The art of casting spells
"A spell is a symbolic act done in an altered state of consciousness in order to cause a desired change."
To cast a spell is to project energy through a symbol. It is important to note that the energy is what is key, not the symbol; too often, the symbols are mistaken for the agent that casts the spell. While props are useful at times, it is the mind that works the magic. Correspondences between colors, planets, metals, numbers, plants and minerals, and musical notes make up a great deal of magical lore, and particular objects, shapes, colors, scents, and images do work better than others to embody certain ideas. The most powerful spells are often improvised from materials that feel right or that simply happen to come to hand, however.
Theory of Spellcasting
Spells are an important aspect of magical training. They require the use of the combined faculties of relaxation, visualization, concentration and projection. The casting of spells provides practice in coordinating these skills and developing them further. Spells are extremely sophisticated psychological tools that have subtle, but important, effects on a person's inner growth. Spells may highlight otherwise hidden complexes of the person casting the spell.
A person who has conflicts about success will find great difficulty in concentrating on a money spell, for example. Many times the practical results of a spell are far less important than the psychological insights that arise during the magical work, for discovering our inner blocks and fears is the first step in overcoming them. Spells also go one step further than most forms of psychotherapy, in that they allow us not only to listen to and interpret the unconscious, but also to speak to it in the language it understands.
Symbols, images, and objects used in spells communicate directly with Younger Self, who is the guardian of our emotions and who is barely affected by the intellect. We often understand our feelings and behavior but find ourselves unable to change them, but through spells, we can attain the most important power - the power to change our lives.
Spellcasting also forces us to come to terms with the material world. Many people attracted to the spiritual path of the Craft find themselves uneasy with using magic for practical or material goals. Somehow it seems wrong to work magic for oneself, to want things and to get things. This is an attitude which is a holdover of the Judeo-Christian world view that sees spirit and matter as separate and that identifies matter with evil and corruption.
In the Craft, flesh, the material world, none of what is commonly thought of as matter is separate from spirit. The universe is made up of the Goddess who is manifest in all things. Union with the Goddess comes through embracing the material world and all the gifts that She has placed in it for us. Our major task on this plane of existence is to become masters of this realm of manifestation. We do not fight self-interest; we follow it, but with an awareness that transmutes it into something sacred.
Mechanics of Spellcasting
Spellcasting is the lesser, not the greater magic; but the greater magic builds on the lesser. The paradox is that in spellcasting we may start out working with the personal self, but in order to work the magic we are forced to expand and recognize the Self that moves through all beings.
Magic involves the deliberate self-identification with other objects and people. For example, to do a healing, we must become the healer, the one who is healed, and the energy that is to do the healing. To attract love, we must be able to love ourselves and to become love its self.
Spells work in two basic ways. The first is through suggestion; symbols and images implant certain ideas in Younger Self, or the subconscious mind, and we are then influenced to actualize those ideas. Spells can also influence the external world.
The theoretical model that witches use to explain the workings of magic is a clear one and coincides in many ways with the "new" physics. It is simply an elaborate but extremely useful metaphor. The metaphor is based on a world view that sees things not as fixed objects, but as vortexes of energy. The physical world is formed by the vortexes of energy, and if we cause a change in the energy patterns they, in turn, cause a change in the physical world. When our own energy is concentrated and channeled, it can move the broader energy currents. The images and objects used in spells are the channels. They are the vessels through which our power is poured, and by which it is shaped.
As energy is directed into the images we visualize, it gradually manifests physical form and takes shape in the material world. Directing energy is not a matter of simply emoting. Emotion can be likened to a strobe light which provides a very inconstant light, while directed energy is more like a laser beam. Even concentrated power is a small stream compared with the vast surges of energy that surround us. The most adept witch cannot be successful in all her spells, for the opposing currents are often too strong.
The craft teaches to first identify the flow of energy and then to decide whether or not it is going where we want it to go. If it is not, then we can try to deflect it, or we may have to change our own course. Sensing the energy climate is a matter of intuition and experience. Some witches make a study of Astrology in an effort to plan their magical workings at the optimal times, while others prefer to work when they feel the time is right.
Of all the planets, the Moon's influence on subtle energies is the strongest. Subtle power increases as the Moon waxes, so the time of the waxing Moon is best for spells involving growth or increase, such as money spells. The power peaks when the Moon is full and that is the best time for workings of culmination and love. During the waning Moon, power subsides and turns inward. The waning Moon's period is used for banishings, bindings, and discovering hidden secrets. The practical witch soon learns to adjust her spells to fit the time of the Moon. If, for example, she needs to do a money spell during the waning Moon, she would put a little 'English' on it and make it a poverty banishing spell.
Energy pursues the path of least resistance. Material results are more easily achieved on this plane of existence through physical actions than through magical workings. For example, it is simpler to lock your door than suffer the constant drain from maintaining psychic seals on your doors and windows while you are away from home. Of course, once you have locked your door, you might feel more reassured by placing seals on it.
No magic spell is going to bring results unless channels are opened into the material world. For example, a job spell is useless if you are not willing to go out and interview for jobs or at least let potential employers know that you are in the market for one. In the same vein, a healing spell is no substitute for medical care.
Most medicine today can be broken down into two broad categories, emergency medicine and that which is not needed for immediate life-threatening situations. Emergency medicine has excelled at stabilizing the body's condition so that it can repair itself at its own pace. Most other forms of medicine consist of treatment through surgery or chemotherapy or a combination of both. The procedures noted above work on the physical body and do not take the other levels into consideration. Psychic healing works at healing the higher levels of the person so that the physical heals itself or allows the person to let go of their physical body if it cannot be repaired. In either case, the choice rests with the person who is being healed and not the healer.
Visualization used in creating a spell should focus on the desired result, not the individual steps leading up to the result. We give the spell free rein in how it goes about achieving the results with the understanding that it is not to bring harm to anyone or any being. For this reason, spells have a habit of working in very unexpected ways.
To assure that the power we have unleashed does not inadvertently cause harm, we bind the spell. This serves to 'set' the form we have created so that the energy becomes fixed in the pattern we desire. The energy we project to others affects us even more strongly than the other person. This is because we have generated the energy, and thus we have become the object at which the energy is directed. If healing energy is sent out, then the health of the person casting the spell is enhanced. By the same token, any hex or curse that is sent out ALWAYS affects the person who sends it no matter whether it affected the person it was sent at or not.
MAGIC IS NOT TO BE USED TO GAIN POWER OVER OTHERS. Magic is a technique used in developing your own 'power from within.' Spells that are directed at gaining power over others weaken the 'power from within.' Aside from the damage done to oneself, it is important for another reason. Many people who do not understand the laws of magic are afraid of being attacked magically and are given to paranoia. The witch's main stock-in-trade used to be removing a competitor's hexes and preparing charms to protect their clients. While true psychic attacks are EXTREMELY RARE, a person's guilt makes up for any lack, and after using 'forbidden' help, their paranoia leads them to seek protection from the same person they just turned to in desperation. Do yourself a favor, and resist the temptation to 'help' these types. Most magical formularies consist of formulae gathered and tested by witches as well as many charms to protect the common man from those same witches who sold them their charms.
Times and Correspondences
I mentioned earlier that timing and the right props are considered important in spellcasting. Over the years, systems of Correspondences were developed which assigned certain attributes and aspects to the seven ancient planets of Astrology. Each planet was assigned a God or Goddess, who embodies the attributes the ancients wished to invoke. Each of the Gods and Goddesses were assigned an hour of the day, color, incense, metal, number, signature, plant, mineral, musical note, and animal or bird.
General Guidelines for Casting Spells
Set aside a room for your magical work. Decorate it with things that put you in a magical mood. Remember to use things that stimulate all five of your physical senses. Some obvious things would be the use of appropriate colors for sight, incense for scent, music for hearing, wines for taste, and textures for feel.
If you do not have a room you can set aside exclusively for your magical work, then choose a room that can be locked while you do your work. This will allow you to work undisturbed. In any case, you should clean your work area periodically with a purifying powder/floorwash to keep away negative vibrations.
Set up an altar to be used as your worktable. It's size and shape should be those that appeal to you. Placing candles and other items that assist you to concentrate on the work at hand is a good practice. Some people like to cover their altar with a white cloth and place fresh cut flowers on it every day.
Always use the best candles, oils, and incenses that you can afford, or make your own, for scrimping on materials has a negative effect on the subconscious. Don't forget that the subconscious is very good at making do with raw materials that it can shape to its own use.
Never cast a spell until you have a clear and concise picture of what it is you wish to accomplish. This ties in with the saying "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."
Always ground out any extra energy you raise for the spell, and bind the spell so that it expires within the pre-determined amount of time. Once you have cast the spell, do not discuss it with any one until after it has worked. Most spells peter out because the person who cast it boasts about it to so many people, that the spell is robbed of power before it has a chance to work. The ancient bond placed on the magician was to dare, to know and to keep silent.
Above all, at all times, remember the Rede: "An ye harm none, do what you will." You do not know all the effects of your spell, therefore, use magick sparingly, if at all.