Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Spellcraft, Folk Magic, and Cursing

What is Spellcrafting?

Spellcrafting is a prescribed set of actions performed for a specific need. It uses your own will to direct energy to a desired purpose or outcome.

Many people liken spellcrafting to prayer, and it is – in a way. With prayer (at least in the Christian tradition), you are directing you requests and will to God, and asking him to take action for your desired outcome. With your own spellcrafting, you may petition a specific God or Goddess or spirit for help with your working, but it is your own will that drives the energy to the specific desired outcome. I prefer to think of spellcrafting like baking a cake. You have your flour, eggs, milk, sugar. However, it is not a cake until you put the work into making it so. The blending of ingredients into rudimentary form, and then applying heat (energy) to transform it into it's desired form.

Spellcrafting can be done in many ways, depending on your path or culture. It can be called many things (charms, workings, prayers), and the focus can be wildly differing.

Factors to Consider in Spellcrafting

The biggest mistake many practitioners make is to rely on spellcrafting for EVERYTHING. Spells are to enrich your life and to help you along in life, not to live your life and make your decisions for you. Putting all of you eggs in one basket leaves you empty and unhappy. You should have a reason (and for me, it usually has to be a good one) to work a spell.

Intention is everything in a spell. It is using your own energy, so it is reaching deep into you and focusing your will. Be absolutely honest with yourself and be true to your intentions – it is you who will reap any benefits (or drawbacks) from the working itself.

Magic (or magick – hey, I think you should spell it as you want) works like a current or a lightning strike – it works the quickest way possible. Asking for unnecessary things or being too vague about your request may result in some unexpected (and sometimes horrible) consequences. As an example, asking for money with a focus on finding new employment or calling in outstanding money owed to you is one thing. You have a level a specificity in your intention. However, just asking for straight up money with no instructions on where to get it from can result in other possibilities; you may have a relative die and leave you money; you may be in a car accident and get a settlement from insurance.

Remember: need, intention, specifics.

Types of Spellwork

“Magick -the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” - Aleister Crowley

We're going to do some breaking down here.

In terms of spellcrafting, there are really 2 types; ceremonial and folk.

Ceremonial magic is also called high magic or learned magic. It's kind of a broad term, and pretty much applies to the long, elaborate rituals often done by those associated with Hermeticism or Western Esotericism. It was popularized by The Golden Dawn folks, and draws on a lot of different sources, most going back to the 1600's.

Folk magic is also called low magic. Many different cultures use folk magic, as it pretty much encompasses most other workings that don't fall into shamanism or ceremonial magic. Folk magic often works with things found in the natural environment – nature spirits, trees, plants, weather, bones, etc.

Breaking it down further, we take a look at some of the subcategories of folk magic:

  • Hoodoo – predominantly African American, but incorporates some Native American practice as well as some European magical practices and grimoires. Conjuration and rootwork are other ways to describe it.
  • Herbal – using herbs and poisons to work magic. Incense, teas, sachets, and spell bags.
  • Petition – Writing needs on a piece of paper and burning/burying it.
  • Fire/Candle – Carving and anointing candles with a specific purpose. Many practitioners favour this method because fire is a power and fast method to enact change.
  • Sympathetic – using poppets, bags, figures, or talismans to represent persons or situations. A lot of Voodoo practitioners use sympathetic magic, but it is also common in English traditional witchcraft (i.e witch bottles).
  • Tarot – Using tarot and tarot pairings to work a spell.
  • Stone – using crystal grids, gem waters, stone bags, or spell bags to work magic.

Sourcing and Using Ingredients

There are so many ways to create spells, the list of ingredients is staggering. There are herbs, stones, and oils to start with. Many of these objects have folkloric and healing properties that can help lend energy to a specific working.

Many practitioners also use colour. You find this a lot in candle magic – colours have specific vibrations and have different effects on our minds, and they can be powerful helpers in workings because they give you something extra to focus on.

All of the ingredients act as tools – ways to build your spell. They are the flour, eggs, sugar and milk I named in my cake example. When sourcing ingredients, try to get as natural as possible. It's much more effective to get a fresh as possible. If you can't, that's okay. Also, things you get locally, or things you make with your own hands will have more power.

What happens when you can't get something? “I only have a white candle but I need blue! I'm out of mugwort!” Well, at that point you look for substitutions. White will work for most colour magic (as it is all colours) and rosemary is a good substitution herb. You can also grab a book and look up herbs or stones that have similar properties. When all else fails, use your own intuition.

Sometimes we know what we need to put into a working. Maybe you feel as though your grandmother's necklace will amp up your personal power, or that you'd feel better using juniper instead of sage. It's your energy, so listen to what your gut or inner voice says.

Sometimes you can add things like bodily fluids to spells to increase their potency. This should only be done on a case by case basis. I'm not advocating people run around pricking themselves with pins or spitting on their spell bags, but it something that often was done in traditional folk magic. Witch bottles are a fabulous example, as they often contained urine.

Ethical Considerations

When we get into discussions of using will, we have to discuss ethics.

First and foremost – you shouldn't use magic to control someone else's will.
I feel that this should go without saying, but I am saying it anyway. The easiest way to gauge this is to ask yourself one question: how would I feel if someone was doing this to me? Not only that, but what if something were to happen to them that was irreversible because of my actions? You should not toy with another's will unless is it absolutely the only option left (which I will get into later). 

Next, you should only work for only needs – not wants. Needs are essential, wants are fleeting. You are more likely to give a purer energy and a more forceful will if you are working with needs. There is a big difference between “I need a new job to feed my family” and “I want a new iPhone”.

Thirdly, phrasing is important. It goes back to my first point here about other's will, but also back to intentions.

Lastly, you must be prepared to be responsible for whatever will you unleash. Wiccans refer to it as the Rede, some call it karma, to me it's a matter of personal responsibility. I fully accept the results of my actions - I am adult who is making the decision to conform energies to my will.

How Do We Do This?

Spells can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. You generally start with a three point approach:
  • Need – why are doing this spell anyway?
  • Intention – what are you hoping to achieve?
  • Specifics – how are you going to achieve this?

Really, it comes down to how much time and effort you want to devote to each of those points. Some people like to cast a circle, call the quarters, and make it a full-on ritual. Some people work on their kitchen table. Some people write words, some people follow directions. The thing that is consistent in most folk magic is that it is personal to the practitioner.

Here are a few (very simple) examples of methods.

Candle magic - Carve your name or intention into a candle, seal it with your own spit, burn.
Petition magic - write your intention or desire on a piece of paper, seal and burn.
Tarot magic - set up a sacred space, pull a card to represent your desire, burn a candle until gone.
Spell bag - put assorted bits (herbs, stones, ashes from petitions, hair, etc) into a bag and carry it around or place in sacred space.
Sympathetic magic - make a poppet or what you are trying to affect (for example, a friend's broken leg), place a bandaid (or string or stones, etc) over the area.

Hexing, Cursing, Jinxing, Binding

Scary, scary words. Scary actions, to be honest. Let's look into the differences.

  • Hexing – a type of bewitchment – this is working on manipulating someone's emotions.
  • Cursing – this is straight-up inflicting magical harm on another
  • Jinxing – this is inflicting bad luck on another
  • Binding – using your will to bind another from doing you harm by manipulating their will.

I will not advocate the use of any of these except in extreme circumstances. I do mean extreme. Doing any of these things to another binds you to their fate, good or bad. It goes back to personal responsibility. Like inertia – every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It is said a witch that cannot hex cannot heal – and to a degree, you should at least know what these terms are and what they can do. It's like having a loaded handgun – you can hang onto it to protect you, but you wouldn't shoot someone for giving you the stink-eye (this is of course assuming you are all reasonable people!).

I have written 2 binding spells in my life, and used one. One I wrote for a friend when an abusive ex-boyfriend (and I do mean abusive, he attacked her and left her with scars) was harassing her and wouldn't leave her alone. She was scared to leave her house. The police wouldn't do anything. After doing the spell, he kind of dropped off the face of the Earth. He's still alive and well, but no one we associate with has heard from him in years.

The other was for an online stalker who would not leave me alone. He threatened me, and my family, my spouse, and my friends. He knew where I lived (not the exact address, but the small town I was in) and threatened to find me. He was using an online persona, so I had no real legal ground to stand on (or at least I thought at 19). I was afraid, so I wrote a very light binding spell (kind of like a magical peace bond). I have not heard from him since I did the spell 13 years ago.

I have cursed before, but only when there were no other options to explore.

These are the extreme circumstance – your life is threatened, you have been willfully harmed by another, your family is harmed, etc. Always go through legal channels first, and do exhaust every other option before resorting to this kind of work. This should be a last resort.

That said, I do think it is important to know this type of spellcraft, even if you never intend on using it. It is very heavy handed. Some people will walk around and tell you to curse anyone who wrongs you - most of the time, these people are full of shit. They're trying to seem badass or powerful - it's a smokescreen for other insecurities. It's important to know how to defend yourself - but you wouldn't (or, I should say, most reasonable people) learn jujitsu just to run around kicking people in the face when it suits you. There are consequences for actions - be prepared to accept yours.

A Final Note

As always, magic is up to the practitioner. I am certain that there are people who would disagree with the methods and suggestions I have written about here. That is fine - this essay is based on my own experiences and methods, as well as literary research. If something does not work for you, or if you disagree with my opinions or thoughts, that is okay! It is all about giving you a basis so you can learn to create and nurture your own methods!