Elements of Magic Spells
Spell-casting Using the Power of Animals
Spells are cast using the power of animal allies and familiars. Animal allies, familiars and the magic power inherent in specific animal species can help you achieve your spell’s goals. (Specific information regarding animal allies and familiars is found within Animal Spells, starting on page 105.)
Notice that the above sentence reads “power of animals” not “parts of animals.” If this book included spells utilizing anatomical parts of animals, it could easily have been called The Encyclopedia of 10,000 Spells. It’s not necessary to point any fingers; more cultures than not have engaged in this practice. It’s not necessary to discuss whether those spells ever worked or not, either. If they did work, would that make them acceptable today? That discussion veers dangerously close to the opinion frequently expressed about how tragic it is that tigers may soon be extinct in the wild because poachers kill them for medicines and aphrodisiacs that don’t work. If the medicines did work, would the situation be any less tragic? Whether those old spells ever worked or not, we now live in an era where the balance of nature is terribly tipped. Those spells are no longer viable. Because spells that rely on any part of an animal, physical or otherwise, are ultimately dependent upon the goodwill of its presiding Animal Spirit, those old anatomy-dependant spells will no longer work for us and may even backfire on the spell-caster. Magic is a living, evolutionary art, not a static situation; what worked once must be adapted to present needs.
Whether those old practices (rabbits’ feet for money spells, badgers’ feet for childbirth spells) were ever as prevalent as some would have us believe is subject to debate. The most sensational, lurid aspects of magic are inevitably emphasized by outsiders and story-tellers. The only thing many know about the vast, sophisticated magical system Hoodoo, for instance, is the infamous black cat bone. Spells using parts of animals are also taken out of context. Once upon a time, people were responsible for killing their own food. Nothing was wasted. What wasn’t eaten was utilized for other purposes, including magic. Out of context, a spell can sound terribly cruel. Thus, a Romany amulet called “eyes of the crayfish” implies that only the eyes are used, having been plucked out of the poor creature. In reality, “eyes of the crayfish” refers to scrapings from inside the shell, the crayfish itself having been served for dinner.
If you perceive power in this type of spell, however, they can be modernized, adapted, and improved. Candles, charms, and images, for instance, allow us to access the inherent energy of a specific animal species in a manner that retains magic power and is safe for both animal and practitioner. For example, hummingbirds are a frequent component of Central American love spells; a copper or gemstone hummingbird charm allows you to synchronize the inherent animal energy with a compatible material for enhanced spell-casting. For maximum effect, consecrate the charm to the animal spirit, which you would be unable to do if you were using actual body parts obtained through the animal’s suffering.
This should not be considered mere New Age fluffy-bunny adaptation. Since ancient days animal image magic has been among the most powerful. What was the Biblical golden calf after all but a magic image? A living calf would have been far less trouble. It was the specific juncture of animal magical symbolism with metal’s inherent magical energy, guided by human fear and desire that accurately and potently manipulated and directed magic power.
Animal sacrifice has no place in magic; it is religious ritual entirely and completely, without overlap. All religious traditions at one time or another conducted animal sacrifice, some just further back than others. Some continue these traditions while others do not. What is certain is that no religious tradition permits laypeople to conduct these sacrifices. Permission is granted only after strict training and initiation. Where magic approaches the border of religion, symbols are used rather than actual animals. Burn a dove-shaped candle to petition Aphrodite during a love spell or offer her the gift of a figurine, rather than killing her sacred bird. Again, this is not fluffy-bunny magic but ancient tradition. How can you reconcile the idea of a deity who accepts sacrificial offerings of a beloved, sacred creature in one context, but who angrily punishes anyone who harms a hair on the head of that creature in another? Over two thousand years ago, Hecate accepted sacrifices of dogs in her official temples, killed only by official priestesses in the context of very specific ritual. Even back then, individuals who preferred to make independent, private offerings, or who could not afford to pay the temple the cost of a dog, successfully offered tiny stone dog fetishes to Hecate instead.
There are magic spells contained in this book that require the participation of animals. It’s assumed that they’ll be treated with the respect one would pay human or spirit partners. It is also assumed that at the conclusion of the spell, the animal will be in as good a condition, if not better, as it was at the spell’s beginning.
Several spells require cuts of meat similar to those you might eat for dinner, assuming you are not a vegetarian. Meat for these spells should be purchased in the same manner that you would normally obtain meat for a meal. There are many spells that require eggs, honey, and milk. Vegans may choose not to perform these ones, and there are many more spells in the book that do not use animal products. Magic spells are not divorced from real life. If something offends you in any another context, then it’s likely to be inappropriate for you magically as well.
Manipulation of fragrance is an extremely important component of magic spells. As most fragrances derive from botanicals, the topic will be discussed in greater detail in that section. However, certain very famous fragrances have traditionally derived from animal sources, most notably civet, musk, ambergris, and castoreum. Castoreum, derived from beavers, is today only available in synthetic versions. One spell featuring one drop of civet is included in this book (it is the only ingredient in this sex-magic spell) because, in theory at least, the fragrance may be obtained without unduly harming the animal, and arguments have been made that this may be the only way to guarantee the seriously endangered civet’s survival. I can’t honestly say that I’m entirely convinced. You, too, may wish to engage in further research.
Frankly, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to purchase anything other than synthetic versions of these fragrances, the authentic article being rare and prohibitively expensive. Because they have always been rare and prohibitively expensive—and synthetics are a recent invention—historic botanical substitutes have always existed, and those substitutes are used within the spells of this book:
For Musk, extracted from the musk deer: Ambrette (Abelmoschus moschatus), a shrub native to India, also known as musk mallow and treasured for its scented seed
For Ambergris, derived from sperm whales: Labdanum, a resin excreted from the leaves of the rock-rose (Cistus creticus, Cistus ladanifer). Allegedly labdanum from Crete has the closest resemblance to ambergris, although it is also obtained from French, Moroccan, and Spanish sources
Whether the tendency to utilize animal body parts was ever as prevalent as some believe is debatable. Certainly, grimoires are filled with spells specifically requesting assorted species’ feet and hearts and eyes. Many classic grimoires are based largely on various fragments of ancient spell-books that were in circulation throughout Europe, Arabia and North Africa before the development of modern printing. Many of these spells derive from turn-of-the-Common-Era Alexandria. Professional magicians of that time, attempting to keep spells secret yet needing to write them down so that they themselves would remember complex formulas, created an elaborate code, so elaborate that someone had to write it down in order to use it. That list was discovered and translated amid the Magical Papyri (see page 11).
Does a spell call for the heart of a hawk? No need to catch that bird, so sacred to indigenous Egyptian religion—what the spell is really asking for is heart of wormwood
Do you hesitate to cast a spell requiring lion’s tongue? No need, all that that spell really requires is a “tongue” of turnip
Wondering how in the world you’ll ever extract Hercules’ semen? Not a problem; just go out to the garden and pick some arugula
Not every animal reference encoded in the Magical Papyri is a botanical, although (as with magic in general), plants do predominate. The spell that demands a physician’s bone neither commands you to commit murder or to dig around in the cemetery: a piece of sandstone is what’s really being requested.
Many, if not all, of these animal references may originally have referred to botanicals and minerals. Of course, by the time the descendant of a single fragment of papyrus reached Europe, hundreds of years later, copied and re-copied over and over by hand, lacking the accompanying code, and some magician desperate to access the forbidden secret magic of Egypt got his hands on a spell…
The spells recorded in the Magical Papyri are fairly mean-spirited in general, full of commanding and compelling. Were the magicians irresponsible, not caring if others misinterpreted their instructions, or was this just an example of professional secret code, full of in-jokes and personal references, similar to the secret languages (sim) still employed by some modern Egyptian entertainers? Across oceans, continents and time, some modern Amazonian shamans also share a secret shamans’ language—a professional language only understood by other professionals—in order to protect their information from those who don’t know how to use it properly.
Is this what those old Alexandrian magicians intended? We may never know. The moral of the story, however, is never cast spells that aren’t comfortable for you. It is not uncommon for botanical and other materials to be named for animals, nor is the practice relegated to ancient history. Many spells in this book, for instance, call for deer’s tongue. I assure you, no deer need be harmed. Deer’s tongue is a type of grass, reputed to provide eloquence: the name is a pun on the plant’s appearance and its ability.
Swallow’s blood is a red powder that allegedly transmits the magical power of that long-migrating bird; no blood of any kind is required. Dragon’s blood, an extremely potent magical material, surely ranks among the Top 20 most popular spell-casting ingredients. No need to emulate Saint George, dragon’s blood is the resin from Dracaena draco, an Indonesian tree. Unlike most resins it’s red, hence the name. If you burn it, it does indeed bear a resemblance to blood. (There is also another dragon’s blood, used in Peruvian magic. This one, too, is a botanical substance, although completely distinct from the Indonesian resin.)
Spell-casting Using the Power of Botanicals
Botanical just means plant, however because of the vast variety of forms used (some no longer remotely “plant-like”) any type of plant-derived power, in its original form or otherwise, is categorized as a botanical. Botanicals, as a category, are probably the most common ingredients in spell-casting. Many people will never cast a candle spell, never work with crystals or wands or magic mirrors, but it’s virtually impossible to engage in magic without relying on botanical power to a greater or lesser extent. Plants are ubiquitous in magic. Their power is accessed via many forms, which lend themselves to various styles of spell-casting, so that botanicals are incorporated into virtually every style of spell.
Casting Magic Spells in Partnership with Your Living Plant Allies
Fairy-tale witches reside in huts, cottages or castles surrounded by magically empowered gardens. When Prince Charming seeks Sleeping Beauty in her enchanted castle, the surrounding garden, full of thickets and thorns, actively reaches out to prevent him. Although one must never rely on one’s Protection Spell Garden to play the role of armed-response guard, there is a metaphoric truth hidden in this story.
Gardens can be both products of enchantment and independent producers of enchantment; they are a living, on-going magic spell. Gardens may be arranged in any variety of ways—color-coordinated, whatever was on sale at the nursery, even completely haphazardly. If you select, coordinate and arrange plants according to the magic powers they radiate, then planting a garden becomes one style of casting a spell. Thus your desire to draw wealth, protection or fertility to one’s home is manifested by carefully arranging the appropriate plants, and vigilantly removing those possessing opposing, contradictory powers.
This obviously is a long-term extended magic spell, rather than the type of quick-fix luck spell you might choose for a spontaneous trip to a casino. How will you benefit from this type of garden spell?
The actual spell-casting, and then time spent among the botanicals and their radiant energy creates the desired adjustment on your own energy
The radiant energy of the coordinated garden draws and/or repels the targeted goal to you and to your home in a more powerful manner than one botanical or amulet could achieve alone
This spell is a symbiotic, reciprocal process, which ultimately strengthens all living participants for their mutual benefit. The garden will additionally attract complementary animal and spirit allies who will also contribute to the success of your spell
This type of magic spell is not limited to those with access to personal property or sunny weather. Magic spell gardens may be created indoors in pots. Furthermore, an entire garden need not be created; one or two individual plants may be grown as part of a magic spell or to further other magic spells.
There are several very good reasons to maintain living plants:
If you are pursuing a spiritual or magical alliance with a specific plant, this is best accomplished with a living plant, redolent with power and consciousness, rather than processed, dried plants that retain power but lack conscious intelligence
You can grow plants necessary for magic spells and/or physical healing. As you nurture the plant, communicate with it share your fears and desires, let the plant know what you want from it. These plants will potentially provide more power for you than any others. They become your partners in healing and magic. It is a symbiotic relationship: they care for you as you care for them
In many cases if you want to work with a plant, you’ll have to grow it. That’s the only way it is guaranteed to be available. The plant realm is as ecologically devastated, if not more so, than the animal kingdom. Many plants are extinct or seriously endangered. The only way to work with some magical plants (Solomon’s Seal or Low John the Conqueror, for instance), the only way to incorporate them into any spell, is to grow and nurture them. It is the only way their power will be available to you
Because there have always been economic, space and climatic reasons why working with living plants is impractical, and because different parts of a plant (roots, leaves, flowers) manifest different magic power and energy and thus are used independently in different spells, various methods of processing plants have evolved over millennia. These include: dried botanicals including incense, flower essence remedies, hydrosols and oils, including fixed, essential, and fragrance oils.
In order to maximize botanicals’ magic potential, magic rituals and spells are incorporated into their harvesting.
Because plants are alive, removing them from Earth is a risky operation. One has the option of increasing and enhancing their inherent power, or of offending Earth and the presiding Plant Spirits. Once upon a time, all harvesting, for magical or other purposes, was accompanied by spells, rituals and propitiation of various Earthly and Spirit forces. Unless you purchase your botanicals from magically oriented vendors, one can safely assume that modern harvesting is accompanied by no such rituals or spells.
If you practice extensive botanical spell-casting you may wish to incorporate similar gestures in other ways, to enhance your spells and to provide spiritual protection for oneself. If however, one grows and harvests one’s own botanicals, ancient spells and rituals may be borrowed or adapted.
Because they’re alive, have power and must be treated with respect, it’s not appropriate to just go out and grab a handful of plant. Botanical materials are safely harvested through magic ritual. Essentially you cast a spell in order to gain materials to cast more spells. The plant (or its presiding spirit or Earth herself, however you best understand this) must be addressed. The purpose for gathering should be explained. Because of the principle of reciprocity, gifts are exchanged.
Many people exhibit a dangerous tendency to assume that if a plant is used for magical reasons, particularly benevolent ones, it does not also create a physical impact. This is not true, and this assumption can lead to disaster.
Botanicals arc an holistic power: they affect us simultaneously on spiritual, emotional. magical and physical levels. It is possible to cast word charms, image magic or play with candles and crystals without profound physical effect. This is not so with plants. Plants are the basis of medical knowledge, and even magical plants have a physical effect.
Because something has power, doesn’t mean it is always the right power for you. For instance, many magic spell sites on the Internet offer directions for protective spell baths featuring the herb rue with nary a health warning, despite the fact that it has abortifacient properties and the British master herbalist Nicholas Culpeper said that he couldn’t recommend that a pregnant woman even walk through a room containing rue. let alone handle or bathe with it.
Be careful. It you have anything that could be perceived as a physical vulnerability. it is your responsibility to verify whether any botanical may aggravate your condition. If you are pregnant, attempting to become pregnant or nursing a child, the potential safety of all botanicals must be determined. This is not obscure information. Many excellent literary sources on herbs and botanicals exist. Knowledgeable, professional herbalists, physicians and medical providers can provide you with information as well. This docs not only apply to traditional modes of internal application such as consuming botanicals, but also inhaling fumes or topical application such as bathing, or even perhaps intensive, concentrated handling, depending on the potency of the plant.
Magic is always intended to improve one’s life; injuring one’s health in the process of casting a spell defeats that purpose. Incorporate your personal needs into choosing the best spells for you.
Libations of water are always appropriate, however different traditions favor different gifts. Native Americans offered pinches of tobacco; Anglo-Saxons once offered oatmeal. The ancient Romans offered bread and wine. Honey, wine, and menstrual blood are popular offerings. Fragrant incense may be burned in the vicinity as a gift.
Magic spells are always as simple or as complex as the practitioner wishes. An involved, formal harvesting spell follows; follow it precisely, if it suits you, or consider how best to adapt for your own personal needs.
Alexandrian Harvest Spell
An elaborate plant-gathering ritual was recorded in Alexandria, Egypt during the first centuries of the Common Era.
The harvester first performs personal cleansing spells, while simultaneously purifying his or her body, which at that time meant refraining from sexual relations and eating meat, usually for a period of several days.
Sprinkle natron (the natural salt used in the mummification process) over the area being harvested. (Baking soda is a close, modern substitute; Dead Sea salt may also be appropriate.)
Place pine resin in a censer and use it to fumigate the area around the chosen plant, circling it three times.
Burn kyphi and pour a libation of milk, while engaged in simultaneous prayer and petition.
Finally pull up the plant, simultaneously invoking the name of the deity to whom the herb is dedicated, requesting assistance with the purpose of your spell.
The uprooted plant is rolled in a pure white linen cloth.
Blend seven wheat seeds and seven barley seeds in some honey. Insert this in the hole left by uprooting the plant and then fill it with dirt.
Sometimes distinct plants demand distinct rituals. Two spells follow, one from Wales, the other from ancient Greece, one for an extremely popular magic plant, the other for a more obscure one. Consider these spells, follow them precisely if you like or consider how best to adapt them for your own harvesting needs.
Virtually any list of Top 10 magical plants will include vervain. Legend says vervain sprang from Isis’ tears; the herb is believed to have a special fondness for humans and thus works extra hard to provide happiness and success for us. It is believed to have been one of the crucial ingredients of Cerridwen’s Cauldron (see page 6). The Druids insisted that vervain be harvested with an iron knife. An ancient Welsh formula stipulates how vervain must be gathered in order to guarantee its maximum magic power:
Welsh Vervain Harvest Spell
The plant must be harvested during the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, at an hour when both sun and moon are beneath the horizon.
Before uprooting the plant, offer a libation of honey.
You may only use your left hand during the entire operation, whether you are left or right handed: pull up the plant and wave it aloft.
Separate leaves, flowers and roots and dry them separately in the shade. (Each has its own magical uses.)
Ancient Greek Black Hellebore Harvest Spell
Although poisonous, black hellebore, the Christmas rose, is perceived to have magically protective powers.
Cast a magic circle around the intended plant, using a magic wand or knife. If you do not work with those ritual tools, consider a respectful way to demarcate the harvest space.
Request permission to gather the plant from Apollo and his son Asklepios, the plant’s presiding spirits.
Burn incense and make offerings to the spirits.
Offer a libation to the plant, and then gather it.
Casting Spells Using Dried Botanicals
The most prevalent ingredients of magic spells are processed botanicals, especially dried plants and oils. Drying plants preserves them for extended use, allowing you to work with plants out of season and those that cannot be grown in your personal region. Dried botanicals from all over the world, representing many magical traditions, may be purchased from herbal suppliers.
Dried botanicals are frequently sold already chopped up, cut or powdered. As this frequently needs to be done before spell-casting, purchasing botanicals in this form can be a real time and effort saver—with one caveat. Leaves and blossoms, even chopped, often remain easily distinguishable. Peppermint doesn’t smell like vervain or hibiscus, for instance. Roots, on the other hand, often the most magically potent part of a plant, once chopped or powdered, are fairly indistinguishable from each other. It is not uncommon for unethical or ignorant vendors to substitute one root for another. If you are looking for a distinct root, say High John the Conqueror, for whom this is a common problem, buy the whole root and grind and powder it yourself, even though this can be difficult. It is the only way to guarantee that you are receiving what you want, the only way to maintain control over what may be a pivotal ingredient. Familiarize yourself with botanicals. Know what they should look like and what they should smell like, and you will be less likely to be fooled.
If you grow plants or have access to fresh plants, it’s extremely easy—virtually child’s play—to dry them yourself.
Hang botanicals upside down in small bunches, so that they are not too crowded. Professional herb dryers, resembling horizontal ladders, can be used, or attach bunches to a wire hanger. Allow botanicals to hang in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight until dry.
Casting Spells by Burning Botanicals
Magic spells are cast by burning botanicals (incense), thus releasing their magic power into the atmosphere (fumigation).
One of the most ancient methods of casting spells is consciously, carefully and deliberately burning botanicals. This method incorporates all four primal elements into one spell. By applying the power of fire, botanical power (which has been nourished by Earth and by water), is transformed into smoke (air) and dispersed into the atmosphere to provide magical solutions and fulfill magical desires. If you burn incense on a metal pan or burner, then you incorporate what many consider to be the fifth element, metal, into your spell as well.
Modern incense frequently takes the form of sticks and cones, which require a little technical know-how. However, incense is an ancient, ancient art. If cave people had the technology to create fine, viable incense, of course you do, too. The original incense was loose dried botanical material, ground and powdered. Most magic spells assume incense will be in this form.
Mortars and pestles are ancient magical, medical and culinary tools. They may be used to break down and blend botanical material. Once upon a time, incense was created by repeated grinding with a mortar and pestle, and then sifting with a sieve (also an ancient magic tool). However, if you desire the fine powder that many spells specify, a coffee or spice grinder, particularly an old-fashioned manual one, can make life easier.
If you prefer stick incense, blanks may be purchased and doctored to your taste.
To Form an Incense Cone
Dissolve gum arabica in water, approximately one part powder to two parts water.
Allow the material to soak for approximately three hours.
In the meantime, pulverize the herbal material to be used until it is finely powdered (using mortar and pestle or other grinding tool).
Mix this powder into the liquid until it can be shaped into small cones.
Allow to dry completely in a warm area.
An infusion is the process by which one medium (or power) is encouraged to permeate another. The most common are botanicals infused in water or oil. The most famous infusion in the world is a cup of tea. If you make tea with loose leaves rather than a tea bag, you already know a lot about infusions. Infusions allow you to insert specific botanical power into potions, baths, floorwashes, and magical oils, among many other things.
The standard formula for a water infusion is one teaspoon of dried herb, or one-and-a-half teaspoons of fresh herb for every cup of boiling water. Unless otherwise advised, maintain those proportions even when using multiple herbs, adjusting the proportions of the individual ingredients rather than the whole.
Place the botanicals into a non-reactive pot or container (glass rather than plastic, for instance).
Pour the water over the botanical material.
Allow it to brew, usually for between five and fifteen minutes.
The plant material may be strained from the liquid or allowed to remain, depending upon the purpose of the spell. For a floorwash, you’d want to remove the botanical; for a particularly potent magical bath, it may be more powerful to retain the botanicals, even though this may leave a mess to clean up.
Sometimes a stronger, more concentrated infusion is desired for a bath or floorwash, but not for drinking.
Place a more substantial quantity of botanical material into a non-reactive pot or container.
Pour only enough boiling water over the botanical material to cover it.
Allow it to brew for as long as it takes the water to return to room temperature.
Strain the botanicals from the liquid or retain, as desired.
The process of creating infused oils is slightly more complex, however it is still easily accomplished in the home kitchen. The standard proportion suggested is that for every cup of oil, one ounce of fresh herb or one half-ounce of dried herb is required. Unless otherwise advised, do not exceed these proportions.
Place the botanical material in a stainless steel bowl.
Cover with the oil.
Gently heat over simmering water, either in a true double boiler or in an improvised water bath—a saucepan one-quarter filled with water. The bowl with the herbs must not sit on the bottom of the pan but float in the water. As it is very easy for oil to scorch and burn, this process needs constant supervision for safety. Keep the oil covered.
Stir once in a while. Simmer gently for thirty minutes. The oil should not be allowed to get too hot because if it smokes, bubbles or burns, an acrid fragrance will develop, spoiling the infusion.
Allow the oil to cool. Then all the botanical material must be strained out through multiple layers of cheesecloth or a fine non-metal strainer. Strain twice, if necessary, or more. If the plant material is not removed, the oil may turn rancid.
If an infusion spell includes essential oils or flower remedies for enhancement, add them now, once the oil is strained and cooled.
Store the infused oil in an airtight container.
You can substitute a crock-pot for the water bath. Maintain the same proportions. Leave the pot on a low heat for approximately two hours, then strain as above.
If you can depend upon consistent warm, sunny weather, extremely powerful infusions may be created via solar power. These infusions contain the power of the sun as well as that of botanicals.
Place the botanicals inside a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Pour oil over them (make sure the botanicals are completely covered).
Add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
Leave the jar to sit exposed to warm sun all day and in a warm cupboard (or exposed to moonbeams, if it’s warm) all night, for two weeks. Strain as above.
Flower Oil Infusion
There is also another method of infusing oil that does not require heat. This method is usually used to capture the power-transmitting fragrance of delicate flower petals.
Separate the petals.
Place substantial quantities of clean, dry petals into an airtight jar and cover with oil. (An oil with minimal fragrance of its own is usually preferred to allow the flower’s scent to transmit most powerfully.)
Let the petals steep in the oil for three days, shaking the jar occasionally, keeping the jar in the sun in the daytime and in a warm cupboard at night.
Strain out and discard the petals, ideally using some cheesecloth or other non-metal sieve, but retain the oil.
Fill the jar with a substantial quantity of fresh, clean dry flower petals and cover them with the reserved oil.
Again allow the petals to steep, repeating all the previous stages. The oil will retain the fragrance; repeat until the desired intensity of fragrance is achieved (usually three repetitions is needed), then carefully strain out all the solid botanical material and reserve the oil.
If you are creating large quantities of infused oils that will not be used up quickly, it’s best and safest to add a natural preservative. One-quarter teaspoon of simple tincture of benzoin, available from many pharmacies, may be added per cup of infused oil. Benzoin is derived from styrax gum, believed to have sacred properties and to create a cleansing, protective action. (Make sure you have simple tincture, not compound tincture, which is also known as Friar’s Balsam.)
Vitamin E may also be used as a preservative. However, be aware that much of what is readily available is synthetic. Pierce one Vitamin E capsule and add the contents per every cup of infused oil. Jojoba oil is not a true oil but a plant lipid with antioxidant properties. Blend it with other oils to discourage them from turning rancid. (Maintain the basic proportions of oil to botanicals, however, even when using multiple oils.)
Casting Spells Using Oils
Oils have always been prized components of magic spells. However, not all oils are truly oils, and not all oils are even truly botanical.
Essential oils are not true oils, despite their name. They are volatile liquids extracted by various methods (usually, but not always, by steam distillation) from aromatic botanicals. Modern aromatherapy is the manipulation of these essential oils for therapeutic, cosmetic, magical, and spiritual purposes. The roots of aromatherapy stretch back to ancient China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Middle East. If you would like to access the power of a botanical, essential oils are the most concentrated form and as such have many magical uses. Once upon a time, essential oils were also referred to as chemical oils, especially in older grimoires. This relates not to their chemical constituents, which we are only now beginning to understand, but to their previous use in alchemy, the term being a corruption of alchemical oils.
Their potential physical impact upon you is as concentrated as their magical power:
Never take essential oils internally without expert supervision
Even when taken externally, they are used sparingly, drop by drop. Each drop packs a lot of power. More is rarely better
Because their power is volatile and fleeting, when creating magical baths, potions or oils, essential oils are usually the last ingredients added so as to maximize the intensity of their power and fragrance
In general, essential oils are not appropriate for use during pregnancy, especially early pregnancy
Because essential oils are so concentrated (and because some are profound skin irritants) they are usually diluted in true oils (usually referred to as “carrier oils”) before using
Fragrance is an extremely important component of magic, particularly, in romantic spells and, especially, spirit-summoning spells. Each spirit has a characteristic aroma, which calls them and by which they may be identified. In ancient Egypt, this was one way that true spiritual visitation was determined: the deities signaled their presence through the sudden appearance of their characteristic fragrance. Vestiges of this belief survive in folkloric Christianity, where the devil is described as appearing amid the smell of brimstone. (Signature fragrance isn’t limited to the spirit realm alone. In the 1944 Ray Milland movie, The Uninvited, the ghost signals her presence via the scent of mimosa.) Fragrance, especially as transmitted by true botanicals, is the primary and most effective magical device for communicating between realms.
Botanical power comes in many forms. These powers are not interchangeable. When a spell requests a dried herb, substituting an essential oil may not be appropriate or even safe.
The human sense of smell remains the most mysterious of our senses. The olfactory system (the part of our brain that processes scent) is near what is known as the reptilian brain, the most ancient and least-understood part of the human brain. Scent is our primal sense, the one shared most closely with the animal and spirit realms. Magic is a primordial art; to truly master it, one must access these inherent primordial talents. The sense of smell may be the most concrete, accurate way we have of identifying and accessing heka, magic power. Essential oils are frequently the most concentrated, potent and accessible way of accessing an individual plant’s heka, even though this very power means they must be handled with care.
True oils, also known as fixed, carrier or base oils (because they carry essential oils’ energies and serve as their base) have always been perceived as precious and sacred. The ancient Egyptians had an astonishing repertoire of true oils, far greater than our own. Although true oils are used as carriers for the magic powers inherent in dried botanicals or essential oils, they also have their own magic power, and spells can be cast using true oils alone. Castor oil has protective, commanding magic properties, while sweet almond oil is a component of many romantic and erotic spells, for instance. Mineral oil (baby oil) is not a botanical, but a petroleum product: its magical uses are restricted mainly to hexes—malevolent spells.
There are several ways to distinguish essential oils from true oils. Essential oils, also known as volatile oils from the Latin volare, “to fly away,” evaporate completely into air, without leaving a trace. Although they may deteriorate and their power fade, they do not grow rancid. In contrast, true oils will leave a ring or residue and will not evaporate—as anyone who’s had to clean out a greasy pan can attest. True oils will also grow rancid over time, although some become rancid more quickly than others.
True oils are, in general, extracted from the seeds or fruits of plants. Cold-pressed oils (which will almost always be labeled as such) are preferable, when possible. (Grapeseed oil, for instance, can only be extracted via the use of solvents.)
Because real essential oils are extracted via expensive, labor-intensive, time-consuming processes, synthetics are often substituted. If an essential oil is too reasonably priced, be cautious. Often we do get what we pay for. Labeling is not always clear and manufacturer’s terms may be meant very loosely.
Essential oils cannot be obtained from every botanical. There is no such thing as cherry or cucumber or apple essential oil. Furthermore, essential oils must be derived, by definition, from botanical material. There is no such product as essential oil of rain, although products exist that reproduce the fragrance of a rainy day. Invariably, these products are crafted from synthetic materials, known as fragrance oils, the staples of the perfume industry. Some are real dead ringers for the genuine material and can fool many an expert. However, because no plant material is actually contained, fragrance oils lack true, complete magical power. That said, sometimes, especially for candle magic, fragrance alone may be sufficient to spark your magic, to evoke a response from your brain. In general, fragrance oils are fine for dressing candles, but not for the body.
Hydrosols, also called hydrolats, are the other product of the aromatherapy industry. When essential oils are produced by steam distillation, water is passed through the botanical material and then eventually separated out; that water has also been magically transformed by the distillation process: it is no longer plain water but contains plant molecules. Although other flower waters are sold (usually rose or orange blossom water) these are frequently only flower-scented or flower-infused waters. Hydrosols actually carry the power of their respective botanicals. Hydrosol production is an old alchemical process, although it lay dormant, forgotten and unappreciated for centuries. Now fresh attention is paid to hydrosols; new ones become available every day. They are an increasingly important component of magic spells.
Flower Essence Remedies
Alchemists, witches and herbalists have always painstakingly gathered morning dew from individual plants to access its magic powers. Infused with the specific power of the particular plant, these tiny liquid dew-droplets also contain the perfect balance of the four primal elements: the power of water, the earth radiating through the plant, the surrounding air and fire from the sun.
Once upon a time, if you wanted to access this power, you were limited to the plants growing on your lawn. This is no longer the case. Modern flower essence remedies bring the power of flowers from all over Earth—from the Amazon rainforest to the Australian outback—right to your door.
The pioneer and founding father of modern flower essence remedies was Dr. Edward Bach, a Harley Street physician and homeopath. Dr. Bach eventually came to the realization that true, complete healing was not possible when approached solely from the physical plane. Emotional and spiritual imbalances are the root causes of dysfunction of all kinds. True healing and transformation must be accessed through the soul and emotions. Dr. Bach devoted the rest of his life, at great personal sacrifice, to developing the original Bach flower essence remedies, which provide the vehicle for this healing and transformation. According to Dr. Bach, the flowers communicated to him directly, sharing their secrets and potential for healing with him. Since then, many other flower essence practitioners have followed in Dr. Bach’s footsteps to bring us greater access to a wider variety of botanical material than ever before.
It’s easy to be confused between flower essence remedies and essential oils: they have extremely similar names and are even packaged in a similar manner (in tiny glass vials). Although they complement each other’s powers and work very well together, they are extremely different and cannot be substituted for one another.
Essential oils are true plant extracts, with extremely potent and sometimes scientifically documented physical effects. When I taught therapeutic aromatherapy, many of my students were nurses learning to incorporate essential oils into conventional hospital practice. All essential oils are, to a degree, antiseptic; many have potent antibacterial and anti-viral effects in addition to whatever magical power they also hold.
No one completely understands how flower essence remedies work, although they do—profoundly. General consensus is that it is a form of vibrational healing. Flower essences are pure water infused and charged with the plant’s energy and vibration. There’s no need to kill the plant to access this energy; typically only a few carefully chosen leaves are used. By definition, the remedy won’t work if the plant used is not a powerful, healthy specimen. These essences provide a healing bridge between the soul of the botanical and your own. While essential oils may be understood as the lifeblood of a plant, flower essence remedies capture the plant’s aura.
Flower essence remedies are the exception to the rule regarding botanicals’ impact on the physical plane—there is no direct physical effect. All the effects are felt on the emotional, spiritual and magical planes. They are safe for everyone’s use, children, animals, crystals and other plants.
When using flower essence remedies the most common mode of administration is internal. Manufacturers will supply directions, however the standard dose for most is four drops four times a day. Topical administration is also extremely effective: massage the flower essence remedy into the body, particularly into the soles of feet and the thin skin stretched between thumb and forefinger.
Every manufacturer of flower essence remedies has a specific repertoire of botanicals. When flower essence remedies are sited in the text, the name of their manufacturer follows in parenthesis. For example: Mugwort (FES).
Spell-casting Using the Powers of the Elements
In Western magic and philosophy, Earth’s power is traditionally broken down into four components, known as the elements: Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. Air and Fire are traditionally considered male or yang energies, while Earth and Water are most typically perceived as female, or yin. Life springs from earth and water but air and fire are necessary to spark the process. Healthy magic power derives from the harmonious balance of these elements.
From a magical standpoint, the power of each element is unique, specific, and alive. Depending upon the purpose of your spell, one element may be invoked or emphasized over the others. Power also derives from the interplay between the elements. Power is enhanced when the elements intermingle and form a threshold. Steam emerges from the marriage of water and fire, for instance, and is a potent force for spiritual cleansing and protection.
Individuals are influenced by these elements, too. One or more elements will predominate in every individual’s natal astrological chart and will thus influence not only their character but also the type of magic spell, which usually appeals most to that individual and is most accessible. I have listed the elemental affiliations of the astrological signs below, however an accurate gauge can only be received from a complete birth chart. Someone who is a Taurus, an earth sign, but who has five other planets in a water sign is a very watery person, despite their sun sign.
The elements are easily understood if one considers their qualities.
Air serves as a transmitter and a messenger. Because magic (and some schools of higher physics) asserts that nothing that exists truly disappears, to say that something “vanishes into thin air” is meant very literally when discussing magic spells. Candles that access the power of fire also summon the power of air: what is burned disappears into the air. Air is associated with astral travel; witches fly through the air even if the journey is accomplished with dreams or visions.
Air is considered a masculine, yang energy.
Fragrance is the language of air. Word charms also draw upon Air power.
Air signs: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius.
Earth is our battery and generator, providing capacity for growth and solidity. Earth is a particularly important element for those journeying into magical realms because earth provides stability, reality, and gravity. Magicians should spend time in the garden, even if not gardening, and barefoot whenever possible. If this isn’t appealing, play with real clay (not synthetic), or make mud pies like a child. Go to the spa and take a mud bath.
Earth is considered a feminine, yin power.
Earth’s magical power is accessed through the botanicals that are rooted in Earth, figures formed from clay, and dirt itself, as in graveyard dirt or crossroads dirt.
Earth signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn.
Fire is the most independent of elements, defying all illusions of human control. Fire heals, energizes, cleanses and purifies. Fire is transformative and must always be treated with respect. Although you can get into trouble with any element (think floods, mudslides, tornadoes) fire is commonly the most dangerous. I cannot emphasize enough: never assume that because you’re engaged in magical or spiritual acts that common-sense fire safety does not also apply. Fire is never completely safe. Be vigilant.
Fire is a masculine, yang energy.
Candles are the most popular form of fire magic. Magical bonfires and lamps are also lit. Magic mirrors are sometimes used to access fire’s transformative (and potentially destructive) powers.
Fire signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius.
Water is the element most affiliated with magic. Water is where life originates, not just as an abstract concept or in Darwinian theory, but literally for each of us as we emerge from our mother’s amniotic sacs. Water is the element of psychic power and intuitive knowledge.
Water is a feminine, yin energy.
Water spells are conducted in the bathtub and at the seashore. Water spells include those incorporating lunar charged waters, magically charged waters and captured rainwater.
Water signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces.
Fire and Water, extreme yang and yin, are a matched pair, leaving Earth and Air paired with each other. Like yin/yang forces in general, the elements don’t exist in mutual exclusivity. Magic may be performed with only one element (an Air-magic word charm) but is most frequently a combination of two or more forces. For instance, incense combines botanical power (Earth) with Fire, to produce fragrant smoke (Air). A complex spell that involves dressing a candle with botanical oil, and then burning it while you’re bathing in a magical infusion combines all four elements simultaneously.
This grouping of the four elements of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water is the traditional Western system and is the one most commonly shared by magical traditions. However, it is not the only system:
Chinese magic traditionally counts five elements. Although metal is important in most other traditions, too, Chinese philosophy emphsizes this importance by counting Metal as one of the elements, alongside and equal to the Western four
Jewish magic traditionally counts three elements. Air (or ether) is considered so ubiquitous that it doesn’t need to be counted as an element. Therefore only Water, Earth and Fire are recognized as elements
Casting Spells Incorporating the Power of Metal
Although magic in its modern form stems from the discovery of metal and smithcraft, metal today is an under-utilized modern magical material. Perhaps this reflects ancient taboos on the material and the role of the blacksmith.
Each metal, like each stone or botanical, projects a specific magical energy, although as there are fewer metals than the vast quantities of botanicals or crystals, it’s easier to sum up these powers.
Brass: protection, love
Copper: love, healing
Gold: wealth, vitality
Lead: domination, binding (the most frequent material for curse tablets)
Silver: protection, fertility
Tin: wealth, luck, divination
The most powerful magical metal, however, and among the most magically charged of all materials on Earth, is iron.
The metal most associated with magic, worldwide, is iron. Because iron is not found in its pure state except as a meteorite, it was known as the Metal of Heaven and perceived as a gift from sacred powers. Meteors were carved into representations of deities: the original cult statue housed inside the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the ancient world’s Seven Wonders, was carved from a meteorite. The most sacred representation of the goddess Kybele was an uncut meteor, believed by many to remain buried under the foundations of Saint Peter’s Basilica, which was built over her Roman temple.
Iron provides power and protection. Magically speaking, iron is reputed to restore health, provide vitality, both physical and psychic, and cure impotence. Malevolent spirits are invariably frightened of iron: it repels them and chases them away. Iron boxes protect magical tools the way a lead blanket protects a person during the x-ray process. Because iron is the metal of truth, traditionally in areas of Africa, and perhaps in some areas still, people would swear on iron in the way that others swear on the Bible or Koran. One of the simplest protective spells involves placing an iron knife or tool under one’s pillow, not to serve as a ready weapon but to offer spiritual protection while you sleep.
With the exception of menstrual blood, no single item is more associated with magic than iron. In fact the two powers, menstrual blood, and iron, are intrinsically linked. While other metals, like stones, may be perceived as Earth’s bones, iron ore is regarded as Earth’s menstrual blood.
Despite or because of its great power, iron is a dangerous, volatile element. Iron is used for healing, in magical ritual and also through surgery, dentistry, acupuncture, and any field of medicine that requires metal tools. It is also an instrument of death: knives and guns wound and kill.
Earth’s Original Professional Magician: the Smith, Master of Fire
Magic in its modern state arrived with the advent of the Iron Age. The smith’s art, the original alchemy, was kept secret for centuries: those who knew it were able to forge weapons that could completely dominate their neighbors. By virtue of their contact with this magic material, and because they alone were privy to its secrets, smiths were more than just artisans: they were the original magicians, the Masters of Fire. Smiths became the first professional magicians (as opposed to shamans), called in to perform spellcasting on behalf of others.
Smiths were simultaneously respected and needed, feared and persecuted:
Because the smith is in close contact with the ultimate power substance and, in fact, bends it to his will, he is perceived as possessing more magic power than the average person. He is protected and his personal magical energy continually replenished and reinvigorated by iron
However, because iron ore may be perceived as Earth’s menstrual blood, a substance typically restricted or taboo, the ironworker who handles it openly and constantly may also be perceived as tainted. On the one hand, the smith is powerful enough to break taboos and thrive, but on the other, this contact makes conservative elements of society uncomfortable. The smith is able to go where others cannot, perform rituals that others cannot: whatever spiritual cleansing or protective rituals the smith requires for his own spiritual survival and protection are unknown to everyone outside the ironworking clan, and thus are suspect
Another perception derives from Central Asia’s Turkish tribes. They believed that raw metals in general came from Earth’s bowels. The raw materials were Earth’s waste products, which would ultimately develop into finished metal, by itself, over long periods of time, if they were left undisturbed and buried. The smith’s oven is, thus, a substitute for Earth’s womb. This artificial womb gives birth to metal. The Master of Fire is thus believed to assert power over Time as he accelerates the process. Because of this he has healing powers and can read the future, but he is also always on the verge of spiritual disaster: digging ore out of the Earth, rooting around in Earth, any kind of digging is akin to rape. Only the ironworker knows if and how he can be purified
The ironworker became a much-needed member of society. Beyond smith craft, he was typically also a healer, herbal practitioner, dentist, surgeon, body artist, and often the sole person permitted to perform circumcision and thus in charge of spiritual initiation. He carves amulets, devises rituals and confers with the Spirits on behalf of others, a combination artisan-shaman. Secrets of metal-working were carefully guarded. Smiths evolved into clans, their techniques into family secrets.
The concept that one can pay someone else to cast a spell for you enters magic as well. A professional class of magical practitioners was born. The smith’s wife, the woman who has sex with the Master of Fire, bears his children and may be his professional assistant, becomes transformed into a person of power in her own right, typically performing the role of herbalist, midwife and women’s healer, henna artist, (henna being also a substance associated with menstrual blood) and, especially, fortune teller. In some traditional African areas, a wedding may be delayed until the smith’s wife can arrive to dress the bride’s hair, provide her henna or otherwise bless and attend her.
Societal ambivalence towards the smith cannot be emphasized enough; it will eventually be projected onto magic itself. The history of ironworking to a great extent parallels the history of magic working. Although the smith is required by society, he and his family also remain apart and distinct. People need them, their services are necessary, yet people are afraid to get close to them, or to allow them live as fully integrated members of society. Their very power and skill sets them apart. The Bible associates ironworkers with the Kenites, descendants of Cain, a Jewish tribe that isn’t one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The most famous Kenite, the otherwise unarmed woman Jael, kills the fleeing enemy general Sisera with a hammer, one of the smith’s primary tools.
Ironworkers developed into nomads, traveling from town to town, village to village, staying as long as there was work, and then moving on. This is still true in parts of Africa and Western Asia. There are still Bedouin tribes who await the arrival of the smith to perform circumcisions.
Complicating the picture even further is that the smiths providing services to the majority culture are frequently members of minority groups. It is a complex relationship with tremendous potential for tension: the ironworker performs ritual functions and serves as a repository of spiritual knowledge for traditions that he may or may not share.
In Europe, smithcraft is associated with Tinkers, Travelers and, most especially, the Romany, who traveled with the Tatar and Mongol armies, performing metalwork. Romany culture, as first witnessed by Europeans, is very typical of iron-working clans: the men were metal smiths while the women tell fortunes. In rural Africa and Western Asia, smiths are frequently of Jewish origin, although their personal traditions may have veered far from conventional Judaism. Persecution of the Ethiopian Jewish community, the Beta Israel, derives both from their religion and from their traditional occupation as ironworkers. The Ineden, smiths associated with the at least nominally Muslim Tuareg, are also believed to be of Jewish origin. Distinct clans, they perform the role of general handymen for the majority group: blacksmith, jeweler, armourer, woodworker, healer, herbalist, poet, musician, singer, and general consultant on spiritual and traditional matters. Essential to traditional Tuareg culture, they are simultaneously of low status.
With the coming of Christianity, European ironworkers would be vilified and identified with the devil, who was frequently depicted in the guise of a smith. Some of their traditional spiritual power remained: in the original Gretna Green weddings, the couple was able to cross the border from England and be married by the smith.
Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, a famous Irish prayer attributed to the saint, calls on God for protection against “incantations of false prophets, against the black laws of paganism, against spells of women, smiths and druids, against all knowledge that is forbidden the human soul.”
Because one can safely assume that any modern metal has not been extracted from Earth using respectful, propitiating spells and rituals, any new metal with which you work should be thoroughly cleansed and charged (see pages 74—77). That said, silver and iron are both believed to be incorruptible; although they may be used for ill, malevolent vibrations should not cling to them as they will to other metals or materials.
Metal is incorporated into all manner of spells, from the simple to the complex. Metal steadily, constantly and consistently radiates its power: the spell, thus, keeps going even after initial human participation is ended. Magic rings, for instance, need to be initially crafted, charged and consecrated but once this has been done, they radiate their own power, drawing towards you whatever they have been programmed to pull, even as your attention turns elsewhere.
Basic household and farm tools are often incorporated into magic spells. What we perceive as mundane was once recognized as exceptionally magically charged. The magic remains, it is human perception that changes. Hammers, knives and other metal tools are shared by many occupations. The anvil is reserved for the smith and thus is full of power and sacredness.
An anvil converts to an altar and may be used as such even by someone who is not a smith. That person begins the following spell at Step 3 and assumes the role of the smith in steps 6 and 7.
Anvil Blessing and Magical Activation Spell
Before the anvil is made, the smith prays and petitions that it will be reliable, powerful, and will bring luck.
When the anvil is complete, it’s hidden until its activation ceremony.
The owner of the new anvil gives a feast in honor of the anvil.
After drinking and dining, the anvil is brought out to receive the crowd’s admiration. Placed in the center of the table, it becomes an instant altar.
A white candle is placed atop the anvil, with another placed at each side, for a total of three candles.
The smith leads prayers that the anvil will bring healing, prosperity and baraka.
The smith strikes the anvil for the first time, then the crowd showers it with offerings—small metal coins, libations of brandy—so that good fortune will be shared by all.
Spell-casting Using the Power of Minerals
“Minerals” includes rocks, crystals and gemstones. Many associate crystals with New Age philosophy, but gemstone therapy and the magic of minerals are about as old age as you can possibly get. Modern magic is profoundly influenced by the power of iron, but prior to the Iron Age there was the Stone Age.
You think you’ve never accessed gem power? Most of us have, even if unwittingly. The diamond ring placed on the finger of an affianced woman serves to ensure sexual fidelity and relieve sexual inhibitions. Jeweled earrings, of all kinds, offer protection to a vulnerable threshold of the body. Many anthropologists assert that all jewelry originally derives from amulets. Alongside shells and seeds, the earliest jewelry was stone. Jewelry may be placed on the body carelessly. However, if it is combined with conscious intent, incantation, petition and/or visualization, something as simple as adorning the body becomes a powerful magic spell. Placing a ring, a bracelet or a locket on someone else’s body is potentially a discreet but very powerful method of casting a spell upon them.
Crystals are worn, placed upon altars, added to conjure bags, placed under pillows and used in a wide variety of spells. Beyond specific geologic analysis, distinctions between rocks, crystals and gemstones tend to derive from human perception of value, with the term “gemstone” implying greatest value, “plain rock” the least. Of course, what’s valuable from a financial or aesthetic perspective may not correspond to magical value.
Every specific type of mineral formation, like each specific botanical, has its own hidden powers, attributes and gifts. Like botanicals, from a magical perspective, the mineral kingdom teems with life. The magical quality that characterizes the mineral kingdom (to distinguish it from others) is memory. Stones are believed to retain memories of everything that occurs to them or in their presence. They are Earth’s silent witness to history.
Because their nature is so different from our own, even more so than with botanicals, which are clearly born, eat and die, it can be very difficult to perceive minerals as alive. Although anyone can access the magic power of crystals superficially just by tucking a crystal into a mojo hand (see pages 86—87), in order to work closely with them, it’s necessary to acknowledge that unique memory, that minerals can feel emotions of a kind (the spectrum runs from loyalty and benevolence to resentment of bad treatment) and can communicate their knowledge. Stones have no mouths: they can never learn to speak in the exact manner of a human. However, we can learn to hear and listen to them.
Once upon a time, because of great respect for minerals’ magic powers and their formidable powers of memory, as much care, if not more, was taken when gathering (harvesting) stones as it was with botanicals.
Many cultures perceived stones and metals, not as distinct products of Earth for human use, but literally as part of Mother Earth’s body. Stones are often perceived as her bones or teeth. From that perspective, great care must be taken when extracting and using them. Only certain people were authorized to gather stones, using very specific propitiatory ritual. Profound cleansing rituals were undertaken before and after their harvest. Stones were removed with care and respect. Offerings and libations were given to Earth as reciprocal payment and compensation.
Perhaps you have access to a stone that’s been treasured for a very long time, a museum piece, as it were. In that case, appropriate rites and care may have been taken. Otherwise, it is fair to assume that the rocks and crystals available today were not removed from Earth with love and care, but yanked out brutally and disrespectfully. As crystals have grown in popularity, the temptation to exploit this popularity for the purpose of some quick cash frequently outweighs any metaphysical concerns.
Assume therefore that crystals may arrive complete with grouchy, resentful attitudes. Furthermore, minerals are the witnesses of human experience too. Minerals are absorbent, absorbing surrounding emotion. Many minerals, particularly the most expensive—diamonds, emeralds, and rubies—are extracted amidst great human suffering. The stones carry these emotions with them as they travel to your hands.
All is not hopeless, however. Stones may be cleansed. Cleansing can remove memory stores, like wiping a computer’s memory, allowing for a fresh start. The depth of memory removal depends upon the stone and the cleansing methods used. Cleansing methods are found on page 185.
Stones need to be charged for a purpose or to harmonize with your personal energy, to enhance your partnership.
To Program or Charge a Crystal
Cleanse the crystal using the most suitable technique.
Hold it in your hands.
Clear your mind.
When you feel that your energy and that of the crystal are synchronized, state your intention, goal or desire clearly, lucidly and succinctly.
Repeat it until it feels right. Speak out loud if possible.
When charging feels complete, put the crystal down and consciously detach your attention from it.
Cleanse any new crystals or stones before initial use or immediately upon acquisition
It may also be advisable to conduct future cleansings as needed, particularly after intensive spell work or any traumatic, stressful situation
Stones are used in their natural state or polished and cut. A specific stone can also be selected and then engraved with a specific design. This creates a talisman, which is then usually worn or carried on the body. There are healing talismans, love-drawing talismans and protective talismans, among many others. This practice brings magic into the realm of professionals. Anyone can find a special stone on the beach; not everyone can engrave a gemstone with accuracy and precision.
The following ritual for cleansing and activating gemstones for healing and magic comes from India, birthplace of extremely sophisticated gemstone therapy.
To Cleanse and Activate a Gemstone
The night before you intend to wear your stone, immerse it in a cup of fresh milk.
Remove it and place the milky stone on an altar, before a sacred image, in the company of quartz crystals and any other objects you hold sacred.
Leave it overnight.
Arise at dawn and rinse the stone.
Raise it towards the rising sun.
Pray and petition that the stone fulfills your desires.
Wear, carry or use it as needed.
Diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies have profound magical uses as well as their more conventional role in jewelry. Both magical and conventional uses, however, are limited to those who can afford these expensive gems. Luckily, the absolutely most powerful magic stones are easily affordable and, in some cases, free, if you can only find them. The following are some of the most magically powerful stones.
Quartz looks like beautiful sparkling ice. It is believed tied to that watery trinity of lunar/oceanic/female energy. Clear quartz crystals are used as scrying tools: they are able to enhance the psychic ability and magic power of those who handle them consistently or who are in their presence. Likewise, quartz crystals are used to activate and empower other stones or tools. Quartz crystals may be attached to magic wands. Pack quartz crystals in with tarot cards, runes or any other magical tools to enhance their power. Quartz crystals are used for cleansing purposes. Larger specimens left in a room have a vacuum cleaner effect on negative energy, helping to maintain a fresh atmosphere. (Remember to cleanse the crystal periodically, as if the vacuum bag was full.) It is a protective, empowering stone.
Hag, Witch, Holed or Holey Stones
These names all refer to the same type of stone. Holed stones are exactly as their name describes: small pebbles or stones with naturally occurring perforations, they are gifts from the Earth Mother. They cannot be manufactured. Sometimes you’ll just find one: a common pebble with a hole. Pick it up. It is a priceless magical gift. Holed stones provide enhanced magic power, protection against malevolent spirits, humans and the Evil Eye. They are also used to regenerate and protect physical vitality. Wear it around your neck or hang over your bed so that you can absorb its power while you sleep.
Also known as magnetite, lodestones are magnetic iron ore. They are the magical bridge between the realms of stone and iron. They possess transcendentally powerful magic energy. Lodestones attract and draw good fortune: money, success and love. They’re also used in healing rituals: lodestones can draw pain from the body in the same manner that they can draw a lover or money towards you.
Lodestones may be used individually or in matched pairs. They are perceived to have gender; depending on purpose, you may require a male or female lodestone or a pair. It’s easier to determine the gender of a lodestone than that of a parakeet. Female lodestones are rounded; phallic-looking lodestones announce their manhood.
Wherever people have been in contact with lodestones, they have used them magically. Alexander the Great distributed lodestones to his troops to protect them from djinn. Chinese magic favors lodestones as wedding rings, to ensure the happy survival of a marriage. In ancient Rome, statues of Venus and Mars were carved from lodestone so as to be magnetically attracted, demonstrating the powerful sexual magnetism between the two forces.
The origins of lodestones are shrouded in mystery. Their use goes back to ancient times. Magnetite, their more scientific name, derives from the ancient city of Magnesia, from whence they were once mined. Lodestones are a positive, benevolent force, always used to draw good fortune. Lodestones, like the root charm High John the Conqueror, are thus not tools for hexing. The worst thing you can do with a lodestone is fail to avail yourself of its power.
Christian legend has it that the stone upon which Christ’s body rested for three days following his crucifixion was a lodestone. Its miraculous properties were revealed to Godfrey of Bouillon when he led the first Crusade to Jerusalem. While praying in Christ’s Sepulcher a voice whispered to him that his victory was assured if he’d only carry away a bit of the stone. He listened to the voice’s advice, which proved true. However, according to this legend, the kings who succeeded him paid no attention to the stone and therefore the Holy Land was lost to them.
In addition to memory, lodestones are acknowledged to possess consciousness, intelligence, even wit, and especially a soul. Although any rock or crystal is alive, lodestones are really alive! Because of this perception, lodestones must be replenished consistently by “feeding” (though all crystals needs to be recharged periodically). Now you can’t just give a lodestone a little bit of your own dinner, the way you’d give a treat to a dog. Lodestones have their own preferred nutritional supplement: fine iron shot, also known as iron filings, iron dust or, in Hoodoo parlance, magnetic sand. Magnetic sand is also perceived as possessing a “drawing” power all of its own, and is a component of many magic spells, with and without lodestones.
There are various techniques for feeding lodestones, depending upon different traditions.
A Mexican Method
Just like people, lodestones have a working week, but then need some time off for rest and relaxation.
On Friday evening, place lodestones in a glass of wine, water, or aguardiente (strong liquor), and leave it there overnight.
Remove it from the liquid on Saturday and sprinkle it with magnetic sand.
Let the lodestone rest until Sunday evening or Monday morning, then send it back to work in a conjure bag, pocket charm or whatever it normally does for you.
Dress the lodestone with your choice of condition oils. Coordinate the oil to suit your desired results. Thus if you want the lodestone to draw a new romance to you, choose a love-drawing oil, like Come to Me, Lover. Substitute essential oils, true oils or sprinkle the lodestone with a few drops of whiskey or similar beverage.
Sprinkle with magnetic sand.
Sometimes, after extensive spellwork or when used to make Magnet Oil, a lodestone can become excessively drained.
The following formulas are intended to feed a drastically depleted lodestone:
Overtired Lodestone Spell (1)
Anoint the lodestone with olive oil.
Place it in a pouch filled with dirt for three days. (Crossroads dirt is best, if possible.)
Overtired Lodestone Spell (2)
Place the lodestone in a glass, stone or metal bowl.
Cover it with dirt. (Again crossroads dirt, if possible, but any dirt will work.)
Keep the bowl inside a closed cabinet for three days.
The power of minerals may also be accessed in liquid form. This ancient method has been revived by manufacturers of flower essence remedies. Modern gemstone elixirs are sold with flower essence remedies and used in the same manner. Commercial preparations are, as of the time of writing, of consistently high quality and provide access to a greater number of gems at accessible prices than most people will ever have access to, in a controlled, safe, easy-to-use manner.
However, this is an ancient technique. Gem elixirs may also be crafted for oneself.
An Ancient Egyptian Method of Creating Gem Elixirs
Place crystals on the grass and leave them outside overnight.
Collect the dew in the morning.
Modern Methods for Crafting Gem Elixirs
Fill cut-crystal bottles with spring water. Let them charge in the sun and/or moonlight. This water may then be consumed or added to the bath
Place the crystal in pure spring water in a glass bowl. Energize and activate in the sunlight. The water absorbs the crystal’s power and vibrations. Bottle and use as required
Be very careful regarding internal use of gem elixirs. Some crystals may he toxic: do not use anything internally until you are absolutely sure that it is safe.
Spell-casting Using the Power of People
Yes, yes, of course, this sounds so obvious. Every magic spell is the product of a person. Without the person’s intent and direction, magic energy just radiates and isn’t channeled into a spell. However, some magic spells draw upon more than the energy, desire and creative properties of one individual.
Not every spell is cast alone. Some spells require partners and participants. In particular, healing and cleansing spells must often be done for the person intended to benefit from the spell. Always choose your spell partners wisely. Their individual magical energy radiates through your spell as powerfully as that of any botanical, mineral or element. It’s also crucial that those who might undermine the success of your spell, whether willfully or unintentionally, are not chosen as partners. Choose those whose goals are in harmony with your own, those who desire your success as much as you do.
An entire, living, breathing person isn’t always required. Various parts of the human anatomy are believed to radiate with magic power, and just as they perform different anatomical functions, so different parts of the body perform different magic spell functions. Typically, the power of the body part is represented symbolically through an image of the particular part: the power of images is an important component of magic spells, and the milagro is a metal charm depicting a specific part of the anatomy. The most commonly depicted parts of the human body include the eyes, genitals, hands, and hearts. These are especially incorporated into healing and protective spells.
Sometimes, however, actual parts are required by spells, although “part” may be the wrong word. No pain is inflicted obtaining these parts although they may be obtained for the purpose of inflicting pain. Certain materials generated by the body are perceived as exceptionally magically charged. These materials, which the body sheds, still retain the essence of the body and a connection to the person they come from. By working on these materials, one may profoundly affect that other person. These materials are the intimate items deriving from a person’s body. Hoodoo refers to them as personal concerns.
Because they render the other person vulnerable to magic, in theory, all these intimate items may be used for hexes. However, that is not the only or even their most frequent purpose.
Most frequently used in love and binding spells, hair is both an object of tremendous power and vulnerability.
Menstrual blood is the ultimate magic power item. If you were forced to reduce magic to its most primal elements, you would be left with menstrual blood and iron (which may be perceived as Earth’s menstrual blood).
Menstrual blood is the ultimate controlling mechanism. It provides spiritual protection, allegedly repels demons, and puts out fires. One drop is said to cause others to fall madly in love with you.
Many consider that oppression and discrimination against women stems from perceptions of menstruation as “unclean.” An alternative view is that oppression and discrimination stem from the fear of women’s power. Menstrual blood is considered the strongest magical substance on Earth. Menstruating women were isolated because of fear of their power. Until recently, for instance, in parts of Thailand, women were discouraged from riding on the top level of double-decker buses because that would place their genitals above men’s heads, potentially destroying their power as well as that of their amulets. There are some who feel that all magic stems from menstrual and lunar mysteries. Judy Grahn’s book Blood, Bread and Roses postulates that all human civilization stems from responses to perceptions of menstruation.
Menstruation may be referred to as a woman’s moon-time, indicating that menstrual cycles, pregnancy and tides all reflect the phases of the moon. It’s also sometimes called dragon-time, the dragon being a metaphor for menstruation (which opens up new paths to ponder when considering tales of dragon-slaying heroes, especially those attempting to save virginal princesses).
You don’t have any? You used to be able to buy menstrual blood. In ancient Italy, spiritual goods merchants sold used menstrual rags to those who couldn’t provide their own.
These are used in a similar way to hair, however with slightly less impact. Frequently they are used together, each to reinforce the power of the other.
Saliva has profound controlling and protective magical capacities. Like menstrual blood, saliva is believed capable of repelling malevolent spirits and magic spells, hence the custom of spitting in the face of perceived danger. Saliva is also used magically to transmit desire.
Male and female sexual fluids are considered intimate items of extreme power and vulnerability. Although these sexual fluids leave you vulnerable to the most notorious of love spells, they also have other uses. Semen is often invoked in healing spells (topical application allegedly cures headaches), while women’s sexual juices provide access to the life-force: it was not an uncommon ingredient in ancient Chinese alchemists’ potions. Women’s vaginal secretions, both sexual juices and menstrual blood, were frequently the preferred food for vampires seeking increased sexual vitality and/or life-force.
Sweat is most frequently used in love and sex spells. It is the closest natural substance men possess that compares to the magical power of menstrual blood.
Spells involving intimate items may rank among the oldest in the worldwide magical repertoire. For this very reason, however, they may reflect a different world with different dangers. Magic is always about improving life and circumstances. Behave responsibly. If you possess any physical condition (HIV, hepatitis, or anything else) that could be passed on by these substances, than these spells are plainly not for you.
While hair and nail clippings used in spells most frequently derive from another person, urine is almost inevitably your own. Many spells will instruct you to urinate on something. This is not intended as desecration, more in the fashion of a dog marking territory. Urine is believed to create a dominating effect.
There are plenty of spells involving fecal material, too. However, you won’t find them in this book. Every author has her limits. The ancient Egyptians cultivated a science that distinguished between the powers inherent in the fecal material of various species—crocodiles, donkeys, humans, cats, all sorts of animals.
Casting Spells Using Names
The magical perspective does not always correspond with the modern scientific view as to what constitutes the human body, or where it begins and ends. Most magical systems acknowledge the existence of a subtle body, the aura, a radiant presence that surrounds the human body, so far undetectable by science. A person’s name or names may also be considered magically as part of an individual’s intrinsic identity and thus a source of great power and vulnerability.
Knowing someone’s true name renders him or her vulnerable to your power. Think about Rumpelstiltskin. Once upon a time (and it still happens in some places), people were given various names, one for public use, one for ritual use, and another to be kept secret. Mothers would whisper names into their babies’ ears, never to be repeated, so that one name would always be kept secret. In ancient Egypt, to describe someone possessing exceptional magic power it was said that even their mother didn’t know their name.
That connection between name and mother is crucial magically. As the ancient world became increasingly male-oriented, patriarchal cultures identified people by their own name and their father’s name, so that someone might be called, for instance, Dana, child of Bill. The mother is rarely mentioned. There’s one important exception: magic spells and magical documents. There, it’s the mother’s name that counts. Many consider that this reflects some sardonic humor; for the magical spell to be effective, the name has to be right. Because a mother is never suspect but may however harbor unsuspected secrets, the only way to guarantee true identity was to use the mother’s name instead of the father’s. This tradition is maintained in the directions in this book; follow it if you choose. Unless otherwise advised, the magical formula to write or call someone’s name is: “[Name], child of [their mother’s name].”
Names of Power
Angels, demons and spirits of all kinds are summoned by calling their true name. Supposedly they can’t resist the call. Much summoning magic depends upon this premise.
Of course, there is a caveat; this information was once transmitted orally: to be effective the names are supposed to be pronounced correctly. One has only to observe the conflict between historians, magical practitioners and scholars of all kinds over how the names of relatively famous Greek and Egyptian deities are pronounced to appreciate the inherent problem.
There is a style of spell-casting that incorporates reeling off series of magical names. The Magical Papyri have some of these spells: there’s nothing to indicate that the practitioners of their time recognized these names any more than we do. They don’t figure in surviving mythology; these names completely lack context.
Call me cautious, but I’m not comfortable summoning someone to enter my home (and life) if I’m not personally familiar with them, or at least have a little background information. Something about not talking to strangers. I wouldn’t recommend it to you either. Where the original version of a spell veers off on a tangent of reciting a long list of Names of Power, I’ve indicated this but omitted the names. My recommendation is to insert your own Names of Power—those Spirits whom you trust, ancestral spirits, even perhaps living people whose assistance would be appreciated and whom you feel you can trust.
Spell-casting Using the Power of Planets
Because they’re old systems that pre-date modern astronomy, in magical and astrological parlance, the luminaries, the sun and the moon, are considered planets just like other heavenly bodies, although this does not concur with modern scientific classifications. Modern astrologers know that technically the sun and moon are not planets, however both astrology and magic are geocentric systems, meaning that everything is perceived as revolving around Earth, even when this is not literally the case.
Some spell-casters rely heavily on astrological wisdom. Every day, every hour, every topic, every category has a planetary correspondence. The same applies to Chinese and Hindu magic, although their respective astrological systems differ from the Western system, which is based on the Babylonian astrology that so influenced Egyptian and Greek versions.
If you would like to synchronize your magic with the planets to this degree, information is easily obtainable from astrological sources and from many traditional grimoires.
Every planet possesses an astrological and magical influence (ancient Greek and Roman curse tablets were under the dominion of Saturn, for instance), however the planets most strongly identified with magic are our own, Earth, and its satellite, the Moon.
While the moon represents psychic ability, then Earth is our general vitality. Both are required for optimal magic power. According to many worldwide traditions, with little else in common, Earth is the material from which humans are created. Earth is our mother: we are born from her body, and are then returned to her to await rebirth while the corporal body decays and becomes part of Earth once more, in a never-ending cycle. Without actual extended consistent physical contact with Earth our vitality, and hence our magic power, suffers and diminishes.
Earth is also very literally the dirt under our feet. Dirt may be used to empower us and empower our spells. There are various traditions that pursue actual physical healing by packing the patient into heated sand. Moor mud is used to detoxify the body. The dirt at shrines and saints’ tombs is perceived as exceptionally charged with power. Bits of dirt are carried as talismans; it may also be sprinkled over items to empower and revitalize them.
Not all dirt is equal. Currently perhaps the most famous dirt in the world comes from the Roman Catholic shrine at Chimayo, New Mexico, although the dirt’s miraculous reputation precedes Catholicism in the area. Every year thousands converge on Chimayo for the healing dirt. A testimonial room bears witness to miracles received. This dirt heals more than body and soul. When a good friend’s computer crashed, at her wit’s end, she placed a canister filled with Chimayo dirt on the computer and it miraculously started working again.
Certain magical traditions rely on the power of dirt more than others. In the twenty-first century, the Afro-Caribbean tradition of Palo Monte probably utilizes more types of dirt than any other. Palo spells may request four handfuls of dirt from a police station, two from a courthouse, three from a hospital, and so on. This magical tradition dates back at least to ancient Mesopotamia.
Although not every tradition pays such detailed attention to Earth, most utilize certain specific types of magical dirt, including:
Inherent energy is transmitted through contact with the dirt itself. Each will be discussed in greater detail elsewhere in this book.
The moon is considered the ruler of all magical arts, and Magic is timed to the phases of the moon:
Spells intended to increase something (like money), or intended to initiate something new (a fresh romance) are coordinated with the waxing moon. Begin these spells on or just after the New Moon
Spells intended to decrease something (like debt), or cast for the purpose of banishing (an enemy) are coordinated with the waning moon. Begin these spells on or just after the Full Moon
The Dark of the Moon, those few days where the moon is not visible, just prior to the rebirth of the New Moon, are controversial. Some traditions will not cast spells during this period. Others, particularly those devoted to Dark Moon spirits like Hecate or Lilith, consider this a period of profound magical power which may be exploited as needed
In Arabic folk custom, it’s recommended that you keep an eye on moon phases. Whatever you find yourself doing at the moment when you first catch a glimpse of the brand new moon is the right thing for you to do.
Although it doesn’t eliminate the need to charge items with personal energy, exposing virtually all magical tools, charms and preparations to the beams of the Full Moon provides enhanced magical empowerment.
In general, although not always, magic worked with the moon herself (rather than just by timing via the phases) is women’s magic. There is a trinity between the moon, women, the ocean and, by implication, all water. The moon is recognized as having a profound effect upon menstrual cycles and the tides. It is a reciprocal arrangement: since women have a natural affinity for the moon, they may more readily draw on its power.
In many cases lunar deities are female, with Artemis, Diana, Hecate, Selene, Lady Chang’o and Ix Chel only a few of many examples. In other cases, particularly in ancient Egypt, the moon was perceived as male, but this perception was precisely because of the moon’s perceived influence on women. The moon was seen as playing a male role. To the Egyptians, the moon was male because it was demonstrated to have profound control over women’s fertility. It was believed that pregnancy could occur from exposure to moonbeams, and who else gets a woman pregnant but a man?
Drawing Down the Moon
This term is most familiar today as the title of Margot Adler’s influential book, and refers to specific Wiccan spiritual rites by which the Goddess is requested to enter the body of her priestess and speak through her. (Some traditions also possess a parallel Drawing Down the Sun ritual, which invokes the male energy of the god.) However, this is a very ancient term that predates modern Wicca and may refer to various other rites or practices, depending upon magical tradition, and most especially the process of creating moon-infused waters.
The ancient Greeks called this technique “drawing down the moon” or the “Thessalian Trick.” The Greeks believed that Thessalian witches held great power and metaphysical knowledge. This was considered one of their most important formulas.
Fill a jar or dish to the brim with pure spring water.
Bring this container outside and position it so that the full moon is reflected within. Maintain this position for as long as possible.
This charged water may now be used as an ingredient in potions and spells, substituted wherever a spell demands water, including Holy Water. It ranks among the most profound ingredients of the materia magica, right alongside menstrual blood and iron.
Despite its power, its name translates to the less-than-romantic lunar slime. To fully understand its power, let’s jump across the sea to Africa’s Mediterranean coast and a more recent Moroccan magic product.
The stuff of fairy tales, historically prized by Morocco’s witches, Moon Foam is a legendary power-substance that captures the essence of the New Moon. It can:
Enforce a husband or lover’s fidelity
Cure or prevent impotence
Repair male or female fertility
Instill mad, crazy passion for whoever uses it
Obtaining Moon Foam entails a complex ritual, a little more difficult than the Thessalian Trick, although there are some suggestions that indicate that similar results were expected from the older spell.
Approach the cemetery gates at the New Moon and undress completely.
Fill a basin or pitcher with pure spring water and place it in the light of the moon.
Mount an oleander branch and gallop around the perimeter of the cemetery counter-clockwise seven times, chanting a “special” incantation as you circumambulate. (The incantation, of course, is a well-kept secret. Either find an old wise witch to whom you can apprentice yourself, or improvise.)
Ideally by now your actions have succeeded in attracting the attention of the moon’s guardian spirits. If all goes as it should, following the seventh circle around the cemetery, a lunar spirit will manifest herself to you and request that you reveal your desire. Tell her that you want Moon Foam. She will not be overly willing to give it to you.
You’ll have to negotiate. Make various offers; see what works. If the negotiations are successful, the moon will literally drop down into your water.
Eventually the water will contain visible silver foam. Strain it off carefully, like oil from water or scum from soup.
Take it home and reserve for future use.
This Chinese technique of drawing down the moon is used to create a magic mirror:
Lunar-charged Magic Mirror
A small round mirror is required, ideally one crafted from precious metals such as gold or silver and ornamented with auspicious symbols of protection and good fortune.
On the night of the Full Moon, hold the mirror so that it reflects the moon for a minimum of three hours.
When you feel that sufficient lunar energy has been absorbed, wrap the mirror in a protective fabric pouch. This mirror is now off limits to everyone but its owner. Although one person may prepare this mirror for another, once given, the mirror belongs to one person exclusively. The remaining steps of this spell must only be performed by the mirror’s owner.
For the next consecutive fifteen nights, reflect your face in the mirror over substantial blocks of time, so that the absorbed lunar power merges with your own. This is an interactive process, a sharing of essences: gazing into the mirror, you absorb the lunar gifts of radiance, beauty, psychic ability, and fertility, but the mirror simultaneously is imprinted with your personal power and desires.
When the fifteen-night period is complete, the mirror is considered charged and in harmony with the individual who owns it. It is now a profound magical tool for obtaining your wishes and desires.
To use the mirror repeat the initial ritual of drawing down the Full Moon, but now use the mirror as a direct communications device, a sort of personal hot line to the moon, to request gifts of love, marriage, psychic power, creative inspiration, personal fertility, or healing.
Spell-casting in Conjunction with the Power and Assistance of the Spirits
This style of spell-casting is unique. In other methods of spell-casting, the practitioner casts the entire spell from beginning to end. Spirit-oriented spells involve inducing, persuading or coercing a powerful Spirit, usually a specialist in a field, to perform the magical action for you, on your behalf. Thus your spell is cast in order to persuade the Spirit to cast the crucial spell or create the needed magical energy transaction.
This area of magic veers dangerously close to religion and sometimes cannot be separated. In some cases, magical practices are what remain of what were once formal and sometimes very important religions. It is worthwhile, when considering the permanence of modern religions, to recall that organized worship of Isis, for instance, was not limited to Egypt but eventually expanded further south in Africa, throughout Western Asia and into Europe as far as what is now modern London, and spanned a period of several thousand years.
Spirits worshipped in religion as “gods” and “goddesses” are incorporated into magic spells. There is a crucial distinction between magic and religion though: religion may involve devotion to and worship of these spiritual entities. Magic invariably requests a reciprocal, cooperative relationship, although it may be a relationship characterized by love, respect and awe. Both spirit and human are perceived as having needs, which, ideally, are mutually fulfilled by a successful magic spell.
Ultimately the most potent, powerful magic derives from spiritual partnership, working with guardian and allied spirits. This is also for many the most challenging, hard to access and believe magic, because it doesn’t feel real to many people. It may be hard to believe or comprehend that a rock has a memory, but at least you can hold the rock in your hand. When you’re working with spirits, are you actually working with anything or is this all just the stuff of myth, fairy tale and make-believe?
Discussions about finding the goddess within, although perhaps extremely valuable from a spiritual or therapeutic perspective, present a further magical obstacle. If the goddess (and, by projection, any other magic power) is truly an aspect of oneself, why bother with any of the physical materials at all? Magic spells are, in general, a partnership between inner and outer powers—powers that are part of you, and those that are distinctly independent from you.
Our limited word pool also compounds the problem. Because we approach spirituality literally, we also approach religion. Seemingly neutral simple terms like god and goddess are actually highly charged with personal meaning and resonance. We think that when we use those terms we are all on common ground, but that’s not necessarily so. Some use these terms to indicate supreme creators of the world; others use the terms for any type of spiritual entity. So to level the playing field, let’s just use the term spirits to name those powerful entities that resist human efforts to define them.
Like magic in general, every people, every culture on Earth, has at one time or another practiced some sort of spiritual interaction. Although it might be suggested today that someone claiming to have personal contact with spirits receive psychiatric counseling, at one time this was a common, if never commonplace, human experience.
Spiritual communication of all kinds, but especially the various methods of requesting spiritual participation in magic spells, exists in very consistent ways all around Earth.
If this seems unreal to you or if, based on religious background, you perceive that contact with spirits is potentially evil, there’s good news. Although this is a powerful form of magic, it’s easily avoided. Simply skip those spells and find others. Hoodoo, some of the most powerful magic of all, is practical magic devoid of spiritual encounters, as are many other systems. Work with what empowers you and makes you feel comfortable. On the other hand, if you are devoted to a spirit, you may incorporate spiritual petition into virtually every spell.
There is a host of spirits, legions. There are spirits to serve every purpose, and spirits with a vested interest in every topic. In addition to love spirits, protective spirits, healing spirits, etc., there are spirits of the bathroom, beer and perfume. If something can be conceived, then there is at least one spirit attached to it.
Why do they assist us or even pay attention to us? For a variety of reasons, which ultimately may depend upon the nature of the particular spirit in question. Some are benevolent in general, some may have affection for you specifically; however the basic answer is because it is their job to do so. Dentists take care of teeth, doctors treat the ill and spirits have their own department of expertise. It is thus important to petition the correct spirit for a specific purpose, although the spirits who work most consistently and powerfully for you are always your personal guardians and allies as well as your ancestral spirits.
One person’s guardian angel can be someone else’s demon: I Corinthians 10:20 describes Pagan sacrifices as being made to demons. The Pagans would have disagreed with that assessment. Many of the spirits invoked in magic may seem obscure today, however once upon a time they were huge stars of the spiritual firmament. The emergence of Christianity and Islam demoted many once-renowned spirits to the side-lines. This does not diminish their potential power. If you’re willing to believe that a spirit has the power to assist you, then that spirit should be treated with respect and consideration. Never underestimate the power of even the lowest-level spiritual entity. Furthermore, other spirits, depending upon spiritual tradition, are more vital and empowered today than ever before.
At best, this human/spirit alliance creates mutually beneficial relationships of great affection, love and devotion. There is something of a barter relationship involved: we feed the spirits and they care for us, so that we may feed them more and they may care for us more. The key to this relationship, even more than any other kind of magic, is reciprocity. Make an offering when you make a request. Respond with an acknowledgement of thanks when the request is fulfilled, whether by prayer, gesture or through a gift or offering. Spirits, like people, possess preferences. These practices stem back thousands of years; there’s a tremendous quantity of accumulated wisdom. It’s not necessary to figure everything out for yourself, although intuition may be divinely inspired.
Angel literally translates as “messenger” in Greek, a direct translation from the Hebrew. Unlike other categories of spirits, angels do not accept “offerings,” or at least not officially. They are customarily called through prayer, petition and fragrance, although High Ritual Magic, based largely on information attributed to King Solomon, compels the presence of angels through sigils and talismans.
Specific angels maintain charge of all matters of life. There is an Angel of Conception, the Angel of Thieves, angels of various specific countries, and individual guardian angels. According to the Talmud, there are eleven thousand guardian angels per person. If you can think of it, it has a custodial agent.
In general, they are dynamic and fierce; creatures of light so blinding you can’t help but see them even with your eyes closed. According to Jewish mysticism, angels are beings of light, but when an angel wishes to manifest in physical form, it takes earth, fashions clothing from it and transforms itself.
Angels are discussed before other spiritual entities because they are somewhat different from others, and because (according to Islamic and Jewish traditions), angels are personally responsible for humanity’s ability to cast spells. The Creator may have created magic power but angels taught people how to recognize it and what to do with it. They are our magical teachers.
Christian magic, reflecting theology, demands the existence of angels as creatures of pure goodness (with the exception of the fallen angels, who essentially lost their status as angels during the fall), in clear opposition to demons, who are plainly “bad.” This is not the case in Islamic, Jewish and Pagan perceptions, where angels are just beings of power. There are good angels, “evil angels” and angels who may be persuaded to behave in either direction. Pious descriptions of “good” angels insist that they are asexual and gender-less, although ironically this is in opposition to the Bible, which describes the lust angels feel for human women (Genesis 6:1—4). Because these women conceive children, we can assume those particular angels to have been male with all working parts intact.
Instead of courting these human women with chocolates and roses, the angels bestowed the gift of knowledge—teaching the arts of astrology, magic, witchcraft and cosmetics (not the triviality it may appear today but an ancient magical art). According to the Book of Enoch these teaching angels and their subjects included:
Semjaza: enchantments and root cutting
Armaros: the resolving of enchantment
Ezequeel: knowledge of the clouds
Araquiel: earth signs
Shamsiel: sun signs
Sariel: the phases of the moon
Angels are ranked in various manners: Archangels, Throne Angels, Watchers, Seraphim and Cherubim among others. The archangels command spirit hosts. Various spells request assistance from the archangels, however whether they are personally expected to appear or to delegate another from their host may be subject to interpretation.
There’s little agreement among experts or traditions, particularly as regards to the archangels. Are there seven or are there four? And which ones are they?
The standard four archangels are Rafael, Gabriel, Michael and Auriel, also spelled Uriel or Ariel. That much, at least, is agreed upon in Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions and probably pre-dates all three. But do they serve alone or are there really seven archangels, corresponding to the seven planets visible with the naked eye and to that magic number, seven? If that’s the case, who are the other three? Some possibilities include Cassiel/Kafziel, Zadkiel, Samael, Chamuel, Jophiel, Raziel, Metatron, and Iblis. Even Lucifer makes it onto some lists, although obviously he loses his status after his fall. (Most angels, but not all, have names ending with “-el,” El being the ancient pan-Semitic name for the Creator, literally “the Lord.”)
Enochian magic is a system of “angel magic.” conveyed to Dr. John Dee, via the medium Edward Kelley. Dr. Dee, that brilliant, prominent astrologer and magician, chose Queen Elizabeth I’s coronation date and served as her advisor. He longed to converse with the angels but was unable to achieve personal contact with them, and so was forced to hire Kelley, an alchemist of ill-repute. Unlike Dee, Kelley had excellent shamanic skills and was able to contact the angels via mirrors and crystal balls. Allegedly the angels in contact with Kelley mere identical to those who communicated with the biblical Enoch, hence the name. A high degree of familiarity with classical magic is a prerequisite for working with Dr. Dee’s angelic system.
Demons are most frequently understood to be evil spirits. This is a misnomer, a perhaps deliberate misinterpretation of the Greek “daemon,” which merely indicates one’s personal guardian spirit, who may be benevolent, malevolent or both, as the case may be. With the emergence of Christianity as a power, any spirit interaction beyond what was authorized by the Church was perceived as evil. Thus the daemon, once a part of one’s personality and existence, was transformed into the demonic.
The word demon is frequently understood, within the context of the classical grimoires, to indicate a low-level malevolent spiritual entity and it is used in that context within this book. In general these low-level entities are anonymous, jealous, maliciously mischievous, and stupid.
Orisha and Lwa
These very similar spirit beings emanate from West Africa. The orisha derive from Yoruba-land, part of modern Nigeria. The lwa derive from Fon traditions in Dahomey/Benin. “Vodou” means “spirit” in the Fon language.
Adored in their homelands for thousands of years, these spirits accompanied their enslaved devotees to the West. Traditional African religions were outlawed under slavery, devotees were persecuted and the spirits were driven underground, but they were not forgotten. Instead they emerged in great prominence in the latter twentieth century as the foundation of increasingly prominent and influential African-derived spiritual traditions.
The orisha are the presiding spirits of the Santeria religion as well as the Afro-Brazilian cults, such as Candomble, Umbanda and Quimbanda. The Portuguese spelling is orixa; many of the same spirits are prominent amongst the different cults. Their names may be spelled differently, sometimes the same spirits use different names, their personalities may even manifest slightly differently depending upon location, but underneath the basic nature remains the same. For instance Oya, Spirit of storm winds and the Niger River retains that name in Cuba but is known as Iansa in Brazil. Her mythology and basic personality remain the same.
The lwa are the presiding spirits of Haitian Vodou as well as its descendants, New Orleans Voodoo and Dominican Vodo. (lwa is the modern Kreyol spelling; older French texts may use the term loa.) Although there is an entirely different pantheon of spirits, a few are common to both traditions and the behavior and manifestations of orisha and lwa are similar.
The influence of a few spirits was particularly well-distributed in Africa and thus are common to virtually all African Diaspora traditions. This refers particularly to the trickster Master of the Crossroads, Eshu-Elegbara and Ogun, Spirit and Embodiment of Iron. Although their names may vary depending upon location—particularly that of Eshu who, by nature, enjoys tricks, illusion and confusion—their core essence remains consistent.
Conventional wisdom has it that there are thousands of orisha, but only approximately forty have any interest or dealings with people. These forty, however, are passionately interested and involved with humans.
The official, formal African-derived religions, Santeria and Vodou in particular, continue to expand, attracting new devotees. The orisha and lwa, in addition, are gregarious powers. They’re eager to work, eager for attention. Because they are constantly fed, they’re full of energy. They will also work with independent practitioners and have been assimilated into some Wiccan, Pagan and Goddess traditions. However, ritual possession, the Spirit’s use of a person as a medium, common to a vast number of traditions worldwide, only occurs in the formal, official setting, as it should. These are extremely powerful, potentially dangerous practices that should not be attempted by the novice, the unsupervised or the unitiated. Ritual possession is a shamanic art, not a magic spell.
There is a formal, lucid, structured way of working with the orisha and lwa, which serves as an excellent model for any spiritual interaction. Vodou and Santeria are monotheistic faiths: there is a supreme deity who created all of existence. This creator, however, prefers to be an overseer. Olodumare, the Yoruba equivalent of God, created the orisha spirits to supervise creation. Each orisha or lwa is responsible for certain departments of life. Conversely every area of life has its own presiding orisha or lwa. Each individual person also has presiding orisha or lwa, typically a male and a female, the “masters of your head.” They are your patrons, protectors and advocates—providing you don’t anger them too much.
Each orisha and lwa has a distinct personality. Each has a color, number, special foods, plants and objects in which they recognize themselves. Attract their attention by manipulating these things: thus spells invoking the power of Oshun, Spirit of Love and Beauty, inevitably draw upon the color yellow, the number five, water, cinnamon and honey, all of which share Oshun’s essence. Petitions to Oya draw upon the color purple and the number nine. The spirits will communicate with you with these colors, numbers and items as well. In general, when Spirits perform a service for you, they want the credit. They will attempt to let you know that they have accomplished the miracle or the magic as the case may be. This system may be used to effectively communicate with Spirits of other pantheons as well.
The orisha most involved in human every-day matters are sometimes invoked as a group and known as the Seven African Powers:
Either Oya or Orunmila, depending on individual tradition
By petitioning the orisha as a group, you may rest assured that all your bases are covered. The Seven African Powers provide all of Earth’s potential blessings and protections. Commercially manufactured Seven African Powers products frequently depict them in their guise as Roman Catholic saints (see Identification/Syncretism, page 63).
The Exus and Exuas (Pomba Giras)
(Singular, exu and exua, pronounced “Eh-shoo” and “Eh-shoo-ah.”)
The West African trickster orisha Eshu-Elegbara is traditionally the first spirit petitioned during a ritual or spell. Because he controls all doors and the access to roads, Eshu determines whether your petition will be blocked or will reach the proper ears. Similar to the Greek god Hermes, devotees contact him first, propitiate him, then request that he invite and escort any other desired Spirits. Although some traditions encourage everyone to simply contact whom they please directly, others consider this initial communication with a gate guardian to be proper Spiritual protocol.
Eshu, more than most, manifests different aspects of himself in different places and to different people. But then, he is a trickster. In his original West African incarnation, he’s young and handsome, always ready for sex and romance. In the Western hemisphere, he rarely displays this side of himself, usually appearing as a deceptively frail old man with a cane or as a young, rambunctious, playful child.
In Brazil, Eshu transformed into a completely different type of spirit, into a class all his own, the exus, multiple personalities, distinct from the other orixa (orisha). Powerful, volatile and dangerous, the exus emphasize the extreme trickster aspects of the spirit. Because an exu is closer in nature to humans than the other orixa, he is the spirit most frequently appealed to for mundane matters, like money and love.
By definition, Afro-Brazilian spiritual paths possess this concept of exu.
Each orixa possesses his or her own exu, who serves as the orixa’s personal messenger.
Confused? The confusion only increases.
There are a multiplicity of exus, each with a slightly different nature and slightly different role. There are also female exus, the exuas, except that that term is rarely used. The female aspects of exus are instead known as the Pomba Giras, the whirling doves. Despite the fact that these traditions are grounded strongly in West African spirituality, and despite the fact that exus, in particular, clearly derive from Africa, the Pomba Giras are not completely African. Rather they seem to represent a merging of African traditions with those of the Portuguese Romany, deported en masse to the Brazilian colonies, concurrent with the African slave trade. The pre-eminent Pomba Gira, Maria Padilha, is a deified former Queen of Spain, also known in European magic spells. The superficial image of the Pomba Gira, at least, has little to do with the historic Maria de Padilla, wife of Pedro the First of Castile and Leon, but derives from what is at best an outsider’s romantic fantasy of Gypsy women and, at worst, an embodiment of every clichéd, negative stereotype: a promiscuous, hard-drinking prostitute/fortune-teller with a razor hidden in her cheek, a rose clenched between her teeth.
In addition to their function as messengers and servants of the orixa, exus and Pomba Giras may also be petitioned independently, specifically for more selfish, malevolent forms of magic in which the orixa may refuse to participate.
Exus and Pomba Giras are frequently perceived as dangerous and volatile, although this is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. Those who approach exus and Pomba Giras from a purely African or Pagan perspective will find them no more or less volatile than many another spirit. Maria Padilha Pomba Gira, in particular, can be a being of great power and generosity. Because many devotees are also either devout or lapsed Roman Catholics, there is often inherent ambivalence towards magic. Yes, it’s powerful but is it “good” in the ethical sense? From this perspective, exus are frequently associated with Satan, the Christian conception of the devil. The qualities that most correspond to this concept are emphasized in the Brazilian concept of the exu: lurking at the crossroads, the smell of brimstone, and assistance that brings ultimate doom.
The Pomba Giras in general are perceived as dangerous, disreputable spirits. Their favorite haunt is a T-crossroad. They prefer working with women but will work with men, if requested. Those who fear them suggest that long-term contact will inspire transvestitism in men and prostitution among both men and women.
The traditional offering for exus are plates of yellow manioc flour cooked in oil or drizzled with oil. Pomba Giras prefer flowers to food. Exus drink wine, rum, and cachaca while Pomba Giras prefer anisette or champagne.
These Spirits of Arabia and North Africa preceded Judaism, Christianity and Islam, although they have since traveled the world with Islam, and are found wherever Islam has been established. The word may be unfamiliar but it shouldn’t be: these are the legendary genies. The word “djinn,” also spelled “jinn,” derives from old Arabic and is thought to mean “covert” or “darkness.”
In one legend, djinn are created before people, to act as intermediaries between angels and people. In another, Adam and Eve actually had thirty children, not just the sons named in the Bible. One day God asked to see all of them. Eve, not trusting God, hedged her bets, by bringing out only fifteen of her children. (In some versions, she hides the fifteen most beautiful children.) Of course God, being God, immediately knows all and announces that the fifteen hidden children must now remain hidden in the shadows forever, while the fifteen brought out for display may live in the light. The visible children become ancestors of human beings; the hidden children become the djinn and other spirits.
Some djinn are benevolent and helpful to people, others are consistently temperamental, treacherous, jealous and malevolent—the proverbial evil spirits. Many djinn may actually be pagan divinities brought down in the world. There is some conjecture that the most famous, the beautiful, seductive yet dangerous Aisha Qandisha may actually be Astarte left without a temple and forced to hang around deserted hot springs.
Although the djinn are little known at present in the West, this was not always the case. In the 1950s, before the occult entered the mainstream, they were discussed in the most important magical texts and spell-books. To some extent their current lack of attention corresponds with the rise in popularity of the orisha. The orisha are not covert Spirits. Even when devotion to them was forbidden, they found ways around prohibitions through the use of identification/syncretization. The orisha and information about them are easily accessible. Many books are available. Practitioners openly proclaim their devotion. Orisha are willing to work with whoever petitions them with respect. There is a harmonious, mutually beneficial relationship between orisha and human devotees.
Unfortunately, this is not so with the djinn, who can be as ambivalent towards people as people frequently are towards them. Unlike the gregarious orisha, djinn tend to be cautious, secretive and ready to fly.
Djinn are most active at night; they maintain nocturnal business hours. In general they avoid appearances during the day, preferring to sleep and, like many other insomniacs, do not appreciate being disturbed
Djinn hate salt and fear iron and steel, all of which may be used to expel them. They are attracted and pacified by the telling of stories
Djinn love heat, deserts and hot climates as well as natural springs, ruins and wild places. They despise cold and snow. Some of them like tricks, although others can be very benevolent. Their traditional offering is given by pouring oil over flour
Djinn are spiritual devotees too. It’s believed that there are Islamic, Jewish, Christian and Pagan djinn. Each prefers to assist humans who share their spiritual orientation. The Islamic djinn, in particular, are said to resent and punish petitions from any but the most devout Muslims, who in theory, of course, will not call them. This is the other factor that keeps the djinn from the spiritual spotlight. The orisha survived because human devotees loved them, depended upon them for spiritual sustenance and magical assistance and risked life and limb to maintain their devotion. However, because the djinn are linked to the more disreputable, counter-cultural aspects of Islamic culture especially, a great many might prefer that they disappear. Their human custodians, those most well-versed in djinn lore, in summoning them, appeasing them, sending them packing as necessary and ritually channeling them, in a similar manner to the orisha, are traditionally the Gnawa people of North Africa, themselves descendants of enslaved sub-Saharans. (Gnawa or Gnaua, as it is sometimes spelled, is believed to derive from Ghana.)
This is a vast category of Spirits: included are devas and flower fairies (miniature winged plant spirits), as well as human-sized Fairy Folk, some of whom may or may not actually be human. Unlike the terms orisha or djinn, which refer to very specific types of Spirits, Fairy has become a somewhat generic category for a vast variety of Spirits who may or may not be related. Superficially, what appears to connect them is beauty, seductiveness and a temperamental nature, alternating between benevolent and punitive. This category includes dakini from Tibet, apsaras from India, peri from pre-Islamic Iran, Eastern European vila and Romany keshalyi, urme, and ursitory. Prettier, sweeter female djinn are sometimes classified as fairies, too.
Like the angels, fairies have recently been sanitized. This has not always been the case. Once upon a time, not too long ago, fairies were perceived as dangerous spirits. Beyond their superficial appearance, what actually connects these diverse spirits are shared associations with wild nature, forests and flowers, love, sex, women’s power, and the birth process—all powerful, potentially dangerous magic.
To some extent, this category of Spirits serves as judges of human ritual behavior. They reward those who properly conduct rituals and punish those who do not. Thus the vila famously punish cheating, deceitful men, and those who leave women waiting, abandoned at the altar. They also punish interlopers in the forest—presumably those hunters who no longer maintain spiritually correct hunting rituals. In the tale of Sleeping Beauty, the disgruntled fairy vents angry judgment because the ritual offering-table was improperly laid: there were an incorrect number of place settings—someone was left out. (See Fairy Childbirth Spells, page 852, for further information on this once common European practice.)
This, of course, is the darker side of Spiritual interaction. The Spirits protect us, and take care of us, because they’re stronger than us. Once you enter into a mutually acknowledged relationship with them, it’s hard to change the rules or terminate the contract. Even the most devoted of Spirit-workers has been known periodically to mutter against this “mafia.” Because the magic spell is potentially beneficial for the spirit as well as for the spell-caster, once a relationship is established, the spell cast, it may not necessarily be able to be stopped. Payment, tribute, further interaction is expected, on time, with the implicit threat of “or else…”
With the rise of European Christianity, of course, these payments and tributes for the most part ceased, leaving some disgruntled, hungry Spirits. In addition, once-powerful Spirits, the proverbial “goddesses,” were frequently demoted to Fairy-status, particularly in Ireland. Aine, Spirit of the Sun, a powerful, dynamic, versatile Spirit, for instance, becomes considered one of several Queens of Fairy, as does her compatriot Maeve. These are not Spirits to be trifled with. No wonder the Fairies, for whom Fairy Tales are named, are frequently so grouchy.
In certain parts of Europe, France in particular, witches were accused of consorting with Fairies rather than with the devil. During the French witch craze (basically the period between Joan of Arc and the end of the seventeenth century), a legal conviction for consorting with fairies automatically earned a sentence of hard labor. Attempts were made during her trial for heresy to depict Joan of Arc, herself, as a devotee of the Fairy Folk.
Anthropologists and historians offer yet another possible explanation for Fairies. Based on frequent descriptions of Fairies as nomadic, wandering folk, dwelling in wild forested areas in temporary beehive-like structures, some consider that the Romany were understood to be Fairies by the sedentary people who observed them. Fairies are described as supernatural, dark, small people in an area mostly populated by tall, fair people, brightly dressed in glad-rags during a time of conservative repression. Both Romany and Fairies have associations with magic and divination and suffer accusations of baby snatching and child stealing. Who knows? Perhaps buried within fairy lore are European perceptions of early, fleeting contact with the Romany.
Of course, to complicate matters further, the Romany themselves have a vast, complex, fairy tradition of their own. Their fairies are very clearly spiritual beings. According to Romany fairy tradition, for instance, the history of disease as we know it is largely caused by a series of tragic, sexual assaults inflicted by the King of Demons on the beautiful, fertile Queen of Fairy.
Various other types of spirits are summoned to assist with the casting of magic spells, including elementals (salamanders, undines and similar) and mermaids.
Offerings depend on the type of fairy invoked. The full-sized ones are said to prefer milk and berries. According to the Elizabethans, fairies revel in thyme. They love the aroma. Thus the best way to see fairies is to surround yourself with the fresh herb: eat it, grow it, and bring it into your home
Flower fairies, butterfly-sized winged nature spirits, the model for all modern sanitized fairies, are easier to summon and propitiate. They can be petitioned to bestow and enhance botanical powers. All you really need is a garden for an invitation to be extended. (A garden in pots outside may work: flower fairies do not like to venture indoors for extended periods.) Fill the garden with birdbaths, a source of water, charms, statues, witch balls and crystals. Plant the botanicals that they love: berries, chamomile. Corsican mint, forget-me-nots, foxglove, hibiscus, hollyhocks, honeysuckle, lavender. lilac, milkweed, morning glories. pansies, peonies, primroses, vincas and violets. In general, fairies prefer wild flowers to cultivated blooms. Leave the garden a little wild for them. Attract birds and butterflies, the fairies will follow them and help you cast your spells
A circle of ash saplings is a fairy dance ground. If you don’t pull them up. the fairies will remain. Alternately make circles for them from clear quartz crystals
Romany legend says that stinging nettles guard the doorways to fairyland. Grow some and find out
Burn Flower Fairy Incense outside to attract them: equal parts dried hollyhock and rosemary
Whether fairies are spirits or humans may be subject for debate. Many Spirits, from orishas, to those of ancient Greece and ancient Hawaii, may or may not be deified humans. The important orisha Chango, for instance, was once a king in Yorubaland. After death, he was deified and took his place among the orisha. That’s one version of his sacred story, anyway. The ancient Greeks demonstrated this process when Heracles and Psyche, both originally mortals, were permitted to shed their human energy and enter the Realm of the Divine.
Saints, however, are resolutely human—or at least they were when they were alive. Because the word saint has become so strongly associated with Roman Catholicism, it often comes as a surprise to realize that a concept of sainthood, albeit not an identical concept, exists among many other cultures, including the African Diaspora, Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim traditions.
Roman Catholic saints are required to fulfill certain expectations before sainthood is officially conferred, and it can be a lengthy, bureaucratic process to prove their miraculous deeds. Other traditions use different criteria: sometimes the magic power (heka, baraka) contained by a person is so potent that it defies death, allowing others to continue to access it, for purposes of healing and magic. For many traditions, power of this magnitude is what confers sainthood. It is usually an informal process. There’s no official beatification or canonization: word of miracles simply gets around. Shrines spring up and crowds gather.
The behavior of these saints may or may not be exemplary. Many are described as devout, charitable, generous people, although others demonstrate what might be characterized as profligate tendencies. Regardless, a saint’s great power, baraka, is accessible to those in need.
Marie Laveau, the self-proclaimed Pope of Voodoo born in 1792, has ascended to this concept of sainthood. Thousands venture to her grave in New Orleans annually to beseech her for favors. In particular, Laveau has earned an excellent reputation for remedying legal issues, as she did during her life. Attempts to contact her are made by knocking three times on the front of her tomb or by drawing three x’s in red brick dust or chalk on the stone. Offerings and payments are left, most customarily salt water or seven dimes.
What is euphemistically called “folk Catholicism” has been the bane of the Roman Catholic Church for centuries. The desire to work with a saint, as with a spirit, or perhaps the desire of the saint or spirit to work with the person, is too strong to resist: magical practices creep in. Certain official Vatican-approved saints are also frequent participants in magic spells, particularly Saint Anthony, San Cipriano, Saint Martha the Dominator, Saint George and John the Baptist. A saint’s magic powers may have little to do with their official hagiography: Saint Anthony, for instance, is invoked in almost as many love spells as Aphrodite. San Cipriano may or may not have been a reformed wizard in real life, but as far as magic spells are concerned, he’s returned to his old profession with gusto. When they are invoked for magic, these saints are treated like any other Spirit: offerings and payment are made for miracles begged and received. Saints, like spirits, have favored numbers, colors, fragrances and gifts.
The impulse to work with saints can be too powerful to wait for permission—or sometimes even to ask for permission. This isn’t a problem with traditions with no “official” concept of sainthood. In a sense, all Jewish saints, for example, are “unofficial.” There’s no authority or criteria to make them official, although popularity conveys its own kind of official status. It’s between saint and person. What happens, however, within a system where these criteria do exist? What happens when, during what usually starts as a local phenomenon, people begin to recognize a saint’s capacity for miracles, without official recognition? Will people be patient and wait for the official verdict or will they create their own rituals? For those who are inclined to magic, the choice is obvious.
So-called “unofficial saints” are invariably tied to the Roman Catholic tradition, because it is the only tradition that insists on a lengthy organized bureaucratic procedure of conferring sainthood. There is a vast range of unofficial saints. What they have in common are consistent miracles performed following death. They may be accessed in magic spells in similar fashion to any other Spirit.
Syncretism is the system by which one spirit is identified or fused to varying degrees with another. Although the process is most commonly and consciously associated with modern African-Diaspora faiths the tradition goes back millennia.
When the ancient Greeks began to travel their world, they encountered other people (Egyptians, Persians) with other pantheons. This frustrated them. Although they didn’t insist on one god, they did insist on their own gods. Who were these other spirits? In some cases, spirits from abroad (Dionysus, Hecate) were merged into their own pantheon. In other cases, the Greeks decided, other cultures simply used other names and told other stories about spirits who were the same as the Greek gods. Thus they created a system of identification: Hathor was a beautiful Spirit of love, who liked perfume and music. She must be Aphrodite, also a beautiful Spirit of love, who liked perfume and music. Although sometimes neat, obvious identifications can be made sometimes this leads to confusion. The Persian Spirit, Anahita, was a beautiful deity interested in human romantic and reproductive matters. Obviously she was identified as Aphrodite (identification means she was Aphrodite), but Anahita also had a martial aspect, driving a chariot, leading men to war. Therefore she must be Athena, too.
Identification therefore attempts to identify one spirit within another. Syncretism takes this a step further. One spirit wears the mask of another. When one pantheon is outlawed, the only way to continue devotion to now-banned spirits is to pretend that you’re worshipping others. This is precisely what happened to enslaved Africans in the Western hemisphere. Forbidden to practice their own faith, they accommodated it to another. Syncretism permits forbidden spirits to wear acceptable masks. Syncretism also means that acceptable saints are incorporated into magic spells in surprising ways because, in essence, they are fronting for that forbidden someone else. How else can one reconcile the conventional and devout “official” Saint Anthony of Padua with the witchdoctor persona he displays so powerfully and benevolently in a multitude of magic spells?
Spirits, like magic in general, are fluid in nature. Shape-shifting isn’t hard for them, even without conscious syncretism. Hence India’s Durga is an aspect of Parvati. In a moment of terrible stress, Durga unleashed her alter ego, Kali. All three are aspects of one, but all three are distinct beings, too. Confused? Well, you should be, it is confusing.
The realm of the spirits is like a journey through a dream landscape. Syncretism only increases the confusion.
Because the syncretism of the African slaves was born of desperation, quick, frequently visual identifications were made. Slaves were forbidden to practice their own religions but were permitted Roman Catholic chromolithographs of saints. They scoured them, looking for coded references to the orisha and lwa. Sometimes these identifications really work: Ogun, Spirit of Iron, was syncretized with the archangel Michael because in his most famous image Michael wields a sword. Yet they genuinely have much in common: both are tireless workers and warriors on behalf of human safety. Michael even has his own associations with iron. Sometimes syncretism is surreal: Chango, that most virile Spirit of Fire and Lightning is syncretized to the virgin martyr Saint Barbara, because her chromolithograph depicts a lightning bolt.
The first generation to engage in syncretization is conscious of what they’re doing. After that, though, all bets are off. At what point, if any, do these Spirits genuinely fuse? Perhaps Saint Peter, syncretized to road-opener Elegba because of his keys, really is Elegba or vice-versa. And if you’re invoking Saint Peter in a magic spell, are you really invoking the saint or Elegba, hiding within, even if, after three generations, the orisha is no longer remembered?
Santeria earned its name, “religion of the saints,” because of syncretism. Those who emphasize Roman Catholic ties prefer to emphasize the saints or perhaps a combination. Those who emphasize African roots prefer to emphasize the orisha or perhaps a combination. Others can no longer separate saint from orisha; true fusion has occurred for them. In Brazil, there have been calls to end syncretism as it is no longer necessary.
Were authorities truly unaware of the slaves’ subterfuge? It’s hard to say. This system of identifying and syncretizing spirits is present whenever one faith demands that another abandon and deny its spirits. Sometimes religious authorities presented syncretism to a population to make the new religion palatable. Hence, Goddess Aine becomes a Fairy Queen. She remains accessible to old devotees in that role, if not in her old one, which was perceived as dangerous to the new religious authority. Celtic Spirit Brigid, the Druid’s daughter, becomes identified with Saint Brigid. They merge; where one stops and the other starts becomes very difficult to determine.
Sometimes however this process backfires. In the case of Maximon, also known as Brother Simon, missionaries’ attempts to assimilate the Guatemalan spirit Maam with Saint Simon backfired. Maximon, spirit of male primal energy, defied boundaries and took on a life of his own. The Church then attempted to syncretize him with Judas Iscariot or even with the devil. This only enhanced Maximon’s outlaw image, making his devotees love him even more. Although intended to merge, to syncretize, with an “official” saint, Maximon instead has emerged as a powerful “unofficial” saint.
Sometimes syncretism occurred so long ago that the original spirit hiding underneath is completely forgotten. The only way to recognize that syncretism may have occurred is the observation that the saint behaves strangely in an un-saint-like manner. This applies particularly to the Big Three of Magical Catholic Saints, Saint Anthony, Saint George, and John the Baptist. Although perhaps completely forgotten spirits lurk within, many believe that under their respective masks lie Hermes, Baal, and Adonis.
Spell-casting with Words
Working magical practitioners tend to have a loose definition of what constitutes a magic spell. Once one becomes truly involved with magic and spell-casting, every action of the day can become transformed into a magic spell. Scholars of magic, particularly those who study a topic that fascinates them but in which they don’t actually believe, may have more rigid definitions. For many, verbal spells are the strictest definition of what constitutes a spell.
Technically, the use of the word “charm” to indicate a “lucky charm” is a misnomer. Lucky charms are talismans, amulets or magically empowered items. “Charm” derives from the same source as “Carmen” or “carol,” as in a Christmas song, and indeed charm at its most archaic means a song. To be en-chanted literally means to be under the magical influence of a chant. By the strictest, most scholarly definition of a magic spell, every spell should have a verbal component, preferably sung, and perhaps only a verbal component. Certain magical traditions do emphasize this verbal component, particularly traditional Russian magic and modern Pow-Wow. However, this strict definition can only be used in an abstract, theoretical scholarly setting; it doesn’t take into account either the realities of magic or the needs of many spell-casters.
Great, renowned systems of magic, such as those belonging to the Finn and Saami traditions, are under-represented in this book. Their magical systems were traditionally based on each individual practitioner’s unique repertoire of songs and thus cannot be reproduced in book form. Legendary practitioners were able to sing magic into fruition; any practitioner worth his or her salt, for instance, allegedly possessed a song that could stop a wound from bleeding.
This desire to insist upon a verbal component to every spell is very Eurocentric. This emphasis on the magic power of words doesn’t necessarily exist or at least not to the same extent in traditions from Asia and Africa. That said, the power of words in magic spells is profound. Words convey power and intent and can be used to create realities where none existed previously, which is, after all, the goal of many magic spells. Words, sounds and syllables may possess their own inherent power in the same fashion that minerals and botanicals do. Zora Neale Hurston, the author and scholar/practitioner of magic, on considering the origins of magic and magic spells, suggested that God was the original Hoodoo Doctor, having spoken the world into creation with magic words.
Verbal components, like spiritual petition, may be incorporated into any spell. However, words are tricky and subject to individual taste. The classic is abracadabra: some perceive it as a word of power, others as an old joke. The verbal component of the spell has to suit the spell-caster’s taste, otherwise it can derail the whole spell.
Some tips on spell-casting language:
Repeating the words of a magic spell should never make you feel foolish, stupid, self-conscious or uncomfortable. Change the words to suit your taste and temperament. It will undoubtedly not be the first or last time they are changed
The majority of the spells in this book are traditional. Not every traditional spell has a verbal component, however where traditional verbal components of spells exist they have been retained. Many spells feature archaic language—language as it’s no longer spoken and perhaps never was. An attempt to enhance magical ambience often means resorting to pseudo-archaic language. Some enjoy throwing “thees,” “thous,” and “forsooths” into spells. This author isn’t among them. In general, except where archaic language was somehow intrinsic to the spell or to conveying its specific character, I’ve used modern language, updating and adjusting where necessary, because magic spells, no matter how ancient their roots, are a modern art, not relegated to the dusty past. However if you like all those “thees” and “thous,” if you enjoy archaic language, if it enhances your sense of magical ambience, adjust the spells to suit your taste and put them back
Many associate the verbal component of spells with rhymes. If you enjoy rhymes, that’s fine, however rhymes are not required. The advantage of rhymes is that they’re easily remembered, which can be crucial if it’s a spell that requires you to exactly repeat incantations at intervals, however what is being said is almost invariably more important than the literary devices used to say it
It is crucial that the verbal component of a spell express your goals and desires accurately, concisely and without ambiguity, because living magical forces sometimes enjoy playing tricks. Change and adapt as needed. Make up your own words, keeping them simple and to the point or use words composed by others that best express your desires. Psalms are traditionally used in this way; poems or the lyrics of your favorite songs may be able to articulate your desires and goals more accurately than any ancient charm
USE THE PRESENT TENSE WHEN CASTING A SPELL
Thus a spell for luck proclaims. “I am lucky,” not “I Will be lucky.” Keeping it in the present tense serves to create reality, the goal of spell-casting, while the future tense keeps your desires tantalizingly just out of reach. When in doubt, Motown songs are always easily incorporated into spells because the lyrics are direct and almost always expressed in the present tense! (“Money, that’s what I want,” for instance, or “He’s back in my arms again.”)
Speaking the Spell
Verbal components of spells are usually spoken aloud, however not all spells are spoken the same way. There are different techniques of speaking and enunciating used in spell-casting Directions are incorporated into the text of the spells but you must understand these directions in order to put them to best effect.
Murmuring and Muttering
In many cases, the verbal component of the spell is not meant to be easily understood by others. This is not necessarily or only because of secrecy. In these spells, you are actually interjecting the power of your words into something, even if only the atmosphere, but more frequently into an object. A classic and simple spell is to murmur words over a glass of water, transforming it into a potion. By then giving it to another to drink, you are magically transferring and transmitting your magical message and directions.
Announcing and Chanting
Sometimes, however, words are used to express and announce one’s intentions and desires to the universe or towards a specific magic power. In that case, words need to be clearly understood. Articulate distinctly, expressively and at a volume that you deem appropriate.