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Bad Magic: Why Witchcraft Spells Don't Work

Updated on August 29, 2016
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Jo is an eclectic witch with a degree in Psychology and an obsession with novena candles. She primarily practices hoodoo and angel magick.

Witches like to talk a lot about when we get it right, and why not? We put a lot of work into manifesting our desires and it makes sense to give credit where credit is due! The downside to this is that we don't talk quite as much about our mistakes, which can leave some of the new practitioners feeling like they're alone in a sea of witches who took to magic like a fish to water and never had any misses. The truth is, we all experience results that weren't quite what we intended from time to time, and that's not always a bad thing! Still, while there are silver linings to every mistake, it pays to know why we make mistakes so we can learn from them and avoid them in the future.

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The Intention Wasn't There

Now, you might be thinking, "But I wanted the spell to work more than anything! How can you say I didn't have the right intentions?" There's an old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men, and witches should be included in the list. There are many different schools of thought on this, but my interpretation of magic is that you can have all the fancy herbs and tools in the world, but if your heart and your head aren't in the same place as your actions, none of it means anything.

No matter how much you believe you want something, if there is any conflict in the back of your mind, your magical results will be skewed. This is why every advanced practitioner I know, from ceremonial magicians to eleventh-generation witches who practice folk magic, emphasizes meditation. Meditating before a ritual does help to focus your intentions on a specific target, such as drawing money or love, but it's a bit like flossing right before you go to the dentist. It helps, sure, but it's not going to make a big difference. Regular meditation will help you learn to visualize your goals and, more importantly, it will quiet your mind enough to help you see any conflicting feelings that could be interfering with your workings.

You're Overthinking It

This is the opposite of the last list item, but it's equally likely to be a culprit in your faulty spell work. Some people are constantly thinking and re-thinking, when a lot of magic is simply about doing. Putting thought into your altar setup and spellwork is essential, but you reach a point of diminishing returns when you put so much thought into a spell that it's hard to step back and say, "Okay, this is enough. I can begin."

Of course, that's not to say that you should rush your spellwork. All that will happen if you force yourself to begin a spell without feeling prepared is that your hesitation will carry over into the ritual. Instead, try simplifying things. Don't worry about planning the "perfect" money spell. A green candle, a few corresponding herbs and the right hour of the day on Thursday (or any corresponding day in your tradition) is the foundation of many of the more specific rituals you find online. The important thing is that you keep things basic and add something of your own to imbue the spell with your energy and intention. As you become successful with the basics, your confidence will grow and you can move on to more complex spellwork.

The Spell Correspondences Were Off

There are a virtually limitless number of correspondences for anything you want to achieve in the magical realm. From cinnamon and lodestone for drawing money to the use of dragonsblood incense in many baneful magic spells, you have probably gathered that a good way to create a spell is to find the physical items that correspond with your intentions. The good news is that most of the ingredients you need to create a spell are easy to find, and even those that aren't can often be substituted for more accessible items. The power of a correspondence is, once again, within the intention. If you're creating a love honey jar and you only have maple syrup, make the switch. Your belief in the honey's sweet, drawing properties is what makes it work in the end. The bad news is that using the wrong correspondences is one of the most common reasons why spells don't work.

But wait! Isn't that a contradiction? After all, I did just say that it's belief in a correspondence that makes it work, so how can it be possible to choose the wrong correspondence? Shouldn't you be able to pick up any old item around the house and make it work?

The answer is yes and, to an extent, with the right intent, you can. The caveat is that many of the correspondences that are used have been used for so long that they've taken on very strong associative properties with certain things. I'll save the discussion of thought forms for another day, but suffice it to say that when a lot of people believe in something very, very strongly, it becomes magical even if it wasn't before. Most of the people I know who use Psalms for ritual, including myself, aren't really Christian or Jewish. We use them because they have been proven to work time and time again and, in my case, I do believe in YHWH, so the Psalms are a particularly potent part of ritual for me. Even so, I know several atheistic witches who still use them simply because of the sheer energy that goes into something when billions of people believe in it.

This is all to say that if you grew up believing that cinnamon powder is the way to go for drawing success and money, it's going to be a more effective correspondence for you than a random ingredient you found in a money spell online. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

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You're God Hopping

This is going to be a controversial one and, as always, this is my personal opinion. There are many witches who practice with a very set belief system that includes a single deity or a handful of deities they call upon for the entirety of their practice, while there are others who acknowledge deities only as thought forms or vague symbols. I'm not here to address either of those types of witches. What I'm talking about is the kind of witch who searches the internet for a god or goddess to "use" for a certain ritual, lights some candles, makes a petition and expects their chosen deity of the week to move heaven and earth to grant his or her requests.

I've been that witch. Don't be that witch. There's a difference between calling upon the planetary intelligence associated with the planet that rules each day (Jupiter for success on Thursday or Venus for love on Friday, for example) and deity hopping. God hopping is when you approach a deity you know very little about to make a very specific request, after which you have no intent of pursuing a relationship with that deity. Moral qualms aside, I think this type of behavior is magically unsound. We all have that one friend or family member who only comes to us when they need something and can't be found otherwise. Now, imagine if that person wasn't a friend or family member. Imagine that it was a total stranger you met off the street who threw some random things at you they "heard you liked," and started making demands.

There's a disconcerting trend, especially among some younger witches, to approach gods and goddesses with even less respect than we'd give the average person. I'm not saying you have to build a lifelong relationship with every deity you work with, but do show them the same attention and respect you hope to receive from them.

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It Was For the Best

This is probably the hardest reason to accept, but it is one of the most common. Sometimes that candle just won't stay lit and sometimes you just can't see the results you're looking for. There's no questioning that this is a disappointing outcome, but it doesn't have to be a devastating one and it doesn't mean that you can't try again. I can safely say I've learned at least as much from the spells that didn't quite go the way I had planned as the ones that did. Of course, it's also possible that your spell didn't work because you were being protected.

Sometimes what we think we want isn't actually what's best for us, and if our guides know that, they will intervene as they are allowed. When we ask for protection, sometimes it comes in forms we don't expect. These days my practice is focused mostly on angel work and I find that they are especially instructive and supportive even when everything doesn't go perfectly. In one recent example, I received more than what I was asking, even if it didn't come through the "perfect" spell I had planned.

Likewise, if your subconscious mind is aware of a conflict between your petition and what you actually want, don't be surprised if your spell manifests that conflict. Something in your will is preventing the spell from coming to fruition for a reason. Sometimes when you've visualized properly, meditated and planned everything to the best of your ability and your spell still doesn't go as planned, it's better to gather up the lessons you can, take a breather and return to it when you feel you should.

You Didn't Learn From Your Mistakes

The ability to learn and adapt is, in this witch's opinion, the most important trait any magical practitioner can develop. It's easy to become discouraged when a spell doesn't go the way you planned, or to take it as proof that you're just not cut out for magic, but that couldn't be further from the truth! "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again." It's a cliche because it's true and it certainly applies to witchcraft. Just remember that the old adage, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," also applies.

Learn from your mistakes, but don't repeat them. If certain elements of a spell just don't work for you, don't be afraid to toss them out and work with something you are more comfortable with. At the end of the day, all of it manifests through your will. No matter how many expensive ingredients you use or how perfectly you follow another person's work, the only way to accomplish anything in magic is to practice what you feel.

Do you have any items to add to the list?

Have you ever had a spell backfire or go differently than you planned?

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    • modernalchemyst profile image
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      Josephine 5 weeks ago from New England

      Hi Tangulo!

      I actually wrote a book on manifestation (Law of Attraction) for witches, to serve as a 101 guide to what I feel is one of the most fundamental skills any magician or witch can have!

      https://www.amazon.com/Real-Witchs-Guide-Law-Attra...

      I also think "A Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy" (Silly title, GREAT resource!) is an excellent book for any beginner, no matter which path you end up on. It really gives an overview of the foundation of Western occultism, and it all connects back to the core tenets of magic in a simple yet dynamic way.

      If you're interested in practical application with a beginner's flare, I also suggest Raymond Buckland's "Advanced Candle Magick." It has some great spells in it and lays down the fundamentals for rituals you can recycle for other purposes.

      Hope that helps as a starting point! As far as websites, I do generally prefer books and Youtube channels. HP also has a lot of high-quality witchy articles. Get as many perspectives from people on as many different paths as possible, and the themes that stick out to you will yield even more branching paths for reading and research. I'm still discovering new books I don't have time to read! lol

      Best of luck!

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      Tangulo 5 weeks ago

      I want to practice witchcraft I want to learn so much more . I have got the book of 2001spells, I have the book of shadows, encyclopedia spirits .. what is another book I can get to learn more .. or a website that will teach me more.

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      kiyarri 7 weeks ago

      i really want to be a witch but i cant seem to find a real spell and i dont got a witch book because im broke but thats just family

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