Magic and Genuine Need
The basis of magic is communism. In magic, you give all you are capable of, so that you nourish, fund, cherish, and devote yourself to the gift-cycle that is this amazing universe with all of your heart and soul, and in return, you receive what you need. Not everything you "want", but what you genuinely, in your heart and soul, need, which may differ narrowly or widely from what you want. The gift-cycle of the universe is not about feeding your excess, but your enoughness. And that enoughness is plenty indeed. "Plenty" is a good word, because it carries the sense of enoughness at the same time that it carries a sense of abundance, but not overabundance or excess.
In the first world, those above the very poorest classes have gotten so used to living off the proceeds of the plunder of the rest of the world that we have become akin to giants in some sense, in a metaphysical sense if you will, whereby we feel entitled to excess, and everything we lay our eyes upon we feel we deserve, and often we will transfer this sense of entitlement to excess to the universe at large, and when these spells or prayers do not come to fruition, we sour to the notion that magic may be real.
But magic is about feeding genuine need, that which you need the most in life, not in enabling a sense of entitlement to excess. This should not be mistaken for a "bare bones" approach that discludes needs for cultural enrichment and even a fair and just proportion of luxury goods so long as they are serving one's development, because fruition is a genuine need. Whatever is needed for fruition is an investment, and there the gift may flow so that more gifts may sprout and blossom.
I have said before that the requirement of sacrifice is the prerequisite for people trained in stinginess and scathed by the fear of scarcity to re-enter the gift cycle. It is not a "cost", and it is not "payment" for gifts. What it is is a sign of dedication and devotion to the gift-cycle at large, by nourishing, funding, cherishing, and devoting oneself to it, and this devotion is both sacred, and very real. It is real in the sense that it asks for material, actual oblations, so that one's life becomes part of the world's blossoming-process.
In a sense, when one's existential activity in the world implicitly declares one's commitment to the world of scarcity and stinginess, it is as if one has made a legal declaration that one does not need the world of the gift, regardless of what one's lips are flapping, and the world of the gift, courteous and gracious, may respond accordingly.
We don't get everything we want, and we don't need to get everything we want. This is why we do not get everything we want, because if we did, it would work against our need, and the communism of the magical universe has been set up by the Gods to observe the principle of "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs".
Now we damn well know that this principle does not at present function sociologically in the real-world economic systems of humanity, except in those rare exceptions where the aboriginal clan-communism systems (what I have before called "odalism") still manages to limp onwards. But this does not mean that it does not function in the magical cosmos at large. The Gnostics often spoke of a rift whereby the earth-world got out of synch with the larger patterns, and even astrological systems, to account for the movement of the equinoxes proposed an arrhythmia that had developed between the realms of heaven and the realms of earth. In Chinese, early Christian, Zoroastrian, and many other systems, there was an explicit philosophy developed and spoken of that spoke to aligning heaven and earth. To be more in keeping with our heathen spirit of pragmatism, we might modify the principle to read, "to adapt heaven to earth, and earth to heaven", understanding that the differences between the larger realm of the Gods (who, let there be no mistake here, also have immanent extensions right here in the weft of this world) and our own realm are not absolute separations, but creative thresholds where we can adapt to each other in a larger dance.
The Gift reads what is in your heart. It discerns belief. We must restore the sense of this term from its modern connotation of "irrational clinging to the counterfactual" to the more ancient one of "being in love with" (be-love), and therefore loyal to. Where do we put our faith? Do we put our faith in scarcity and stinginess? Granted, this material, sociological world overwhelmingly works according to these principles now, and has since the Roman Empire and the empires before it conquered the world with their imperialistic principles ; and so, we may need to do what we need to do to survive, but do we fall in love with such ways? Do we declare our loyalty and allegiance? Where is our heart? The Gift will know. The Gods read the belief in our actions, as the heart declares itself in deeds.
In contrast to the Gift, what is trade? Trade is gift coerced upon the stingy, upon those who will not affirm the relationship and its bounty, but instead are content to take. Trade demands, you give back. It is a natural response to those who remain strangers to the abundant goodwill of the gift-giving relationship, but it must be noted that in the process, it warps and distorts the gift, because while trade seems to involve a noble egalitarian principle of equal gift for equal gift (under the constraints of, if you don't give, I won't), it limits the gushing flow of the heart under the dictatorship of quid pro quo, which has a tendency (and even purpose, actually) of extinguishing the gift-relationship and maintaining separation. This maintenance of separation keeps the hearts from touching at that level of frith which makes for beauty and true blossom, and thus diminishes the gift-relationship. Instead, it enshrines estrangement, transforming those who practice it into strangers to each other who must always observe quid pro quo, under suspicion of exploitation. And let's be honest : the Serpent, coiled upon its hoard, has squeezed that hoard out by constricting and squeezing out as much exploitation as it could out of honest folk : the usury of the wyrm has overturned the gift with exploitation and tribute ; and where the wyrm is, his brother the wolf is not far behind, war backing wealth-ill-gotten. And where the wolf is, Famine, Disease, Bone-Gnawing Poverty, the dinner utensils of Laufeysson's daughter, are not far behind either. So the fear of exploitation is a real one, but the defense mechanism against it -- quid pro quo -- will not restore the gift. A shield is a good tool with which to protect oneself, but it does not make for a feast.
When we draw into frith, when we draw into mutual relationship based on blending mind and heart, and through the development of that rich, deep, affectionate friendship so extolled in the North, find ourselves in trust, then gifts flow freely, and in fact, gift-giving becomes one of the material, ritual ways of affirming that trust, affection, and friendship. Gift-giving, as opposed to trade, affirms the frith of the world, rather than funding its estrangement. Gift-giving is therefore part and parcel of affirming and restoring peace to the world.
Contrary to accountants' projections, the universe does not work according to quid pro quo. Its flows are far too complex and nonlinear for that. In the give and take, ebb and flow of life, in its wonderfully cyclic and polyrhythmic syncopation and overlapping galloping and folding of energetic dynamics, "equality" as such is elusive. In one moment, one feels like giving greatly. In another moment, one's flow is low, and the tide gives accordingly. There are tides in life. The Gift is all that complexity that links ebbings and flowings in such a way that the tides feed each other to fund the proliferation of fruition.
This does not mean that inventories ought not be kept, as they are essential to tending and nurturing resources. What it does mean is that equality as such, in the strict sense, does not always govern our heart, and this is not because our heart is inegalitarian, but because the egalitarianism of the heart is not about strict, mathematical equality, but the equity of the differential tides over time. This is what anthropologists call "generalized reciprocity", which instead of making things equal out at each transaction, involve instead a sense of "things balancing out over time". Let the accountants attune their equations to that larger sense of balance, and economics will begin to make human sense again.
The beautiful harmony and balance of the realm of the Gods, of Asgard in its heavenly majesty, may never fully characterize this more turbulent world of ours, but that does not mean that we cannot strive to align our wonderfully imperfect world with the larger flows, and thus enter in to the greater gift-cycle. One might suggest that, all its distortions aside, this has ever been the purpose of true religion. To honestly ask, to honestly give, according to the fullness of one's tides, to meet need as one can where one finds it, and to humbly and with dignity declare one's needs to the larger gift, opening one's heart beyond one's fear and scarcity-anxiety to the larger horizons of the gift's breadth : this is the faith and the discipline whereby we enter in to the gold-hating glory of the Gods' gift-cycle. Praised be the Gift! Praised be the Gods!