Quit Writing Your Own Spells!

Author: Quill ofQuillsOccultSupply / Labels: , , ,

What I'm about to say is probably the most inflammatory statement this blog has yet seen, but it is all completely true.  I have experienced it over the course of my 17 years as a witch and am prepared to back it up with historical information.

There is a theory rather new to the magical community which states that only newly-minted spells should ever be cast.  Proponents of this idea write fresh material for every situation, and suggest that all others do the same.  What follows is an argument on why this is nonsense.  As a theory it has no grounding and in practice it makes magic worse.

The Theory

1.  No historical basis
To begin, this is a modern theory.  You will not find Agrippa discussing it.  In fact, you will see just the opposite--traditional works are great champions of the magic worker being a hard worker.  Reading, researching, calculating, divining, channeling...all in the name of a better cast spell.  Nowhere do they mention basing magic on one's intuition or a list of correspondences.  This was time-tested information and created to be used time and time again with reliable results.

2. Makes no logical sense with other standard magical practices
Which makes one ask, "Just why would generations of magic workers bother with carefully writing books, creating charts, and calculating formulas for precise spellwork if any old spell you can write in 5 minutes would do the trick?"  That is the question.

Alongside this is the normal expectation of keeping a Book of Shadows or Grimoire.  These books are a sort of magical diary for many, but their primary function is as a register of all the spells a witch has cast and their outcomes.  Why would anyone today even keep a book like this if it were meaningless to reuse a spell?  And who would ever pass on a book to another witch when such works would be worth even less to another?

3.  It sounds like a ploy 
Whether or not those working under this assumption are actually trying to deceive others (and I can easily believe that they are not.  Many of those I've heard it from are innocently passing along what they have heard, but about which they have no direct knowledge), a statement like this smacks of a desire to make oneself distinct from the crowd.  It happens a lot in conjunction with phrases like, "Real witches know the truth..." and "You don't really have to do suchandsuch; that's for newbies."  These are easy to pass around, sound smart when saying, and gain some easy street-cred by bestowing on others.  Knowledge and the illusion of knowledge are not, for casual purposes, so different.

The magical community is run on knowledge--gaining it, hoarding it, sharing it, selling it, even stealing it.  Whatever it takes, we love being "in the know."  There are quite a few concepts floating around us that make us sound like we have access to some secret information that not everyone is privy to, and their infectious nature is so thrilling that they are rarely questioned.  This is one of them.

Never have I heard a proponent of the "new spell theory" share just where they learned it, or--more meaningful to a practitioner--personal stories where it proved true.  I would be willing to accept the concept's validity if I was told something like, "I spent two weeks casting pre-written spells and nothing happened.  Then I wrote my own and in 30 minutes---presto!"  You would think this kind of statement would happen a lot, but it doesn't.  And that's a shame because from that alone I could understand why one would choose to believe and share this "rule."  With neither personal gnosis nor tradition to back them up, I just can't find any reasons to accept it.

4.  Its reasoning seems to come and go
So are we all to write brand new spells because 1) they're stronger, 2) they work better, or 3) using pre-written spells is just taking the easy way out?  I've heard all these answers and a few more.  Which is it?  Can they all exist at the same time or is one the truth?  In light of the fact that none of the folks I have personally heard this from have any experiences from which to draw to support the claim itself, I can't imagine that these statements are any more compelling.

Besides, what is "stronger" when it comes to magic?  What is "better"?  I've cast some spells that didn't astound the world but I can't say it was because I used a spell with an expiration date.  Sometimes the timing is off, you're tired or distracted.  Maybe you're so deep in the desperation of your problems that you can't focus on eradicating them.  Or maybe you're having a bad day, you're experiencing a slump, or otherwise off you're game.  These things happen and they can crop up for a variety of reasons or no reason at all.  There just isn't one easy way to make sure every spell goes perfectly every time.

The other reasoning I've heard is even more confusing to me: Every spell we cast must have our personal stamp so if you must cast a pre-written spell, change something--anything--to make it your own.  Why?  First, what reason is there to need every spell to be made your own?  Do you alter every recipe in a cookbook or switch around the seams and darts in a dress pattern?  Any time you cast a spell, bake a cake, or sew a shirt, you have made it yourself and you have put your own energy into it regardless of whether you followed the instructions to the smallest detail or not.  There is no further tweeking necessary to identify it as your work.  And second, if the goal is not to change for the better but simply change something, you will nearly guarantee a poor outcome.  It's impossible to receive reliable results from arbitrary changes, magical or no.

The Practice

1.  Writing is time consuming 
In practice I find this idea cumbersome.  I cast quite a few spells, big and small, on a regular basis.  Most often I work the little stuff several times a day: speaking charms and using formulas to stay safe, get my way, and smooth the rough edge of an average day.  I can't imagine using a different charm on Tuesday from the one on Monday.  And the spells I cast that are more substantial--require tools or a list of components--are often put together with very little warning.  I need something, go to my workroom, scan the bookshelves for the spellbook I need, and flip to the right page so I can begin working.  If I had to sit down and write a new spell I doubt I could manage it that fast.  And if I did, of what quality would it be?  Which leads me to my next point...

2.  New spells are often poorly written
Now this isn't a judgement on your writing skills or my own, but it is often seen that a writer who is crunched for time can't put out their best work.  This is especially true when the piece has as many specifics as a spell carries--a solid rhyme scheme, meaningful words without ambiguity, positive phrasing, and a memorable rhythm.  I might be able to come up with parts of a spell rather quickly, the components that would work for my cause and how I can use them, but any spoken/written parts take a considerable amount of time to form. And so they should.  Why is a quickly jotted spell better than one which took shape over the course of days or weeks?  Why would a poet's delicate phrasing be dumped in favor of whatever 4-line ditty I thought up on the spot?

When I see the quality of the free spells available online I'm reminded of this fact.  With little to no research, herbs, stones, colors, and even deities are plucked nearly at random and briskly stirred together with a glitter covered wand.  That doesn't represent what I think of as magic.  It almost makes the rampant plagiarism found online preferable (almost).  You can usually recognize them by how carefully they are constructed.

3.  It works in favor of those who spurn any kind of investment
The magical community is known for its difficult attitudes towards money.  Some shun the very thought of connecting any payment with magical work, others are open to reimbursement only for the cost of materials. We love books but the online community is rife with stolen material because we don't want to pay for them. We want more classes, more teachers, more workshops, more public events, but we don't much care for compensation.  Professional spellcasters and tarot readers are regularly called shysters by our own kind purely on the basis of their fees. Providing value is a hard road to walk when you're constantly told never to expect any in return.

Because of all this, it's easy to see concepts creep into conversations which support getting something for nothing.  "Free magic spells" are some of the most searched keywords for witchcraft.  To think that this, shall we say thriftiness, could be a virtue would put a lot of minds at ease.  And what could be more thrifty than writing your own spells and having them only call for items you already own?  I totally get that.  But I don't at all condone it as some sort of rule or witches' "secret."

Magic is meant to be an investment.  You put your focus and your energy into this time, this object, these words, this movement.  And what you get out of it is the return on your investment--an amplification of the energy you put in.  Magic doesn't have to cost a lot of money but a little outlay does quite a bit to enhance its effects.  Get the real silk ribbon, the beeswax candles, the good ink on parchment, and your spell will reflect that effort.  Leave the dime store stuff behind; use a bit of finery instead of a truckload of garbage.  And the same goes for written spells--find an author whose words work for you and cast away.  Check out the old grimoires (most of which are in the public domain and are truly free online) and see how the greats did it.  If you wish to write your own work, have at it.  But please don't feel like there is no other way.  To do so is to be willingly blind to treasure.  

4.  This idea can easily inspire less casting
I honestly don't know how a witch who follows this idea can get anything done.  The research alone would cost me more time than the actual casting of a spell.  And couple that with the fact that one can never revisit old works, no matter how effectual they were, and you'll never save time again.

You know, that may be my biggest issue with the whole thing.  I like to re-cast spells.  I like going through my old BoS and seeing something I did 10 years ago and casting it again for a new situation.  I like knowing that the spells I'm working today have been worked by countless other practitioners in other times, in other countries, for other problems I couldn't possibly imagine. But always there is a link between us, a thread that holds us together even though we've never met.  It's human desire, love, dreams, hope for better things, and a trust that life itself is not cruel but can be reasoned with.  I like being part of that chain and knowing that the work I do today will continue on with my children and students, moving onward into an unseen future.  I want to remain a part of that chain, so I will continue to use the old spells and any new spells I create will be carefully crafted to last for another lifetime.

Whether you decide to write your own spells or use the tested materials of others, I hope only that you do so with awareness.  If you follow the "new spell theory," take some time to test it.  Take notes, record your work with both types of spells (or have yourself and a friend cast different spells for the same purpose in your respective lives, and share the outcomes), and see how their fare.  Share spells with coven mates and friends, compare ideas, and work to improve your success rate in whatever way works for you.  But please don't turn away from generations of written spells.  Don't toss your BoS and believe that no one will ever want or need to read it.  You are a part of that living chain, the same as I am, and what moves with it can only build in power.  

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About Me

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My name is Quill and I've been practicing witchcraft for the past 17 years. 10 of those years I've been reading tarot and teaching.  I own a shop on Etsy called Quill's Occult Supply (check it out at QuillsOccultSupply.Etsy.com) full of handmade ritual and decorative items, spell components, and wild picked herbs.

I love to work with my hands.  Magic is a tool to shape our lives, and I'm using magic to shape tools to shape magic.  Cosmic! 

I use a lot of my favorite things in my shop: herbs, candles, wood, fabric, paint, clay.  And I get to carve, burn, grind, mold, think, dream ... I'm in the perfect business!

I've written 3 manuscripts for publication (2 non-fiction and 1 fiction) and am an avid NaNo-er!  I and my husband run a local coven called Orbis Prosapia, and our children are growing up surrounded by magic, mythology, fairy tales, Earth worship, art, open discussion, music, and humor. 

In addition to working on Ex Penna about my experiences as a professional witch, I also write for Scenes from the Circle about being a coven leader. 

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