited education, white, dominant language, conventionality productive, etc. etc. etc. Some of how I deal with real-life challenges were taught to me in the family games, and it was not overt. My much older brother sent my pieces to the bar and locked me out of being able to continue in backgammon constantly until I learned to move with coverage. Then I learned to take up space, attack back, and lock him out. I have friends who refuse to play me, I am that aggressive. I carry that assurance with me. I am not cowed by frustration or set back. I got to practice that. I don’t know if all the traits I mentioned at the beginning – authority, structure, cunning, transparency, will, resilience – are things which the family I was talking with gets to practice. By giving them my games, and if they let me play with them, I can pass on my culture for them to take up as they choose. And I hope to pick up their culture as well. We can both be changed.
And as I said at the beginning, change can be magic. These workshops and basecamps are vital to expanding our skills in resilience and impact. That is why I started to write about what I got from the tarot games, and why I want to cover the other two versions I have played next.