An altar, a cauldron, sacred herbs, colored candles, your book of shadows close at hand, but most importantly, your intent — when you have these things prepared, you’re ready to cast a spell. A Witch is in constant communication with the God and Goddess — she or he draws energy from the Divine and focuses that power toward the desired outcome of the spell.
Spell casting sounds like some ancient ritual, and in many respects it is. To some people, it may also sound like heresy — the kind of thing your preacher may have warned you was a mortal sin. The reality is that spell casting is a way that many people around the world get their spirituality.
Ann Moura, who is also known in Witchraft circles as Aoumiel, spoke with me recently from a metaphysical shop she frequents in Orlando, Florida, about what spell casting is and how it works. Moura is the author of many books on Witchcraft and spell casting; her latest book is Grimoire for the Green Witch: A Complete Book of Shadows.
Spell casting is "proactive prayer," Moura said. "It’s a way of alerting energies that you want their assistance." She has been practicing Witchcraft for more than 35 years. She accepts the term "Witch" to describe herself — though spell casting is a way of life she has known since birth, she never put a label on what she is. Moura said, "My mother used to say to me, ‘We do not name ourselves. Others name us.’ So that’s sort of how my philosophy has been." Moura is the third generation to practice spell casting in her family.
Moura first learned the effectiveness of a spell when she was only four years old. She said, "I lost a toy and couldn’t find it anywhere, so my mother taught me the spell to catch Bendideia, who is the goddess Bendis, the Thracean Moon Goddess, in a piece of paper. How she got in my family I don’t know, but she’s the family goddess. My mother snapped the paper and said, ‘I have you now, Bendideia, and I will not let you go until you return the toy.’ She folded up the paper very carefully and stuck it underneath the leg of a chair that was very heavy. She told me to go back to the room and look for the toy. So I went back to my room, and there it was. I came back out and said, ‘I found my toy!’ so my mother lifts up the chair and pulls out the paper, snaps it in the air and says, ‘You may go!’ From then on, many times I would go and hide something, grab a piece of paper and say, ‘I have you now, Bendideia.’ I played with Bendideia a lot."
Moura practices Green Witchcraft, which is a nature-based form of spirituality. Moura said, "Green is a color that has always been associated with other world, fairies, the occult and so forth — in the Nordic tradition and in the English tradition as well. There is a lot of herb usage in the Magick practice and a communication or communion with nature, with the earth, with the spirits and energies of plants and animals. Everything has that interconnectedness."
Moura explained how spell casting is primarily a movement of energies. The caster moves the energy toward the goal of what they are seeking. Knowing what you want is critical. Moura said, "You have to have a specific objective, and then you have to correlate the energies that are identifiable with different plants or stones or candle colors, or whatever. If you’re creating a table of correspondences in which you use allspice, for example, that’s for prosperity or for energy, but if I’m using acacia, that’s to aid psychic powers. So you can blend your combinations — if you’re going to do a prosperity spell, you can use allspice and a green candle, thinking of it in terms of money, or a gold candle thinking of it in terms of prosperity and gold money."
I asked Moura if allspice always had Magickal qualities, and she said it did, though intent has a lot to do with it. This would explain why my Swedish meatball recipe never brought in anything other than heartburn. I have no Magickal intent with allspice in my Swedish meatballs, just flavor. Thus, my dinner — though it tastes divine — is just the result of a good chef, not Magick.
Some common spells that are cast are for prosperity, health, improved love life, for getting a job or career improvement, safety in travels, or protection of one’s home. Additionally, Moura explained how there are "mini spells" for some of life’s more common hurdles. Moura said, "Like extending the traffic light so it stays green while you go through it. Or slowing down time so you aren’t late for work — it’s one of those things where you travel between the beats of time. Then you relax when you drive, you don’t drive frantically, and you get there when you’re supposed to be there." For some of these mini spells, you don’t need any materials at all, Moura explained — just intent and open communication with the Divine.
Many factors can also play on the effectiveness of your spell. Time of day, time of year, and the phase the moon is in all have a bearing on the spell’s outcome. Moura said, "We had a full moon last Wednesday. The moon was in Pisces, which is good for mysticism and occult stuff. But at 12:45 AM Thursday, it went into void of course until 11:09 AM on Thursday and then went into Aries. If you wanted to do Magick — and I did some — the time to do it was in the hour of Mercury, which was around 9:35 PM on Wednesday. You have an hour there that you can work with, you have communication opened up with Mercury, you have the full moon, which is for gaining things and for accomplishment, and you have the Pisces for the occultic and mystic influence." So a Witch must also be a bit of an astrologer — mindful of a waxing, waning, full, or new moon because each phase will have a different influence on your spell. Also mindful of what sign the moon is traveling in — if the moon is between signs, or in void of course, Moura explained, your spell work won’t be effective. Not all signs are ideal for spell casting either. "When it’s in Aries, the full moon is still not going to be particularly beneficial for spell work because Aries and the moon is like a strong start but no staying power," she said.
So what are the Magick words? Moura said, "Any words that you use ought to be from the heart. I don’t really go too much for the prescribed spell where you recite something. What you’re really doing is talking to the Divine. You’re talking to the energies of nature, and so it’s like when I’m talking to you on the phone, I’m not reading to you from a book. And that’s how I communicate with the Divine, with nature, and with the elementals."
Moura told me about one successful spell she cast that was also very close to her heart. Her mother was dying of cancer, and Moura cast a spell to help her. She said, "She asked me to do something for her because she was afraid of pain. I couldn’t do a healing spell, because she was already convinced she was going to die and there wasn’t any way for me to go around that, but she never did have any pain and the doctor was quite surprised. She had cancer for five years, and when she died she basically had water for blood. The cancer metastasized all over, it was in her brain and everywhere, but when I finished the spell, I had a candle in front of the God image and a candle in front of the Goddess image on my altar. The wax from the candle in front of the God formed a circle with a dot in the center, which is the symbol for the sun. The wax in front of the Goddess formed the crescent moon, which of course is the symbol for the moon. The Goddess and the moon are linked, the God and the sun are linked, so to me it was like saying, ‘We’ve heard you, you’ve gotten what you asked for.’ I know it worked, because she never did have any pain."
But there are some spells Moura will not cast. "I had a guy come up to me at a convention not too long ago and say, ‘I want a death spell. I want to kill somebody,’" she said. "I don’t think so. So there are some spells that I will not do. That’s not to say that you can’t do them; it’s a matter of personal choice. You don’t do them because it’s not right — you don’t want to diminish your own spiritual light."
Moura likens spell casting to prayer. In my Catholic upbringing, prayer was something you did in private, or at church while the priest conducted all of the ceremony and "spell casting" on the altar. In many religions, there is a clear line between the religious leader performing the rituals and the audience. Witchcraft offers true audience participation, and according to Moura, the results are incredibly intense. She said, "It is a very profound experience — and you do meet the Divine. It’s part of what Joseph Campbell calls the ‘ecstatic experience.’ I remember watching a video of one of his talks, and he says that what the Judea-Christian religion has taken away from people is that ability to have that ecstatic experience — one-on-one with the Divine."
Spell casting has been happening for many thousands of years by people from all walks of life. In some respects, a priest casts a spell when he sanctifies holy water, and you cast a spell when you say a quiet prayer for a sick friend. Spell casting really lets you put your senses into spirituality. For many people, spirituality happens in a quiet place within your head or heart. For Witches, it takes place in their heads, their hearts, their feet, hands, eyes, ears, and more.