I remember the first time I tried to write a spell of my own. I sat down with paper and pencil and a vague idea of what I wanted to do. But that was it: there I sat, without much idea of what to do next. The results were more difficult than satisfying, and it took several more tries after that one before I began to have a feel for what I was doing. As for my spellwork throughout the learning curve? It wasn't too good. At times, I turned to prewritten spells to save myself any more frustration.
Most of us magickal people work with spells, charms, or rituals on a regular basis, and many of us are perfectly happy to pull out a spellbook and use a formula that someone else has already created. It's a simple approach: neat and tidy. Stick a bookmark in pages 23-24, assemble the list of materials, then read through and carry out each step. Voila: a spell! It's as simple as putting together a new bookshelf, right? Well, yes—it can be, and sometimes a speedy piece of magick is just the thing.
But I'm here to convince you of the beauty and craft of home-crafted spellwork, because when you build a spell yourself, from the ground up, you infuse it with your deliberateness, your preferences, your wishes, your thoughts, and your energies. This spell won't simply be something you read from someone else's pages—it will carry your own signature and resonate through your very core. It will be much more powerful and complete than any ready-made charm could ever be, making you an integral part of the magick from start to finish. When we practice spellcraft, we use magick as a way of altering reality. We do this by working with as many of the corresponding realities as possible—time, date, place, elemental correspondences, the support of deities, etc.—in hopes that we can shift reality in one direction or the other and alter the outcome. Nowhere is this more elegantly done than in handcrafting spells, charms, and rituals, because in these instances, we put our essence into the magick and make it our own.
- Step One: Prepare Yourself
The first step in any magickal working is to prepare one's self. This business of altering reality, after all, isn't easy. Fortunately, the tools of spellwriting are simple and cheap: start with scratch paper, pen or pencil, a few index cards, and a short stack of your favorite magickal books. You might also assemble a small altar on your workspace, or just group together a dish of materials designed to inspire your creative forces. An amethyst crystal will support your intuition and insights. A burning candle scented with lilac or honeysuckle will inspire your creativity and mental powers. A cup of chamomile tea will relax you, preparing you for the work session ahead.
- Step Two: Decide What You Want
Thus prepared, the next step is to decide what you wish to accomplish. Do you need a dose of prosperity magick? Are you preparing for a self-initiation? Do you want to cleanse a physical space? Once you've made the decision, take a piece of paper or a large index card and fold it in half, so it stands up like a little tent. Write your intention on one half of the paper as a simple, clear statement, explaining what is at stake and what you hope to accomplish:
- "I'm a little tight financially, and I will work this magick to bring prosperity my way."
- "I'm preparing to begin a course of study with the Alder Circle, and I want to dedicate myself to the work that lies ahead."
- "It's spring cleaning time, and my ritual space needs a good cleansing."
Stand the tented paper up on one side of your workspace. This little signpost will guide and inspire you as you craft your spell.
- Step Three: Gather Your Tools
Now you're ready for a fresh piece of paper—and you may want to think about the paper you're using, for even at this early stage you can use the idea of intentional correspondences. The color, texture, and shape of the paper can contribute to your spellcraft. I've even seen prosperity spells written on one dollar bills and space-cleansing charms written on organic paper towels (which were used to wipe the ritual space clean before being burned as part of the spell). The same ideas apply to your choice of pen, pencil, or even quill. For love magick, you might choose a pen that writes in rich red gel, while an ink of deep permanent blue would add strength to a healing spell. In every case, choose tools that echo and support your intention and what you hope to accomplish.
I can hear some of you saying, "But what about me? I do all my work on a computer." I'm an admitted laptop devotee myself, and do much of my magickal writing on the computer. But for spellwork, I still encourage you to use paper and pen or pencil, setting your words down by hand. Why? Because this is the "old way," the traditional way, the way that ties us to generations of magick users before us, working in centuries past with quill and homemade ink on rough paper or parchment scrolls. By holding the pen in your own hand and setting the words on paper, your intentions flow through you, binding yourself to your intention in a way that writing on a word processor cannot equal. The handwritten spell itself becomes a magickal artifact that can be used physically as a prop in your spell or added later to a spell collection or Book of Shadows.
- Step Four: Ground and Center
Before working further, take a moment to gather your energies, then ground and center. Anyone who has worked with magick knows what a magickal hangover feels like. Writing is an intensely personal means of magickal practice, and the energies that you'll call up and manipulate must be dealt with, lest you're left with a headache and fatigue afterwards. For this reason, it's always a good idea to ground and center on both ends of a magickal writing session. Many spellworkers also take this time to call upon a muse or a patron deity for inspiration. Don't have one? Consider Athena (Greek), Brighid (Celtic), or Seshat (Egyptian), goddesses associated with writing and poetry.
- Step Five: Establish Your Spell Components
Now the hands-on work begins: you're ready to begin working with your spell components. Start by deciding when you'll work the spell. The month, day of the week, time of day, lunar phase, astrological position, and planetary hour are examples of timing aspects that can impact your magickal results. For example, a spell for prosperity might be best worked during the waxing Moon phase and around midday, when the Sun's solar energies are the most potent. A spell for initiation would work well cast at dawn on a Monday, just after the new Moon.
Will you do the spell alone, or will others be involved? Will your spell be formal and structured, or casual and spontaneous? Consider the specific materials you'll use: candles (or other Firecraft), herbs, incense, stones or crystals, traditional altar tools, colored altar cloths, etc. For each of these, work with correspondence tables from your resource books, matching your intention with the best selections. As you work, look back at your written statement of intention, to make sure you stay on track.
- Step Six: Write Your Spell!
With intention decided and components listed, you're ready to write the spell itself. The words of your spell can vary from conversational and unstructured to tightly rhymed, metered poetry. Conversational language may be best for simple, uncomplicated intentions, but many charms, spells, and rituals use poetic language. Rhyming language has its own rhythm, and when spoken aloud suggests a drumbeat that adds cadence to the words' impact. Poetry also tends to use lots of imagery and metaphor, creating "beautiful words" that enhance the overall effect.
Whether using plain or poetic structures, you must start by getting the words down on paper. Don't worry about your first draft being perfect: just let your brain dump all of its ideas onto the page. Once the raw material is there, you can start to fiddle with it. With the basic ideas in place, add image-rich words, using a dictionary or thesaurus to find fresh choices. Read the words aloud to hear, literally, the sound and rhythm they make. Make notes to indicate where actions or pauses should occur. You may want to write the actions right into the spell, e.g., "Light incense now."
- Step Seven: Work the Spell
For less formal spell work, once the words are captured on paper, you're ready to assemble your materials and work the spell. For a formal ritual, or a setting involving a significant event or additional persons, you may want to rehearse the steps once or twice. Consider memorizing the words, too. Memorization is never required; however when you memorize words, you internalize them, allowing them to enter your unconscious and take on extra power. In addition, not having to read from a piece of paper frees you to watch and be part of the entire process, adding to your own enjoyment.
- Step Eight: Evaluate
After working the spell comes a very important step: the evaluation process. Sit down as soon as you can and take notes about how well the process worked. Did everything go as planned? If you repeated the spell, would you change anything? After finishing your notes, file them away for future use. Some magickal traditions warn against talking about spellwork until a specific period of time has passed, feeling that to speak of the magick is to release some of its contained power. Observe these traditions as required by your own practices, but be sure to do your own written evaluation—for your eyes only. Come back to it again after time has passed, adding a note about how well the spell worked over weeks or months.
As with any spellwork, remove all traces of the process when your working is complete. Dispose of materials (herbs, candles, etc.) using the appropriate elemental means: burning, burying in the earth, dissolving in water, etc. Clean and store your magickal and writing tools, replacing any used items. I like to charge my favorite pens regularly: by anointing them with water, rubbing them with a stone, and passing them above a candle's flame and smoke, I imbue them with elemental powers.
And now, I offer you congratulations: you've written your own spell, and chances are it was a fabulous experience. Keep it up, for the more writing you do, the easier (and more fun) it will become. Inspire your inner writer by donning magickal jewelry or regalia, playing evocative music (Native American flute music is excellent), writing at daybreak or sunset, surrounding yourself with color or scent, or working by candle or firelight.
From my book Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink, here is a writer's talisman to help empower you. Begin with a six-inch square of white fabric (representing the four elements). Add one or two pieces of citrine (creativity) or hematite (grounding), a sprig of rosemary (mental powers), and some fresh shavings from a favorite pencil. Add a small piece of paper on which you've drawn several stars (creation, pentagrams) with a silver or gold pen. Read the following:
Gathered here, within this square,
Signs of creative power.
Embolden thus my magick craft,
That I may write the hours.
Tie the fabric square shut with a piece of green thread (creativity, abundance) and place it where you do most of your writing. When you sit down to write, hold the talisman in your hand for a moment and visualize the energy pouring from it, ready to inspire you. Always remember that writing is powerful magick, so choose and use your words well.
Good writing to you!