Author: Janice Van Cleve
Lemon magic is a form of alchemy that has been practiced around the world in many different cultures for over 2500 years and it is still very alive and effective today. The word “alchemy” itself comes from the Arabic al-kimia, which is translated as the art of transformation. The fundamental ideas of alchemy are supposed to have begun in the ancient Persian Empire sometime before 500 BCE. In the Middle Ages its more popularized pursuits were alleged to be the transformation of lead into gold, the creation of the elixir of life, and the search for something called the philosopher’s stone. It was not until the Seventeenth Century that alchemy was itself transformed into modern chemistry.
Today in America, lemon magic is usually thought of as “turning lemons into lemonade.” There are various modern applications of this magic worked by different methods for different ends. One of the most common is “spin”. Spin is the reinterpretation of one set of words or events from a negative connotation to a connotation that is positive or at least neutral. It sometimes manifests itself as damage control. The alchemists who practice this art are called spin-doctors and they are found mainly in the arenas of government and politics, but they also proliferate as corporate lawyers and lobbyists.
Another application of lemon magic is in the business world. There it is found in mergers and acquisitions. The objective here is to identify struggling companies whose stock price is less than the value of their assets. When a target is found, corporate lawyers swoop in and devour the victim, absorbing it into their own company. Thus a liability for one set of investors is transformed into an asset for another set. A by-product of this process is usually downsizing and more people out of work.
These examples and many more demonstrate tangents of lemon magic where the effect is upon things and people outside of the magic worker. The magic worker remains unchanged in the process. However, the ancient art of alchemy went much deeper than this. It envisioned transformation of the alchemist herself with the ultimate goal of perfecting the state of humanity. Certain schools have argued that the transmutation of lead into gold is really an allegory for transmuting the imperfect human body into a perfect immortal body.
This, of course, ran counter to the concept held by official church doctrine that all human beings were corrupt, stained by sin, and condemned to hellfire unless they put their faith in the authority of the church and bought their indulgences. So alchemists dissembled the true intent of their work with cryptic symbology and vague rhetoric to avoid the tortures of the Inquisition.
Today we have no need to hide our alchemy, but often we don’t realize that we are using it. Turning lemons into lemonade by willfully changing our attitudes or perceptions toward the lemons is truly a transformation of magical proportions.
Starhawk – a well-known ecofeminist, author, activist, and priestess – defines magic as the art of changing consciousness at will. Aleister Crowley – poet, prophet, and magician – defined magic in much the same way. He called it the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will. These folks and others who have written about magic are not talking about parlor games like levitating tables and making coins disappear. They are talking about understanding ourselves and the world around us so well that by our wills we can make of our situation what we want it to be.
Doreen Valiente, who with Gerald Gardner was chiefly responsible for bringing Wicca and Witchcraft into the 20th Century, sums it up best: “By developing their powers, the magician or witch develop himself or herself. They aid their own evolution, their growth as a human being; and in so far as they truly do this, they aid the evolution of the human race.”
So changing lemons into lemonade is truly a magical act. By seeing and acting upon the positive opportunities that lemons present to us, we not only improve our journey through the world, but we make it a more pleasant place for everyone else. This is not about “looking on the bright side” like some Pollyanna. This is about acknowledging the whole package – bright and dark – and by will and energy making it useful.
For example, a friend recently called me about 7:00 pm. It was already dark and I was settling in for the evening. She said that her car had been towed. Did she sob about her misfortune? Did she anguish about the $200 it would cost to get it out of impound? Did she even ask me for a ride home?
No. She asked me out for a drink!
She happened to be in my neighborhood and we had not seen each other for a while. We enjoyed a lovely conversation, a couple of nice drinks, and I drove her to the impound place for her to retrieve her car. It still cost her $200 and a complete alteration of her plans and mine for the evening, but she transformed that lemon into a delightful reunion and evaporated the stress it could have generated. That’s lemon magic!
The same thing happened to me just the evening before. I was at the house of some dear friends on the other side of Puget Sound. That means I had to take a ferry to get back home. The ferry website said there would be a boat leaving at 9:45 pm but in reality the next boat was not until 11:40. By the time I got back to Seattle, it was nearly one o’clock in the morning and there were no busses. So I had to march two miles uphill through the center of town in the middle of the night to get home.
Did I get angry with the webmaster or the ferry system? Not at all.
It was an opportunity for additional exercise and to work off calories. It was a beautiful night and a chance to experience my city in its quiet stillness. Best of all, it underscored my health and stamina and confirmed that I could still depend on my old body to function. It even prepared me for two glorious hikes in the mountains later that week. Lemonade!
Some folks go to the gym to work out when Life hands them a lemon. They not only dispel the negativity via vigorous exercise, but also shed some pounds in the process. Others learn from their lemons and pass on their lessons in the form of teaching or they modify their own behaviors to avoid those lemons in the future. By all these methods, and others besides, people can transform their mis-fortunes into positive fortunes.
Now if we could only learn to transform our lemons into a deep rich Burgundy, we’d really have something!