Before You Cast A Spell: Understanding the Power of Magic

Before You Cast A Spell: Understanding the Power of Magic

by Carl McColman


View All Available Formats & Editions


This book explains the universal laws and principles that form the foundation of magical practice and will help you find the confidence and skill essential not only to writing and casting your own spells, but to applying magic to every area of your life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781564147165
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 09/10/2003
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 279,727
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Carl McColman writes about the spiritual life. His books published since 2010 express his love for contemplative, monastic and mystical Christianity. His older books, published before 2005, explored a variety of topics including paganism and goddess spirituality. Carl's work is characterized by an optimistic, expansive understanding of spirituality, rooted in Christianity while embracing the wisdom of the world's contemplative traditions. In his own words, "I am passionate about helping people to embody creative, joyful lives of love and service, formed by prayer, silence, and the wisdom of the saints and mystics." Carl McColman learned the practice of contemplative prayer at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is a professed Lay Cistercian — a layperson under the guidance of Trappist monks. He regularly speaks, teaches and conducts retreats on contemplative Christian practice, and blogs at

Read an Excerpt




What a fascinating, mysterious topic.

This book is written for anyone with an interest in magic and its related fields: occultism, spellcraft, Wicca, Witchcraft, or Paganism. It's written specifically for the person who is new to these subjects (although even veteran magicians might find some useful ideas presented here).

What inspires people to study the art and science of magic? Of course, everyone is unique, but perhaps your situation is similar to one of these:

* You are someone who wants to cast a spell — a spell to find a lover, get a better paying job, or lose those extra few pounds you gained over the holidays last year. The way you see it, magic is all about getting results, and the more practical, the better.

* Perhaps you are fascinated by magical figures in literature, from Merlin the Magician to Gandalf the Grey to Albus Dumbledore. In your mind, magic is all about wisdom, knowledge, and enlightenment. For you, magic sounds like a tool you can use to become a better or wiser person.

* Maybe you've done some research and have learned about great magicians in the past, figures such as John Dee (Queen Elizabeth's astrologer) or Dion Fortune (one of the greatest magical teachers from the 20th century). You have a sense that magic is all about mysticism and powerful inner spiritual transformation. You feel that magic is a bridge to Divine Union.

* Or perhaps you're intrigued by modern Witchcraft (or Wicca) as a system of magic. As you see it, magic involves working with the forces of nature to become attuned with the spirit of the Goddess and the God who are worshiped by Wiccans, Witches, and other Pagans.

So you see, magic (and spellcraft) covers a wide terrain. There are many different reasons why people explore the magical arts. And guess what? Each of these approaches to magic is perfectly valid. In this book, we'll take a look at the principles that underlie the world of magic, focusing on universal principles that apply to all the different varieties of magic. Many books on magic will only address one or two of these different types of magic. If you buy a book that does not really approach magic from the perspective that interests you, you might feel like it is a waste of your time and money. Hopefully this book will address all the major reasons why people feel drawn to magic, so in the pages to come you can find information that speaks directly to the circumstances in your life and your goals for exploring this ancient path.

But as the title implies, I'm writing especially for people who are interested in spells. This is not a long book, so please be patient and read it all the way through before you get started with spellcraft (the art of casting spells) or other kinds of magical work.

Learning How to 'Fish'

There's an old proverb: "Give a man a fish, and you've fed him for a day. But teach him how to fish, and you've helped him to feed himself for a lifetime." Alas, many of the books on magic that are currently available seem to fall into the "give a fish" variety. They contain spells — lots of them. They might also include some general pointers on how to write your own spells. But many of these books do not really teach the spiritual principles of magic. Even if you manage to pull off a successful spell by following the instructions, you're left without the deep understanding necessary to take your magical work farther.

By contrast, this book aims for more of the "teach how to fish" approach. By explaining the universal laws and principles that form the foundation of magical practice, this book can help you find the confidence and skill necessary not only to write and cast your own spells, but to apply magic to every area of your life from now on. Magic is the spiritual doorway to transformation. You may have become interested in magic because you want to learn how to cast spells, how to become wise, or how to get closer to the Goddess. But whatever your motivation for picking up magical studies, I suspect that eventually you'll want to master all the varieties of magic. The principles in this book can help you do that.

Before we begin let me offer just a few words of warning: It's been my experience that the best teachers of magic, like the best football coaches or college professors, are tough and demanding on those who learn from them. I'm taking the same approach in this book. This is not a cutesy, fluffy-bunny, feel-good approach to magic. These days, more and more books seems to be published that claim to provide all sorts of spells and instructions for working magic, but, upon closer examination, such books seem to have very little substance to them. Such books are the magical equivalent of cotton candy. They're wispy, pretty, sweet, and fun. But just as cotton candy is not very nourishing, so, too, do all the sweet books on casting spells lack the ability to truly nurture our magical power.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to be a grouch or put down all the spell books (in fact, some of them are written by good friends of mine). I just want to make sure that you understand that this book is different. I'm not giving you a bunch of spells to try, nor am I going to waste your time with all sorts of glib platitudes. When I make a reference to a certain kind of spell (such as a protection spell or a psychic mirror spell), I don't provide any instructions on how to do it. Sorry! Instead, it is my intention for this book to provide a no-nonsense look at the basics of what it takes to do real magic — for real results. If I start giving you instructions on spells, it could distract you from the main purpose of this book. So just as a winning football coach isn't afraid to make demands on his players to know that's what it takes to turn them into champions, I'm going to propose a similar challenge in this book. Let's get started.

Spiritual Power

First of all, let's get crystal clear about something, straight up. Magic and spellcraft involve power — spiritual power. If you are interested in magic, you're interested in power. If you want to cast a spell, you are saying to the universe that you are willing to plug into the cosmic power outlet and let the energy flow through you.

Now keep this in mind: Just like any other form of power, magical power is dangerous. Touch an exposed electrical wire, and you'll get shocked. Get struck by lightning, and you'll be lucky to survive. Walk in front of a car speeding down the highway at 60 mph, and you are asking for serious trouble.

Power is not to be messed with. There was a reason your mother wouldn't let you touch a hot stove when you were a toddler. The power of the heat would burn you.

Have you ever wondered why mainstream religions (like most forms of Christianity) are so opposed to magic? Well, there are a variety of historical, social, and psychological reasons. But one reason is very simple: Many churches operate under the assumption that their members are sinful, or in other words, spiritually flawed. And for this reason, they are not to be trusted with real spiritual power. Such power can only be wielded by the priests or ministers.

Fortunately, in today's world we have freedom of religion, which means we have choices about what we believe or how we pursue spirituality. Therefore, we can explore spiritual power without worrying about if our minister, priest, or whoever will approve. We understand, contrary to what some religions have taught, that magic is not evil or sinful. But we do need to be careful. Magic may not be a bad thing, but that doesn't mean it's harmless. Like any form of power, it can be misused. And like any form of power, it can cause an accident if not properly controlled. Magic is power, and real power is dangerous. It's important for you to respect magic.

Look at this way: If magic wasn't very powerful, who'd want to waste their time with it? It would be like trying to drive a car that can only go 3 miles per hour. At that rate you may as well walk — at least then you'd get exercise! But because it is powerful, it needs to be treated with the same respect that is shown to any other conduit of power.

One of the things that bothers me about fluffy little magic books is that they gloss over the power of magic. They present magic as a fun little thing, on a par with playing with toys. On one hand, there's nothing wrong with having a playful or fun attitude when exploring magic. After all, magic can help us to do many things, including having more fun in our lives! But if we limit magic to the level of fun and games, then we've trivialized it, and that can cause us to miss out on its true power. So if you want real power to flow in your life, take magic seriously.

So You Want to Cast a Spell

I know, some of you are already getting a little antsy. You don't want a long and involved discussion of all the philosophy behind magic. You just want to get instructions on how to cast that love spell or money spell, don't you? You're itching to get started. Forget about all this theory, you might be thinking to yourself, I just need to cast a love spell, and I need to do it right now! or, Understanding the principles of magic won't pay the rent, which is due next week. I need results today, not sometime next year! Okay. It's time for me to be that tough football coach. You wouldn't expect to be the star quarterback your very first game, would you? (If so, then you need to learn a lot about football!). Without the proper training, you would probably make a lousy quarterback, and it's likely that you would get hurt very badly the first time you got tackled. It takes practice to be a star athlete. In fact, it takes practice to do anything well — and magic is no exception.

Okay, okay, I know that some people will want to cast a spell or do a magical ritual to address an immediate need, whether real or imagined, in their lives. If you have such a pressing need, I sympathize. We've all been there. But there's another old saying: "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." As the author of this book, it is my goal to lead you one step at a time into a practical, useful, how-to-get-results understanding of magic. And like it or not, that takes time.

If you don't like this approach, put this book down and go buy one of the fluffy little spellbooks. Trust me, your bookstore will have plenty in stock. You can always come back to this book in a week or a month, after all the spells you've tried in the other book fail to get results.

Remember, to cast an effective spell requires more than the right color candle and the right kind of herbs, and the correct words recited during just the right phase of the moon. You can get all the little details of a spell done perfectly, and still have zero in the way of results.

Or, you can read this book, learn the principles, and then get results in your life — with or without all the "stuff" you use in a spell. (Most seasoned magicians refer to candles, incense, and so forth as props — like the props used in a theater. And just like a prop in a theater isn't a real object used in the real world, so the props of magic are not where the real power lies.)

Don't get me wrong. Most magically minded people love to work with candles, incense, oils, and herbs, and enjoy timing their rituals with the movement of the heavenly bodies. Such magical work is, well, fun! Later, I'll discuss why it can be really effective. But for now, just remember this: You can work powerful magic without ever casting a spell. And you can cast spells until you're blue in the face, and not have the slightest amount of real magic at work in your life.

Your First Two Principles

So back to being your coach. If you want to work magic or cast a spell, here are two principles you must master first. Chapters 2 and 3 of this book will clear away your misconceptions and give you plenty more principles to master; for now, let's just stick with these two:

1. Magic requires you to know yourself.

2. In order to be effective, magic requires careful planning and execution.

The rest of this chapter will concentrate on these two principles. Master these, and you are well on your way. As part of your careful planning and execution, you'll need to master the further principles discussed in the rest of this book.

Careful planning and execution doesn't necessarily mean it takes six months just to do a spell. Indeed, once you get up to speed, you really can pull off an effective magical working in just a few hours (or, during an emergency, in just a few minutes). But when you're a beginner, it takes longer. That's a universal law. It takes longer to do everything when you're a beginner, from cooking a meal, to painting a picture, to operating a computer. Magic is no different.

Sure, you could buy a book of spells and follow the directions. But if you haven't done the proper mental and spiritual preparation, odds are, your magic won't work. You'll end up demoralized and angry that you've wasted $20 on a book that didn't help you out. And even if your spell did achieve results, you may not be able to repeat your success, because after all, you didn't really understand what you were doing!

I don't mean to be harsh, but I do want you to understand that magic is like a gourmet meal or a fine bottle of wine. It's something that requires time to reach its peak.

Okay, okay, okay. What about that rent check or the cute new guy who just moved into town that everyone else is flirting with? Such "emergency" situations call for the principle that magic requires you to know yourself. To be perfectly honest, most people don't want to get to know themselves very well, because it means getting to know all your flaws, all your contradictions and bad habits, all the ways in which you'd rather avoid hard work, or put yourself ahead of other people. No, I'm not picking on you personally — to be human is to have our fair share of vices and weaknesses. I have plenty of my own (just ask my wife). Here's the kicker: When we get ourselves into an "emergency" situation, often it is because one of our weaknesses is acting up.

The rent is due next week, and you don't know where the money's coming from. But were you thinking of that two months ago when you bought that new HDTV? Or hadn't the thought crossed your mind that showing up to work late one too many times would mean losing your job? And perhaps if you had paid your brother that $100 you owed him last year when you promised, he would actually be there to help you out now, when you really need him?

You've just met the most adorable person in the world, and you must have him (or her). Oh really now? Your life was moving along just fine before this person walked into your life, so why are things so desperate now? If you're really so needy and desperate, would this person even enjoy being around you? When it comes to love and romance, what do you have to offer? And who says only this one person can be your soulmate?

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. All I ask is that you keep in mind how magic is not some easy way to avoid the hard responsibilities of life. If your reason for being so interested in magic boils down to looking for some sort of spiritual shortcut to happiness, you're doomed to failure — unless and until you undergo an attitude adjustment.

If you're not desperate, but simply want to learn the magical arts as an overall part of your work to make your life the best it can be, then read on. If you find learning about magic even half as enjoyable as I did when I first explored it, I think you'll love the powerful principles I'll be discussing in the pages to come.

Understanding Magic and Spellcraft

It's time for a few basic definitions ...

Magic is, according to magical author W.E. Butler, "the art of effecting changes in consciousness at will." But it's more than just that — after all, that definition could just as easily be describing meditation. So we'll also consider the definition of one of the most well-known of modern magicians, Aleister Crowley, who defined magic as "the art and science of causing changes to occur in conformity with will." Put these definitions together, and we see that magic involves using the will to create change, with change in consciousness being an important part of the equation.

To be a human being is to be an agent for causing change in the world. Every day, each and every human being causes countless changes to occur: We eat things, we create garbage, the artistically inclined among us create paintings or poems or other works of beauty, and so on. But we normally don't think of scrawling a new poem on a sheet of paper as a "magical" act. That's because the key to magic lies in the change of consciousness. Spiritual disciplines such as meditation or shamanic trancework involve shifting the consciousness from ordinary awareness into an altered state where amazing things can happen: Communication can occur with angels, departed loved ones, and other spirits; wisdom or other forms of knowledge can be imparted (including insights into the future), and energy can be set into motion that will result in — you guessed it — some sort of real change occurring in the ordinary world where most of us function in "normal" human consciousness.


Excerpted from "Before You Cast a Spell"
by .
Copyright © 2004 Carl McColman.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Author's Note,
Chapter 1: Before You Cast a Spell,
Chapter 2: Thirteen Myths of Magic,
Chapter 3: Thirteen Laws of Magic,
Chapter 4: The Ethics of Magic,
Chapter 5: The Goddess and the God: The Heart of Real Magic,
Chapter 6: Beyond Love and Money,
Chapter 7: Power and Happiness,
Appendix A: Hints for Further Study,
Appendix B: A Magical Glossary,
About the Author,

Customer Reviews