In my years of teaching magic, witchcraft, and that sort of thing, I've found that spells are a challenging subject for many. Spellcraft is often a mystery, even for people who know a lot about subjects like divination, altered states, and ritual.
You might be doing spells, but finding them frustrating or unsatisfactory. You might be successful at magic, but feel like something is missing. Maybe you want to kick it up a notch, or maybe you've already given up on the whole "magic" thing.
The truth is, there are simple, accessible principles that will make your magic rewarding, powerful, and fun. Here are three of them.
- Know What You Want.
Perhaps this sounds obvious to you, but in my years of teaching magic, it is the number one stopping point for practitioners.
A student came to me once for help with a job spell. He was earning good money, but wanted more emotionally satisfying work. But, the spell he'd constructed was all about money; his spell had nothing to do with what he actually wanted. I often tell this story because it is such a great illustration of a common problem.
How do you know what you want? There are two parts to this: Knowledge and honesty.
"Know thyself," the saying goes. Know who you are. Know your desires, your dreams, and your vices. Self-examination isn't always easy, and it doesn't finish—it's a lifelong process. But without it, you cannot get to the next step: Honesty. You cannot tell the truth about what you want unless you know what that is.
Knowledge also means situational and factual knowledge. Knowing yourself is great for spells on your own behalf, but many of us do spells for friends, for friends-of-friends, for our community or nation, or for the Earth.
Factual knowledge is important for any kind of magic that addresses such real-world things as politics, climate, or medicine. Situational knowledge is needed for any magic on behalf of people when their circumstances are in any way being touched—you can't get me from here to there unless you know where "here" is.
Here's a thing you see every day on the Internet: "My mom is sick. Please send healing energy." That’s not enough knowledge! What is her diagnosis? Where is she? Who is she? (Often, these requests don't even provide a name.) Or how about this one: "My mom has PNH disorder, please send magic." What the heck is PNH disorder? If you don't look it up, you probably won't know. So look it up.
Whether you want to cure a disease, heal the earth, or defeat a politician, you need factual and situational knowledge to be truly effective.
Be truthful with yourself about what you want, and where your energy really is. If you do magic to get into a challenging and prestigious school, be sure you really want to work hard at your studies. Honesty might mean saying, "I'd rather that school left me time for my social life, so an Ivy League university isn't right for me."
Be honest about ambivalence. If you know your cousin brutalizes his wife, what should you do when he asks for magic to get out of jail? Maybe you want to help him, but if you aren't honest about also wanting him locked up, you'll get nowhere.
- Prepare Yourself.
Why yes, I'll do that magic! I'll go light a candle right now!
Your eagerness is laudable, but pause for a moment. Are you ready and able to do magic right now?
Here are some things I do before I do a spell:
- Make sure I'm well-rested. I don't do spells when I'm exhausted, or right after work without some decompression time. Your mind needs to focus during spellcraft, so give it the ability to do so.
- Make sure I'm not starving (which is distracting) or over-full (ditto).
- Turn off my phone, feed the cats, and otherwise ensure no interruptions will occur. If you're a parent of young children, make sure you have a way of devoting 100% of your attention on your spell before you begin.
- Ground myself. This brief meditative exercise connects me to the earth, and draws upon a power greater than myself. This is helpful before I send energy into a spell, as it prevents me from utterly depleting myself.
- Center myself. A few deep, cleansing breaths and a moment to focus my mind and bring myself fully present to the moment can be transforming.
- Always Do Something Exactly the Same and Always Do Something a Little Different.
I'm grouping these together to show the lovely tension in this paradox. Magical people argue about this: Should ritual steps be repeated every time, or should each spell or ritual arise from a new and creative moment? The answer is: Both.
Always Do Something the Same
Getting your mind keyed into a magical state is a crucial part of any spell. Preparing yourself is a vital first step, but you can continue the process through the power of repetition.
Every day, I get in the shower, wash my hair, and then soap up. Once in a while, if I've slept particularly poorly, I will be soaping up and realize I haven't yet washed my hair. This may sound stupid, but that will throw off my whole day. Repetitious activity teaches our minds how to behave; it's an easily achieved form of altering consciousness.
Make sure that certain activities are a routine and predictable part of your spellcraft. Here are some possibilities:
- A ritual lustration before you begin
- A piece of clothing or jewelry ceremonially put on before you begin (the same clothing or jewelry each time)
- The same invocation or prayer used to open every spell
- Other ritual steps, such as marking sacred space, elemental consecrations, invoking the ancestors, or calling upon spirit guides
- Burning the same incense
Repeating one or (even better) several such steps helps to induce a kind of trance that allows you to access your most powerful self, quieting the ego-mind and bringing forth a deeper level of consciousness.
Always Do Something Different
While inducing an altered state based on repetition is great, one such altered state is "boredom." Fun and excitement are powerful emotional energies to leverage when doing magic. They keep you focused, and they make the magic vibrant and real.
In addition, everyone who's expert at anything understands the risk of complacency. Repetition can lead to, "I've got this," which can lead to inattention and sloppiness. By always changing things up, you avoid becoming complacent.
You'll notice that all the "something the same" suggestions are preliminary steps. I said "before you begin" and so on. By starting out with your repeated steps, you lay down stepping stones that lead you on a path towards a magical state of mind. From there, let your creativity have free rein.
That doesn't mean not to plan! You might do a spell purely spontaneously, but it's not typical. If you're using candles, herbs, crystals, or any other "stuff," you'll need advance planning to have all that together.
Rather, have each spell be particular to its subject matter (referring back to "know what you want" to figure out what that is). Here are some real life examples of spells I've done:
- For a child in the hospital, my group raised power singing (and enacting) "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes"
- Getting an applicant into the school of his choice, we used a cord to physically tie him up to a symbol of the school
- Working a spell for my son, I raised power with my forehead placed on his baby book
- Helping someone get pregnant, we planted seeds in a jar of soil while sending power
- For preserving a secret, I created a magical infusion using old, discarded keys
Each of the above examples is very different from the other. Each is specific to its purpose, and each has an imaginative quality that made it fun to create and perform.
By remembering these three principles: Know what you want, Prepare yourself, and Do something both different and the same, you'll empower all the spells you do.