When I was a child magic was dragons and mermaids and giants. It was a genuine belief that my letter to Hogwarts could arrive any day or I’d accidentally find out I had superpowers.
I spent so many nights imagining my own worlds into existence. Worlds where I was heroic and special. Where there were no abusive stepfathers or bullies, just monsters I fought and won.
Magical things seemed to happen around me. One rainy afternoon I told my sister I could make the rain stop so she asked me to prove it. I closed my eyes and asked the sky very kindly to stop raining and it stopped abruptly. It made me cry.
I saw many things that didn’t exist, heard voices in my head and had dreams that came true. I made potions and cast spells and I felt like the universe really listened to me. I kept praying long after I ditched Christianity.
Reality set in as I grew. It’s not so cool to believe in Narnia when you’re a teenager. Instead I believed in tangible things; like coincidences, boy bands and kissing. I was a self proclaimed skeptic who still had a soft spot for old gruesome fairytales. If something couldn’t be explained, I didn’t believe in it. Ghosts, yeah right. Chakras, weird. Magic, no way.
But the more I experienced the world the more I saw that magic was real. Magic was the patterns in an insect’s fragile wings, the taste of summer mangoes, the feeling of new love. Magic was a world full of wonderful creatures, many of them even more exotic than mythical creatures.
Magic was liquid that turned your hair purple, pills that made you sleep, devices that let you freeze single moments in time, birdlike machines that could take you up into the clouds and down into different worlds. Magic was here, we just understood it so well that it lost its mystery.
That was my conclusion. Magic was subjective, like love.
Then one day in the midst of great heartache I reached a breaking point. In desperation I cast a spell the way I did when I was a child. I burned a note that begged for my heart to be healed.
As I held that burning note a powerful feeling flooded through me. I’ve felt it before; in the flow of writing, of photography, of parenting. It’s a feeling of purpose.
Somehow I knew it would take three days and so for three days all the weight was lifted. I trusted even though it made no rational sense to trust. On the third day I expected a call from the boy I was in love with, confessing he’d made a mistake. But as the third day began to come to an uneventful close the heartbreak swept me up again. How could I have let my guard down and believed in something so unbelievable? How could I have been such a child?
Late that very same night I met Bee, who went on to heal even more than my heart. He healed deep scars I wore from past relationships and he taught me a life changing lesson: Love doesn’t have to be painful to be real.
As soon as it happened my skeptical mind kicked in to remind me of coincidences and rational explanations but for the first time I didn’t listen. Even if it could all be explained away scientifically, I didn’t care. I wanted to exist in a world with ritual and mystery. And to be completely honest, it felt pretty damn magical.
I’ve only ever experienced life the way it is now. With sky scrapers, Netflix, commercialised holidays, grocery stores and 9-5’s. Switching from device to device in a endless hunt for distraction and instant gratification. But for the vast majority of our existence, life has been much different for us.
Ritual was an integral part of our ancestor’s lives. We were connected to the sacred and to the Earth in ways we can no longer understand. But it’s still there inside us. We’re hardwired to respond to ritual. The first time I cast that spell I wondered if that impulsive feeling came from my ancestry. Like a switch had been turned on.
I remember being the weird kid at school. The 9 year old who shaved her head to eschew feminine stereotypes, genuinely believed she was a mermaid in a past life and invented her own mythologies. Then I lost my magic, I hid it all inside myself so I could fit in. Now I’m slowly finding it again.
I think of spells as a little helping hand. You still have to do the work to make your life better, but once you put it out there you might find you get some extra help. As someone with anxiety issues, it is life-changing to have a ritual where I can let go of my worries and leave them in the hands of the world.
My spell is made up. Every ritual in history has been made up by a human just like you, so feel free to make up your own and believe in it just as much.
I usually do mine on full moons. Here is how I do mine.
A small piece of paper
A bowl of water
Optional: an offering
- Spend time focusing on something that is really pressing you right now. Most of my spells focus on things I’m worried about. Finding a new home, coping with my anxiety, being able to feed my family. Sometimes they are for people I love when I know they need it. Some months I have nothing to ask for.
Note: Understand that you can’t know exactly what is best for you or others. We can’t see the whole picture. Something that feels like the end of the world might be the best thing that’s ever happened. Someone who seems perfect might be completely wrong for you.
- Write your wish down on a piece of paper. It can be just a few words or you can fill the page. I use positive, open wording and express my trust in whatever happens. I fold it carefully; it’s sacred.
- I will sometimes add a little offering. When I was casting a spell for my trip to Europe I found an old airline ticket. Sometimes I find flowers or tear out symbolic journal pages. When I burn my spell, I burn these too (often tucked in my folded spell). You might want to collect other things that feel magic to you just to keep around. I have this wand of quartz that was used in my brother’s funeral ceremony that is special to me.
- I often wear this black floaty poncho that feels witchy, but you can wear anything. Bring your spell, your bowl of water, your lit candle and anything else and sit somewhere outside where you’re not going to be self conscious about anyone seeing you. I like being in sight of the moon.
- Read through your note slowly, imagine the good that is coming and feel what that feels like. If any bad thoughts drift into your mind just gently push them away and think positively again. Once you’re really clear on what you’re asking for, burn your spell.
- Watch it burn and focus intently on your request. Fill yourself up with trust and excitement. It’ll probably feel a bit awkward if you’ve never done anything like it before, but let go of the weirdness and just be present. When the flames grow too close to your fingertips, drop your spell into the bowl of water. I sit for a while in the glow that follows and trust that everything will work out.