QUESTION - Are there any areas where magic just doesn't work for you or things you wouldn't use magic for?
ANSWER - There are a couple of areas in both categories now I stop to think about it. Magic that hasn't worked for me is usually magic that involves trying to make animals do what I want them to. I've noticed that people are a lot easier to manipulate than animals. Interestingly enough the more intelligent the person the more they respond to manipulation by magic. I have no idea why this is but my personal experiences bear it out. I've also had very little success with weight loss spells, probably because no spell will work without mundane as well as magical effort and I'm both too lazy and too greedy to cut down on the chips!
In terms of spells I wouldn't use, I have never cast any form of love magic for my own personal gain. I dislike the idea of creating an artificial relationship and I can think of no quicker way for anyone's confidence in themselves to plummet than the realisation that they are only loved because somebody has magically compelled a person to love them.
The other spell I would never use would be anything to bestow on me the ability to drive a car. Some people are just not safe behind a wheel and I can tell you categorically that I would be one of them. I wouldn't want to give myself a helping hand to pass a driving test only to find I am a danger to myself and others on the road. I'm happier on the train and besides, I answer a lot of the Ask a Witch a Questions on the train, I wouldn't get through half as many if I had to drive everywhere!
QUESTION - I really struggle to switch my mind off when I meditate and thoughts keep intruding. I feel the meditation isn't working or doing me much good. How do I switch off my mind when I meditate?
ANSWER - It seems a very common misconception that meditation is about making the mind as blank as possible, I've no doubt that the average Tibetan monk can pull it off but for most of us such a feat is near to impossible...
What I find works better than trying to blank your mind is to focus intently on one thing to the extent that you block other thoughts from coming through. I often meditate on a colour (usually green) - I hold the colour in my mind and project the image behind my eyes so I am thinking about and visualising green as a single image. By keeping a similar image at the forefront of your mind you may find it easier to minimise distractions.
Meditation doesn't have to be a passive process. I'm usually doing something in my mind when I meditate. Often I mentally walk around my grandmother's old house which has great personal meaning for me. I use this visualisation particularly for centering as it allows me to ease my mind out of the mundane. Focusing on the little details and recalling the textures, the smells and the sounds can be an intense experience and one which helps to transport my mind out of the day to day world to a place of peace and calm.
I'd question the concept that meditation should ever be a blank process. One of the things I do when starting a session of meditation is have a cleansing of the mind ritual where I meditate specifically on all the things worrying me at the given time. I write the worries down as I go and in doing so I am able to clear them from my mind. That form of meditation very much involves focusing on the contents of the mind and wouldn't be half as successful if I tried to make my mind go blank.
I'd also comment that no matter how good or how experienced a person is at meditating there will always be those moments of: "Hey -I'm thinking about stuff when I want to be meditating..." Don't let this agitate you or distract you from your purpose - just play around with visualisations until you find something that works for you. And ironically you may find that adding as much detail into your visualisations as you can will actually work better for you than trying to perform the Herculean feat of emptying your mind.
QUESTION - A lot of spell books keep talking about poppets but they seem to assume everyone knows what a poppet is and how to make one. Could you explain the basics please?
ANSWER - A poppet is simply a representation of a person that you wish to cast magic on. Normally it will resemble the basic outline of a human and more often than not, at least when practical, it will be personalised in some way relating to the individual focus of the spell work. The artistry involved in making the poppet isn't important - by which I mean it doesn't have to physically resemble the person you are doing the magic for - although incorporating very basic features may help you to make the link between the person and the poppet in your mind.
What a poppet is made of is generally unimportant (though different traditions may have their own ways of doing things.) A poppet in olden times would likely have been sewn from old cloth or rags and stuffed with straw. Cotton poppets are still used today - funnily enough I was just suggesting to a fellow witch the other day that we put some of the coming winter aside to stitching a few basic poppet forms so we have them to hand when needed.
Another traditional method of making poppets (sometimes referred to as dolls) is shaping melted wax to resemble a figure. This can be trickier than it sounds and not always the most pain free method of doing it! The modern equivalent I usually use is plasticine (or on the odd occasion blue tak!). However the chosen material may be relevant to the individual spell. A wax poppet may be better suited to weight loss spells (melting the poppet of the individual to reduce their mass) whereas a cloth poppet might be better for taking a person down a peg or two (dropping from a height... lol).
For the less crafty witch pre made poppets can be adapted from cheap children's dolls or even second hand Barbies. The only limit is imagination...
Nothing to stop poppets from being carved from wood and nature itself yields natural shapes than can be used as "living" poppets - the roots of the Mandrake plant have traditionally been used for this but those of us with a less successful track record in gardening may prefer to use dandelion roots...
A poppet can be personalised in a variety of ways. Attaching a taglock like a lock of hair is probably the most common but some people can be irritatingly reluctant to hand over their hair in which case you may need to get creative. Toe nails, urine, blood, excrement, semen, anything personal will work just as well. Failing that cutting them out of a picture and pinning it to the poppet could be a useful substitute. In the absence of anything at all carving the name of the person into the poppet or writing/painting it on may very well be enough.
Poppets seem to appear a lot in books concerned with the negative elements of magic, cursing in particular. But use the poppet in itself is neither black nor white magic and there is no reason why a poppet cannot be applied to healing as well as harm. I've used poppets recently in spells as simple as drawing an individual toward the light (tying string round the poppet and pulling toward a candle), protection (wrapping the poppet in bubble wrap and placing in a charmed jar) and reducing stress (burying the poppet under a pile of pebbles representing the worries weighing the person down and then lifting them off one by one). No reason to believe poppets can only be associated with dark magic. Poppets, as with most magics, are neither dark nor light, merely a reflection of the caster's intent.
QUESTION - There have been a few questions recently along the theme of asking me for clairvoyant insights into the future of the individual asking the question. Rather than reply individually I'm going to address the general question about foretelling the future (and then link this answer to anyone else who asks a similar question).
ANSWER -There is often an assumption that clairvoyance and witchcraft go hand in hand and there probably is some limited truth in this. A witch will naturally be open minded to the possibility of getting glimpses into the future. She may look for signposts in everyday occurences, she may meditate, she may travel the astral and she may use various tools like tarot cards or rune stones. You'll notice I use the term "she may" as there are no mandatory practises involved in the practise of witchcraft and many witches have very little to do with anything that might be considered divination.
The point I make is that although a witch may well move in circles where precognition is commonplace it does not necessarily follow that she enjoys this skill herself. Divining the future is entirely separate to what it is to be a witch and it would be a false assumption to assume that any witch you encounter will have a good understanding of what your future will bring.
As for me, speaking personally, I do have the odd insight into the future but they are very few and far between and almost always linked to people I know well. I have good results with Tarot but I tend to use this more as a tool to illuminate the present than to see into the future. In short I'm probably not the best person to ask if you want certainties confirming about what the future will bring.
The purpose of Ask a Witch a Question is to answer questions publicly so others can benefit from the answers given (and perhaps even offer further wisdom in the comments). The questions that lean toward a request for divination would offer little meaning to anyone beyond the individual querant so they fall outside the scope of what I offer here. Those seeking clarity of their future would do better consulting a professional tarot reader. There is usually a cost for a full reading but the better at their profession will justify the costs with the results.
So I apologise that questions like "Can you tell me if I will ever be rich?" Or "Will my husband ever cheat on me?" continue to go unanswered. But in all honesty if I did answer these questions I wouldn't be doing you any favours as not knowing you or your circumstances I'd only be guessing at best. Yes I could do a reading but as there are many other sites offering a tarot service and not so many offering the common sense approach to witchcraft that I offer here I have made the decision to focus on the questions relating to the craft and suggest with kindness and tact that those wishing fortune telling services look elsewhere.
QUESTION - Since I was very young I had something attached to me, to the extent others could often feel it. It watched me in my sleep every night for several years and sometimes it had a distinct smell, like rotting flowers. When I was an adolescent people felt uncomfortable being in my room if I wasn't there and they didn't have permission. Since I moved out and 'became an adult' in my own right I have very rarely if ever felt this presence, but now I'm extremely curious about it. Is there a safe way to find out more about it or perhaps even communicate with it?
ANSWER - Smells are commonly linked to spirit activity and interestingly the smell you mention - flowers - is one of the most often reported smells. The fact that you didn't experience the smell on every occasion upon which you sensed the spirit's presence also makes me inclined to think your experience is a genuine interaction. A mundane source of a smell is likely to be either constant or have a specific cause that can be traced. A smell associated with a spirit is plausibly intermittent with no other obvious explanation.
I'm interested in whether the spirit is attracted to you or to your former home. There is a difference between a spirit that follows a human (no, I'm not talking about possession) and one which is bound to a place. The fact that you have experienced the interaction so rarely since you moved out would suggest that it is the house rather than yourself that is the issue here. If you've only experienced the spirit when visiting your former home then I'd be confident to say this is definitely the answer. If this is the case then any future contact will need to take place in the home where you used to live.
Though I'm not certain that even if you have experienced this spirit outside your former home that approaching it on the territory where you felt its presence most strongly may not be the best way forward anyway. If you formed a bond when living there the familiar territory may make it easier for you both to open up the channel of communication. There is also a natural protection inherent in the parental home (due to your parents subconsciously projecting their desire to keep you safe) so not only are you likely to have more luck making contact there you are also likely to be safer when doing so.
I have to be honest though, you ask for the safest way to explore further understanding and/or contact but the safest thing you can do is to chalk it up to a childhood experience and walk away. I’m not averse to the idea of contacting spirits but I do think it is important that you question your motives for wanting to do so. Are you willing to consider the possibility that you will attract the interest of this entity again? As an adult you will be more aware of the philosophical issues raised by contacting the otherworld (children tend to be far more accepting) – how will it change your world view if you end up re-establishing contact. Will it change who you are?
I’d also offer the practical word of caution that sometimes spirits (both genuine and imaginary) are attracted by times of unhappiness and trauma. Would this step into your past reawaken any problems you have put behind you? Is there a reason you’ve moved on and perhaps don’t need this in your life anymore?
Curiosity of course did much more than kill the cat – it inspired the witch as well and no doubt you’re unswayed by my warnings. Well that’s fair enough and I’ve got a couple of practical suggestions to make if you do decide to go ahead. The first is – make contact during the day. There is nothing at all to suggest that spirit interaction must be a night time thing and in fact making the setting “atmospheric” serves only to make the seeker nervous and jittery. Great if you’re a fraud trying to fake a seeing but unnecessary for genuine interaction. Make contact with simple direct words spoken out loud and ask for tangible evidence of a presence (knocking may seem a bit clichéd but can be a useful method).
Salt the doors and window frames before making contact so the contact is contained within the single room. Lighting a white candle at the highest point in the room is considered a form of protection when summoning.
Be clear about what you want to achieve – are you looking for answers? A renewal of friendship? My advice would be to proceed only when you are certain exactly what it is you are looking for.
Conclude the session with a firm direction as to what you want to happen now. Be clear if the spirit is welcome to stay, to follow you or whether it must find a new home.
When the session has finished, take a salt bath to ensure you are not taking any traces of its energy back with you.
At first glance the world of magic seems to be hopelessly bound up with fire and candle magic, to the extent where anybody could be forgiven for thinking that magic without flame is impossible. But if you dig a bit deeper into the different methods of practising magic then an understanding can soon be reached to that candles are not only rather replaceable they are actually pretty non integral in the life of a witch.
If we look at why we use candles there are two primary reasons that immediately spring to mind. The first is that we use the flame for focus and meditation to sharpen the nature of our intent. The second is that we use the smoke of the candle to carry the intent of our spell into the world. (I like to speak my spells directly into the flame so the smoke carries my actual words into the air.)
The main spell association with candles is the second example and this is what I'm going to focus on here. (The meditative element can be substituted with music, essential oils or even crystals).
So in order to replace candles in magic we need to find other ways of actualising our intent. Incense sticks would be an excellent substitution but I'm guessing if your landlord has a problem with candles he won't be keen on any naked flames and if he's got smoke alarms installed nothing will kill your spell work faster than waiting for your alarm to start beeping.
What you need is an alternative way to get your intent out there. Having discarded the element of fire let's have a look at how you could utilise the other elements to the same effect.
My first suggestion would be cord magic. I say cord but to be honest a cheap spool of cotton is your best bet. This is ideal for spells when you are trying to relieve yourself of something or to cast something from you. Simply visualise what you wish to leave you while focusing on tying a knot in the cotton. Anoint with appropriate oils and herbs if required and toss out to the winds to allow your intent to drift in the breeze.
For spells of either a protection or a banishing nature I don't think you can go far wrong with using the power of the earth. The traditional spell of creating a witch bottle to represent yourself and draw malignity away from you involves burying the bottle in the earth. Many spirit banishing rituals involve trapping the spirit and returning in (both physically and figuratively) to the earth. If you're using the earth in the same way you would smoke - as a carrier for your intent - bury your spell in something biodegradable that will rot away and let the earth absorb your spell. Burying your intent in a glass jar might not have the desired effect...
Finally there is the element of water. What do you have (or I fervently hope you have) in your home that allows you to flush water from your home back into open waters? Exactly! Any witch worth her salt is aware of the potential of the toilet. Write your intent on toilet paper and flush it. Yes it might not feel as glamorous as whispering into a lighted flame but the principle is much the same and your landlord certainly won't object to it! In a similar vein using water you could use the steam of the kettle to carry your intent into the air - and if you bought a small cheap kettle you could add essential oils to evaporate with the steam into the air. A practical and safe alternative to the smoke of a candle.
QUESTION - I keep reading all the spells/wishes that end with 'so mote it be' but to be honest this just does not seem right for me.
I have always thought or said 'for what has been spoken, so shall it be done!' this has always seemed better for me. Is there a right or wrong way or is it just up to each individual witch to fine her own style.
ANSWER - I'm not a fan of set spell words to be honest. To me language is just a way of vocalising your intent. Spell words help a spell because they allow you to think about the result you want and focus the intent into a specific direction. But the actual words themselves are unimportant. Or unimportant in the sense that other words stating intent just as clearly would work just as well.
I think a lot of witches get too hung up on the issue of choosing the right wording and they usually get hung up for the wrong reasons. It is important to use wording that isn't too vague and avoids creating "loop holes" in your magic but it isn't important that a spell uses archaic language or repeats set standard phrases. The whole "mote it be thing" is a little pretentious frankly. It's just an old fashioned way for saying "this is as it will be". Why people expect to get better results using Middle English I don't know. If anything not using the modern vernacular could cause uncertainty and misdirection in a spell. How many people automatically say so mote it be without being sure precisely what they are saying?
So no, I don't think using spell words that have more meaning and resonance for you is a bad thing. I'd say it is a very positive way of bringing your individuality to your workings and to getting your own intent out into the world.
I'd say that the first step toward starting with anything including witchcraft is to get a good feel for the subject by reading about it.
Reading can give you a great source of knowledge on which to base the foundations of your own particular path.
Don't limit yourself to just blogs or just popular books or just middle English occult texts, try and broaden your understanding of what it is to be a witch with a mixture of all three. (Great source of occult texts here.) Be warned though, there is a lot of information on the internet and witchcraft in particular attracts its fair share of people who don't have a clue what they are writing about. It's also a different topic to get a grasp on because what it is to be a witch is very subjective. You'll find a lot of conflicting opinions and contradictory facts so don't take any single source for granted, double check the facts you come up with to make sure they aren't just one person's highly personal opinion.
Read about the different ways people practise and even if something doesn't draw your interest immediately, try and gain at least a rudimentary knowledge of the different ways the craft can be practised. This will stand you in good stead for creating your own path in the future.
When you feel you have a good understanding then try and get some personal interaction with people who actually practise the craft. There are some excellent blogs out there (Walking the Hedge, Sarah Lawless, Lynn Thurman to name just a few...) and many of these will detail personal experiences of starting to work with the craft. But nothing beats actually getting to know witches - look on Witchvox for your local moots and perhaps join an online forum or two?
Now some witches may tell you to do all this before you get involved with any practical hands on work but I actually think there is a lot to be said for trying things out for yourself to see if practising the craft is right for you. I'd certainly advocate having a go at some basic spell work, even if you do nothing more complex than visualising your intent into a candle flame. You might not get spectacular results but even if you don't get the results you hoped for, working some basic magic will allow you to assess what feels right for you and what ways of working will form your path as you progress. Think of it not so much as honing skills but shaping your own identity as a witch and your own way forward.
If (when) you start to feel more confident you can start to think about writing your own spells and I don't just mean the words themselves, I mean thinking about what magic means to you and what items, tools, correspondences, rituals and methods of working feel the most right and the closest fit to your own identity as a witch.
So to me it is a two part process - the first stage is to learn as much as you can about other witches and the second is to learn as much as you can about yourself and what will work for you. You probably don't need me to tell you that the first stage is the easy bit...
Question - What can I do to get a spirit out of my home, she showed up 2 weeks ago and things have gone for good to bad, things go missing, strange things happen, having trouble sleeping, l feel some one is watching me at night, can you help me please?
Answer -The first thing is to be certain that you are dealing with a spirit. A lot of the symptoms you describe could easily be explained in other ways. Taking steps to remove a spirit if one has not infiltrated your home could be both a waste of time and potentially dangerous as it might attract the interest of spirits who would otherwise not have bothered you.
If we presume that the incidences you describe are
indicative of genuine spirit activity then there are several steps you can take. You would look to make contact with the spirit, remove it from your home an protect your environment so it cannot return.
To contact a spirit the best way is by simple and direct communication. Talk to it directly and state your intent without ambiguity. Try to be rational about why you do not want the spirit in your home (keeping you awake, frightening children...) Don't hedge around the issue, tell it clearly that it is not welcome and possibly suggest another place for it to inhabit (preferably not somebody else's residence).
It might also be worth being prepared to make a compromise. If the spirit wants to stick around, could you agree on some ground rules. There is nothing to say that all spirits are negative and often they develop a liking for the people in the home they choose to inhabit. Unless you simply cannot cope with the idea of having a spirit in your home then I'd explore the idea of saying "you can stay...but..." Be aware that time does not work the same way in the otherworld and the spirit has little idea of when you should be sleep or waking. If you clarify what behaviours you do or don't want then you are at least giving it a chance before you move on to banishing it.
If the spirit leaves of its own volition - problem solved. If it doesn't then you need to take practical steps to remove it. There are several methods a witch might employ to do this ranging from sprinkling blessed water to a simple banishing spell to bottling and sealing the spirit or possibly even performing a full exorcism depending on the severity of the situation. As you don't say what level of magic you are comfortable with performing then I certainly wouldn't suggest the latter. If I personally had an entity so entrenched in my home that all other methods to remove had failed then I would look for support from someone with a good deal of experience and I'd recommend the same for you. Exorcism tends to be more associated with inhabitation of a person rather than a place. What you have sounds far more like a place spirit which is unlikely to warrant a full blown exorcism.
Incidentally, don't let the term exorcism allow your thoughts to drift toward demonic possession. A curious spirit couldn't be further from the drooling images of demons the horror films are so keen on portraying. Spirits are very common, true they do not always choose to make themselves known but they are attracted to human homes and many departed cannot sever their link to and their interest in human living. Demonic possession on the other hand is very rare indeed and I only mention it to put your mind at rest from the popularist associations with the world exorcism.
So bearing in mind that I'm unsure of your background and presuming a) your attempts to compromise have failed and b) you have decided you definitely want shot then my advice to get rid of the spirit would be to force it into a sealable container and remove it from your home. Get a clean glass jar with a lid that can be firmly screwed into place and leave it in the room where the most spirit activity has taken place. Then you need to put something inside the bottle to tempt the spirit to enter. My suggestion would be you put in some earth from your own garden and something personal to the person the spirit is the most attracted to. Before placing the item (a ring perhaps, do not use anything from yourself only something belonging to yourself, a cufflink, child's dummy, thimble - something personal) visualise your energy and emotion going into the object. Saturate it with your own energy and leave it in the jar as bait. Place salt at the bottom of the jar as this will weaken the spirit when it enters. Place a ring of salt around the jar with just a small opening for the spirit to enter. It's a cliche but spirits do tend to be more active at night so you will have more luck trapping it if you screw on the lid in the early hours of the morning. Remove the jar at the end of the night and take it far from your house and bury it in the earth. Unlike a physical entity the spirit won't be trapped forever but it will hopefully be disorientated enough (and put off by the whole experience) not to want to return to your home.
Like I say there are other ways of doing this, banishing to the otherworld for example but I tend to favour simplicity over unnecessary complexity so this is in my opinion the best course of action at least to start with.
Once the spirit has left your home you need to take precautionary steps to make the home less welcoming and to prevent return. A simple smudging (good old sage) will remove negative residue and cleanse the atmosphere of the house. Once you have done this, use a dilute wash of urine, salt water and essential oil (choose from clove, cinnamon, peppermint, willow or pine - and to be honest there are loads more that will work just as well) and anoint the external entrances and windows to your home with this mixture. Finally sprinkle salt across the doorways and window ledges.
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