1. Determine your goal
2. Choose symbols and actions
3. Gather and prepare components
4. Create sacred space
5. Perform the spell
1. Determine your goal. This is perhaps the most important step—how can you get what you want if you don't even know what that really is? It is vital before working any magic to consider not only what your goal is, but why you have that goal. Hidden motivations and self-defeating attitudes can negate even the strongest magic— disbelief is the only truly effective counterspell.
For example, many a love spell has been performed for the wrong reasons. Often people think that having a lover will solve all of their problems, when in fact what they really need is a better sense of self-worth or a more fulfilling career. When you decide to do magic, think about what would really improve your life, and as often as possible work toward the long term rather than a quick fix. (Some times short term goals are by Dianne Sylvan unavoidable, and once they are dealt with you can work on the long term, but it is up to you to prioritize)
At this stage, divination is often very helpful. Using whatever oracle you prefer, ask if this is the best time for you to work for the goal you have in mind, as well as if there are any aspects of the situation you have overlooked. Divination is a way to communicate both with the gods and with hidden parts of ourselves, and can give you insight both toward your goals and how you might best achieve them. Any other means you use to talk with Deity is appropriate; if you would rather meditate or pray over your goal, do so.
In addition, you must decide how specific you want your spell to be. A balance must be found between too little detail ("Goddess please send me a boyfriend") and too much ("Goddess please send me a 6'8" left-handed lawyer with blue eyes, brown hair, and dimples). If you leave too much open, what you attract may not be the healthiest thing for you: a boyfriend, say, who is controlling and has hygiene issues. If you are too specific, however, you can limit yourself and the universe in finding the right solution to your problem: the perfect man for you had green eyes or was an accountant. In this example, the happy medium could begin with, "I seek the love that is right for me at this time in my life" and go on to list the most important attributes you have in mind: kind, sense of humor, et cetera.
A final consideration is the ethics of your goal. Is what you want in keeping with your own ethical precepts and what your gods expect of you? Often we cannot see all of the possible consequences of our actions, but this is not an excuse for inaction. Many Wiccans add a sort of contingency clause to their magic, saying something along the lines of, "With harm to none, for the good of all" with the intention that the spell will only work if the practitioner's intentions are true. Remember, there is no difference between "magical" and "mundane" ethics; if you could not in good conscience use mundane means to achieve a goal (running her boyfriend down with a Buick), then it is just as unethical to use magical means (a spell to break up a couple so you can make a play for the girl).
2. Choose symbols and actions. Magic works primarily by means of energy sent through symbols and through symbolic action. Deciding exactly what a spell will involve may seem complicated, but in fact it can be broken down into basic Elemental correspondences. Assign an Element to your goal, and then use the symbols of that Element in your magic.
For example, perhaps you are broke, and you have determined that in this case you need to work for the short-term goal of more money (since it is hard to find a rewarding career without electricity or food). Abundance and prosperity as well as material goods are traditionally associated with Earth. Consulting one of the myriad correspondence charts (one of which is included at the end of this chapter) you decide to create a money charm using Earth and prosperity-related herbs such as patchouli and nutmeg. You opt to use colors like green and brown, long linked to the Earth Element.
And so on. Considering magical goals in their Elemental contexts, it is easier to create spells and rituals that will speak to your inner self. If at this point you are still at a loss, look through any of the myriad books of spells available for ideas.
3. Gather and prepare components. This step is fairly self-explanatory; as in any ritual, be certain you have everything you need ready to use before beginning.
In addition, many people choose to work magic during specific hours and days that are celestially auspicious toward their goal. The most popular method of magical timing is, of course, by the Moon. Magic to bring new things and increase in one's life is performed during a waxing Moon, and magic to be rid of something is performed during the waning. The Full Moon is traditionally a time for very powerful magic of the waxing variety, and the Dark Moon is the most powerful time for the opposite. If you so choose you can also work according to what sign the Moon is in; even the hours of the day have planetary and astrological associations. How much emphasis you place on timing is a personal choice; many agree, however, that a great enough need transcends questions of timing.
out into the universe. Again, this is a matter of personal preference; however, if you are treating your magic as a sacred act, it is deserving of as much ceremony as you are comfortable with. In particular, ask Deity to aid you in your quest, as it is sacred energy you are using. Changing your life for the better is holy work, and invoking Deity at this stage will help remind you of that.
5. Perform the spell. Another self-explanatory step. Usually spells involve empowering a magical object or otherwise raising energy to be directed toward your goal. From a spiritual perspective, the power you use in spellcasting comes directly from your connection to the Divine.
6. Act in accord. It isn't enough to simply do magic and then sit back on the couch and let the gods do the rest—be certain to take whatever mundane steps you can to help the magic along. There is an old saying: "Trust the gods, but lock your car." The most powerful job spell in the world will do you no good if you never fill out an application.
To follow the employment metaphor, think of magic this way: when you need a job you polish up your resume, fill out applications, work on bettering your job skills, and so forth. A spell is like the one phone call to the "guy who knows a guy" that can put in a good word for you. You can still get a job without making that call, but the whole process will go faster, more smoothly, and have a more satisfying result if you take all the steps you can to ensure you find the right job.
All aspects of our lives are sacred, not just what we do in Circle; acting in accord with our magic is a way of affirming that our mundane and magical lives are in fact inseparable.
Whether you create your own from scratch or use prewritten material, spells are a tool, and as such need your involvement, your energy, and your commitment to changing your life in order to have any lasting effect on the world. A hammer by itself will not build a house.
4. Create sacred space. It is not always strictly necessary to perform magic in a cast Circle, but it is generally preferable, as the energy you raise for your magic needs to be contained until you send it
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