Audrey Brice,  books,  Magick,  S. Connolly,  the writing life

Fiction vs. Real World Occult

It never ceases to amaze me the questions I receive in my email where people have blurred the lines between fiction vs. real-world occult. Or perhaps it doesn’t amaze me so much as saddens me. For some people, there’s a real disconnect between reality and pure fantasy. They are willing to believe that fictional accounts like Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Dante’s Inferno are all factual accounts, when in fact — all of them are fictional fabrications. Fantastical fantasies of writers’ minds.

To make a fictional story truly frightening to those who aren’t educated or experienced enough in the topic, one must believe the tropes prevalent in occult fiction in order for that story to fall into the horror category. For those educated in the occult, fiction that relies on this belief is at most – thrilling, as opposed to horrific.

What do I mean by tropes? Common plot devices (perhaps even overused plots) in a specific genre. Tropes are oftentimes expected by readers. After all, a common trope in sweet romance is that all the sex happens behind closed doors. If you’re reading what you think is a sweet romance and BAM – you’re hit with a full explicit X-Rated sex scene, you may not be too pleased with the author. All genres have these particular tropes. In fantasy, sorcerers/mages can’t be all-powerful. In a mystery, there’s the reluctant detective (one who doesn’t expect to be solving a crime – but has to to save themselves usually).

For supernatural occult fiction, think back to the Satanic Panic of the early nineties (if you were alive back then) and you will see the very fabric of occult fiction being purported as fact.  Some common genre tropes (some of which are dying, thank goodness):

  • All non-Christian religions are murderous cults or “Satanists’. (Bride of the Devil)
  • Children and/or adults being sexually abused by Satanic cults during ritual. (Just about any supernatural movie where alleged Satanists are involved)
  • Women being forcibly bred with sacrificial babies or Daemon/Satan spawn. (Rosemary’s Baby)
  • Children/Adults/Animals being used as blood sacrifices. (Just about any supernatural movie where alleged Satanists are involved)
  • Daemons who manifest as terrifying monsters to destroy those who conjured them, or to terrorize unsuspecting victims. (Just about every supernatural movie)
  • Possession of innocent people, turning them into monsters. (The Exorcist et al)
  • Daemons, Spirits, and Gods manifesting as humans to destroy innocent victims (or the world). See Possession above… (The Omen)
  • A house or location possessed by a Daemonic Spirit or vengeful spirits of the dead. (Amittyville et al)
  • Hell as an actual place filled with fire, brimstone, and the stuff of nightmares. (The Gate, Hellraiser)
  • People making pacts with Daemons to gain wealth, fame, etc… but are oftentimes utterly destroyed or tortured. (Devil’s Advocate, Constantine, Ghost Rider, Solomon Kane etc…)
  • Circles of salt, or special magickal circles in general, will protect you from anything (except ghosts) as long as you stay inside and don’t break the circle. (Supernatural)

Some newer tropes that have surfaced in the past 20-30 years include:

  • Blurred lines between good and evil.
  • Not everything is as they seem.
  • Is the main character haunted/possessed – or mentally ill (or on drugs)?
  • Not all magick and magick users are evil, but there are defined lines between good and evil.

These are all great storylines. They’re fun, they’re thrilling (or terrifying depending on your beliefs and imagination), and they’re spooky. It’s no wonder people would rather the fiction be true when it comes to the real-world occult. Real world occult is boring comparatively. It often looks more like studying, meditating, waxing philosophic, and performing rituals that are about as exciting as watching cement dry from the observer point of view. The one movie I’ve seen recently that seems to be pretty close to the real-world occult is A Dark Song. And guess what? A lot of viewers hated it!  Most real-world occult ritual isn’t nearly as theatrical as movies and novels would have us believe – and if it were, it would be nothing more than a theatrical presentation as opposed to genuine magick. The biggest reason being that you can’t get into the proper mental and meditative states required for proper application of magickal forces between all the monologues and exaggerated actions that theatrical rituals require.

Yes, when I’m telling a fictional story — even I write within the tropes of my genre(s). Well – some of them anyway.  My characters have done huge group rituals to raise the dead (which always physically manifest, of course) and capture spirits. They’ve rescued other practitioners, who’d been kidnapped by avenging angels, from the astral plane. They’ve raised Daemons, dealt with haunted houses, and on occasion have even found themselves possessed.  I wrote a horror story where a willing woman is used in a sex magick rite of a faux Satanic cult, and finds herself Satan’s sex slave. But none of this is real. I don’t know a single Satanic group out there who has exciting mass orgies of the flesh with 50+ people (and I know a LOT of Satanists). Usually, sex magick is reserved for small groups of 1-6 CONSENTING ADULTS. That’s the more accurate, real-world scenario, and not all occult practitioners practice sex magick anyway. Notice how the real thing is far less exotic or scandalous than the image of fifty Satanists, donned in the same ritual uniform, performing a ritual in unison, followed by the kinky ritual sex. The latter makes for far better fiction hands down.

There’s a reason I place my fictional books in the occult and supernatural FICTION categories and I use a different pen name from my NON FICTION. While a lot of my fiction has a basis in real-world occult practices, communities, and beliefs  –  I exaggerate magickal results and spirit communication – drawing it into the physical world on a level it doesn’t happen in the real world. A lot. Some of it is outright outlandish. For example — zombies raised via necromantic rituals ARE NOT REAL. When conjured, Daemons do not appear as razor-toothed monsters, snarling and spitting and covered in blood and mucus. More often than not, you’ll get shadows, knocks, footsteps, or a tap on the shoulder. On VERY rare occasion, you’ll come face to face with a Daemon and they’ll look weird (not grotesque), or they’ll have angelic faces and striking eyes. The most frightening part of coming face to face with an actual Daemonic force is the unexpectedness of it, and the physiological response the resonance of their energy causes.  See — not nearly as exciting, is it?

But I’m still writing tropes. I’m just writing newer tropes. Blurred lines, not all magick is bad, but I still make that definition between good and evil because readers expect it!

Some common tropes that end up in my inbox (and my responses) –

I want to make a deal with a demon, but I don’t want to sell my soul or have to kill a baby/person/animal to do it.  Human sacrifice is cowardly and not a part of real-world occult practice. Animal sacrifice has certain rules/perimeters (i.e. not neighborhood pets — food animals only) and is often only done for offering rites, usually with a meal afterward. Also, there are no Daemons running amock collecting souls. That’s just fantasy/fiction. Please see my book on Daemonic Pacts.

When I make a pact with a demon, how do I keep it from killing me? That’s not necessarily how Daemons work. I have yet to meet anyone who has become Daemon food after a pact. At worst – you’ll prove yourself worthless and unworthy, and the Daemonic will simply ignore you forever more. If they think there might be potential there – they might kick your ass to try to shove you in the right direction. If they respect your work ethic and think you’d benefit from the pact – they’ll help you out. How that turns out is up to you AND them.  If you end up dying due to a pact, well, either it was your time to leave this world, or you likely destroyed yourself. Sometimes we get what we ask for, and sometimes what we think we want isn’t actually what we want and we end up destroying ourselves because of it. Fame and Sorath work tends to have this effect on people.

When I come face to face with a demon I conjure, what should I expect? You likely won’t come “face-to-face” with the Daemon. It’s not going to manifest inside a fiery pentagram on your bedroom floor. That’s not how it works. However, if you do find yourself blessed with an actual physical manifestation (not just smoke and mirrors) – there is no way to prepare for that. It’s always intimidating or shocking. And nothing like what you see in movies.

I am afraid of demons because of what I’ve seen in movies about them. Are you sure your methods are safe?  Magick isn’t safe. Life isn’t safe. If you want safe, wrap yourself in bubble wrap and never leave your home. But seriously, if you’re afraid of demons because of what you’ve seen in horror films, you probably ought not be practicing Daemonic rituals of any type. Ever. You may just end up manifesting your own fears. Fear is a powerful thing.

My magick didn’t manifest immediately! Something should have happened by now if it worked!  Let’s face it – some people are better magicians than others, and I will even venture to say that Daemons tend to favor some practitioners over others for various reasons. All magick done right will manifest. It may just not have manifested to your expectations. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate your expectations in relation to what you worked the magick for. You might also need to look into deeper issues that could be holding you back from receiving fully the things you think you should be able to manifest via magick.

But…  but…

But nothing. It’s time for people to stop pretending the fantastical tropes of the supernatural fiction genre are how things work. There’s a reason we separate fiction from non-fiction. I literally read an entire post on a magickal FB group the other day that sounded like a new script for the show Supernatural. There are people out there who really believe they’re Daemon hunter exorcists, and have convinced themselves they’re very much like Sam and Dean Winchester – chasing devils and rustling witches. Locking up Daemons in cages, or accidentally setting them loose. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good story as much as the next person, but it gets to be too much for me when people act like supernatural fiction is supernatural fact and want everyone else to validate their fantasy (or accept it as their own personal truth). Solid magicians know the difference.

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at


  • Xio

    Well said! Real magick takes work, focus and patience. Start with small things and build from there. Try to manifest something achievable and don’t give up if you are not a master mage overnight.

    This article fills a much needed gap in bridging between the Hollywood version of magick and the version that can manifest personal growth through perseverance.

    Many thanks for drawing attention to this.

  • Kristie Flatt

    The movie, “Hereditary”, comes to mind as well. Just watched this with my family. It does have a family that wear sigil necklaces and practice magick. Raising King Paimon was definately scary but didn’t do me any favors with my family in regards to the path I am on. Oh well, guess that’s why it was a horror movie and not a documentary!

  • Kristie Flatt

    The movie, “Hereditary” comes to mind. Just watched this movie with my husband and daughter. The family in the movie did wear sigil necklaces and practice magick, which was cool. Raising King Paimon was definately scary; however, it didn’t do me any favors with my family in regard to the path I am on. Oh well, I guess that’s why it was a horror movie and not a documentary!

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