Steampunk Magic: Working Magic Aboard the Airship

Steampunk Magic: Working Magic Aboard the Airship

by Gypsey Elaine Teague


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A glove full of Goth, a helping of SciFi, and a vial of Cyberpunk all neatly wrapped inside a Victorian Satchel--the popular new genre of Steampunk is reverberating throughout our culture in art, fashion, style and music.

Now you can hop aboard the airship and embark on a spiritual adventure that brings dramatic ritual and practical magic into your everyday life with Steampunk Magic. Gypsey Elaine Teague draws on her experience as a practicing High Priestess and magician and her love of Steampunk to bring readers an entirely new magical system.

Steampunk Magic is a compendium of altar arrangements, spells, and magical tools--traditional Wicca and magic with a Steampunk twist. Teague shows how to craft and use a compass instead of a pentacle, use a rigging knife in place of an athame, and join an airship in lieu of a coven. Beautifully illustrated with photographs and art.

From author:
"This book describes the new magical system that stems from the tools and philosophies of Steampunk--the alternate Victorian history genre, and incorporates many of the tried and true methods of other crafts while applying quite a few very unique visioning and application tools specific to Steampunk. I believe that you will find this new system extremely interesting and applicable to your day to day magical and nonmagical life."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781578635399
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 03/01/2013
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Gypsey Elaine Teague is the Branch Head of the Gunnin Architecture Library at Clemson University as well as a member of the National Board of Certified Counselors, an Elder and High Priestess in the Georgian tradition, a High Priestess in the Icelandic Norse tradition, and a High Priestess and originator of Steampunk Magic. Teague is published in a number of areas and presents nationally on Steampunk history, literature, and popular culture. She is also the author of Steampunk Magic (Weiser Books).

Read an Excerpt

Steampunk Magic

Working Magic Aboard the Airship

By Gypsey Elaine Teague

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2013 Gypsey Elaine Teague
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57863-539-9



"Would you like to see the Time Machine itself?" asked the Time Traveler. And therewith, taking the lamp in his hand, he led the way down the long, draughty corridor to his laboratory. I remember vividly the flickering light, his queer, broad head in silhouette, the dance of the shadows, how we all followed him, puzzled but incredulous, and how there in the laboratory we beheld a larger edition of the little mechanism which we had seen vanish from before our eyes. Parts were of nickel, parts of ivory, parts had certainly been filed or sawn out of rock crystal. The thing was generally complete, but the twisted crystalline bars lay unfinished upon the bench beside some sheets of drawings, and I took one up for a better look at it. Quartz it seemed to be.

—H. G. Wells, The Time Machine

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, let me take you to a world of steam and brass, guns and goggles, where electricity never caught on and if you fly it's with helium and hydrogen in large airships. A world where there is fog and smog and smoke and flame. A world of war and peace, and bustles—from the city and the ladies. Where Victoria is Queen, and the sun never sets on the British Empire. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to offer you a world of steampunk.

In steampunk, the brass is shinier, the guns are deadlier, the women are prettier, and the men are more muscular. Everything is bigger and sharper and cuter and edgier while being reserved, genteel, and holding to nineteenth-century morals and ethics. Men tip their hats and hold doors for ladies. Ladies bow in long skirts and corsets.

Before I discuss the path of Steampunk Magic, let me try to explain exactly what I mean by "steampunk." Steampunk is the juxtaposition of nineteenth-century science fiction and twenty-first-century reality; or, put more simply, it can be thought of as Victorian science fiction grown up, a futuristic Victoriana, where anything is possible as long as you don't use too much electricity, gas, diesel, or atomic power.

Steampunk takes the works of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and other science fiction writers of the Victorian era and transports them to our time— or at least a time that could have been, if steam had remained the primary power source. Steampunk is a Victorian "what if." And there lies the rub, as they say. There is no real definition of what steampunk is or can be, since there is no limit to the number of alternate histories that could have evolved from the time of Victoria.

When Herbert George Wells wrote The Time Machine in 1895, his genre was termed "scientific fiction." At that time the future was a wild and wonderful place to long for. It was a future with no war, famine, pestilence, fear, or poverty. There would be unlimited travel by submersible, airship, and fast train and carriage. The world would be what they had promised it was going to be—instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled up mess that the Victorian populace of England and America were all too familiar with.

Add to the historic works of H. G. Wells the undersea submersible of Nemo in Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and finally stir in the architecture of the Victorian age, and you have a breeding ground for a future not quite realized but possibly attainable.

Now, more than one hundred years later, some of us long to return to this time of steam, brass, copper, and gas. We forget the short life expectancies of that time, the filthy living conditions, and the deplorable sanitation of the early Victorian era. We would be appalled at the medical and technological backwardness as compared to our hospitals and digital world. But hindsight is always filtered from reality, and the steampunk genre has become the new and more cleaned up, pressed, and polished history of the world. It is a genre that spans art and science to include everything from computers to books, hardware to fashion.

The Beginning of Steampunk

It all started in the 1980s. At that time a subculture of science fiction found a foothold in literature and science fiction conventions. These paths-not-taken alternative histories spurred on by the goth followers became a new mini-genre to follow. K. W. Jeter, an American science fiction and horror writer, first coined the phrase "steampunk" in April, 1987, as a way to identify what he and others of his time were writing. With books such as Infernal Devices, Morlock Night, and the seminal work The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, steampunk burst onto the horizon of those who enjoyed the different, the alternative, or the dys-topic. Very slowly at first readers of these works took them to heart and began asking, and then demanding, more. The costumes came next; pieces from thrift stores and other remnant houses, and original Victorian hand-me-downs found in chests and trunks in attics. By the turn of this century, and one hundred years after the death of Victoria, the fans of steampunk were spreading everywhere.

Another definition of steampunk is "what goth grew up to be." This is a limited definition and not completely accurate, but it does touch on the history of the movement. The goth trend of the 1980s seems to have many tenets of the steampunk movement of the 1990s and 2000s, but it is neither completely accurate nor applicable. Steampunk is a genre that is many things to many people. While the goths wore dark clothing, darker hair, and even darker attitudes, espousing a neo-Victorian appearance of a bleak postpunk genre, the cyberpunk movement (a subgroup of the goths) incorporated the high-tech future of movies such as Blade Runner and The Matrix. You could say that steampunk is "goth in earth tones," but that would be a gross simplification.

One of the things making "steampunk" a difficult work to define is the word "punk." Many in the mainstream, whatever the mainstream may be, think of punk in a pejorative view and associate punks with punk rock or the anti-establishment of the early goth movement. However, it is important to remember that the term punk refers to a do-it-yourself attitude, and punks are a subculture of a larger group. So, punk rock would be a subculture of rock music; cyberpunk is a subculture of the technological mainstream; and steampunk is the DIY subculture of anything that has to do with steam.

Steampunk Today

In March, 2010, the Library of Congress created a subject heading for Steampunk. Up until that time you had to forage through Alternative Histories or Speculative Fictions to find what you were looking for. This is a great leap in the realm of steampunk, because now the genre has gained acceptance in the field with a standardized vocabulary, subjects, and keywords. In the March 4, 2010 issue of Library Journal, John Klima published a list of classic and new core titles for the genre. Nick Gevers' Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology is a fine collection of short stories that revolve around the alternative history of steam. A novel I'd recommend for young adults is Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan. There are a few hundred-plus steampunk novels and anthologies currently available, and they run the gamut of very fine to very poor. See the Resources section in the back of this book for a list of more steampunk books.

Steampunk Magazine ( showcases the work of budding artists, authors, and inventors. The magazine is free to the public, although they do ask for donations if possible, and they sell paper copies for a subscription rate. The magazine has only been in production since October of 2009, but it presents a professional product and seems to be very popular. I've seen it sold and traded at many conventions such as Dragon*Con and The Steampunk Exhibition Ball.

Not to be outdone by graphic novels and journals, Antarctic Press has released Steampunk Palin, a less-than-politically-correct comic about Sarah Palin, John McCain, and Barack Obama fighting the forces of Big Oil and Nuke led by Al Gore. Ben Dunn, the illustrator, dresses Palin in the typical bodice and accessories so favored by steampunk fans, while Jim Felkner writes great one-liners for Palin to deliver as she saves the planet.

Steampunk's influence can be seen on the big and small screens as well. Movies are often the escape of the masses, as well as a window to the world of the future. Even though the time period is early Victorian, the movie remake of the popular television show WildWildWest (1999) has excellent steampunk gimmicks, such as the flying bicycle of Artemis Gordon, and the steam-powered wheelchair and giant spider of Dr. Loveless. Other examples include: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the BBC 2010 and American 2012 Sherlock Holmes movies, Van Helsing, and the flying airships of The Mummy Returns and The Golden Compass. All have the requisite machines and contraptions that are so popular with the new movement of steam over nuclear and electricity.

As I write this, I'm listening to one of the better steam-punk bands of the moment. The group is called Abney Park, and they're from the Seattle area. This group not only uses industrial sounds such as airship engines and propellers in their soundtracks, but they have their entire band outfitted in steampunk clothing and retrofitted instruments. Although at times their lyrics are hard to understand, their music is not. It's haunting at times and hard-driving at others. Many of Abney Park's songs, such as "Airship Pirates" and "Herr Drosselmeyer's Doll," revolve around the motifs of robotics with gears and flying airships—both popular subjects in steampunk literature. What makes Abney Park somewhat unique is their take on the retrofitting of their instruments. They use a lot of industrial copper, brass, and Tesla-like special effects during their videos and live performances. For a list of other steampunk bands playing today, see the Resources section.

For a number of years I have been involved in steampunk as a hobby and getaway. It started at Dragon*Con, the largest science fiction and fantasy convention in the Southeast, held each year over Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. In 2011, Dragon*Con had a self-reported attendance of more than 52,000 people. There among the many Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, and comic book characters were a growing number of men and women in hats, goggles, and corsets, some carrying guns. These participants were young, old, male, female, married, single, and all the other permutations that make up society.

When I first saw them, I thought, what an odd assortment of characters. I didn't see the connection to the genre of literature and originally thought that they were a troupe of actors and actresses preparing for some special role. As a performer myself (I was a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism for many years), I appreciated the costuming and the craftsmanship it took to sew, glue, screw, and fabricate their elaborate pieces.

Although conventions such as Dragon*Con and others are generalist conventions, meaning they cater to all forms of science fiction, fantasy, and gaming, other conventions are specifically targeted to the steampunk aficionado. Upstate Steampunk, held in Greenville/Anderson, South Carolina, is a perfect example of a targeted convention that will gather fans from all over the Southeast for a weekend of all things steam. While at generalist conventions you may see a few steampunk venders and programs, at this ball you will see exclusively steampunk interests represented. This is an excellent example of how popular the movement has become.

Finally, we come to the center of all of this. There must be a plan or architecture to the story, right? Without the architecture of a new history or the art to envision it, there would only be literature; and although that is still the original medium for entertainment it is more effective in the three dimensional world to have toys and tools. Because of this even computers and other electronic devices now so essential to our world have become a favorite for steampunk creationists. Keyboards are retrofitted with antique typewriter keys and mounted in heavy brass and exotic woods. Computer towers are outfitted with gauges, pipes, and gears protruding from all sides of the machine. Even the lowly mouse and thumb drive are made to look historically futuristic.

Steampunk design is artful, and it's the little touches that make it so much fun. There are steampunk bathtubs, watch gear jewelry, and mainstream clothiers that are designing for individuals and the home that they live in. There is a myriad of options for steampunk costumes, from the ornate to the bizarre. Basically, if it is Victorian, then most will accept the fashion as a form of steampunk.

I contend that there are four main tenets you can use to identify someone who is in a steampunk persona or costume: goggles, corsets (or vests), hats, and guns.

The first is some form of goggles. The goggles don't have to be functional, and in fact the more fanciful and augmented they are, the more they are admired. Some goggles even have removable lenses and may be fitted with standard round lenses from optometrists.

The second indicators are corsets or vests. These are not necessarily the tight-fitting Victorian wasp waist corsets of the period, but they are waist adornments nonetheless. They may be waist cinchers or another piece of clothing that approximates the look of corsets of the time. It is interesting to note that men also use a waist covering. Many of the steampunk men wear buttoned vests.

Third are hats. There are hats for all occasions: top, bowler, wide or narrow brim, Cowboy Stetson, with feathers, without, leather, and some are even miniature. They are prevalent everywhere at conventions and gatherings. Hats are also used to hold the goggles on the brim, although many build elaborate hats that support entire fantasy structures.

Finally, there are guns. While many steampunk folks collect or wear real antique guns, most carry the most exotic built pistols and rifles ever seen. There are some guns so large that they have built-in straps to carry them. Others are motorized with smoke emitters for authenticity.

Oftentimes steampunks will make their own costumes. One class offered at Dragon*Con as part of the Alternate History track covered making fantasy weapons as well as weapons that were period during the time. Another class on the Costuming track discussed how to make corsets, distress denim, and put together a complete steampunk look. Many of these classes ran through the night and into the very early morning hours and were standing room only.

Steampunk has become more than a hobby to some and less than a lifestyle to others. I was at Dragon*Con in September, and every time I would pass someone who was in some form of steampunk garb we would nod knowingly to each other, very much as when I had an MG sports car and I would flash my lights when I saw another MG. It is a club that we are all members of, without dues or rules. We enjoy the uniqueness of our clothing, tools, and accoutrements without being flashy or secretive. Ask anyone in Steampunk garb about their costume and they will gladly spend hours talking with you about where and how they came up with each piece. It is the all-inclusive nature of the genre.



Indubitably, Magick is one of the subtlest and most difficult of the sciences and arts. There is more opportunity for errors of comprehension, judgment and practice than in any other branch of physics.

—Aleister Crowley, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley

So, why steampunk magic? Why not? Perhaps we wish history were different, because so much of it was actually very grim, and we want to remember the glamorous and romantic parts. Steampunk gives us the opportunity to take the best and dump the rest. We all want the future to be better, and we all have a unique approach to what we see for the future. In Steampunk Magic the aether that we sail through, work in, and peer beyond allows us the power to perceive what is before us, unobstructed by the filters and layers of twenty-first century doubt and questioning.

How Is Steampunk Magic Different from Other Systems of Magic?

I believe that in Steampunk Magic the visions are more accurate. The spells are more concentrated and directed to the task at hand. Even though you may, and I say may with trepidation, perform magic naked with an index finger, in Steampunk Magic the tools enhance the magic and therefore the result.

In the very earliest pre-recorded history, the magicians, mages, and wise men and women looked around at their surroundings and worked with what was at hand. Herbs, seasons, tides, animals, and the cycles of the crops were known to these elders, and with that knowledge the community prospered.

In a way, Steampunk Magic isn't so different from many other magical traditions and paths that have retained what is successful over the years and eliminated what was not: we look at what works, we write those spells and procedures in our grimoires, and we keep experimenting. Magic works because the process employed works.


Excerpted from Steampunk Magic by Gypsey Elaine Teague. Copyright © 2013 Gypsey Elaine Teague. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 What Is Steampunk Culture? 5

2 What Is Steampunk Magic? 19

3 The Airship and Crew 33

4 The Tools 47

5 Preparing the Altars and Casting the Circle 85

6 Rituals and Other Circles 107

7 Visioning and Divination 147

8 Spells 161

Conclusion 191

Epilogue 195

Resources 197

Index 209

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Steampunk Magic: Working Magic Aboard the Airship 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
InLoveAndLight More than 1 year ago
Gypsey Elaine Teague develops a whimsical yet practical approach to the magical arts that is both refreshing and solid in its premise. She reminds the reader that magic isn’t housed in a stodgy old tome, reserved for only those most high and revered. Magical practice can be as individualized as the practitioner, as long as the basic precepts are maintained. Teague takes the reader through the basic tenets of magical practice utilizing the popular Steampunk phenomena in a very easy to read and interpret instructional piece geared towards magical ingénues as well as established practitioners looking for a change in the status quo.