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When we do the same sorts of magickal spells again and again, in the same style and with the same techniques we always use, it's easy to fall into a comfortable groove and stay there, no longer progressing, no longer moving forward along the magickal path. If you want to avoid this trap and guarantee that your magickal journey stays fresh and exciting, seeking out new ideas and new challenges is imperative. Luckily, there's a whole world of magick out there with which to fuel the fire. People around the globe practice magick, and it's been that way for thousands of years. By incorporating into your own practice some of the time-honored magickal techniques and traditions from the world's diverse cultures, you're able to tap in to a wealth of built-up power and potential that can be used to expand your practice while enriching your rituals and making your spellwork more effective. Knowing how to mesh the old with the new can be tricky, though, and mixing elements from different cultures can be contradictory and a bit diluted if you're not sure what you're doing or why you're doing it. I wrote A Witch's World of Magick: Expanding your Practice with Techniques and Traditions from Diverse Cultures to provide eclectic practitioners with information and ideas that make it possible, easy, and effective to incorporate magickal methods from around the world into a unique, individualized modern practice.
One idea I share in the book is to look to the principles and theories underlying various magickal techniques. In doing so, common themes and similar elements become apparent, which enables the spellcaster to better understand the requirements for each magickal operation, exactly what is going on behind the scenes that actually causes the spell to work. By comparing and contrasting different magickal methods for achieving similar goals, and examining how similar magickal techniques have been applied towards achieving different goals, you can get down to the heart of the magick, discerning through your own powers of reasoning and observation the "active ingredients" in a wide variety of spellcasting procedures around the world. This gives the practitioner a firm foundation for building their own effective magickal operations from the ground up. If you know what's required for various types of magick, and you know a ton of different ways to go about carrying out those requirements, you'll always have options for powerful spellcasting no matter what the need, where you are, or what, if anything, you happen to have on hand. In result, your practice will likely be more varied, more versatile, and more effective.
Consider, for example, that you have a desire to cast a love spell to attract more romance to your life. You might, like magick workers in Malay, use a lime to symbolize the desired lover's heart. The lime is hung up with seven different colors of thread, then pierced through with seven midribs from a coconut palm that have been anointed with jasmine oil. The process is repeated for three nights in a row beginning on a Monday, then a break on Thursday before one final round of the spellworking on Friday. You might, like the ancient Greeks, craft a clay figure to symbolize the desired lover, piercing the figure with thirteen copper needles as intentions are stated. You might not have any clay or limes or coconut palms or copper needles, but you still want to place your bet on a traditional, tried-and-true practice. By being familiar with different methods, we can discern the core elements that make various magickal operations work, then find our own best ways of carrying those out. In this example, for instance, we might observe that both the Malay formula and the Greek formula involve an object to symbolize the desired lover, or the heart of the lover, and that both methods also incorporate an act of puncturing—the Malay puncture the lime-made-lover's heart with jasmine-anointed coconut midribs, the coconut and jasmine both associated with love, while the Greeks puncture their mock clay lover with copper needles, the copper being associated with Aphrodite, a goddess of love. You might not have the same materials available, but you can work a contemporary, customized, and equally effective spell using the same time-honored magickal principles observable in both of the above methods.
You might, for instance, use shards from a cinnamon stick in place of the coconut midribs or the copper needles, as cinnamon is associated with love and passion and will thus serve the same function in the spell. You might likewise use an apple or even a doll to represent the lover you desire; as long as you can envision the object you choose as a symbol of either a person or the human heart, it will work just the same as the Malay's lime or the Greek's clay figure. In the traditional Malay and Greek methods, the object used is named for a specific individual, representing the heart or whole body of a particular person. This doesn't jive with the magickal ethics of many modern witches, but it's easy to adapt the formula to suit personal beliefs. For instance, instead of using the object you choose to represent a specific individual, you might choose to alter the method by using the object as a symbol of an unknown and unnamed lover to be. The final necessary element of the spell is intention. In both the Greek and Malay formulas, the spellcaster must either state out loud or envision their intentions, imagining that the clay or lime is the living person, and that in puncturing the object, so too is the living person pierced and inflicted with the arrows of love. Intentions can be expressed in a multitude of ways; as long as you get your message across to the magickal Universe, it doesn't really matter what exact words you use or what exact visualizations you utilize.
Similar formulas for love magick are found elsewhere, too, and very different formulas for love magick that operate on entirely different principles also abound. There is great variety in the magickal arts, but within that variety lie many commonalities. These commonalities are not limited to love spells, of course, but can be found in everything from binding magick to potion making to curse-breaking formulas, all of which are discussed in A Witch's World of Magick. It's useful to examine magick from many angles, looking at how similar formulas are used towards similar ends, comparing different methods for achieving similar ends, and also seeing how similar magickal techniques have been applied towards achieving very different ends. Even though our outward methods differ, the heart of the magick beats the same all around the world, and by studying a wide variety of traditional magickal methods, you really begin to see and feel the rhythm of that heartbeat, making it easy to expand and enrich your practice with new, yet sound and effective, tools and techniques.
You can find more ways to utilize tried-and-true magick from around the world in A Witch's World of Magick: Expanding your Practice with Techniques and Traditions from Diverse Cultures.
Melanie Marquis is the founder of the United Witches global coven and the organizer of Denver Pagans. She has written for Circle, Pentacle, and the American Tarot Association. Melanie's books include Llewellyn's Little Book ...