During the dawn of the 20th century, a group of spiritualists and occult scholars joined together into what we know today as the Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn. It didn't last very long, but it produced studies and principles that would shake the very idea of what we believed made up the world. Though many witches before them knew of it, the GD introduced into a more mainstream arena the idea of an divine energetic world - one built of an immeasurable stuff called aether - that exists beneath everything we can see, touch, hear, taste or smell. More importantly, this group revealed that human beings had the power to work with this stuff to make changes happen in the world.
One particularly charismatic, albeit flaky, member of the GD was named Aliester Crowley. He worked extensively with the idea of manipulating this energy and coined a word for the process. The use of the unseen energy to cause changes in accordance with one's will he called "magick," spelled with a "k" to distinguish it from showmanship illusions worked for entertainment. Personally, I think the use of this word was a grand mistake.
Since that time, witchcraft has become vastly more public and mainstream. In recent decades, we are seeing numerous books and video presentations of the magick of spell-work. Unfortunately, the magick that is being represented in the media is still not accurate. It still looks too much like showmanship. The magick done by contemporary pagans does not require the twitching of a nose or cause sparks to fly from magic wands. It is an invisible power functioning behind the scenes. It is no different than praying for something and finding the result occurring by "mysterious ways." The media magick stands as a bridge between the magic of an illusionist and the magick of a contemporary pagan. It has the flash of the former, but the mechanism of the latter. It takes fiction and represents it in the robes of our religion. Though this is a fun experience, in the long run, I feel it damages our credibility as a religion.
If the world were still as it was in the year 1212, instead of 2012, we might not have this problem. We would be able to live in the woods, working our cunning ways in harmony with the forest and with little care what others thought of us. Those who considered us from the sparse villages nearby would say, "That's where the healer lives." They would not only believe in our magick the way we do, but also seek us out to work it on their behalf. One would have a valid reputation among the local community, for those who needed our help.
But we no longer have the isolation of villages and forests. Instead, we live in an age where the community is becoming the whole globe. Some of us are happy to be private witches, but many others feel it is important to be public - to gain approval and acceptance as an equal in a global community full of other valid religions. We live in a world where our nation's leader (President Bush, so I use the title loosely) stated that he doesn't believe we are a religion. I don't need lawmakers to believe in me to make my beliefs real, but I do need their validity to afford my religion the same rights as those of others. We don't have to face any more inquisitions. We don't have to accept that an unstoppable government or religious force can torture us to say things that will validate their hatred of us. We have options open to us - laws on our side, techniques at our disposal. The media is one such technique, but we have been allowing it to misrepresent us as a band of flaky schizophrenics who think our wands will fire off sparks on command, or at the very least, simple-minded people who like to play pretend and can't grow up.
If we are to maintain the validity of our ways in a world that is increasingly driven by the media, I feel we must give up such a silly word as magick, which summons up ideas of fantasy movies and dragon-fighting adventures.
When one thinks about what is really happening, it isn't even close to magic at all, because it doesn't require tools, it doesn't require an audience and it doesn't require that much skill. All that is required is belief that one can do it. The key word in that last sentence is "do." The magick of pagans is an action; it is a process; it is a solemn task on which we focus. More appropriately, it is work - defined as, exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; productive or operative activity.
The power of magick is the power of gods; it is the power used by the gods to create the universe and all things in it. One example could come from Christian myth; when the Christian God created the heavens and the earth in six days, he rested on the seventh from the work he had done. Sounds like working so much magick really took it out of him!
And so, from now on, I'd like to stop using the word "magick" at all, as well as "spells," unless I'm talking about David Copperfield or Harry Potter. When I talk about using magick in a contemporary pagan context, or the powers of gods, I will instead call it Work (and "spells" will instead be Workings), capitalized to elevate this divine process above the mundane kind of work. As above (Work) so below (work).
If you consider that creativity may well be communication from the gods, the two words are not very different at all. .