“Light the flame, bright the fire, red is the color of desire.” –Louise Huebner
“I wonder if I could get him without tricks…” –Gillian Holroyd
“It was just a little push. You wanted so much to be happy.” –Jet Owens
[All images via Pixabay.]
In acknowledgement of Valentine’s Day, Lisa Wagoner over at Witch, Indeed wrote about love spells, and whether or not they work. In response to some of the comments that post received, I tweeted the following:
Watching Pagans freak out and fuss at each other over love spells is my favorite February tradition.
I did not expect the tweet to take off, but it got shared a whole bunch and turned into a meme and, much to my delight, triggered even more Pagans to freak out and fuss at each other over love spells. At which point I felt like my work was done.
Love magic is a contentious subject, I think, because it immediately brings to mind the subjugation of free will. Whenever the topic is broached, discussions almost always center on consequences instead of results — even the anti-Wiccan crowd will take a break from decrying the Threefold Law to aggressively warn each other away from casting love spells.
To hear them tell it, love spells invariably spin out of control. And there’s a weird moral judgement that goes along with that: If you cast a love spell, you are actively inviting bad things to happen to you, and you deserve whatever goes wrong.
But the reality is that love magic is a broad field. From a Chaos Magic perspective, love magic focuses on the development of both platonic and romantic relationships, and the majority of spells that fall into that category are beneficial in nature.
A friend of mine and I once cast a spell on ourselves to cement the bonds between us; Trothwy once cast a spell to meet her perfect mate. (Coincidentally, she was introduced to an awesome guy the next day and married him six weeks later.) Both of these instances are examples of love magic, but neither involved coercion, nor could either be described as “unethical.” They were fundamentally just attempts to manipulate probabilities in our favor, which is what all magic is, really.
And, like any magic, sometimes love spells just don’t work. And sometimes, the spells that seem to fail provide happier endings than the ones that succeed. But we can work backwards to figure out where things went awry, and use that knowledge to practice our Witchcraft more effectively in the future.
With that in mind, and before we run out of February, I want to tell the story of the last time I cast a love spell. I learned a lot from the experience, and in the interests of education and just kicking things around, maybe you’ll pick up something helpful, too.
His name was Nate. We met outside of an AA meeting when I had about four or five months sober, and he had a little over a year. He looked like Ty Herndon with a shaved head and had intriguing tattoos poking out of the short sleeves of his button-down shirt, and I was immediately smitten.
After the meeting, a group of us went to dinner at a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant. He sat next to me with his arm casually draped over the back of my chair. I don’t remember much of our conversation, but the chemistry was evident and mutual.
We ended up hanging out in the restaurant parking lot for awhile, and he mentioned that he actually lived in Virginia and was only in town visiting family.
“When do you go back?” I asked.
“Tomorrow morning,” he said.
I was pretty crushed. But we exchanged contact info, and as I was driving home, he texted to say, “I really like you!” I smiled at that, and I turned on the car radio just in time to hear Lady Gaga sing, “I won’t stop until that boy is mine.”
“Neither will I, Lady Gaga,” I vowed. “Neither will I.”
Nate and I stayed in touch (and flirted a lot) via Facebook, and we started getting to know each other. He was active-duty military and traveled a lot for work, and he promised to let me know as soon as he had plans to come to Houston.
I understood that nothing was guaranteed, but I was very excited about the prospect of seeing him again. And while I am not a uniform fetishist, the thought of him dressed in army fatigues did make me a little weak in the knees.
A couple of years went by, and we continued to communicate, and while I was doing my own thing and even going on an occasional date, I still really liked him and was optimistic about the possibility of us somehow getting together.
Although there were some red flags.
He’d gotten in the habit of sending me selfies, which I appreciated, but I couldn’t help noticing that they were taken in different living rooms. Like, I have a lot of close friends, but I don’t normally snap sexy, shirtless pictures of myself in their homes.
On one occasion, he announced that he was coming into town to go on vacation with his family, and he gave me a specific date when he would be free to spend some time with me. Ecstatic, I cleared my schedule and waited to hear from him. And waited. And then, just to liven things up, I waited some more.
I finally caved and called him to see what was going on, and he admitted that he was already on his way back to Virginia — the vacation had been cut short, and he had to get home, but he apologized profusely and swore that we’d see each other on his next trip.
I was determined to disbelieve him and write him off as a jerk. But a few weeks later, he called out of the blue to let me know that he’d been granted some surprise time off and would be in Houston. Tomorrow. Was I free? Could I pick him up at his parents’ house?
All was immediately forgiven, and I raced out to the Northern outskirts of town to collect him.
He was waiting for me outside, and he jumped in the car and started to give me directions out of the subdivision, but I drove to the end of the block and pulled over. “I’m not going to make it,” I said.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said.
“Then why are you pulling over?” he asked.
“Because I’m going to kiss you,” I said.
And so I did.
We only had two days together, but they were amazing. Uh. May. Zing.
I was in the middle of pet-sitting for wealthy friends, so we had an entire mansion to ourselves. We got real coupled real quick, and we packed in as many adventures as we could.
There was an absolutely decadent amount of cuddling. We snuggled on the couch and watched Shrek the Musical and an old Roundup play on DVD, and we larked around Houston to see some sights. At one point, on impulse, we bought each other matching rings.
I also initiated him into the miracle of chicken and waffles. Watching his eyes grow wide in awe of that flavor combination was one of the highlights of my entire life.
Before I knew it, the weekend was over, and I had to return him to his parents. And we were both very sad to say goodbye — neither one of us wanted to let go during that final embrace. But I was also excited to get home, because I had a Plan.
Once the pet-sitting gig was wrapped up and I was back at my own place, I knelt before my altar and cast the absolute mother of all love spells.
I’d snagged some… um, let’s just call them “personal concerns”… over the weekend, and I placed them in a red flannel bag with pictures of the two of us folded into each other, along with some damiana, ginger, juniper berries, lavender (natch), orris root, rose petals, and red clover. As an added boost, I tied the bag off with a pink, red, and white cord that I’d hand-braided while chanting our names.
Once the mojo was complete, I dressed and lit a seven-day candle. Holding the charm by its cord over the flame, I invoked Aphrodite, asking Her to bring Nate and I together again, since we clearly belonged with each other.
Everything I’d read prior to casting the spell suggested that when dangled over the candle, the charm would slowly start to spin, and that would represent Aphrodite’s blessing and the spell going into effect.
The charm didn’t spin. Which was concerning. But I just chalked it up to an odd draft in the room or something and brought the ritual to a close.
Several months passed, and I started hearing from Nate less and less, but I wasn’t too worried. Our fates were bound together, after all, and I’d sealed them with a spell, so all I had to do was just keep an eye on his social media and wait for him to come bounding back to me.
So there I was one day, mooning over his Facebook pictures, and on a whim, I decided to click on his “About” info to find out when his birthday was.
And that’s where I found his latest status update:
In a relationship.
Things were kind of dark for awhile. I couldn’t help feeling like I’d done something to offend Aphrodite, and that’s why the spell didn’t work. It was deeply unsettling to think that a Goddess didn’t like me.
I was maybe left alone with my thoughts for a little too long. I wasn’t getting out much.
But over time, I started feeling better. Another few months went by, and I mostly even got over him.
I mean, I swore off relationships and ran away from anything resembling a date and accepted that I was probably going to die alone, but at least there was some light coming back in.
And then I got a text from him.
He was in town and wanted to go to an AA meeting. He was hoping that I might go with him.
I was wary, but I agreed to see him, and I drove over to the LGBTQ+ recovery clubhouse where the meeting was being held. And it was kind of dizzying to be around him again — he looked as good as he ever had, but he also stank of stale alcohol. As it turned out, he hadn’t had a drink in several days, but he was still aspirating and getting the booze from his last bender out of his system.
We went to dinner at that same Tex-Mex place after the meeting, and he told me all about his (now) ex, his relapse, the repercussions of his drinking and drug use, their eventual break-up, and his decision to get sober again. And I listened to everything he had to say, sympathetic but detached.
He also said he’d be in town for two more days. The following evening, I texted him and asked if he wanted to get a cup of coffee. He appreciated the offer but politely declined, citing family obligations.
A few minutes later, my phone dinged. I had a new message. From a hookup app that I’d honestly forgotten I’d ever subscribed to.
It was a message from Nate.
Hey, stud. Looking?
He apparently hadn’t recognized my profile pic (it was not a recent one) and sent the message not realizing it was me. So I wrote back, “Well, this is awkward,” and things suddenly clicked for him, and he was like, “Hahaha oh hey just on my way home hope all is well.”
And I was like, “All is well. Safe travels.”
And I deleted the app and turned off my phone and never heard from him again.
On a brighter note, I did finally figure out that Aphrodite wasn’t mad at me. Quite the opposite, in fact: I am completely convinced that She heard my invocation, looked at the overall situation, and went, “Oh, honey,” and put the kibosh on my designs.
It was like a benevolent version of that old Onion headline: God Answers Little Boy’s Prayers to Walk Again. “No,” Says God.
As despondent as I was when the spell fritzed out, I can confidently say that things worked out for the best. I didn’t get the relationship I wanted, but I did get opportunities to self-reflect and be the bigger person, and both of those turned out to be infinitely healthier for my emotional and psychic well-being.
Would the spell have worked if I hadn’t invoked Aphrodite? No clue. Maybe. There certainly wouldn’t have been anyone (or Anyone) to save me from myself if I’d kept Her name out of it. But I can also look at who Nate turned out to be and feel a profound sense of relief at not being tied to that person.
I can say with love, and no small amount of happiness, that I am truly better off without him.