The older I get, the further out I plan. I tend to think (and scheme) five years ahead now. In my youth I barely knew what I was doing the next day. Now, I have significant goals to reach in three, six, and twelve month increments on a five year plan. And I expect those horizons to continue to stretch out ahead as I ripen with age.
Likewise for my magical practice. Many early attempts at influencing outcomes failed simply because I didn’t allow the universe enough space-time for the story to unfold. In my ignorance I didn’t understand that outcomes tend to manifest in seemingly mundane happenstance -something completely explainable- and sometimes that takes a minute.
The older I get, the better my magic works -and I think it has a lot to do with taking a more long term approach, building momentum, and trusting the universe to deliver.
It’s a gross oversimplification to say “the heavier the lift, the more ‘magic’ is required”, but there is something to this statement that makes it at least partially true. We can add further nuance to the idea by stating it in reverse: “the more ‘magic’ you throw at an intention, the greater the influence you apply.”
This implies something interesting, and potentially useful, about how the universe -and magic- work. Most importantly, the the more space-time you allow for your intention to manifest, the better your odds of success. Optionality increases over time, but also, you have more opportunity to accumulate both intention and attention (from spirits).
I’m not saying magic can’t work in the short term. I’m saying that magic works better over longer periods of time, especially when you’re actively performing rituals, giving offerings, etc. Sometimes this is described as “charging with intent” but I tend to think it’s more like “gathering attention from spirits”. Whatever the dynamic at work, the effect is the same: the more you put into magic, the better it works.
How this compounds, or accumulates, over time affords the forward-thinking magician a variety of options when planning their approach. Different types of spells and rituals lend themselves to different situations -and lengths of time. There’s no one-spell-fits-all strategy in magic; just different tech that works well in different situations.
In that spirit, I’ll share my favorite magical tactics that lend themselves to short, mid, and long term goals; followed by some strategies for layering them I’ve used to boost the efficacy of our workings.
Magic For Short-Term Goals
Candle Magic / Petitions
One of my favorite forms of spellcraft, candle magic, is so ubiquitous that it’s unlikely that you’re not already familiar with it -yet there’s always more room to experiment.
Personally, I like to turn related intentions into sigils (a shoal, if you’re familiar with that term) and paint those on a candle; which I obviously burn. The more time I have, the longer I’ll stretch out burning the candle, but when time is short I simply burn the whole candle down all at once.
Pro-tip: It can be quite dangerous to let a candle burn down unattended in your house and, unless you have a few hours to spend meditating, you’re going to need to walk away at some point. I’ve found that doing the ritual outside on my patio with the candle inside a wind guard, sitting on the concrete, is a safe way to burn through a candle in a single setting. If I can keep an eye on it, I’ll put the spell together indoors on a tray of sand and let it make a nice mess.
There are few faster and more effective forms of emergency magic than the “Power Of Eight” intention groups, popularized by Lynne McTaggart‘s fascinating work. She found, after dozens of very public and rigorously scientific experiments -not to mention thousands of self-reported group experiences- that even small groups of people have the power to significantly influence the world with their intentions.
If we have an emergency, it’s probably our intention group to which we’ll turn first (in fact I wrote about the power of intentions already). A small group of people spending ten minutes sending clear, positive intentions on behalf of someone can literally work miracles. And from what I’ve seen, results tend to manifest very quickly.
Poppets, Railroad Ties, & Mojo Bags
Metaphors are powerful tools. I like folk magic (a lot) for its colloquial use of metaphor; different cultures have different cunning traditions but the effects are essentially similar.
Fill a poppet (a simple sewn doll) with helpful herbs to bless the person it represents -or baleful ones to curse them. Pin something down in your life with railroad ties by placing them under (or piercing them) with railroad ties. Blend a recipe of herbs, crystals, and intentions in a bag, and feed frequently with an appropriate magical oil to create a servitor-in-a-bag. Folk magic is wild stuff.
A rough likeness and a clear intention is two thirds of a good spell; leaving a poppet’s purpose to your discretion like mad-lib magic. Railroad ties and mojo bags are like this as well, a sort of fill-in-the-blank magic whose metaphorical utility serves in a variety of situations.
I never travel without creating a mojo bag, made on the day and hour of Mercury, that contains herbs associated with ethereal Hermes, plus citrine and cinnamon for good fortune. Sarah recently consecrated a Mercury talisman on an election suitable for travel and it’s now attached to the outside of the “safe travels” mojo bag for additional remediative value.
Magic For Mid-Term Goals
Stealing liberally from the Catholic tradition, the concept of a novena is another simple -but powerful- piece of magical technology suited to any task where you have the requisite time. There’s no real consensus about how long the prayers should go on. A novena can be nine days long, or ninety -just light a candle and pray for multiple days in a row.
I tend to pray until my prayers are answered.
This could take days or weeks, and all the while I’m dutifully praying some repetitious petition that clearly conveys my intention. The power of this method is in the repetition and the accumulation effect that comes with it. Much like one of Mitch Horowitz’s “Miracle Club” intention challenges, or a Power of Eight intention, no special timing or ritual is required (though why not be extra?). Daily repetition adds to the working by adding to Crowley’s imitable “Inflame thyself with prayer” the qualifier ” -often”.
Where Gordon White (of Rune Soup) talks about tying together related sigils in “shoals” (like schools of fish), Jason Miller, of Strategic Sorcery, promotes a tactical strategy of breaking long-term goals into sprints with set-point theory.
Basically, one creates sigils (and potentially shoals) to accomplish each sprint individually -and successively- breaking one big problem into a series of smaller pieces which can be dealt with more easily.
When I do this I stretch the process out over a few weeks or months; creating sigils, waiting for results, reacting to deviations or realizing desired outcomes, and restarting the process again until I’ve achieved my end goals.
Your career and that island you want in the south pacific…those are long-term goals. This is for the steps in between, like your next promotion, or finding a new fling. Think months, not years, for each set of stretch goals.
Baths, Washes, & Powders
I’m willing to guess that most of us bathe less often than we used to, thanks to lockdown-culture and/or the resulting rise in remote-working popularity. I remember, many times where I’d take a shower just to “wake up”…but no more. When I bathe it’s now just an act of hygiene rather than routine and I think this is moving into right relation with the role of cleansing as ritual.
Simultaneously, my interest in magical baths has grown during this time and I’m more inclined to steep herbs into a brew, salt scrub, and asperge myself with hyssop now than ever before. Clearly there’s a bit of lingering 2020 blues at work here, but hopefully those bad times are just helping me set better habits for the future.
There’s a bath, or a wash, for damn near everything. Cleanse with salt. Purify with hyssop. Uncross with frankincense and dragon’s blood. Open roads with -you guessed it- “abre camino”. Basil for luck. Spearmint for money. Rose petals for love (or self-love). And so on…
Powders offer the same options for cunning practitioners, but in a convenient, dispersible format (just avoid envelopes with powder…still too soon).
Magic For Long-Term Goals
Altars & Sacred Spaces
The centerpiece of any magical practice is definitively the altar, not so much in terms of space or position, but of importance. The vast majority of magical rituals will involve an altar space (though that space may be as simple as a patch of grass or sand) and any tools and materials are contained within that space and dedicated to its workings.
Yet an altar is much more than a place to store ritual elements and tools. It is a metaphor for the microcosm which is in itself a metaphor for the macrocosm; the manifestation of the below which is as above. And that’s not to say that you can’t throw together an altar quickly for a ritual -you certainly can (and I usually do).
What I mean is that an altar, or any sacred space really, is both a working space for you magically and a home for the various spirits you call upon in your practice. There is a difference between creating an altar space for a one-time ritual and dedicating space to a working that accumulates power over time. The physical place you dedicate to a working is a “mini microcosm” where you can communicate related petitions to your spirit team (through metaphor) and imbue them with focused intent (as well as magical oils and other fun sorcerous stuff).
It’s worth clarifying that an “altar” can be anything from big display table with statues, crystals, and skulls to a little tray with some herbs, an incense bowl, and a tarot card. Your ritual area may have one altar or several; you may even decide to decentralize your practice and leave altars all around your house, thoroughly haunting your pad.
Any dedicated, consecrated space where you frequently practice magic, leave offerings, and create homes for spirits that you visit again and again is an altar in my book. Instead of thinking of an altar as a purely devotional space, consider setting up altars for bigger projects and spending time with each of them daily -or weekly on an appropriate day and hour.
Lodestones & Lamps
Cunning magic makes excellent use of metaphors and both lodestones and magical lamps are great examples. A lodestone is a naturally magnetic rock; making it ideal for any magic where you want to attract something to you. Sarah and I maintain a lodestone for prosperity, painted with sigils, and fed weekly with iron filings and jupiterian oils (from Sphere + Sundry) on the day and hour of Jupiter.
Without a doubt, this has been our most effective magical working to date and I simply cannot recommend this tech enough. It’s simple, powerful, and combines easily with other tech like sigils, talismanic materia, theurgy, etc.
Where the lodestone is an especially apt metaphor for a magical attractor, a lamp’s most recognizable feature is that it stays lit -in that “I’ll keep a light on for you” kind of way. Lamps attract by lighting the way and they must be fed with oil (similar to how lodestones are fed iron filings) to stay active, which creates the transactional dynamic that powers the accumulation of potential I’ve mentioned throughout this article. Blending herbs and other materia with the oil and speaking your intent into it turns a simple oil lamp into magical praxis.
Whatever form it takes, repeated supplication (with offerings) is a highly effective method for eliciting spiritual interaction.
The Black Book
Aidan Watcher’s immensely popular book, Weaving Fate, contains a set of interwoven, on-going, magical practices -the most popular of which, known as “The Black Book”, is a hypersigil journal. Read the book obviously, but, for context, the idea is this: Journal (in no particular linear order) about the future you want as if it has just happened.
When writing in the Black Book, you attempt to relate the future in past tense -in rich emotional detail- without being too specific and thereby limiting the potential ways your desired outcome might manifest.
For extra fun and credit, should you choose to jump on the Weaving Fate bandwagon, I highly recommend creating time loops in your Black Book narratives. Write entries in the distant future where you look back on the impact a successful magical working had on your life and thus connect it to big feelings of pride and accomplishment, as well as desire.
The Black Book is a multi-dimensional TrapperKeeper. An all-in-one time travel and reality manipulation device which functions on the principle that life is a story being told and that we’re both it’s protagonist and co-author. As entries accumulate in the Black Book, the narrative of your future self is woven into your understanding of yourself, and thus, the universe’s understanding of you as well.
The magic is in the stories you weave painstakingly -lovingly- into the pages of the Black Book; adding color and definition to your desire until it’s concrete enough to take physical form in the world.
When You “Go Ham”, Go All The Way
I tend to pray until my prayers are answered. I keep “yelling at candles” until there’s no question the spirits have heard me and answered. My recommendation: If the outcome is important to you, keep adding your intent and wooing the spirits as long as you can –as long as it takes.
Unexpected crises will always occur, so emergency magic will always have a place in our practices. And there are some parts of the future we’ll be able to see coming, and plan for, and others that will sneak right up on us. Life throws short, mid, and long-term challenges at us and so having a spread of short, mid, and long-term magical strategies to help navigate the intricate webs woven by the Fates is incredibly helpful.
Beyond what you can do in the moment, the best magical tactics take time to build momentum, and like flywheels they spin with greater and greater efficiency over time and yield exponential returns.
These tactics also stack quite easily. For example, you can maintain a long-term altar for a big project and burn candles, or store mojo bags and such, on that altar as you overcome the many little challenges along the way.
You can perform rituals to consecrate and dedicate tools (a short-term project) to your long-term workings (the Black Book method does this). Consecrate the pen you write your sigils with to Mercury. Dedicate candles and incense to the spirits and deities you work with regularly. All of these are intentional acts that layer together to create more complex and powerful metaphors.
We’re very big fans of incorporating handmade talismanic materia into our spells, created during a magical election (an astrologically-beneficent time where the moon is also under conditions favorable to a particular type of magical work). Talismanically-created candles would be considered a mid-term magical working where casting a metal talisman is a long-term act by definition. Either way, astrological magic is potent stuff and using talismanic materia to boost an emergency spell is a recommended best practice.
And there are, of course, countless other spells and traditions beyond these favorites of mine. In fact, if you have any favorite spells like these, leave a comment below with other short, mid, and long term magic tips from your own practice.
Featured image: Spellcraft- Card by ManthosLappas