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Monday, September 20, 2021

Spellcrafting Series: Correspondences, Substitutions, and How to Write Your Own

correspondences, spellcrafting, spells, rituals, witchcraft, pagan, neopagan, wicca, wiccan, witchcraft, spell writing, magick, magic

Most spells use multiple ingredients to lend energy to them. This is a great way to boost the energy of the spell and amplify the magic while focusing on your intention without completely draining your own energy. When adding herbs, crystals, candles, and other objects to a spell, you have to consider their correspondences. But what is a correspondence?

Correspondences are the energies associated with specific objects that can be used to enhance your spell's effectiveness and potency while lending extra energy. These energies are based on a number of things, including history, medicinal uses, culinary uses, colors, and nature. If you were to pick up any book on witchcraft, you are likely to find at least one or two lists of correspondences for commonly used objects, especially herbs and crystals. While most correspondence lists are great, there are always those that include questionable correspondences so it is incredibly important to research any correspondences you are unsure about. You don't want to end up using sunflowers in a spell designed to fight insomnia or rosemary in a spell to forget. While I fully support the use of these lists, especially for new practitioners, how do we move away from them, especially those where we are unsure of where the information originated from?

Writing Your Own Correspondences

When determining the correspondence of an object, there are five methods that can be employed:
  • practical use(s) of the object
  • historical use(s) of the object
  • scientific nature of the object
  • your intuition
  • consulting with the spirit of the object

These methods can be used individually, but I have found that a combination of methods creates a more complete profile of the object. These are the same five methods that I use when writing my Herbarium posts or creating crystal infographics.

The easiest way to start writing your own correspondences is to look at the practical uses of the object. How is the object used in your day-to-day life? What is its function in the household? Let's take the broom for example. The practical use of the broom is to remove dirt and debris from the home. As such, brooms can be used for cleansing a space. If you are looking at a plant, is it used in cooking? What does it taste like? What does it bring to the dish? Is it able to thicken, color, or bind the ingredients together? If it is used medicinally, what is it used for? Does it treat pain, soothe rashes, increase attention, aid in sleep, or treat infections? For example, cayenne peppers are spicy, bringing lasting heat to the dish. They are also used medicinally to speed up digestion and boost one's metabolism and relieve pain. Based on these practical uses, cayenne can be used to bring lasting speed to a spell, burn away the competition, or heat up your love life. From these practical uses, we can start to infer some of their elemental correspondences as well. Cayenne peppers being spicy and red are associated with the element Fire, while the broom, which is grounding and cleansing, is associated with Earth.

Once you have gone through the practical uses of an object, you can start digging into its history. Folklore abounds on most objects we use in our day-to-day lives, especially anything found in nature. I suggest looking at folktales, myths, urban legends, medical texts, and other historical texts to begin determining other correspondences for an object. When looking back at the broom, we find a number of texts alluding to witches using brooms to fly, so the broom is therefore associated with astral travel and flight. Other historical texts discuss women using broom handles to masturbate after many countries ban the sale of dildos, so the broom is also seen as a phallic object that can be used in spells for lust and sexuality. This part of determining correspondences is time-consuming and requires critical thinking, but is well worth it.

Next, begin looking at the scientific nature of the object. This is most easily done with objects found in nature, such as plants, rocks, fungi, animals, insects, and other living and non-living things found naturally where you live. Where is the object normally found? What properties or characteristics does it have that are unique to it? What is its purpose within the ecosystem? Does it have any unique behaviors? Take mint for example. Almost all members of the mint family grow quickly and abundantly. They will take over your entire yard if you aren't careful. Their prolific nature associates them with abundance, prosperity, and fertility. Sometimes these scientific correspondences are easy to deduce, while other times you will need to do a little research. The chokecherry in my yard produces toxins to prevent herbivores from decimating this low-growing tree. This makes it perfect for use in protection spells and magic, even cursing if you are looking to poison someone's mind or relationship or get them to stop gossiping as eating the cherries can cause gasping and respiratory failure. Looking at the plant, you'd have no idea it was toxic, but a little bit of research will clue you in.

While the first three methods rely upon logic to determine an object's correspondences, your intuition relies upon your psyche and emotion. Our modern society often diminishes the reliability of one's intuition and downplays its effectiveness, but this is one of the best tools in a witch's arsenal. To use your intuition to determine correspondences, begin by meditating with the object by wrapping your consciousness around it. What is your gut telling you about the object? What thoughts, images, or feelings arise when thinking about the object before you? This is where personal correspondences often develop. For example, I had a really bad experience with basil pesto while sick, so when I think about basil, I get nauseous. Medicinally, basil is used to treat stomach spasms and help relieve vomiting, but it made me extremely ill. When meditating with basil, this memory always comes to mind, so I associate basil with vomiting, despite its logical correspondences. As such, you will find me using basil to get people to spill their guts metaphorically speaking. This isn't a common correspondence and one that I would not include in something like my Herbarium pages as this is personal, but that doesn't make it wrong or ineffective. Quite the contrary. Your personal relationship with an object and the correspondences you develop by using your intuition are incredibly powerful, at least for you. It would make no sense for my best friend to use this same correspondence as she has never had an ill experience with basil. In fact, we talked about this a couple of weeks ago when she ordered pesto as the base for her pizza.

Finally, you can communicate with the spirit of the object to determine its correspondences. Animism is the idea that all objects, both living and non-living, contain a spirit, a spirit we can communicate and develop a relationship with. This is easier said than done and you must be able to discern between your own intuition and mind chatter before attempting this sort of communication. Some witches, especially new witches, will struggle with this method of correspondence determination, and that's okay! This is a great opportunity to practice and grow your spiritual abilities. Just like using your intuition to determine correspondences, begin by grounding and meditating with the object in question. However, instead of reaching your mind into the object, leave yourself open. Try to keep your general mind chatter quiet and focused on the task at hand. Go in with the intention to listen, not speak. I find closing my eyes or looking at the floor helps focus my mind on a single point so that I may listen better. I do the same thing when intently listening to a person speak. Depending on the object, you may hear it speak clear as day, in complete sentences or you may receive nothing more than a flash of color or a feeling. The key here, however, is to go in with no expectations. You are not owed a conversation with the object, so it may not speak to you at all. However, you can enhance the likelihood that the object will speak to you by developing a relationship beforehand. Leave it offerings, talk to it, tend to it, etc. Basically do the same things you would do to make a new friend, but remember, they owe you nothing in return.

These five methods combined will leave you with a powerful sense of how to use the object in your own magical practice. Furthermore, it will strengthen your magical practice as a whole and solidify your relationship with the object, making it a more potent ingredient in your spells. If you are able to connect with the spirit of the object, it will be much more likely to aid you in return.

Finding Substitutions

Sometimes you want to do a spell, but you don't have all the ingredients. This is especially true of spells you may find in books or online. Let's be honest, some of us just can't buy a bunch of obscure ingredients we are unfamiliar with, don't have the money for, or can't find in our area. This is where substitutions come in. Now before I jump into these, I want to make it abundantly clear that the idea that you can use clear quartz and rosemary in place of any crystal and herb in a spell is fundamentally flawed. This idea completely flies in the face of correspondence magic. However, that doesn't mean you can't rely upon the general idea of it. For most spells, you can easily use clear quartz and rosemary as they correspond with most major intentions, but there are always exceptions to the rules.

General Substitutions:
  • White candle for any color candle
  • Clear quartz for any crystal
  • Rosemary for any herb
  • Table salt for any salt
  • Tap water for any water
  • Rose for any flower
  • Apple for any fruit
  • Olive oil for any carrier oil

I use many of these substitutions all the time, especially tap water and table salt. Those are what I have on hand so that is what I use. The reason these items work is because of the sheer number of correspondences they have, but again, that doesn't always mean that can be used in any spell. For example, you aren't going to want to use rosemary in a spell to bring money because rosemary doesn't correspond with money. You don't want to use a white candle to banish or a rose to aid in astral travel.

When looking for a substitution, consult the correspondences you have created. Is there another item you have on hand that will suit your needs? Don't have mugwort for astral travel? Try dandelion. Don't have a chalice? Use a cup. Get a little creative here, but keep the general correspondences of the objects in mind when making substitutions in your spells.

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For this week's exercise, I encourage you to sit down with your favorite plant or crystal and begin developing your own correspondences using the methods outlined above. Write down some possible substitutions for this object as well. Once you've gotten the hang of it with an object you love, pick 3-5 objects you use often in your practice and develop their correspondences and substitutions. Finally, pick 1 object you are unfamiliar with and do it all over again. This may be something you own but haven't used or something you find outside your home. By working your way up to an unfamiliar object, you'll be well-prepared to continue writing your own correspondences, no matter the object! 

Interest in the rest of the series? 

Spellcrafting Series

Correspondences, Substitutions, and How to Write Your Own
Perfect Spell Timing
Spell Wording: Be Clear, Be Heard
Raising Energy, Cleansing, Charging, and Centering Prior to Spellcasting
Breaking Your Own Spells
What to do with Spell Remains
Recording Your Spells
Intuitive Spellcasting
Casting Spells from the Otherworld
Troubleshooting Your Spells and Why They Didn't Work


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2 comments :

  1. Another applause-worthily fantastic post in this highly informative series, dear Willow.

    It's interesting, you know. Much as with cooking, I've never really been one to follow recipes or (in a magickal context) spells to the letter and started writing my own over twenty years ago now. I adore reading and taking general inspiration from those laid out by others, but generally feel pulled to design my own from scratch. That element of the working seems to really help bring my intentions to light all the more and is also a highly enjoyable, creative process for me (and no doubt many others, too) as well.

    Again, superb post, my friend. Thank you for the blessing of your shared wisdom. The witchy world is very fortunate to have you in our midst.

    Autumn Zenith 🎃 Witchcrafted Life

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree. I never felt the magic in pre-written spells. However there are some basic spells that I come back to time and time again that are rooted in folklore that haven't really changed over time. I usually make them my own by adding an extra ingredient to prevent another witch from breaking the spell.

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