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The Llewellyn Journal

An Introduction to Elemental Spells

This article was written by Deborah Lipp
posted under Pagan

Some people love spellbooks, and some people hate them. The lovable part is the neat tips and tricks; new little ideas, bits of folklore that dress up magic and make it both more fun and more powerful. I like flipping through and thinking, “Oooh … red thread! I never thought of that.”

The bad part is how beginners seem to depend upon them; it’s as if they are helpless to create their own spells for their own purposes. This is unfortunate, because no matter how many spellbooks are on your shelves, your situation is always just a little bit different from any spell you find. A good spellbook should teach you the how and why of spell construction, just as a good cookbook should teach you something about food and cooking. Recipes alone aren’t enough.

Most importantly, The Way of Four Spellbook is about my continuing obsession with the four elements. While writing The Way of Four, I became captivated by the idea of presenting elemental spells for elemental purposes. I began to contemplate: What is an elemental spell?

I realized there were two entirely different answers to this question: An elemental spell is any spell that fulfills an elemental purpose (e.g. a Water spell is a spell with a Watery goal), or it is a spell using one or more elements to achieve its goal (e.g. if you soak something, it’s a Water spell). I had never seen anyone put these two kinds of elemental spells together.

I wrote four spells for The Way of Four, each an example of achieving an elemental goal through the use of that element. For Air, I wrote a spell to improve school performance that involves writing and burning sage. Knowledge, education, writing, and sage are all associated with Air. Creating those four spells opened the proverbial can of worms. First, it was fun. Pulling together the disparate ideas that can be connected through an element was like solving a puzzle. This sense of being engaged, this fascination, is part of what makes magic work. So I knew that this sort of spell had the opportunity to be quite effective.

Second, the more I wrote, the more I realized was being left unsaid. How could I include a writing spell without explaining what a writing spell was, how it worked, and what sort of variations were possible? In fact, how could I include any spell without first introducing the nature of magic itself? There was so much exposition left out of The Way of Four, simply because the spells were only a part of a chapter. Several times while writing, I used phrases like, “A whole book could be written about this, but I’ll be brief.” After using that “I could write a book” canard the third or fourth time, I realized I really should.

In The Way of Four Spellbook I dive deeply into waters I had only waded through before. I start with what magic is and what a spell is. I include reasons to do spells, and reasons not to do them. I include a basic outline for the steps of any spell and answer common questions in a meaty chapter that I enjoyed writing. So much so, in fact, that I now use it as the basis for a workshop, so if you see me at a festival, you might catch “The Structure of Spellcasting.”

After reviewing the elements, I launch into how they might be used in spells. What are Air goals? Fire goals? Water goals? Earth goals? When and why do you use all four elements in a spell? I thought this was necessary, because not all spells are elemental spells. But the premise of this book is elemental spells, so we move to those chapters quickly.

Each chapter presents a type of elemental spell, and teaches you how it’s done. In the Fire chapter, for example, I note that both candles and sex are Fiery. So there’s a discussion of the many different types of candle spells, followed by sample candle spells for Fiery goals. Then there’s a discussion of sex magic, followed by a sex spell for a different Fiery goal. The Fire chapter includes a total of seven different spells, each using a different technique taught in the chapter, and each achieving a different Fire goal.

It was fun setting up various spells to see how to make them work, and I’m pleased with the result. In a field laden with recipe books, I feel I’ve presented something else; something about the principles of “cooking” with the elements.

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