Ok, I revised some of the wording and finished it. Constructive criticism is welcome.
criticism is welcome because then I'd know at least one person read this, lol.
Spellcraft 101: Theory and Philosophy
Let me share my philosophy on who can practice magic. I believe that anyone can practice magic. I don’t believe a person has to be a Wiccan or Pagan to practice magic, although if a Catholic, Christian, Jew or Muslim practices witchcraft, they may want to make peace with their God before doing so, since it does seem to be a no-no in those religious frameworks. I personally do not believe that the power behind spells is granted to us by the Gods. I am pantheistic and believe that everything is connected by a greater spiritual force, like a web of energy binding everything together as one. Because we are all connected, I believe that it is possible for something someone does has the power to affect something or someone across the globe.
I also feel that magic’s greatest power is over our own psychology. When someone performs a spell, not only are they affecting the object of the spell, they are influencing themselves. If someone does a spell to be more attractive, they will respond to that spell by walking with more confidence, dressing more confident, becoming more outgoing – in truth, they will become more attractive.
I’m of a mixed mind when it comes to curses and hexes. I’ve actually never cursed anyone or hexed anyone. I’ve done more than my fair share of ‘go away’ spells, but I don’t feel that banishing spells are necessarily curses or hexes. I’ve asked for ‘divine justice’ in a couple of occasions, and seen that in action. I don’t doubt that curses and hexes can and do work – but I also know that protective spells and actions can effectively negate the energy of a curse or hex. Personally, I’m not afraid of curses or hexes – and I’ve had people tell me they put a curse on me. It seems kind of naïve or one-sided to say that magic works and in the same breath say that curses and hexes don’t work. But from my experience, curses and hexes seem to have less effectiveness and a greater chance to fail than positive spells.
A bit of etiquette to bear in mind: always ask someone’s permission before doing a spell on their behalf. Letting someone know that you want to help them out magically is respectful, and if the person has a lot of psychic self-defense mechanisms at work, they will be able to clear the way for your assistance, and possibly even help the spell along. If it’s a curse or hex or something negative, of course you’re not going to tell the object of the spell, “Hey, I’m putting a curse on you!” – at least, not until after you’ve done it and you want to scare the crap out of them. Sometimes, telling a person you’ve cursed them is more effective than actually putting a curse on them.
If a spell fails, chances are no one is going to be harmed by it – and most likely, no one will ever know the spell fizzled. Sometimes they do backfire or have unexpected results, but anything we try in life, from learning to ride a bicycle to asking someone out on a date, runs those same risks. When embarking on magical pursuits, it’s always a good idea to keep an open mind and open heart.
So here is my contribution to the world: Spellcraft 101.
First Point: Practice
I used to be one of those people who felt that magic was the last resort, that a person should exhaust all other avenues before performing a spell. I don’t know how I ended up with that belief – probably because other people respond that way. Magic is one of many tools given to us. Just like other tools, the only way to become a masterful spell-caster is to practice casting spells. Although I’ve met people who claimed wild success with their first spell, there are very few true ‘wild talents’ when it comes to witchcraft.
When a person is first starting out, it is best to start small, with inconsequential things, things that only affect the spellcaster or a willing guinea pig (not an actual guinea pig, mind you, but someone who has given their permission to be used as the object of a spell). It’s also easier to begin with positive or protective spells instead of launching right into cursing, hexing, banishing or binding spells.
Healing spells are an excellent proving ground as long as the illness is not one that is immediately fatal. Helping a friend eliminate migraines or helping oneself resist getting the flu would be better than trying to cure someone of cancer or HIV. Not that wanting to cure someone’s cancer or HIV is a bad thing, especially if it works, but it’s always best to start small and with something that will help build confidence and self-assurance. Protective spells are good beginning spells, too, but the results are usually not as tangible.
Many people, me included, tend to make fun of people who cast spells for every little thing. You have to recognize when a mundane solution to a problem is faster and more effective than a spell. While learning spellcraft, though, cast spells for everything.
Second Point: Taking Action
Magic will not do anything unless some kind of real-world action is also taken. There’s an old joke about this guy. Every day he prays to God, “God, please let me win the lottery!” Days, weeks, months, years go by with this guy praying to win the lottery every single day. One day, he wakes up, goes for a walk & prays to God, “Please, God, just let me win the lottery!” God taps the guy on the shoulder and says, exasperatedly, “Hey, Schlomo, buy a ticket!” Performing a spell to get a job or make more money will do nothing unless something is done to help the magic along. Taking classes to improve skills, sending resumes to prospective employers, and speaking to a manager or supervisor about taking on greater responsibilities or getting a raise – and some spell work will help the most.
Spells work best as a means to potentialize action. They can sway a situation to one’s advantage, or push a decision one way or the other, but for the most part spells are not miracles.
Referring back to recognizing when mundane solutions will work better than magical ones, once past the practice stage, this is a good thing to remember. If someone is the victim of a dangerous domestic situation, doing a spell asking for ‘divine justice’ will not help if the victim is killed by their abusive partner. Doing a healing spell won’t help someone who is bleeding to death unless they’re already in the ER. Doing a spell to keep kids off drugs won’t help if the parents are abusing drugs and setting an example for their children to follow.
Third Point: Self Discipline
One of the principles of magic is the ability to visualize the outcome of a spell. In order for visualization to be effective, it requires concentration, energy and focus. If one has a five-minute attention span, chances are their spells are not going to be successful. Some people are born with a natural ability to focus their attention on something for long periods of time. Others have to train their attention, like any muscle or skill. Being able to maintain focus for long periods of time can have advantages outside the spiritual world – computer programming is one clear example, surgery is another.
Attention and focus are part of the training needed for practicing witchcraft. Sometimes, if a spell is done within the confines of ritual or ceremonial magic, it may need more time and involvement than just 15 minutes or so of candle-burning. If a person cannot reign in their body and mind, all the preparation that goes into a major magical undertaking is kind of pointless. One of the most common pieces of advice seen in any spellbook is ‘turn off the phone, turn off the TV., close the bedroom door…’ – in other words, tear oneself away from all the nitpicking little distractions of modern life.
Honestly, the way I see it, any religious or spiritual practice requires a modicum of self-discipline. Learning to meditate involves calming the chattering nonsense running rampant in the brain – quieting the ‘monkey mind’. For those following a shamanic path, vision quests, underworld/Otherworld journeying, and other shamanic technologies involve being able to get past all of the physical body’s nagging needs – being able to ignore hunger, thirst, discomfort, an itchy nose, a cramping toe, having to pee really, really bad – as well as telling the monkey mind to shut up for awhile.
Fourth Point: Timing
Timing is everything. Once a person begins practicing magic or following a spiritual path, it becomes easier to ‘tune in’ to the natural rhythms of life. Even in major urban centers, there are still seasons and tides. At first, spells may just go awry even if every detail is attended to, every step is followed. Sometimes, it’s just not the right time – the Universe has something else in mind.
Here in Las Vegas, the city is still part of the greater desert around it. We have a definite monsoon season from mid-July through August. People who have been living here for awhile seem to get antsy and irritable during the weeks preceding the monsoon. Everyone seems cranky. There seems to be extra stress put on everyone, like we’re living in a pressure cooker. Shortly after the 4th of July, the clouds roll in at night and the air becomes heavy and humid, and it seems like all the cranky antsy desert dwellers inhale – and hold their breaths. One afternoon the clouds don’t burn off and the first lightning flashes are seen, followed by thunder that sounds like it’s cracking the world apart. The rain comes, and everyone, the desert itself included, exhales in a giant “ahhhhh”. That is what magical timing feels like – a great pressure, a need to do something to solve a problem or fill a gap – the spell is that first lightning bolt, the thunder is the pent-up energy being released in a sudden flash, and the rain is the spell doing its work.
So there it is, my philosophy on becoming a successful spellcrafter. Bear in mind, these are my experiences and observations, and as many Pagans say, “your mileage may vary”.
Ó Janelle Feldes, July 24, 2009