A Crash Course in Ethical, Intuitive and Effective Spellwork
Many people turn to spellwork to harness a sense of control over their lives. Others use spells to persuade or intuit the actions of others.
Those who didn’t grow up around esoteric practices or in new age households often seek spellworkers (including Tarot readers) as a last resort.
I’ve had clients who confided in me that they spent thousands of dollars for spells that were more nefarious than helpful. Con-artists give spellworkers a terrible rap and for good reason—the shame and guilt that comes with being duped is so tragic that many people turn away from the esoteric arts entirely.
When practiced ethically, spellwork is an intensely personal practice where you have the liberty to explore possibilities, fantasize about your most ideal circumstances, and hold space where the seemingly impossible can come true.
In order to practice spellwork yourself, there aren't any prerequisites for entry. You can also use materials you already have on hand like flowers, tea or salt. Some people buy crystals, florida water or pre-written spells. Use what speaks to you, but consider where your materials are coming from. Make sure what you’re buying is ethically sourced, meaning that the environment and people who produce your tools are treated with the utmost kindness.
To start, create your own spells and use objects that carry heart and meaning to you.
For teenage me, these resources included my journal, my Tarot cards (Hanson-Roberts to start) and crystals. This supply slowly evolved into candles, bones, herbs, feathers, and a slew of other witchy goodies given to me by friends, found in thrift stores or art markets that I participated in.
Having friends who are also spellworkers creates a sense of community around your practice and you may find that people start to suggest certain herbs or materials that have worked for them when you start to talk more about your personal practice.
Put simply, spellwork is the act of setting an intention then creating a symbolic action. It can be done on your own, with another person, or in a group. You take time to set an intention, perform the symbolic action, then give it up to the universe.
Here’s a simple spell framework that’s kind of like submitting a job application:
You say to the employer (in this case, the universe)
1. Who you are, stating your full name.
2. What you want.
3. Why you are grateful for this new opportunity.
Asking circumstance to meet you halfway in your projected outcome, see what happens next. If nothing happens from this spell and you really want results, try doing it repeatedly. This is when your spell becomes your personal ritual, something that you can return to when you're losing faith.
Sometimes creating a spell then doing a meditation will help you uncover next steps to take, people to talk to, subjects to study, books to read and other guidance pertaining to your personal goals and aspirations.
Spellwork is the radical process of placing faith in yourself to do what you know you have to do in order to reach a goal or an ideal. It’s a self-development practice that’s pretty out there and it isn’t for everyone.
But when you boil it down, it’s psychological.
Working with magic and feeling its effects has no explanation beyond the power of suggestion and intention setting, which most people can agree are valid scientific concepts whether they believe in (or have personally experienced) metaphysical phenomena or not.
You cast a spell and expect an outcome, even if that outcome is internal. Sometimes after our rituals we find that the solution was in us all along and then we can determine a strategy moving forward in creating our ideal career, relationship, family, home, lifestyle, etc...
When we look for the outcomes caused by our actions we almost always find them.
You set a hypothesis, test it out, and when it works as planned—or close enough—that’s when you realize how much control you really have over the world, or how little. In this way, we unknowingly cast spells every single day, just by making a cup of coffee in the morning to wake us up, or brushing our teeth to keep our mouths healthy. What fraction of your day is spent completing tasks that have a perceived outcome?
Sometimes that cup of coffee in the morning does not wake us up. Sometimes we brush our teeth but still get cavities. Like spellwork, these habits have plausible outcomes but do not always lead to their intended result.
Spellwork can be a powerfully humbling practice in that sense—it doesn’t always work, and it shouldn’t, but when it does, it’s immensely gratifying.
With the Abraham Hicks Law of Attraction Theory (1981), spellwork was simplified, boiled down to a thought process: you think it, you manifest it. Esther and Jerry Hicks, the authors of this theory, laid out a series of techniques through multiple books on how to train your brain to see the positive side of almost any situation, expecting abundance no matter what.
My issue with the concept is that it doesn’t account for circumstances that you are unable to change. It has a certain americana philosophy a fake-it-till-you-make-it manifesto that’s easy to buy into, but creating an ideal life is much more complicated than just thinking positively and taking what you need. Especially for those who are compassionate activists, we can’t block out the injustices that people face every day.
We are affected by circumstances, our environment, other people, time, and countless other factors, including how the people around us are affected. Aye!
We like to be the drivers of our bodies and minds, but sometimes we break down and need repairs, or need parts replaced. We carry shame for not feeling, looking, and acting perfect. We carry trauma from earlier in our lives, and sometimes it’s pressingly current. Often we are in pain and it takes guts, not positive thinking, to recognize our circumstances, to face them and move through forward in a constructive way. This process is often referred to as shadow work, a concept in Jungian or analytical psychology.
We can’t simply make the magical thinking and watch injustices fix themselves, especially when we see ourselves as activists.
It’s not all light and positivity, there’s a whole lot of shit out there, and we are affected by it every day. Injustices are here so that we can find justice in the middle of it. This is of great importance and strength to us. To completely wipe out the past to focus on the present would be absurd. Our singular and collective pasts define us in ways that inform the present and how we shape the future.
So, if you aren’t feeling positive all of the time, good. Accepting a range of emotions and how they affect us and the ways we are changed and morphed by our environments is healthy. What spellwork offers is a framework for creative problem solving, strategic yet spontaneous living with a little bit of faith.
Intuitive spellwork and intention setting through ritual acts like Tarot can help us feel more centered, grounded and hopeful in a way that simply thinking and acting sometimes can’t, especially when we have so many thoughts bouncing around in our brains.
The world is noisier than ever before, thanks to blogs like these, social media, advertisements, memes, and the vastness of the digital landscape, so spellwork offers time just for you, your thoughts and your intentions.
When we take time to dig into our creativity through ritual, we commune with endless potential and possibility, finding a point, a star, a cardinal direction, that propels us forward.
Some traditional spellworkers choose to summon demons, archangels, spirits, and/or personalities.
For some, this is purely symbolic and adds heightened meaning. Artists and performers channel all the time, and some may argue that you have to in order to create something truly spectacular. There’s so much faith in creating something new or brave. Spellwork can be the precursor to the creative action. It sets the mood for intuitive and creative control.
We seek to connect with something greater than ourselves but often can’t during the creation process and when that happens we create art that doesn't come intrinsically, but by the opinions of others.
So we have to create spells that are private and just for us, and sometimes they are channeled through a divine personality, but they can also just come from us. Many seek out an otherness for added courage through voices of direction and inspiration—what some people call “spirit guides!"
Musicians create bands, spellworkers create covens.
Most of us seek connection with others, desiring a community that sustains our creativity as part of our growth. If we didn’t crave community, we wouldn’t seek out editors. We wouldn’t ask for input from our mentors or feedback from our peers. Most spellworkers start out creating spells on their own or in the family, then join covens (some more formal than others) or hold ceremonies at the full or new moon.
We crave a community and a greater involvement spiritually, socially, romantically, and spellwork can allow for that while we are in the creative process because we crave meaning. We want our lives to be tied up in others and we seek out ways so that we will be remembered and that’s part of the spellwork lineage and community. We say, “This is my trick. This is how I’ve found it useful. Try it for yourself and if you find it useful, great. But here’s my trick. See if it works for you.” Like any artist with a style. Like any scholar with a theory.
It takes faith in experimentation to be a spellworker. Think of it as a concept for heightened creation.
I personally turned to spellwork to focus on the unexplained and unforeseen, thus making my life more into a game, an experiential, play-as-you-go way to access magic and magical circumstances.
Are you a spellworker too? Here’s a quick and dirty checklist!
Have you considered yourself a catalyst for people on the verge of major life changes like moves, divorces, new jobs, family, etc?
Do you tend to attract people who are in motion?
Can you observe, feel, sense the subtle energies of other people as they walk by you on the subway, in a passing car, on the dance floor or on the street?
Do you find that it’s easy to see people’s stories when they are near you?
Do you like to cook or bake? Do you make concoctions for your bath or teas?
Do you like to write and talk to make things feel more real?
Do you speak your world and viewpoints into actuality?
Do you often find yourself in intense meditations?
Have you made huge life risks that paid off in the end?
Do you often see the solution to other people’s problems?
Do you crave a sense of self through acting on your intuition and a perceived divine guidance?
Do you feel that you have a private internal life that’s difficult to relay to others?
Do you have bouts of profound revelations for yourself and/or others?
Do you believe in magical circumstances but also freewill?
Do you find yourself helping others strategize?
Do you play with rocks and crystals, feathers, candles, bones, etc.?
Do you keep a journal?
Do you create lists and find pleasure in checking them off?
Do you consider yourself an artist, or surprise yourself by what you are able to create?
Almost anyone can do intentional spellwork and become a spellworker, but some are more privy than others. If you answered yes to more than half of these questions, you’re already a natural!
If not, that's okay too. Like any art form, spellwork can be learned through practice.
Working intentionally with spellwork is one of the most profound ways to realize the power of sensitivity and how to channel it. You can also gauge your sensitivity by how you respond to regular meditation, movement, crowds, and daily stimuli then recording it in a journal.
It can be difficult to know when to fire up the magic engine and when to shut it down, keep it at a steady pace, or slam on the gas. There are times when different speeds and intensities are appropriate, and I often turn to Tarot as a form of spellwork for this reason, because it helps you gauge how you are feeling in an acute way and allows you the time to reflect on how you'd like to move forward.
One of the challenges with being a spellworker is how often you feel subtlety.
We know when people are being abused or taken advantage of. We feel the waste we create and the destruction we cause our earth by living here.
We feel burden, we acknowledge it when others do not, and we take it on, we internalize it.
We belittle our personal experiences because we are so consumed by those of others.
We try to push the envelope by engaging in activities that make us feel wild.
We move or travel to fascinating places and get to know strangers from all backgrounds intimately.
We shape shift.
We find healthier ways of being people who experience and feel immensely and try to create a better world in doing so.
We sense in ways that other people choose not to, and it is our responsibility to transmute that energy into something more constructive than self-sabotage.
With spellwork, in order to combat the excess stimuli and reduce anxiety, we take deliberate action in focusing our sensitivity into defined goals and fantasies, then observe how our unique creative processes help us on our individual quests.
Pay attention to your actions and watch how often you create expecting a result and how often you don’t expect anything to come of your actions.
What’s the ratio? Is it balanced? Could you be more decisive? How often do you set intentions and how do you set the tone for those intentions to flourish?
I wrote this to connect with other people focused on magic action and ethical intention setting. To continue the convo, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy spell casting!