Here is another great question for “Ask A Witch” this time coming from Tracey!
When doing a ritual or spell is it imperative that you use exactly what is required in that spell as i live in the Southern hemisphere it is very hard to come by a lot of the requirements asked for in a spell or ritual as most of the books are from the Northern hemisphere. Any comments you or anyone else leaves will be most appreciated.
Thanks for the question Tracey. It’s a really good one because it’s a question that a lot of people have, especially when they’re getting started, regardless of where they’re located. There are a few different factors that play into this but I’m going to just point blank answer your question and then we’ll get into details and specifics. 🙂
Do you have to use all the exact items that you find listed in a spell or ritual from a book (or any other source, really)?
You want to consider a few different things when you’re looking at spells books. First of all, are the spells in the book more “ancient” and I mean that in a really loose way; are they written from the point of trying to portray old or ancient spell methods, or are they more modern day type spells. Some books, like “The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells” by Judika Illes, contain spells that are legendary folk spells from various parts of the world and contain material that is meant to give a sense of how certain types of spells were done, or may have been done, in time past. Some of these spells contain ingredients and elements that are either impossible to find or might seem unethical in today’s world of magick (depending on your beliefs and tradition of course). Then you have situations like yours were it just might be extremely difficult to find certain items because of where you might be located. It’s possible that a specific herb isn’t native to where you live and might be hard to come by or in short supply.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “where there’s a Witch there’s a way.” I think this is a great axiom to have in mind whenever you’re doing magickal work. Just because an item you find in a spell written by someone else either doesn’t feel right or can’t be obtained doesn’t mean you can’t work that spell. Making substitutions and making them confidently is an important part of any Witch’s practice.
If herbs are part of your concern you might want to get a copy of a book on herbs used for magickal purposes that has a good section on substitutions. A book like “Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs” by Scott Cunningham is a great reference to have on hand. There are also a number of great number of online resources that can help you with this. Something like a list of herbs and their magickal uses can help go a long way. The came can be said for a list of magickal properties for crystals and stones. When it comes to other items, like specific types of candles or incenses, again, modify and use what you can get. There’s no reason to have to bend over backwards to try and find a spell item that you isn’t easy to get or costs a ton of money. Remember the herbs and candles and stones are tools and they are not magickal in and of themselves; it’s the energy and intent you put behind them with your spellwork that makes them useful.
So if you come across an item that you can’t locate try these tips and steps to help you find out what you can use in its place that you can locate.
- Do some research on the item. Find out what it is (if you’re not even sure of that much…is it a flower, a root, and herb, etc). Find out what its magickal properties and uses are. Once you know what it’s specifically used for you can start to find something else that will work with it.
- What other associations can you find out about it? In the term of plants and herbs, find out what it’s astrological properties are, the parts that are used, is it poisonous, etc. When you have the magickal purpose and then these additional bits of information you can use them to find a substitute that matches this as closely as possible.
- Don’t feel that you have to follow a spell in a book to the letter. Modify and change things up; write your own incantations and be sure to insert your specific energy and intent into what you’re doing. The intention of an author who writes a book of spells is never going to be the same as yours and your intention and desire is what ultimately drives your work.
Really, when it comes to working with spells from books, it’s best to treat them like guidelines and suggestions. They aren’t sacred or holy texts and if you make changes to them, as long as you understand what you’re changing, what its original purpose was and why you’re changing it to what you’re changing it to, then you’re fine! Don’t be afraid to do it! These are the first steps to learning to write your own spells, which should be the ultimate goal of any competent and serious Witch.