Magic is the essence of being a witch, and spells are a part of this magic. I suspect the ‘spells’ are the first thing a beginner flicks to in a book, thinking that here are all the answers they need, and they needn’t bother with the rest. Because all you have to do is mix a few ingredients, maybe sprinkle some glitter on it and that’s it – magic achieved, right? Wrong! 

The physical part of the magic – the herbs, candles, stones etc. you might use – provide the focus and anchor of the spell, but the real magic comes with the intent, preparation, visualisation and charging, and without these, the candles, herbs and jars are just a collection of objects.

Do spells they work? In the experience of most witches, the answer is yes, they do, as long as they are carefully prepared and performed, with a clear intent and properly charged to nudge the flow of energies in the desired direction. When they don’t, it may be because one of these things is neglected or misjudged, or because the magic tries to push too far against the natural flow.


The funny thing about magic is that it always seems that you are given what you need, not what you may think you want. If you perform a spell to win the lottery, for example, it won’t work. But if you are desperate for a little money to pay your rent and have tried every honest means of getting it, a money spell may turn up a few lost banknotes in a pocket or down the back of the sofa, or perhaps an unexpected gift from a distant aunt.  One example of the justified use of magic occurred when my friends Phil and Sara lost the house they had been renting because the owner decided to rent it out as a summer let for a vastly increased sum. They were in danger of becoming homeless, and with two young children this was a serious business. Consequently, we cast a spell to ask for help in getting them somewhere to live, with the promise that it would become a House of the Goddess and a place of healing and worship. Sure enough, a beautiful cottage soon became available. It was several hundred years old, with oak beams and a wonderful atmosphere. It even had a niche in the wall that was perfect for holding the altar. It was a very special place to gather for rituals and to feast in afterwards. When Phil and Sara left it, it went to another witch.


Spells can go wrong. Rarely a week goes by when I don’t get a message from someone suffering from the effects of a misjudged spell or being afraid of what they have set in motion. My friend Pamela Mitchell says “I am a specialist ward and charm maker, the two most asked for items from newbies are one – something to attract money/ power, or two, something to get revenge for whatever reason! I point to items to help get a way to earn money and protective items against harmful vibes. I even had to explain to someone that calling on Nemesis to demand “justice” would put them in the firing line to be checked out for their misdeeds! Dangerous territory indeed.” [1]

When you cast a spell, you invoke a very particular energy (healing, love, abundance etc.), and put yourself in direct contact with that energy. This is why cursing and hexing can prove dangerous to the caster, as well as the recipient. All actions have consequences for good or ill, and magical acts are not exempt.

Magic is energy, and energy is never destroyed. It does not last a few days or weeks then fizzle out. It reverberates outwards, like ripples moving out from a stone thrown into a pond. Magic has consequences that continue to reverberate for a very, very long time. There is no time limit on a spell unless you put one on. No spell should have an ending that includes the word forever, or any similar expression. In magic forever means exactly that.  Imagine doing a love spell that binds you forever to a lover you really like – and then you go off him. Getting him out of your hair could prove extremely difficult. He could pester you for life. Both of you would be unhappy. You could then find he pops up in your next life and the one after that. You did say forever! 


Spells do not have to be complicated or involve many exotic ingredients. In fact, the more complicated it is, the more things there are to go wrong. You can use the ingredients you find in your immediate environment, and these herbs, stones, feathers, shells etc. will be far more powerful in your spells than something you have bought off a shelf, because they resonate with what is close to you, and you will have sought them and chosen them with care and intent.

  1. Intent

Magic is never performed for its own sake, but always has a very specific, closely defined purpose to change something. You have to be very clear what the intention of the spell/ritual is and express it unambiguously. Anything open to misinterpretation will be misinterpreted; magic, like water, always seeks the easiest course to the sea.

Spells alter things so never cast a spell to keep something the same. For example, if you have a boyfriend that loves you, don’t cast a spell to keep him. The spell will alter the flow of energies and disrupt the relationship.

When preparing to cast a spell, you need to think very carefully about what the intention of it is and how you want it to manifest. For example, if it is a spell of healing, you want the recipient to be whole and well, and everything works towards this in a positive way. You never bring the negative aspects into the spell, what you don’t want, as the spell would amplify those things, so you would never say ‘may auntie Joan be free from cancer’ as you are bringing the energy of cancer into the spell and magnifying it. You might say ‘may auntie Joan be whole and well’.

An essential part of the preparation is the cultivation of a positive state of mind; you must believe that you can and will succeed. Your state of mind when working the magic affects the energy it puts out; if you go into it in a negative, confused or angry state of mind, the magic magnifies these and reflects them back to you.

  • Preparation

This is about choosing the right time to perform the spell (the right day or phase of the moon) and getting everything ready. Choosing the physical ingredients (herbs, cords, crystals etc.) which form the anchor of the spell and keep it present and manifesting. Each ingredient must be chosen for its inherent properties and magical correspondences to reinforce the intent and energy of the spell as much as possible. For a healing spell, for example, you would choose herbs, symbols and colours of healing and might decide to call upon gods of healing from your tradition. Conversely, if you use a lot of things with unsuitable energies, they can diffuse the spell before it has even started or send it completely awry, so it is worth while preparing your ingredients carefully.

After this you might compose a verse to chant while you mix and empower your spell. It doesn’t have to rhyme though this is traditional and helps you realise you are speaking words that are not from the everyday world. These words help to focus the magic.

  • Visualisation

As each ingredient is assembled in the spell (adding ingredients to a pouch or jar, for example), the intent is kept in mind, the outcome you want. With our healing spell, you may say as you add each ingredient, ‘may auntie Joan be whole and well’, and visualise her shining with wellbeing. You should not allow your mind to wander to other things, particularly the illness, as these will also then become part of the spell.

  • Charging

This is the part of the spell that activates all the magic, holds it together and starts it manifesting in the world. It is done by appealing to the higher forces – the Gods – for help, imbuing the physical anchor of the spell with what you desire as hard as you can, and speaking the words of the spell, all the time concentrating on the desired outcome. Remember that the Gods and spirits are not your servants and may not be interested in your whims. Wait until you are properly acquainted with any deity before you start appealing to them – it is only polite after all.

  • Afterwards

Then you step away and leave it to work. When a ritual or spell does not seem to have immediate effects, the temptation is to perform another one. The reality is that it may take months or longer for the results of a spell to work itself to you. If you keep working more spells for the same thing, you are necessarily putting out different energies each time and the energies become conflicting and chaotic. If the first spell is working the second spell will often send it off course, because you have altered the instruction by word or deed. Add a third to that and who knows what will happen. Resist any temptation to meddle with it and repeat it. This would be disastrous. You must perform magic for that purpose only once. It may take some time, don’t expect immediate results, and unless you have been very specific, it may not happen in the way you want it to.

Wait until the spell has worked, then you can dismantle the object and bury any herbs etc. so that they may return to Mother Earth. Any crystals can be cleansed and re-used.

© Anna Franklin

[1] Pamela Mitchell, pers comm.


Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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