Sometimes during the study of magic you know something is possible, as others may have done it or you have heard authoritatively that it is possible, but the spell just seems to refuse to work. It should be noted that professional frustrations like this happen in every discipline: History professors who forget dates, mechanics who can’t figure out what the problem is, musicians that have broken three strings in one day, and other such difficulties. It happens, and it’s a fact we have to deal with; sometimes our struggle with a particular task, regardless of our effort or accuracy, seem to yield no results.
The purpose of this page is to focus again on a fundamentalist view of spellcasting and re-evaluate the mechanics of spell creation so as to avoid error. Use this page somewhat as a checklist to compare your spells against if things seems determined to go awry. Many magicians have been there: it’s well into the night, you’ve run out of ink for the second time, your page is a mess of scratch marks and failures, you’re tired, you’re itchy, you’re hot, you’re angry at yourself, perhaps on the verge of tears, everything seems a blur, you’ve tried the spell for the 3918749235609348th time, yet nothing comes from it. Perhaps this page will help cut down the frequency of such occasions:
1. Bleary Logic and The Hardware Magician
This is the first of the mind-gremlins to vanquish when attempting to create a usable spell. As I referred to on the Advanced Necromancy page, there is the habit of some to attempt to “think” things in or out of existence. As far as the dictionary is concerned, this was called, and still is called, “Imagination”. The use of the term “visualise” in occult circles has led to the misuse of the ability to see ethereal operations and is a prime cause of Bleary Logic. Some magicians have the distinct privilege of being able to “see” the spells they are casting. Insofar as one can see their operations, though, it must be remembered that the driving force behind a spell is still the exertion of Will on energies. Though imagination can be a push in the right direction (somewhat like ritual tools keep one occupied, or like ceremonial garb keeps one’s mind from wandering) it must be remembered that items or imagination are not the power of the spell. At best, these things are a focus. Avoid this most fundamental problem of spellcasting by remembering that imagination is still fake whimsy, at best being a mental ritual, and that the proverbial cauldron is still only a pot with water. Visualisation is a mental template to help a person “plan” the way they are going to cast a spell. In itself, it is inert. Be sure to always concentrate on the movement of energy, regardless of how many aids or mind-tricks you wish to use as guidance.
2. “One, Two, Skip a Few, 99, 100”
An intrinsic problem to some spells is that a person attempts to jump from step one to step three then wonders why the spell didn’t work. It happens often, and it’s easy to see why. Once real results begin to come in from your workings of magic, it is very easy to want to overstep the boundaries and attempt to run before walking. In the creation and execution of advanced spells, one must first have a firm grasp of all the component parts to that spell. An advanced spell may contain components of many lesser spells and, like a mouse-trap, the absence of any component or combination of components renders the entire mechanism inert. As an arrow requires Head, Shaft, and Fletching to function properly, so a more advanced spell type may require a combination of many properly balanced and less complex spells to become a reality. Take a step back from your work and look at the spell again while analysing all the functions it performs. See if a part is missing, as often that is the only problem.
3. Armchair Mysticism
This problem is quite possibly the ugliest of all errors which the “magician” commits. This type of error is one created by following a “Theorize, Extrapolate, Repeat” method of thinking. Here is the problem with that method of working out spells: There is a finite amount of extrapolation that can be safely used in any system. For example, if 1+1 = 2, then 2+2 = 3, then 3 + 3 = 4, then 4 + 4 = 5… etc etc. This is an example of a natural extrapolation. The observation I based it on (by observing only the first statement, which I knew was correct) was that X+X = X+1, and then applied that to the next sequences. It was not bad logic for me to do so because it turns out to actually be a correct formula for the first sequence. When we test that out in practice, however, we can see that I becomes more severely off-target with each passing sequence. If I had tested the second sequence, I would have known instantly that the formula was inexact and therefore useless to proceed with. This, sadly, is what many well-meaning magicians do; they apply a theory (X+X=X+1) to a principle they know as solid occult science (1+1=2), and then extrapolate like crazy and call it law because it made sense in the beginning. Even if it seems logical, as my theory of X+X=X+1 was a valid and logical attempt (though flawed), it must be put to practice to ensure that there are no unrealized variables.
4.”What did you expect?”
“The Gandalf Syndrome”, as I sometimes call it, is another problem often associated with the “failure” of a spell. There are times when the magician will cast a spell, wait for results, then become frustrated because the room did not darken and lightning did not crack across the sky. Just because the area didn’t set ablaze and the smell of sulfur and brimstone did not permeate the air does not mean that a Demon was not summoned. Too many people expect to see a dark figure with glowing red eyes and a raspy yet booming voice to appear, hail them in the name of Satan, address them with the screams of Hell in the background, and say, “What is thy bidding, Infernal Master?”. Often, the expectation of the magician far exceeds their current skill level, thus causing disappointment. Be sure, when casting a spell, that you know what your practical limits are, what the spell will realistically produce, and what the actual signs of success or failure will likely be. Record in your Book of Shadows precisely what you think the results will be before you cast the spell, then compare that to the actual results later on. They may not match up, but seeing what reality produces is a way to refine your understanding of your own skill level and, moreover, to get a good grasp on the limits of the power you are working with. Remember that phenomenal results are only brought about by phenomenal skill, and even then one must recognize that impressive results, though possible, are not brought about by flashy displays. Do not set an expectation level beyond your means, and keep in mind that the ability to affect the odds rarely means the ability to dictate the odds.
5. Magic Post Office
Another of the troubles that many spell creators have is differentiating between intelligent or dumb-fire mechanics. In the arts of Celestial Magic and Summoning, there is an external intelligence available to coordinate spells, spell effects, and to change things as the situation may dictate. These are “intelligent” spells because they have enough cognitive ability to conform to a situation. Outside of these two arts, however, there seems to be a trend in sending spells “into the universe”. This, needless to say, is a very bad idea when considering spells that have no intelligent guidance. Borrowing from spirit-based traditions, many are in the habit of spewing perfectly good spells into the great beyond hoping that the Universe will act like a mystic post office and, for some reason, deliver Spell A to Target A even though the target is halfway across the globe, sending the spell across distances that are not mystically neutral, in a city the caster has never seen, to hit a target the caster has never known, and then, above all that, still perform in the manner that the spell was originally constructed. Be sure that the energies of almost any art do not care either way where they are sent and will not snap to attention to hit a target if sent into the Universe Express (overnight delivery).
6. Material Precursor
Many magicians attempt to cast Something From Nothing spells which causes them a great deal of difficulty. The work-around for casting functional spells is to put yourself in a position where there are chances/variables to manipulate. It is true, there is a lot of power in pure occultism itself, but it isn’t enough to cause change. Many people look to make effects purely by their own will and an energy, but it is one (crucial) step short of actual magic. The Will/Energy combination is, to make yet another analogy, like a craftsman trained in the use of tools. The tools are insufficient to cause change by themselves; something solid must be there to work with. To complete the analogy, the craftsman must take the raw material of their trade (such as Chance, in the case of magicians) and use their skills (Will and Energy) on the material of their training to cause an effect. Do not try to cause change based on magic solely. It is a way to enhance or manipulate the powers that be, as point of fact, not an end purely within itself. Some of this sentiment is also carried in the Mystic Post Office error. Also, to qualify this, Material Precursor is only necessary when attempting to make a tangible change.
7. Prepare Today, Cast Tomorrow
A difficulty that some people get rutted into is the idea that they are long-life batteries for mystic energies. With few exceptions, this is not so. Ambient energy is always in flux and always active around the caster. “Collection/Volition” energy and “Continual Casting” are two ways to learn, but it should be noted that the “collection” time in for the former is extremely brief. “Energy” is a staggeringly fast phenomenon and will interact with ambient energies, thus crippling or eliminating the ability to cast if one attempts to “hold” it in place. We can use the understood energy of Light as an example. Lasers focus light energy to create a more concentrated beam (Collection/Volition). Flood lamps gather as much light as possible and flood it in one direction (Continual Flow Casting). We only play the part of the director — the lens or the reflective directional shields — in the casting. Be sure to keep this in mind while spell crafting.