The Preliminaries to Cast a Spell or Setting up a Ritual
As when organizing a party, it is important to spend a little time planning your spell casting. Think about the precise purpose of the spell, the best time, most appropriate setting and for whom the spell is being cast. For a ritual you need to consider the underlying as well as the obvious focus of the ritual Do you need to change the emphasis of a tried and tested format? Even a seasonal rite will have a theme, for example the May eve/Day celebrations have traditionally been associated with fertility. This fertility applies in whatever way it is needed, whether personally, ecologically or globally. Therefore you and the guests or participant should decide in advance precisely what you are working towards and carry out rituals to take advantage of the prevailing energies.
Location is important even for a quickie spell. You wouldn’t set a child’s birthday party in the same place you would your great-aunt’s golden wedding. With open air spells or rituals you need a wet weather or sheltered location plan just in case a force 8 gale blows up. Some spells can be planned in advance for a day out or weekend away, but others will be spontaneous, when you happen to come across a perfect location while on your way to somewhere else. There are also urgent occasions when you will have to imagine that crashing sea while stood by the local canal at lunchtime. The timing of a spell is also vital.
Before you cast the spell you also need to decide how long you want the effects of the spell to last and how quickly you need results. Do you want an immediate infusion of power within the 24 hours following the spell? Will the effects take longer–before the next full moon, within three months? You should build this time frame into the spell and declare it in the purpose of the spell.
Should it be a single spell or one carried out, for example, every Friday for a month or on the three days before the fulll moon in order to build up the powers?
Then you need to decide on the symbol or symbols that will act as the focus for the spell energies (you can’t dance and chant round a would-be lover in the office).
Do you need to emphasize any one element in the spell? Is the spell mainly fire based for power or is there a fairly evenly spread elemental mix, for example to resolve a long-term justice or court matter.
You need to think about any special props, magickal tools or substances that are required. After all, you wouldn’t use the same chine or serve the same food at your teenager’s post-exam party as you would if the boss was coming to dinner. Do you want a full altar or will it be mainly a word- or personal-movement-based spell? If on a beach or in the woods, can you use what you find there as tools and symbols?
Finally, who are you inviting to your spell or rite? The friend who has lost the animal you are casting the spell for? Your sister to help you with a love spell? Are you organizing a welcome-into-the-world party for your family, to celebrate the birth of a baby to a family member who lives in another country? Are you entrusted with the organization of your magick group or coven’s autumn thanksgiving?
If you work alone, as many witches including myself do most of the time, you’re still not a magickal Billy or Betty No Mates. You won’t be short of spiritual company. You can welcome the guardians of the four quarters even in a relatively simple spell; invite the wise ancestors to celebrations such as Samhain or Hallowe’en or New Year.
As for the nature essences, whenever you work outdoors or even indoors in a circle of pot plants (my favorite setting on a really foul day) they will be curious. So invite them in and benefit from their energies.