Although there are many different kinds of magick, in practice all spells and more formal magical rituals tend to follow four stages, though informal spells may combine one or more steps.
This defines the purpose of the ritual or spell and is generally represented either by a symbol or a declaration of intent. These could take the form of a candle etched with the name or zodiacal glyph of a desired lover, a little silver key charm or an actual key in a spell to find a new home, a picture of an ideal holiday location, and so on.
In a sense, this part of the spell begins before the actual rite and involves verbalising the purpose. As you define it in a few words or a symbol, you may realise that what you are really seeking lies beyond the immediate external purpose. Spending time at this stage is quite vital as it is said we tend to get what we ask for, so we should take care to ask for what would truly fulfil our potential, rather than what we think we need immediately.
If you are working alone, hold the symbol while speaking words that summarise the purpose of the magick. You may be surprised to discover that it is your wise psyche speaking, guiding the intention towards what you truly need or desire – and afterwards you realise it could have been no other way.
If you are working in a group, a declaration of intent, created by the group collectively before the ritual, is a good way of focusing the energies. After the initial circle is cast, the symbol can be handed round while the person leading the ritual speaks the intention. Alternatively, each person can add his or her special interpretation while holding the symbol and so the declaration is worked as part of the
ritual. As others are holding the symbol, visualise it within your own hands; this provides the transition to the next stage of the ritual.
Concentration is the key to this first stage.
This is the stage where you use actions to endow the symbol with magical energies. This is part of the continuous process of translating your magical thoughts and words from the first stage, the inner plan, to manifestation as the impetus for success or fulfilment in the everyday world. These energies amplify your own. For example, passing incense, representing the Air element, over the symbol activates the innate power of rushing winds that cut through inertia and bring welcome change, harnessing the energies of wide skies in which there are no limits, soaring like eagles, carrying your wishes to the Sun. You can unite other elemental forces by using the appropriate tools and substances.
Similarly, you might begin a chant, a medley of goddess names or a mantra of power linked with the theme, or a slow spiral dance around the circle. You could try drumming or tying knots either on individual cords or in a group, creating a pattern with the longer cords of fellow witches, perhaps looped around a tree.
The action of the magick is limited only by the environment and your imagination. You may find that improvisation enters quite spontaneously as the energies unfold and spiral. Movement is the key to this stage.
Raising The Power
This is the most powerful part of the magick, as the magical energies are amplified and the power of the ritual carries you along joyously. Ecstasy forms a major part of shamanic ceremony and the old mystery religions; it is akin to the exhilaration you experience riding on a carousel or running barefoot along a sandy shore with the wind lifting your hair.
You might repeat a chant of power, dance faster, drum with greater intensity, bind your cords in ever more intricate patterns or add more knots if working alone, visualising a cone of spiralling, coloured light, rising and increasing in size and intensity as this stage progresses.
Stretch your arms and hands vertically as high as possible to absorb power from the cosmos. If you are in a group and have been linking hands, as the power increases to a great intensity, this is the time to loose them.
As the power builds, you will create what is known as a cone of power. The cone-shaped hats traditionally associated with witches and bishops’ mitres reflect the concentration of spiritual potency. The purpose of the cone, like the sacred pyramid, is to concentrate energy in a narrowing shape so that it reaches a pinnacle of power, which can then be released at the end of the ritual to carry your wishes or desires into the cosmos. In order to create a cone of power in magick, you can visualise these energies as coloured light or as gold.
Alternatively, you can visualise different rainbow colours to create a cone of every colour that merges to brilliant white at the apex. In healing work, some people see this as silver-blue light that becomes brilliant.
Whether working alone or in a group, as you build up the power, breathe in pure white light and exhale and project your chosen colour, seeing it become ever more vibrant and faster-moving as the intensity increases. After you have been practising magick for a while, you will notice that the cone of colour builds up quite spontaneously, with no apparent effort. It has also been described as a cloud of energy. At the point when the climax is reached, comes the release of power.
Note that for some people the cone concept interferes with their own natural magical abilities – some of the most skilled witches and healers see circles of light, shimmering golden beams or rainbows with their psychic eye. Some see nothing at all, but instead feel power pushing their feet almost off the ground.
Growth is the key to this stage.
Release Of Power
When you release the power in the final stage, you may see the cone exploding and cascading as coloured stars or light beams, which surge away into the cosmos and break into brilliant rainbow colours.
If you wish, you can direct the energy after the final release of power by pointing with your hands, or a wand or knife, so that the energies cascade horizontally and downwards, for example into herbs on the altar that you are empowering to make into herb sachets. Or you can direct the cascading energies in a specific direction, perhaps towards a person who is ill or in need of magical strength. The release is the key at this stage.
This release may take the form of a final shout, a leap, or words. As you extinguish your candle of need, you may shout:
It is free, the power is mine!
Or, at the point of release, you may throw your extended hands wide in an arc above your head. If the ceremony is formal and you are using an athame, you can at this moment bring it in front of you to mark the invisible cutting of the knot holding the power. Pull your visualised or actual knots tight, cut them, leap into the air, shouting:
The Power is free! or It is done!
Sometimes there is just a sudden stillness, as the power leaves. Afterwards, you need to ground the energies by sitting or lying on the ground and letting excess energies fade away into the Earth as you press down with your hands and feet.