Initially, your success rate with magic tends to vacillate between wildly effective and abysmal with early wins quickly outweighed by frustrating (and inexplicable) failures. The universe is alive and definitely fucking with you, teasing you towards a magical practice with a few free miracles and felt experiences to get you hooked.
After the honeymoon phase, you realize the magical path is a long, and occasionally frustrating, one. Yes, there is a lot to learn (which means lots of books!), but the payoff of verifiable results is extremely elusive. Magic is a fickle mistress; it takes experience to know how to keep her interests -to court her favor.
As a result your magical path will take you down many different paths and, if you’re like me, incorporate many different approaches. Across essentially all expressions of magic, however, there are certain strategies which seem to be universal and yield consistent results. Experimenting with them will almost certainly provide useful insight into ways to improve your practice overall.
Meditating absolutely improves your focus during magical ritual as well as creating the mental space to send clear intentions and receive clear responses from spirit. There is something of an obsession, however, with no-mind meditation (meditating without thinking) among the occult community but I have found that it doesn’t live up to the hype in practice.
Suffice it to say that the mystic types, those primarily concerned with achieving gnosis, tend to place a great deal of importance on the ability to empty their minds for prolonged periods of time. While there is undeniable value in being able to quiet the mind, meditating is more palatable when it doesn’t feel like a trial of endurance.
As Gordon White recommends in I forget where, simply counting your breaths, 1 in, 2 out…3 in, 4 out…to 10, and then starting over again, while focusing on the sensation of the breath is all the “no-mind” meditation praxis as you need. Let your thoughts be as clouds drifting by in sky, as they say. Do this at least 3 times a week to enjoy the benefits in your practice.
Veneration (Prior To Spell Work)
It is just generally true that the powers that be (over any jurisdiction) are more kindly to those who show respect before asking for favors. It’s just considered good graces… This is as true in magic as it is in politics, or in your workplace, family, or domain of expertise. Recognition and respect are key to extending one’s circle of influence anywhere.
When we do this with other humans it’s called networking. When we engage in this manner with the spirit world, it’s called veneration. Veneration is defined as “reverential respect” and is commonly integrated with the act of giving gifts (of recognition) to enhance the intended effect.
Without turning spiritual engagement into a purely transactional affair, imagine that your ability to call upon spiritual allies in times of need relies on a “spiritual battery” -a power source- which can be depleted and must be recharged. Veneration is the act of plugging-in and recharging that spiritual battery.
Humans are vessels for spirit and are at our most magical when we’re channeling the energies of divine sources. Veneration is the syphon which starts the flow of those divine energies. The more we practice, the more potent our connection to these divine energies becomes, and the better our results from magic. Preparing for any magical working by performing acts of veneration (to the related spirits) in advance strengthens the fidelity of your connection with these spirits, thus improving your odds of success.
The build up of anxiety prior to the performance of any ritual is palpable and cannot help but affect your internal state during the ritual. Adding pressure to this performance by requiring perfection of yourself courts disaster in any magical working. Returning to the metaphors of connection with spirit, and fidelity (clarity of messages), it’s better to think of a ritual as more like a radio broadcast than live theatre. Repeating your broadcast helps to ensure a clearer more complete transmission.
Repeating entire rituals is not ideal because it would undermine your confidence in any prior ritual’s success -a critical component of that success. Repetition should take place within a ritual -and that ritual performed in completeness only one time.
In a ritual context, repetition strengthens the fidelity of your message; if for no other reason than it takes a couple of attempts to feel like you got it right. The rightness of how it feels to perform a ritual is simply an internal perception measuring the quality of your outgoing “signal”. This is interpretation of sensory data (which can’t be fully explained) into a felt-sense in the body which reads right or wrong…good enough, or not.
Repeat invocations, petitions, and minor ritual actions, but avoid being overly self-critical and don’t repeat your ritual’s big finish. And (this is key), don’t look at these repetitions as do-overs but as power-ups. Don’t waste any energy trying to make a ritual “feel magical” because they generally don’t since we’re often too wrapped up in self-judgement. You’re not “doing it wrong” or “doing it over”, you’re simply doing it justice -giving the elements of the ritual emphasis through repetition.
Layering Blessings And Intentions
A prayer can be a highly effective bit of “magic” on its own, but a prayer combined with an offering tends to be more effective. A prayer, an offering, and ritually prepared materia, starts to look like a full-on magical ritual. Each addition adds something to the mix and lots of these additions together makes for a more potent working.
Every action taken during a ritual, including preparations and follow-up (before and after the ritual), is sacred by definition. As with any sacred activity, spirit is present. Your intention makes it sacred and therefore it is blessed (haunted) by spirit.
Blessings stack like boosts in role playing games; the more boosts you have, the better you perform (as long as they are all complementary). This is the reason that grimoires instruct us to gather materia at certain times, and to consecrate our ritual tools in certain ways, and this is why we use talismans and talismanic materia in ceremony. The idea is to apply specific magical effects (blessings) at time when we are attempting related work to increase fidelity and enhance your odds of success.
For example, wearing a Venus talisman heightens the felt presence and magical influence of Venus beneficially in love workings and other Venusian matters. For a more complex example, imagine taking a knife consecrated to Mars and passing it through the flame of a talismanically-charged candle before using it to draw blood for a ritual -this compiles three “layers” of blessings in complementary fashion.
It only makes sense to create blessed materia for your rituals like candles, incense, gathered materials, consecrated vessels and tools, and so on; stacking layer after layer of intention and divine blessings on the works you attempt.
Timing is everything, especially in magic. It’s not that different from any other aspect of life -there is a right time, and a wrong time, for doing everything. For as far back as humans have documented the movements (transits) of the Sun, Moon, and planets through our night sky, we have associated these motions with various cycles of our own history here on Earth. The idea that the heavens dictate, or at least indicate, the fortunes of humanity, is extremely ancient.
It’s not clear exactly when ancient magicians decided that it is possible to influence the outcomes of magical rituals by timing them to coincide with certain heavenly configurations (astrological elections) but it is clearly practiced in Mesopotamia during the first century of the Common Era.
For more information on this subject read my post: How To Get Quality Magical Elections When You’re Not An Astrologer
Magical elections, that is, moments in time which have suitable astrological conditions for the creation of specific talismans, leverage the power of the Moon to facilitate the magic of the planets; and thus the (astrological) condition of the Moon is very important to the quality of the election. This makes good elections fairly rare and somewhat challenging to find and why it is so awesome that there are several astrologers on the web putting out good quality elections each month.
Of course, astrological timing is only one form of magical timing. Even older than astrological elections (meaning the Hellenistic kind), the practice of dedicating certain hours, days, months, etc. to the local pantheon of gods has provided a framework for timing spell work since time immemorial. So called “day and hour” timing is popular among classic grimoires and some, like the Hygromanteia, contain lists of spirits to call upon at certain hours on certain days for assistance with various tasks.
The most popular magical timing system is the oldest we know of, the ancient Babylonian (Chaldean) ordering of the planets and their assignment to days of the week.
- Sunday = The Sun
- Monday = The Moon
- Tuesday = Mars
- Wednesday = Mercury
- Thursday = Jupiter
- Friday = Venus
- Saturday = Saturn
The hours of the day follow the same order, beginning with the planet which rules the day at sunrise; such that sunrise on Monday is the Moon’s hour on the Moon’s day, and Mars rules the following hour.
Finally, the position (along the ecliptic) of the Moon and her phase, is perhaps the most important factor in magical timing in general. The Picatrix stipulates that all works of magic are subject to the condition of the Moon will manifest results according to her station and disposition. The many potential astrological factors this implies can be overwhelming to consider with every magical working so, for practical purposes, it’s usually enough to plan workings according to the current phase of the Moon (waxing or waning) and the sign she occupies, until you’re ready for more nuance.
In the waxing Moon, magic for realizing gains, achieving goals, and manifesting positive outcomes is stronger and more likely to be successful. In her waning phase, planning, divination, binding, banishing, releasing, sowing seeds for the future, and all negative intentions (malefica) are stronger and more likely to be successful.
The sign the Moon occupies during the time of your working adds a distinct “flavor” to the outcome:
- Aries = aggressive
- Taurus = material
- Gemini = multi-faceted / all over the place
- Cancer = emotional
- Leo = grand / aggrandizing
- Virgo = detail-oriented
- Liba = fair but critical
- Scorpio = secretive / mysterious
- Sagittarius = larger than life
- Capricorn = steady / traditional
- Aquarius = analytical / abstract
- Pisces = dreamy / delusional
*These are, of course, only examples and cannot fully express the complex natures of the signs of the zodiac.
If that isn’t enough lunar timing to keep you busy, then the lunar mansion system (systems, technically) should not be overlooked as a more advanced (and powerful) system of lunar magical timing. Lunar mansions are extremely ancient, highly accessible, and intrinsically connected to our human understanding of time because the original lunar mansions are, in effect, the first human calendar.
The lunar month measures the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth and divides evenly into 28 lunar days which each represent an equal portion of the 360 degrees of the sky over those 28 days; a little more than 12.5 degrees. Each “day” in this scheme is a different lunar mansion. These periods do not align with solar days or months and are always more or less askew.
Importantly, the mansions’ qualities, good and bad, are derived from the myths and lore surrounding visibly bright stars/asterisms originally within their bounds (stars change position over thousands of years). Some of these stars are famous, like Regulus and Aldebaran, and some are less well known. In any case, the mansion follows the lore of the star.
Unique because of the system’s ancient application for timing sacred activities like celebrations, planting and harvest, and other aspects of ancient life, the use of the lunar mansion system for timing magical praxis is both practical and accessible. The Moon traverses the entire ecliptic each month, providing ample opportunities for working magic in her mansions month after month. Likewise, the 28 mansions are diverse and comprehensive, providing opportunities for working essentially every kind of magic between them.
Putting It All Together
Different approaches have merit in different situations but that is not to say there is any reason not to layer several approaches together if they promote compatible and aligned outcomes. If your interest in magic is purely experimental then perhaps you might want to avoid confusing your results but, in situations where the outcome is important, it is highly advisable to throw everything you’ve got at the problem.
Consistently working effective magic means having blessed materials of all different kinds at hand -and that means planning ahead. You can create talismanic materia (candles, incense, etc) under excellent astrological (and lunar) conditions when they come around so that you have them available when you need them later. You can start a habit of performing acts of devotion (at the appropriate day and hour), even when you don’t need anything. Fill your sleeves with aces ahead of time so you can stack the deck in your favor when it’s time to play.
Additionally, there are some practices that just always seem to pay off. These always lead to greater success with magic because they improve core skills like focus, perception, and awareness. Practices like meditation, etc. sharpen the mind and increase the fidelity of your communications with spirit and this helps with essentially all the practical aspects of spell work.
Focus, intention, and belief are the means by which we magically create change in the world. Boosting your success rate with magic is all about strengthening our grasp on these forces and finding creative ways to weave them, layer by layer, into the tapestry of our story.
Featured Image: Equilibrium by JoeyJazz