The Magic of Charms

Author: Quill ofQuillsOccultSupply / Labels: ,

Normally I do a really long post of the magic of this or that, but this time--as is fitting for the subject--we're going to keep it short.

And that's the glorious thing about magical charms: they are short and memorable.  This means that you can use them when your hands are empty (having no tools or components), your hands are full (being overly busy or physically encumbered), or you're in the midst of a disaster so large that you're in danger of forgetting your own name let alone complex spells.  Grab that charm and go!

Now, before I hear any business out of you folks, let me make one thing perfectly clear: charms are spoken spells.  I am usually a lenient person, open to the various strange concepts that magical minds are capable of creating, and I don't offer much inspection or judgement.  But on this point I will be totally and completely unyielding.  Enchanted objects are not charms.  Spells are not charms.  Potions are not charms.  Talismans are not charms.

So now that that's out of the way, we can get to the goods.

The big deal about the spoken spell is in how it works.  Like a regular spell where you put together associations and objects of correspondence to build a beautiful distraction for the mind wherein the caster creates a new vision of reality (that's pretty much my definition, if you're tired of using Crowley's), charms are built on rhythm, rhyme, and poetic phrasing.  Yep, I'm asking a helluva lot out of a writer and I totally mean it.  Here's a basic guideline for great charms, whether researched from books, found online, or self-written:

They Choose Words Carefully
Because they are so short, they'll have to be pretty much perfect.  Be exceedingly careful of the words you use.  A halfway decent rhyme is better than a great one that is awkward.  And by awkward I'm talking about those phrases everyone has seen online: too many thee's and thou's for the author to handle, large words they're not entirely familiar with, and sentences so desperate to add the right rhyme (or, Gods help you, the ever popular last line of "so mote it be" that means you now only have three lines in which to state your case) that the arrangement makes no sense.

Besides being pleasing to the ear, good phrases are important because they're creating what you're saying. Don't make it labored or unclear.

They Have the Right Sound
The best charms are those that are fun to say.  They should have a plucky sound that feels exciting or comforting, depending upon the situation.  An exciting lyric stirs up something inside the caster; you can feel the change coming and you want to take any action that will hasten it along.  These are the energetic, focusing, get-things-done type of charms.  You can change a person's mind, get people out of your way, draw luck and attention, and make good things happen to you.  A comforting charm is one that helps you through the tough times, hugs you like a child, and says everything's going to be okay.  These are the relaxing, reassuring, and protecting charms.  You can fall into a sound sleep, heal injuries, soothe angry people or animals, and keep away danger.

They are Completely Distinct from Prayers and Words of Power
Even if your "word of power" is a phrase, it is still not a charm; it is its own distinct form of magic.  And invocations and other prayers to Gods and Goddesses are not charms, either, because they petition the power of something higher than yourself.  Chanting can be considered apart from charms because they work due to their repetition putting the caster into a trace state; charms are generally spoken once or twice only and no trance is induced.  It may seem arbitrary to categorize each of these but it is important for ensuring the use of the right magic for the right situation.  There will be times where you only need a word or two to enhance the force of an action (the legendary "magic word") and then there will be times where you need the assistance of powerful deities.  But if you're creating change that would go against the desires of a deity, don't bother to ask--get a charm and make it work under your own steam.

They are Short!
It may be obvious to most but keeping things concise is really important.  Four lines is pretty much the maximum you want to work with for a charm, unless you're going for something huge in which case you can go all out and make an entire ritual out of your words.  I've done so for stopping a destructive storm, helping a mother during labor, and dealing out one helluva curse.

Don't feel limited to just saying the obvious in your charms, either.  Whatever you can add that creates the right image or feeling will help considerably.  Toss in some imagery, set the scene, and turn a straightforward charm into something amazing.

Besides all this, the main reason to keep things short and rhyming is the same thing we've been taught since the beginning: these tricks are how our ancestors remembered them in the days before widespread literacy. If you don't want to have to run to your book every time you get in a sticky situation, you'd better make it stick in your brain first.  

So there you have a notably brief post exploring the best of spoken magic.  Today, try your hand at writing a charm or take a look at those written by others--especially the classics--to see how they did it.  Think on your favorite charms or the spoken parts of spells by your favorite authors.  Do my rules hold up?  Can you add any others?  Feel free to share your thoughts, additions, and/or best loved charms in the comments section.

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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 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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