How to Completely @&#$ up a Spell

Many, many people who will attempt spells or rituals will bomb one at some point. I’ve done it. Everyone I’ve known has. There’s no shame in it, it’s all part of a lifelong process of experimentation. The only shameful thing is not using it as a learning experience!

Before I go into this, let me preface it by saying that I’m of two minds about the concept of a spell “backfiring.” Some schools of thought hold that backfiring isn’t really a thing — if you’re treating your ancestors, deities, and spirit guides like you ought to be, they’re not going to let that happen to you. Others hold that you absolutely can screw yourself over despite their best intentions — spirits are there to guide and help you, but self-sabotage is absolutely possible. In my practice, this plane is where things really manifest, so it is entirely possible to willfully mess yourself up if you try hard enough. By that same token, I also think that it takes a lot to do that. (I have seen it happen, though.)

So! If most witches are more or less guaranteed to experience a failed spell at one time or another, why does this happen?


1. It’s not the first time it’s happened.

One of the most important things any practicing witch can do for themselves is keep a journal. When you try a spell for the first time, write down all of the relevant information — time of day, day of the week, season, moon phase, astrology, ingredients, any chants, colors, directions, everything that might have significance. When the spell’s over, use your preferred method of divination to see how things stand, and write down the result. Then, after a few days or weeks have passed, revisit your writing and jot down any results you’ve experienced. Did the spell work quickly, or not at all? Did you get what you were looking for, or just a Jackass Genie version of it?

Sometimes, spells fail because we didn’t realize we were setting ourselves up for failure, because we haven’t documented our practice enough to establish a pattern. Keep a journal, and you’ll have a much easier time spotting what’s going to work, and what isn’t.

2. Failure was the expected outcome.

Not everyone is going to get everything they want just by magicking hard enough. On the flip side, though, going into a spell or ritual preoccupied by failure is a surefire way to make it tank. It keeps you from approaching it with a clear head, or devoting as much focus and energy to it as you should.

Now, this isn’t to say that you have to maintain a falsely inflated sense that everything’s going to be all rainbows and unicorn farts — just try to keep from catastrophizing, don’t obsess over the results, and maintain a realistic idea of what’s likely to be an omen, and what isn’t.

3. There’s too much else going on.

There are about a million different ways to determine what kind of factors are complicating what you’re trying to do. Is enough energy going into the spell itself? Are the vibes too chaotic? Are you dealing with someone else’s jinx? All of these can make or break a spell — at best, it won’t work. At worst, it’ll work in a way you didn’t quite anticipate. Read up on and experiment with finding omens in candles, incense smoke, or whatever other tools you work with, so you can see what might need fixing before it becomes a problem.

4. The end goal wasn’t specific.

There’s a kind of Goldilocks zone of specificity when it comes to magic. For example:

Bad. A spell to bring a new lover.
Good. A spell to bring a new lover who is kind, caring, sensual, good to children and animals, responsible, and attractive.
Also not super great. A spell to bring a new lover, Jerry from accounting.

I can’t even tell you how many times, in moments of desperation, I thought I’d be content with anything. Of course, once I received it, I realized that I really, really should’ve at least included some kind of list of dealbreakers. Not being specific enough can get you results that look like failure. You might end up with a spell that is technically fulfilled, but still not what you sincerely want. Meanwhile, being too specific is not likely to get you what you want at all. Keep an open mind and an open heart, and know what you want from your rituals.

5. The execution was slapdash.

Sometimes, winging it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

It is usually not really necessary to have every ingredient a spell or ritual calls for, down to the letter, but it’s also not great to just sort of improvise on the spur of the moment. Even if you don’t have all of the exact ingredients you need (and it’s very likely that you won’t at least once), whatever ingredients you do have should be chosen with care. Putting your energy into a spell starts long before you ever light a candle or touch a stick of incense. Substitutions are absolutely fine, but choose those substitutions with intention. Everything you do, every choice you make, should be done deliberately and with intention. Lastly, never go against your intuition when making these choices — if something feels wrong, it probably will be.

If you do bomb a spell, don’t sweat it. If you end up feeling the rebound, there are a million different rituals out there to help smooth things over. If you don’t get what you want, that’s okay too — it might be that the time isn’t right for you, or whatever you’re seeking is already on its way through other means. Keep a journal and a cool head, and try again.


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