Recently, Nick Farrell blogged on why he believes magical rituals fail. Whether you agree with it or not I think you will find it interesting. One aspect that is not mentioned there is that it assumes magick works. I agree. Therefore, if it doesn't work, there must be a reason. If you worked by yourself, you were obviously at fault for the failure. If you worked with a group, you or someone else, or perhaps several people were at fault for the behavior. Understanding magickal theory and then analyzing what happened during and following a failed ritual is certainly important. However, saying that you or someone was at fault for the failure is ultimately not only useless, it can also make future success more difficult.

What Happens When Fault and Blame are Assigned

Years ago, I had a girlfriend who had two daughters in their early teens. I was living near the beach and they all came over to spend a weekend near the ocean. The two daughters took a bath together. Later, when I went into the bathroom, the floor was sopping wet—almost flooded—next to the bathtub. The next morning, at breakfast, I said, "Listen. Last night, after you girls took a bath, their was a lot of water spilled over the side…" Before I could finish, the two girls started denying they had done anything and blamed it on the other girl. "Whoa," I said. "Hold on. Nobody's in trouble. There's no blame here. It doesn't matter who did it. Maybe I did it. I just wanted to ask you both to make sure you keep the water in the tub. Okay?" They looked at each other, sort of flabbergasted. In our world today, it seems that when something goes wrong, people expect to experience blame and immediately need to defend themselves. We've all been blamed for something at some time. We've all be told that we're at fault. Generally, the response to such attacks is defensiveness, either by denying that we're at fault or assigning the blame to someone else or to unavoidable circumstances. Inwardly, the feeling can be horrible:

People blame me for something going wrong! They don't trust me. I'm not the one who did it, s/he did it! It wasn't my fault! I couldn't help it.

An example of this that is very funny because it rings so true was when Jake, played by John Belushi in "The Blues Brothers" movie, gave a list of excuses for failing to marry his fiancé. You can see it HERE. Think back to a time when you've been accused of being a fault for something. How did you feel? The next time you try to do that same action or set of actions, it will bring back those same feelings. Holding on to those feelings will simply result in negativity toward success or perhaps a tentativeness in action with a focus on not doing anything wrong rather than on performing the ritual correctly. Either aspect—negativity toward the ritual or people you're working with or a focus on not failing rather than succeeding—may prevent your magick from working.

Shift from Finding Fault to Finding Solutions

Earlier, I wrote "analyzing what happened during and following a failed ritual is certainly important." But if you're not going to use this group analysis (if the ritual involved others) or self-analysis (if you performed the ritual solo) to find out who or what was at fault for failure, why do it at all? Many years ago I bought a small book called Zen Comics. It had numerous one-page comics illustrating Zen parables. One that I always remembered showed a teacher and his student in a rowboat. Another boat comes their way and smashes into them. The student yells insults at the person rowing the other boat for having poor boating skills. The two boats go their separate ways and a bit later the teacher finally speaks, asking the student, "If nobody had been in that other boat, who would you have yelled at?" Blame and fault are not needed in magick. If a ritual fails, it doesn't matter who was at fault. What matters is making sure that whatever prevented the magick from succeeding doesn't happen again. If there is a group working and one of the ritualists was telling jokes, there's no reason to call him or her out. If you just find fault with the joke teller, the next time someone else might interrupt the flow of the ritual by telling a joke or talking about something extraneous to the ritual. The problem isn't the person, it's the behavior. Therefore, instead of saying, "John, you spoiled the ritual with all your jokes," a better response would be,"The ritual didn't work because we really didn't focus on what we were doing. In order to have success, we need to be more attentive to the work of the magickal rite, and we can do that by being committed to achieving X, Y, and Z." Note, too, that the approach is positive: This is what we should do as opposed to this is what we must not do. Why? Because if your attention is on what you don't want to do when you're performing the ritual, when you start the ritual you'll be focusing on what to avoid rather than on the actual ritual work.

Forget about fault. Forget about blame. Focus on solutions. Achieve magickal success!

Written by Donald Michael Kraig
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy. He has also studied public speaking and music (traditional and experimental) on the university level. After a decade of personal study and practice, he began ten years of teaching courses in the Southern California area on such ...