Friday, September 19, 2014

PBP: Week 38- Spell books and Spell-a-day Calendars

My very first Pagan book that I owned was a spell book, I admit it. When I was first starting, I was definitely obsessed with reading new spells. While I did love (and read lots of) theory books or more general how-to type of books, I always wanted to look through every spell book I came across. I still do.

It's not that I don't like writing my own things, as I have always loved making my own spells. I was a huge poetry fan, both more structured and free form, so writing the wording for spells is pretty natural for me. I also love ritual, and finding things to use towards my goal (or finding ways to use what I have towards the goal I want) is endlessly entertaining for me.

I did use the books when I was first starting. But it quickly became frustrating for me. I would find a spell that I wanted to do, and the wording would be clunky or way to long. The one that really amused me was one that was a spell to call upon the Muses and bring inspiration to you. It was an almost page long invocation that 'must' be memorized. I figured it would probably take me less time to get through any type of creative block than it would to remember the whole passage.

Sometimes published spells call for ingredients that I didn't have. Most of the times this was obscure herbs or very specific incense blends. I started practicing in high school, I lived at home and didn't have a lot of disposable income. I didn't have any type of herb supplies, and didn't know of a good place to get them.

But I learned a lot from the spell books. I started adjusting spells: either making up for ingredients I didn't have with my own substitutions, or rewording parts of them so that I felt they flowed better (or so the words matched my personal goals better). And now, I still look to spell books for inspiration. Sometimes I will read a passage or verse that I absolutely fall in love with and know I want to use for something, even if I don't care much for the rest of the spell. Or I'll see an interesting bit of symbolic action or ingredient and think of different ways to use that process in my own workings.

I was thinking a couple months back, about spell-a-day calendars. I have been reading one this whole year, and for each day of the year, there is a spell to honor a particular deity. It is mainly a spoken passage to be read, suggested foods for the day, a chant and a type of offering. Most days it isn't something that I feel moved to do.

But it did make me think. I know one of the hard things for many people when they start is learning to write your own spells and becoming comfortable with actually doing the workings. Having a daily practice of spellwork helps build the skills needed to craft and fine tune spells to any need, as well as building up the skills used in workings and the confidence in your own ability. And yet there are plenty of days where I don't feel a pressing need to do anything specific, so trying to decide what I might use for my spellwork that day leaves me feeling very uninspired.

So why not use a spell book or other resource that is full of spells as a launching point? If you have one that is calendar based, that is particularly easy, you just go to the day's date, and see what is there. If there is a part of it that really appeals to you, take that single part and build your own working based on it. Perhaps you like the theme, but it's not quite right. Personally, I am married, so any 'find a new love' spell wouldn't be something I would do, but I could easily work one into a 'bring new inspiration into your current relationship' or something like that. You might like part of the chant used, but feel that it might address a different problem better. You might feel a strong pull towards a single ingredient, which might lead you into a bit of research into what that ingredient means to you or new ways to use it.

If you just have a book with lots of spells in it (or website, or even your own notes on spells that you have liked), then flip through it. Think of it like a form of book divination: you flip through and pick one without looking, and that will be the thing you need to work on that day. Again, you tinker with it to make it really fit you, but this way you can also spend a bit of time thinking about why the one you picked fits for that day. That introspection can help you tune the spell itself to be really well suited to your needs.

I think that spellwork has a kind of bad reputation in the Pagan community. I have seen a lot of (to me) strange attitudes on casting spells, and sometimes have seen it stated flat out that casting spells 'for personal reasons' is selfish and shouldn't be done. But we all want to be better, and doing things for ourselves is how we grow. I don't think we should all go about casting to mess with people or to take things that don't belong to us, but I also think that if you do it will effect you in ways you probably didn't think about.

Making spellwork a regular practice helps cultivate a deeper way of thinking about casting. When you really start thinking about the workings you do, and why you do them, you examine your motivations and desires. And you may find things you want to work on because you don't like the desires you find. Or you may find that you shy away from doing things for yourself because you don't feel worthy or you think you should be doing things for other people, and so you might want to spend some time working on cherishing your self. I strongly believe that in order to help other people we need to build ourselves up to a place where we are loved and love ourselves, where we are strong and secure in our own being. If we don't start in this place, then the actions we take for others are flavored by our insecurities and doubts.

I don't think that daily casting is a bad thing. I think that by saving it until it is a last resort makes it feel somehow unclean. It's like you are saying that it isn't good enough to use on little stuff, that you only should be focusing on the really important stuff. But if you wait until it is the last thing you try, that's like calling that last person on your friends list to go see a movie with you: that friend knows that you only called them because you didn't have anyone else to call. And eventually, they will stop calling you back when you call.

Spells don't have to be huge, elaborate affairs. We can take moments to acknowledge the magic and wonder of the world, to tap into that power that is both within and around us, and make a conscious choice to work on changing our world for the better. Each time we make the decision to focus like this, to bring our desires into our thoughts and then act on them, we reinforce those desires. We strengthen our will and we build up our belief. We put one more grain of sand into the glass. Each grain may not be much on it's own, but if you put a grain in every day of your life, how big would the glass have to be to hold them all?

Magic is something that we have to hold onto. We have to practice opening our eyes to it. We have to block out all the negative messages the world tells us. The more you tap into magic, through spells, through ritual, through worship and prayer and meditation, the stronger your connection to it will be.


  1. This is a beautiful and interesting read. I quite like the idea of a spell-a-day calendar as well; I think it's a good way to be reminded of magic every day, something to keep you moving in the direction of learning.

    - Jill @

  2. Thanks! I always try to sort out new ways to use things that I like the idea of, but that don't quite mesh with my own way of doing things. Adaptation is something I am drawn to!