10 Questions with Donald Michael Kraig

1. Congratulations on the release of the revised and expanded third edition of Modern Magick! What changes can readers find with this edition?

Thank you very much. I’m very excited about it, too. I’ve spent the last 18 months working on it and it’s amazing to see that it’s finally come to pass.

The first thing people will notice is the size. It has about 40% new material, and to put it in a format that’s usable it’s gone up from 6” x 9” to 8.5” x 11”. The next thing people will notice is the brilliant new cover. It draws from the original but it is breathtakingly new and modern. About 95% of the art on the inside is brand new, too. If you want to see what my original designs for the artwork looked like, you can find them on my website, www.modernmagick.com.

There are four new forewords. The writers are Lon Milo DuQuette, David Godwin, John Michael Greer, and Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. I’m very grateful for their contributions.

The contents pages have been completely re-done. They are now more thorough, making it easier to find what you’re looking for. The index is new, too. It’s clearer, more concise, and also easier to use. There’s a completely new preface, a new glossary, a new annotated bibliography that focuses on in-print books.

The original eleven chapters have been completely re-written and updated. Nothing has been removed, but everything is presented more clearly and with more up-too-date language. Each of the chapters has extra tips, ideas, new stories and new art. They also have longer self-tests at the end of each chapter, so you can check to see if you’ve grasped the material.

Finally, there is a completely new, 12th chapter. This chapter includes the latest information and rituals on styles of magick that appear to be a strong focus for the future. These styles include Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP (most people don’t even realize that much of NLP is magickal), chaos magick, and postmodern magick. As with previous editions, the goal is to make these three systems of magick understandable and usable. I think this is also the first book to show the progressive links between these styles of magick.

This edition of Modern Magick is really a new book combined with a thorough revision of the previous edition. I think it is now a book for the 21st century.

2. Obviously Modern Magick is a popular work, with over 150,000 copies sold and a new third edition, why do you think this book in particular continues to endure?

I think there are several reasons. Quite honestly, I think the cover is one of those reasons. Under my direction, the original cover had a main character designed to look like a strong and powerful person who could be a man or woman of any age. I think a lot of people saw that and on some level thought, “This could be me!” I am very fortunate that the spectacular new cover takes that same concept and makes it even more beautiful and stronger.

The second reason has to do with the original publication date. At the there were several basic types of books on magick available. Some focused on tiny aspects of magick. Some were very basic. Some took a superior attitude and talked down to the reader. Some were just not very good.

Modern Magick was the first truly comprehensive book that started by assuming a reader knew nothing about magick but was intelligent. I never talked down to readers. It was also the first book on ceremonial magick I know of that didn’t look down on Wicca and natural (AKA “low”) magick. I also believe it was the first major magickal book to discuss AIDS. It’s breadth and step-by-step progressive structure made it easy to follow and use. I know of many occult orders and Pagan groups that use it as a training manual.

Third, I believe I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and capable of saying things in the right way. Some time before I wrote the manuscript, I heard that Israel Regardie was going to re-write his massive book, The Golden Dawn. I had met Regardie and corresponded with him, so I wrote again and encouraged him to have his new version follow a more logical order and provide the GD training step-by-step. I knew if he did that I wouldn’t write my book and would use his book as a text for classes I teach. Unfortunately, in the massive new edition he choose to follow the pattern of the original book, making it more of a reference than a study guide. I still recommend Regardie’s works, but it’s difficult to follow them, especially if you’re new to magick. I suggest that if people first study Modern Magick, they can more easily understand the books by people such as Regardie, Crowley, Grant, Bardon, and many others.

The new edition adds so much I’ve learned over the years and uses modern language. It adds concepts that most people didn’t even know about when it was originally published. The result is that Modern Magick is truly modern again. I hope it will help people for decades to come.

3. I loved Appendix Three “The Modern Magick FAQ”. It’s loaded with some fantastic advice. I particularly like T.F.Y.Q.A. Would you mind explaining to my readers what T.F.Y.Q.A. stands for and why it’s so important?

Llewellyn asked me to do a second edition of Modern Magick and I was originally told I could make as many changes as I liked and make it as long as I liked. Unfortunately, this changed due to a variety of constraints. Basically the contents pages were expanded, a few minor typos were corrected and the FAQ was added.

T.F.Y.Q.A. has become a strong part of my thinking. I share it at the beginning of every talk and workshop I present. It stands for Think for yourself. Question authority. Just because I, or someone else, says something or writes a book doesn’t mean that what we share will work for everyone. I’m not saying that we’re trying to deceive. Rather, we’re presenting the material the best we can. For some people it just may not make sense or be workable.

So what I suggest is that when you read something new or attend a workshop, try what the author or leader is presenting. If it works, that’s great! You have something new and useful to use. And if it doesn’t work…well, that’s great, too, because now you know what you don’t have to waste your time with.

This is true even of things that don’t seem to make sense. The British philosopher, Herbert Spencer, said, “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” So try it out and see if it works. We can leave “contempt prior to investigation” to the self-styled “skeptics” who seem to revel in that attitude.

4. What question are you most frequently asked by beginning students of magick?

This actually seems to change from time to time. For a time it will be one question and then it will change to another. Most of those are answered in the FAQ appendix in the book.

I think the question I receive most often these days has to do with a simple word: visualization. Many rituals and spells include the visualization of colors, objects, shapes, entities, etc., and people think this necessarily means you have to “see” what you’re visualization as if it were hanging in front of you. “I try to visualize but I can’t see anything. What can I do?” is a common question today.

While some people can see visualizations easily, or can develop this ability with practice (I include techniques for this in Modern Magick), visualization is a practice that is more than just seeing. It is the creation of something on the astral plane. This is important because what you create on the astral plane eventually manifests on the physical plane. Visualization isn’t only about seeing, it’s about creating.

Some people have a knowing or a feeling that what they’re visualizing is there, and that works fine. This does not mean hope or wish, but actually know or feel that your visualization is there.

Just as we have physical senses, we also have astral or psychic senses. Sometimes one or more of these astral senses is open, and part of what you learn in Modern Magick is how to develop these abilities. If your astral vision were open, you would be able to see what you are creating. But as long as you absolutely know that what you have created on the astral plane is there, your visualization will be a success.

5. Aside from Modern Magick, what are some other resources available to people interested in learning about ceremonial magick?

There are an amazing number of great resources out there. I really like the books by the Ciceros and those from numerous small publishers such as Golden Hoard, Teitan Press, Avalonia, Mandrake, and many others. I like to suggest that people read Modern Magick first as it will give them a basic grounding so they can understand other books.

I believe one of the difficulties Aleister Crowley had is that he really thought he was just a common person. I think it was in his Magick in Theory and Practice where he begins by saying that magick should be studied and practiced by everyone. He follows this with a paragraph in Latin (or maybe it was Greek). I think he expected everyone to know how to read that ancient language. The first books on chaos magick didn’t include banishing rituals. I think that was because the founders of the system expected that of course you’d use the concepts to create a banishing first. Unfortunately, especially here in the U.S., many of the early followers didn’t know that. So if you practice the techniques in MM first, you should have no trouble with other systems.

6. What challenges do you see facing the Pagan, Wiccan, and magickal communities? How can the communities resolve those issues?

I see two major problems today. The first is information overload. Just 20 or 30 years ago it was difficult to find any information. Today there is so much information it is hard to sort out what is good and what is…not so good. Today, if you have a couple hundred dollars, you can publish your own book. You can publish on the internet whatever you want. Some people—I call them IROBs: “I Read One Book” and now I’m an expert—pass off their personal prejudices and fantasies as if they were ancient secrets.

I daresay that many people consult Wikipedia as a source for their information. I like to say that “Wikipedia is a great place to start but a horrible place to finish.” Most people don’t know it, but there are disclaimers almost hidden on their website:


…Please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by people with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information…

…Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here.

And yet, people do rely on them. I know of one person who self-published books on the Craft for several years, including attacks on some well-known personalities, because what they wrote years ago didn’t agree with his new ideas.

In the past, people learned magick within a coven or from an occult Order or through a mentor. Today, most people seem to learn through books and on-line. How can we know what is accurate? As we discussed earlier, T.F.Y.Q.A.: Think for yourself. Question authority. Read several authors on a topic and check their sources. And yes, this means question what I write and say, too.

The second major problem is isolation. Emailing or IMing people on line is not personal contact. Working in person with other people and seeing how they do rituals and spells is a great way to learn magick. With the breakdown of the dependency on magick orders and covens, this is now a challenge. But thankfully, there are solutions which do not require people to go back to the old format. Specifically, there are festivals and conventions held all over the world. I strongly encourage people to attend such events. You get a chance to meet people of a like mind, make friends, find vendors for products you need, participate in workshops and rituals, and see what others are doing. Humans are social animals. Festivals and conventions give us a chance to be social. One group that sponsors many international events is the Pagan Pride organization. They help with Pagan Pride Day events all over the world and you can participate by attending or volunteering.

7. As such a well-known “face” of ceremonial magick, do you feel any pressure of being a role-model to beginning practitioners or of representing a belief system to the general population?

In all honesty, I feel very uncomfortable in that position. I have been asked many times to lead groups and have almost always turned it down or relatively quickly turned the group over to someone else to run. I’m not a guru or master. I even feel weird when someone calls me “Mr. Kraig.”

I would much rather walk next to someone and share than walk in front of someone and have them walk behind. I prefer friends to followers. When people running festivals or conventions bring me out, I hear “horror stories” of “big names” who they brought to events and who turned out to be divas or give a workshop and then hide for the rest of the event. I like to meet people and make myself available. I’m having too much fun to make Van Halen-like “no brown M & Ms” demands.

On the other hand, I feel very good about representing our community to those outside of it. I have investigated and practice numerous traditions and can represent our beliefs. I’m also not afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” People outside of our community often try to group us as a single, monolithic entity. It’s difficult for some to understand that there are many magickal and spiritual paths. As a result of my years of study and being in the middle of a lot of the occult practices over the past two decades, combined with my training in speech at UCLA, with Toastmasters, in retail sales and NLP, I am more than happy—and, I believe, qualified—to represent our community, and have done so many times, including on one of the most popular radio shows in the U.S., Coast-to-Coast AM with George Noory.

To those who would like to represent the community, I would respectfully urge training in both public speaking and study to gain a broad knowledge of what magickal people believe and do.

8. In the preface to the third edition of Modern Magick you mention that for six years you shared a two-bedroom apartment with Scott Cunningham. Which one of you was the roommate that let the dishes pile up in the sink? (I can’t help it, these are things I wonder about.)

Actually, neither of us. For two guys we were surprisingly clean and tidy. He had his bedroom and I had mine, and we each kept our own bedrooms clean. I can be fairly clean in the common area, however Scott probably cleaned more than I did.

Scott also had a unique quality: he could become so focused on his writing (and preparation for writing) that he would forget other things. Sometimes he’d get a glass of water, have a few sips and put it down to go back to work. Later, he’d get another glass, have a few drinks, put it down and go back to work. If I came home late at night I might have to be careful to dodge the maze of glasses he sometimes left around the house!

Of course, he had complaints against me, too, from not laughing at some of his jokes to…well, let’s just say if he came home late he might find me in the living room with a guest in, uh, a “compromising position.”

9. Now that the third edition of Modern Magick has released, what’s the next project my readers can look for?

I actually have a variety of projects I’m currently involved in. I have a divination deck I’m working on that needs just the right artist. I’m hoping that the popularity of this new edition of Modern Magick will spark more interest in my novel, The Resurrection Murders, so I’ll have a good reason to complete its sequel. I’m working on CDs that can help people with Modern Magick, and a DVD Tarot project. I’m also a trained hypnotherapist and certified to teach hypnosis. I’m planning a combination book and CD on hypnosis that will be quite different from anything else out there. I also want to do a book and CD on hypnosis and past lives. Finally, I’m working on a large book that looks at the Pagan spiritual system of pre-Hindu India. I think people are going to love this ancient spiritual system brought forward to modern times. It clearly influenced the Druids, the Celts, the ancient Hebrews, the Kabalists, the ancient Chinese and Tibetans, and many others.

I like to hop around so I don’t know which will be finished first. Retire? What’s that?

10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Hmmm. Okay. Recently, the Republican candidate for Senator from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, claimed that she had briefly flirted with Witchcraft followed by a brief description that did not apply to Witchcraft at all. Since that time, the mention of Witchcraft has flowed through every news program and by every comic and comedian, and almost consistently with derision. It would seem that all outreach from the Pagan community over the past years has not succeeded or has been quickly ignored.

My question, then, is how do we better represent Paganism, magick, and Witchcraft to those outside of our community so our practices are not misrepresented and we are not the butt of jokes? Imagine what would have happened if Ms. O’Donnell had said she had flirted with Judaism and had a picnic on a blood-stained altar with a Jewish man? The furor would have been immediate and immense, not a joke for Letterman and Leno. What do you think we should do?

I’m certainly not an expert on such matters, but I suspect it may be less about outreach and more about being in your community, not just your Pagan or magickal community. Interfaith dialogues are invaluable, and interesting for religion geeks like myself, but having an open dialogue with other religious communities isn’t the same as being there, in your local community, to celebrate the good and help mitigate the bad. A Witch can be a caricature, a cartoon, a joke. However, the person who happens to be Pagan that volunteers at the local soup kitchen, participates in Autism walks, or helps organize a group to clean up their local park, is a member of the community, and more importantly, a person. Witch jokes aren’t as funny when the Witch is their neighbor and a member of the community. Being a religious minority is a hard path to walk, but from what I’ve seen, the best way to walk it is with a good heart, good intentions, and a good sense of humor. Of course, all of this is easy for me, someone who belongs to no particular magical or religious community to say.

Of course, as my friend Deborah Blake points out, “the problem with this approach is it only works for those who are living openly (out of the broom closet) as witches. You can do all the good deeds you want, and if no one knows you’re a witch, witchcraft doesn’t get any credit.

So maybe add something about how it is important for those who can safely do so to come out of the broom closet and show, by their own example, that pagans and witches are people just like everyone else. The more folks who ‘show up’, the more seriously everyone else will have to take witchcraft as a religion and a lifestyle.”

Consider it added.

About Donald Michael Kraig:
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy. He has also studied public speaking and music (traditional and experimental) on the university level. He received a fellowship to the University of Southern California where he received a certificate in multimedia, 3D graphics, computer animation and web design, eventually going on to help teach those classes there. As a musician he has performed before tens of thousands of people, including opening for acts ranging from Elton John to Great White.

After a decade of personal study and practice, Don began ten years of teaching courses in the Southern California area. He became a certified Tarot Grandmaster, has been a member of many spiritual and magical groups, and is initiated into several Tantric traditions. He holds numerous advanced certificates in clinical hypnotherapy, including teaching credentials, and is a master practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He was the Editor-in-Chief of Llewellyn’s “New Times” magazine and “FATE” magazine, as well as producing and starring on “The FATE Magazine Radio Hour” in Minnesota. Don has lectured all over the U.S. at virtually all of the major festivals and conventions (and many smaller ones) as well as at universities. He has also lectured in Europe. He specializes on topics including Kabalah, Tarot, Magick, Tantra, Hypnosis, Past Lives, The Chakras, The Sri Yantra, Evocation of Spirits, and Sex Magick.

His books include “Modern Sex Magick” and “Tarot & Magic”. His “Modern Magick”, the most popular step-by-step set of instructions in real magick ever published, has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide. A vastly expanded and revised edition of “Modern Magick” has just been published. Just before that his most recent book was an exciting, magick-oriented novel called “The Resurrection Murders”. He has also contributed to several books including “Ecstasy Through Tantra”, “Planetary Magick”,”The Rabbi’s Tarot”, several volumes of “The Golden Dawn Journal” series, and “The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy”. Besides his books and contributions to websites, magazines, as well as appearances on TV, radio shows, podcasts and vodcasts, Don is the editor of Llewellyn’s free, on-line encyclopedia.

You can learn more about Donald Michael Kraig at his website.