The whole moon hexing-thing seems to have opened up a whole can of worms, hasn’t it?
It seems like most witchy spaces have kind of gotten past the collective initial reaction to it, but it continues to raise a lot of interesting questions — some thought-provoking, some annoying and gatekeepy.
One discussion I came across involved the validity of using the internet as a magical learning tool. Sure, there’s a lot of very “Well, in MY day” attitudes about it among older witches and Pagans, but there are some valid criticisms to levy. The internet has democratized the spread of information, but that goes hand-in-hand with the spread of misinformation (as anyone currently dealing with relatives who believe COVID-19 is a hoax can attest). Granted, a lot of books on the subject are no better. I can’t recall the title, but I vividly remember reading one passage about an Irish potato goddess that someone not only wrote, but someone else published and other people bought. Misinformation still spread, just more slowly.
From this sprouted a discussion about the validity of online spells, and the preponderance of people looking for magic as a kind of quick fix. “Ceremonial” magic gets derided, while simple candle and jar spells pop up and get passed around everywhere. The only problem there is that the “ceremonial” stuff is often not ceremonial it all — it’s the power-raising and the meat of what makes the magic happen. Candle and jar spells are completely valid and workable, but there’s more the thing than putting herbs in a jar and hoping for the best.
This, in turn, hosted a conversation about power raising. One person was completely unconcerned about online spells — they could never work to begin with, because the instructions didn’t include anything about raising power “properly.” Why, one person asked, would you send your energy into your materials?
That, in particular, got me thinking: What does proper power raising and releasing even look like?
Before I even came to witchcraft, I was familiar with raising power — not as a practice, but as a feeling. I picked up on the bright, effervescent thrill that went through me when I was dancing, or when the song I was listening to hit that crescendo that was just perfect, and I could feel the build and release of energy. It wasn’t going anywhere in particular, but it was happening.
As I learned, I was taught the basic circle casting, power-raising, releasing toward your goal construction of a spell. While that’s a perfectly workable means of spellcasting, it’s also not the only way to do it “right.”
Like anything else in magic, it depends on the intention. I don’t mean the intent of the spell, I mean your intention to cast it in the first place. Your intent might be to get a new job, but your intention is to use a candle/jar/sigil/whatever spell to get a new job. That determines what your spellcasting looks like, even down to the release of power. Not every situation calls for a “cast a circle, raise power, release it toward your goal” strategy.
Candle spells are nice because they’re a simple, accessible type of sympathetic magic. You want something to happen as the candle burns. Maybe you want to reverse a hex, so you use a two-color candle and watch the black wax neutralize whatever the other color is. Maybe you want to feel better, so your fatigue decreases as the wax is consumed. Maybe you want to attract a lover, so their heart warms as the flame grows and burns. Versatile!
That also means that the candle is a way of releasing that power. You light the wick, the flame consumes the wax, it releases it as the products of combustion — heat, light, soot, and water vapor. Sending your intention and energy into the candle allows it to be burned when the time is right, or as needed — you raise and release power once, direct it into the sympathetic vessel, and let the element of fire do the rest. You could raise and release power toward your intent, but, at that point, the candle is strictly ambiance.
Jar spells are nice because they’re long-lasting. You fill a container with symbols of your intent, and put it somewhere to work. Maybe you want to keep a happy and stable home, so you fill it with peaceful ingredients and bury it in your back yard. Maybe you want to attract a new lover, so you fill it with rosebuds and bury it near your front door. Maybe you work with someone who really sucks, so you fill it with nails, hot pepper, and stolen pieces of hair and ditch it by a railroad crossing. In this case, much like the candle, the spell isn’t necessarily helped or hurt by a one-time release of energy toward a goal.
Sigils are their own thing entirely. They hopscotch back and forth over the line between magic and psychology as a matter of course, so they’re not going to follow the rules for raising and releasing power. That doesn’t mean that they don’t work, though.
Servitors are interesting energetic constructs, but that means that your energy should be directed toward making them. You don’t really need a circle for it — you’re going to give the energy its own shape, anyway. If you can’t keep it from getting away from you without a magical container, you’re probably going to have trouble with that second part as it is.
Knot magic is another time-release kind of spell. It’s a form of sympathetic magic where the tying or untying of knots contains and releases energy as needed. If you aren’t putting your energy into the knot-tying itself, then the action of untying the string doesn’t actually release anything.
Does this mean that energy raising and releasing have no real rules, and any online spell will work? Well… No.
The common thread of all of the types of spells I mentioned above is that the materials and actions in the spell have a reason for being there. The spell jar’s a magic battery. The knotted string is a string of magical firecrackers. The candle is a way of holding energy until the flame releases it. There are definitely some spells out there that are unfocused, at best.
For example, say you want to draw in a new lover. You fill a pretty dish with rosebuds, lavender, and jasmine flowers, add a drop of love-drawing oil, and send your energy and intent into the dish. You feel that the herbs have absorbed all of the energy they can, so the spell is over and you dispose of the remnants.
And then what? Where does the energy go? How does it get to its goal? You could burn the herbs and release it with the element of fire, fire’s related to warmth and passion. You could even scatter them in a moving body of water, water’s related to the emotions. But, unless the spell tells a novice witch to do that, are they going to?
I like online spell resources because they’re good for ideas. You can usually tell which have a chance of working (and which don’t stand a brine shrimp’s chance in a photon tube) by asking a pretty simple question for each ingredient and instruction: Why is this here?
Most will tell you to meditate or visualize. These are ways of raising mental and magical energy, but not the only ones. You can dance, sing, or ride a twelve-speed vibrator the size of a Thermos until your eyes bug out, and it’ll work just as well as long as you keep your goal in mind.
They might not give you an effective way to direct or release this energy. Don’t get me wrong, you can do way worse for yourself than holding a bunch of lavender flowers and meditating on something that would bring you joy, but that probably isn’t going to bring you much closer to your goal.
At each step, ask why. At each ingredient, ask why. Not only will it let you know if you’re wasting your time, it’ll make it easier to write your own spells or make substitutions when necessary.