© 1998 Rodney Cox
It seems to me that many beginners have no idea as to the basics of spell working, so that they are left to beg for spells making them sound very foolish and amateurish. This is too bad, as they are obviously searching for something. So I thought that some elementary education was in order.
The first thing that must be made perfectly clear is that Wicca, Witchcraft, Druidry, etc. is essentially a nature based religion. This is the main focus for it, and its reason for being. Magick is used, but it is of secondary importance. Casting spells is not the end all, be all of these religions. Growing spiritually and becoming better people is the true reason.
The second thing that must be understood is that usually it is easier to do things mundanely rather than try to do magick. Try doing things that way first and save magick for the last resort. 90% of all situations can be handled easier on a physical level, and you have less to worry about backlash-wise. Even when you do magick, you often need to back it up with mundane actions. For example if you do a spell to get a job, you aren't going to get very far if you don't go out and look for one, or send out resumés.
Thirdly there are ethical considerations to consider. Now your average Satanist would disagree with me, but I feel that if you are going to exercise power, than it should be done responsibly. Free will is a very important thing for humans and to do a spell that would step on this right is highly unethical. If you do a spell that interferes with a persons free will then you had better have a really good reason to do so. This is why love spells to make a specific person fall in love with you are unethical. You are trying to interfere with a perons free will, and I'm sorry, that is not a good enough reason. Now a general love spell to bring the right person to you is acceptable, as long as you don't mention anyone in particular. Listing the qualities you want will suffice. That way, no one's free will is directly tampered with.
Fourthly, you need to be very specific in what you want. You have to have your goal and intentions firmly in mind before you attempt magic. You cannot afford to be mentally sloppy. I have heard of many people getting weird (or scary) results because they were not specific enough.
Now, spellcasting is essentially the raising of magickal energy, focusing this with intent and then releasing it. That's it. Sounds simple doesn't it? Well that's because it is.
There are any number of ways to raise magickal energies. Wiccans/Witches use dance, chanting, calling upon Deities or the Elements, etc. Ceremonial Magicians usually call upon God names, and are very meticulous in the way they release the energy. But then they are trying to find the science in magick and need all sort of complicated working to find repeatable results. You need energy to drive the spell. It really doesn't matter how you raise the energy, as long as you find a way that works for you. The Gods all have different areas of concern, and thus energy. Each element has a different energy as well, as does each planet. These should be studied before any spellworking in order to assure that the right type of energy is being used. For example if you wanted to do a spell to help you study for a test you would want energy specific to that task. You might call upon Hermes, who deals with academic issues rather than Thor who is more into fighting giants and drinking with the boys.
Note, the raising of energy is one of the reasons that circles are cast. Circles will keep the summoned energy in one spot until you are ready to release it. So you can effectively raise the energy needed without it bleeding away before you can use it. There are various ways of casting circle. Basically, you want to outline the space you want to use (this is the making of the circle part). You can sprinkle salt around, you can spread a cord or thread around, or just use visualization to "see" a circle forming around you. Most people would argue that the direction you start in is important. Most Wiccans/Witches start in the North. I've heard that since the religion is Earth centered then they would naturally honor the Earth by starting in its direction. By the way the traditional placement of the Elements are Air/East, South/Fire, Water/West, Earth/North.
Ceremonialists will start in the East because they are more concerned with Airy aspects and with illumination. The sun rises in the East, so there you have it. I have heard that you could even start the circle in the direction that you are primarily working with. For example if you were doing a spell involving water or with a Deity that is associated with the West, you could start in the West.
Once you have the circle cast then you need to cleanse it of any previous energy patterns, which might interfere with your magickal working. There is a fifth element called Spirit that can be seen as a ball of white or violet light. You can visualize this light filling your Circle, cleansing it. Or you could go to each direction and call upon the elements to cleanse the circle with their energies. Then usually comes the setting up of defenses which is done to keep things from entering in and interfering. This can be done together with the cleansing.
In Wicca/Witchcraft this is refered to as Calling Quarters. Again, you would begin at your chosen starting point and call to the powers of that element to enter the circle to aid in your work and to protect you from negative beings. Ceremonialists will use various names of God as well as Archangels for this. Then you would call upon (invoke) the Deities, usually the Goddess first followed by the God to join your circle and asking for their aid. Now you are ready to do your magick, or celebrate your holiday, or whatever.
After you are done you must close the circle. Simply reverse the above steps. When dismissing the Deities and elements be very polite. Thank them for their help. Don't order them around as this will offend them. Thank the Deities then the elements. A lot of traditions feel that you should move only clockwise (or deosil: pronounced- Jay-Shil. Its a gaelic word and thus not spelled like it is pronounced) in circle. This is seen as an affirmative and life giving direction while counterclockwise (widdershins) is seen as negative and destructive. I would agree that you should move clockwise during the ritual/spellworking. But when closing the circle, I don't see anything wrong with moving counter clockwise, as you are bringing down the circle afterall. So move to the different directions, as you see fit and thank them for their help. Then visualize the circle going away. That's the basics for circle casting from beginning to end.
(Note) There is one further piece of information that should be discussed. One might want to use the Astrological directions for the placement of the Elements. This uses the order of the Elements as they appear in Astrology. I would recommend this method as it is apparently backed up in the inner planes as well. As to why the, now, traditional placements were concocted, I'm not sure. This directional orientation would look like: Fire = East, Earth = South, Air = West, and Water = North.
Focusing the energy is simply a way of giving the energy a direction to move into as well as instructions to follow. The typical way of accomplishing this is to use symbols. Symbols are usually simple design that have a lot of meaning attached to them. For example look at the peace symbol and the swastika. Both are fairly simple to draw and both are immediately recognised and are viewed to have strong meanings. Another side note, it is a shame that the swastika was ruined by Hitler in WWII. Historically it as a powerful sun symbol that was associated with the outpouring of energy. It is found from the Native Americans to the Vikings to the Eastern Indians. But I digress... Symbols can also be used in the raising of energy as well to insure that the type of energy you want will be collected. Using symbols and even photographs are a way of pointing out the direction and intent that the energy is to follow. Another ethical consideration. You might want to make a comment that you don't want anyone harmed in the process of the spellworking. This helps to insure that you don't benefit from anothers tragedy or expense.
For example, you want to do a spell to help you with school again. You determined that you want to get the aid of Hermes and Athena (Both deal with academics or wisdom. They are Greek, but you can use any pantheon you want.) and make use of Air, which is associated with learning. Planetwise you could also incorporate Mercury, which has a specific symbol. You might also want to use a photograph of yourself as part of the focus so that you will be incorporated into the magick. You have the type of energy you want and symbols to help focus it. Hopefully you have picked a way to raise energy as well. Once this is done, you need to be able to send the spell on its way.
A physical gesture or movement can be a good way of releasing the spell. Raising and then sharply dropping the hands is a way. Or you could stamp your foot, strike the ground with a wand or staff, make a pushing gesture with the hands, etc. What you need is something that announces specifically, and dramatically, that it is time for the spell to go and do its job. Most of ritual is attempts to reach that inner child inside you where the magic lives. This is also known as the subconscious, the unconscious, the inner child, the lower self, or the younger self. This part is like a two year old and likes to play and is visually stimulated. This is why many magick workers have strange clothing or tools to use. They are really unnecessary, except to get in touch with the younger self.
Once the spell is released many people recommend grounding to get rid of any lingering energy that might be in you. Another consideration is that once the spell is released, forget about it. If you think about the spell you will call it back to you and you will interfere with its mission. If you want to reinforce the spell do another, identical spell at another date. Don't mess with the spell already in progress.
Close down your circle and that's that. I hope I have given the basics so that anyone can construct their own spells, which is really more effective than using someone elses. Other's spells can be a good way for you to compare notes. Research into what thing is associated with what symbol, energy, etc. will still need to be done, but there are plenty of books that can do that.