Witchcraft 101: Adapting Spells

It’s a rare magical practitioner that hasn’t had to adapt a spell at one time or another. Usually it’s for personal practice reasons or ingredient reasons, but it can simply be that it’s too cold to walk outside or they just don’t like the spell’s steps or wording.

Adapting spells can be really easy – but it can be a challenge too. It’s okay if it’s a challenging or daunting task for you! It really is. Spell casting is a lot like cooking and baking; for some people, it’s easy to moderately okay and for others, it’s a daunting task.

Cooking and baking are relatively subjective. Things need to turn out a certain way to be properly edible and taste good, but not everything is going to taste great to the same people. Spells are a lot like that. There are some things that just won’t work quite as well for you as for others and some ingredients (like some foods) that you just don’t want to work with.

Like a recipe, there’s a way of approaching a spell that you need to adapt. Here’s how.

Step One: Read & Analyze

Read through the spell completely, including any notes the author or other practitioners may have made. Take notes yourself as needed, marking what things you’d need to purchase or procure in some manner. Also know any timing events that need to be marked on your calendar (such as the next full moon).

If you plan on making any adaptations, write it down clearly. You’re swapping this ingredient for that. If you don’t know what ingredient to swap something for, then you need to really sit down and analyze that spell. What purpose does that ingredient serve in the spell? If you can’t see an obvious reason, it’s probably best to assume it’s there for a correspondence reason. To help with that, check out correspondence charts.

How this compares to a recipe: When you make a new dish, it’s always a good idea to read through the recipe. It may need a special pan you don’t have or an ingredient that’s not listed in the ingredient list above. It may need the butter or eggs to be room temperature or it could be the baking is thrown off on cold days. There may be a reason that ingredient is specific to the recipe – without it, the puff pastry won’t rise or the chemical reaction you need for the yum factor doesn’t happen. Research helps mitigate this before you’re elbows deep in ingredients and realize you’re up a creek without a paddle and a storm is brewing on the horizon.

Step Two: Double check that you have everything

There’s little reason to try a spell or recipe when you’re missing half the stuff – it’s not the same thing at that point. You may be able to create something wonderful, but it’s a brand new spell or recipe. Not the same thing. That’s not a bad thing! Just make sure you write it down. But if you’re intention is to cast a specific spell, be cautious of exchanging too many ingredients or you’ll wind up with something different than the original intention.

That being said, I’m firmly in the camp of winging it. If you want to try and spell and need to adapt it, do it. Take notes on what you’ve changed (in case it works better than the original spell or goes terribly wrong), but try it anyway.

Step Three: Make your changes

Now’s the time for the adaptations. You’ve taken your notes and you have a good idea of what you want to do. Now to make the changes.

The first stop in adaptations is to a correspondence chart or list of some kind. I have one available here, which is sourced and ever-growing.

Sometimes swapping an item can be easy. You need something to represent luck, well, here’s four other herbs that do exactly that. When things have symbolic meanings or magical correspondences, they can often be easily swapped.

But not always. If you really want to be diligent, a quick google search with the ingredient plus something like “folklore” or “magical correspondence” can lead you to why that ingredient is considered lucky. This may be critical at times. Sure, an herb might be lucky, but only for gamblers. That isn’t going to help too much when you want luck taking an exam.

You also have to be aware of herbal associations. Some spells, especially the edible kind, have herbal combinations meant to do something actually physical to the body. It’s not symbolic in meaning, but science. So you can’t just swap in something with a magical correspondence when the concoction is herbal medicine in nature. Plus, herbs can be dangerous – they can counter to one another, they can react with medication or current medical conditions, and they can be toxic. So you have to be very careful when doing something that’s meant to be consumed.

Now for some people, they stay away from herbalism and stick with magical correspondences only. That’s perfectly okay! But be aware that many herbal connections come from herbalism. Even the weird ones. So knowing why something has that association may be important.

And none of that may matter at all. People can work intuitively with ingredients and make up their own correspondences and associations. That’s a great way to go about it too.

You also have to consider the purpose of the item in the spell. Swapping a red candle for a white one is easy since white is seen as a universal color or something of a blank slate. But when you start thinking, “well, I don’t think this makes a good candle spell. What if I skip the candle?” And for some spells, you can absolutely do that. The candle is superficial or is being used as a focus object (ie, something to look at and hold) For others, the candle is being used as a conduit (ie, the spell verse might have “as this candle burns”) or the candle has a practical purpose (ie, burning a piece of paper with writing on it). It’s harder to swap out items that are practical or are a conduit.

In short, there can be more to adaptations than just “this is the ingredient on the list that I have”.

Step Four: Do the spell

Go for it. Just try the spell. When you’re casting, you may need to change things up on the fly. Maybe the candle won’t stay lit or your neighbor is being nosy. Maybe the dog starts barking because she needs to pee or your phone goes off non-stop with notifications. Sometimes the wording is just plain weird and doesn’t work for you.

Adapting on the fly happens. Finish the spell. Even if you lose momentum or the build up of energy. Even if you feel rushed, judged, or things get weird. Finish your spell. Not finishing it can lead to weirdness and energy drains, at the least.

Use the words that work best clearly for you. Yeah, that old timey wording looks great, but if you’re not feeling it, use your plain ol’ normal words instead. Speak or think honestly and clearly when you need to make wording changes.

Step Five: Record

You’ve been taking notes all along. Now record what happened. How’d the spell casting go? Over the next few days and weeks, you’ll probably begin to see results. What are they? How do they meet your expectations? Do you think your adaptations changed how the spell worked?

As you progress with your practice, you may find that you don’t want to, need to, or like to write things down. I’ll be honest, as someone who spends a LOT of my time writing, I rarely write down the spells I routinely do or do off the cuff unless it’s really good. Mostly, I write down stuff I’m tinkering with. That’s my personal preference. You don’t need to have meticulous records, but they very much help.

I know a lot of this advice sounds like “just write it down!” and, honestly, keeping notes as a beginner can be really key. I am well-known for winging it in just about all my personal spells, but I take notes for myself on spells I’m working on. It can really help, especially when you’re doing an important working or you’re making adaptations.

Hope that helps! Happy casting!