As I grow a little older, I am increasingly convinced that one of the more difficult challenges of magical work (of any work, really) is pacing. Once we know (or think we know) where we want to go, it’s easy to treat everything between here and there as nothing more than incidental moments, moments that can be elided into a plan of action. Plans of action are all well and good, but realizing them well often demands great patience and attention to the time that falls between steps in the plan.
Tim Powers writes a lot of fiction about magical topics but is himself a conservatively religious sort of guy. I quite respect that sort of attitude–cautious awareness of the wider spiritual world joined to a serious respect for the very humane spiritual traditions that have traditionally been kind to people qua people. Anyway, I quite like the way he portrays Tarot in his book Last Call (which seems to mirror his own personal distrust of Tarot): when you spread out the cards, the spirit world has a chance to look at you. It is something of a one-way mirror, so that while you see in the reading yourself and your situation, the spirits see you. Like a one-way mirror, you can’t always tell if there is someone on the other side, but there might be.