Target Selection: The Key To Effective Magic

Target Selection: The Key To Effective Magic August 30, 2018

Here’s a question about something I’ve talked around but have never directly addressed: how to select magical targets.

These challenging days are inspiring me to add magic to my activism. But I feel at a loss about how to determine focus and scope. There are so many very big problems out there. Do you have any suggestions about how to do discernment around “right sizing” a private ritual or spell?

Nothing has as much impact on how well your spell will work than how well – or how poorly – you decide exactly what to work magic for. It is a bit ironic that most magical systems utilize metaphors, poetry, and other symbolic language, but magic itself is highly literal. You don’t get what you want – you get what you enchant for.

Figure out what you want

This is the hardest part of magic. For everyone who lives above the subsistence level (and in this country, that’s pretty much everyone) it’s the hardest part of life. It’s the paradox of choice: having a few choices makes us feel like we’re in control of our lives, but having many choices is just a lot of work.

“Where do you want to go to dinner?” “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” “I don’t care, you pick.” “I don’t know, and anyway I picked last time.” If choosing a restaurant is hard, choosing a magical target is incredibly complicated. You’re not just limited by the choices that exist – you can choose from almost anything you can imagine.

Divination can help you make up your mind, but divination can’t make up your mind for you. That responsibility lies with you, and only with you.

A good education helps us understand the possibilities. What’s been tried before and how did it work out? What has only existed in theory and has never materialized? What inspires you? What makes you angry?

Read history and literature. Study the social sciences. Appreciate good art. Fill your mind and your soul with possibilities.

Then pick one to work magic for.

Narrow your focus

The questioner said they wanted to “add magic to my activism.” Presumably that means they want to work magic for political goals. That’s a noble sentiment.

Now, what does it mean?

One of the reasons I declined to participate in the large public magical workings against Donald Trump is that they’re too broad, too general, and too vague. Here’s what I said last February:

“Stopping Trump” is so vague as to be meaningless – it’s like all these nice pretty useless workings for “world peace.” It’s too big, too broad, and too vague.

But stopping an illegal executive order on immigration? That can be done. How about a truth-revealing spell on his conflicts of interest or protection spells for immigrants? How about prayers for your transgender friends, particularly those still in school?

The more specific and the more localized you can make your workings, the better your chances of succeeding. That’s not as glamourous as “binding Trump” but it’s a lot more effective.

What are the steps to get there?

Nothing important is ever done in one step. If you want a house of your own, it’s not just a matter of finding a house you like. It’s also a matter of saving enough for a down payment, of having a reliable income large enough to afford it, and of being in a position where you’re confident you can stay in one place for at least a few years.

Sometimes you don’t know what all the steps are – the situation is complicated (wanting to stop Trump from doing more damage) or you can’t see that far ahead (wanting your own house at age 16). All you can do – but what you must do – is to take a step in that direction.

At this point, probably the best way to hinder Trump is to elect as many Democrats to Congress as possible in November. So find a swing district and start working magic to help the Democrat win. Work magic to make them articulate, persuasive, and inspiring. Enchant their fundraising. Do the opposite to their opponent.

Work magic for the first step

Whatever your goal, you have to start somewhere. If you want societal change, you need to change laws. If you want to change laws, you need to change lawmakers. If you want to change lawmakers, you need to change the hearts and minds of voters. If you want to change the hearts and minds of voters, you need to reach the hearts and mind of voters. To do that, you need a compelling story and a method of communicating it. To get that, you need ideas and bardic skills and money.

Start where you are. Find the first step. Work magic for that.

If what you want is very simple – a spell to find your lost keys – you can enchant for the end result you want. If what you want is more complex, you need multiple things to happen. The good news is that you rarely need them to all happen at once.

Let’s say getting your desired result requires tossing a coin and getting ten heads. If you try to get ten heads in a row, the odds are 1024 to 1 against you. On the other hand, if all you have to do is get one head, then another, then another – that’s much simpler. I ran an experiment as I was writing this – it took me exactly 60 seconds to throw ten heads. On average it would take eight and a half hours to throw ten heads consecutively.

Eat the elephant one bite at time – break your complicated workings down into several smaller workings.

Target statement: clear, positive, present, literal

Figuring out what you want is the hardest part of magic. Phrasing your spell properly is the second hardest.

This is easiest to gauge when you’re doing sigil magic. Sigils start with written statements, so if your statement is good, your sigil will be good. It’s harder to gauge when you’re doing more traditional witchcraft, but it’s just as important.

State exactly what you want. State it in a positive manner – say what you want, not what you don’t want. State it in the present tense. Use extremely precise and technical language – this is not the place for metaphors in iambic pentameter.

“I want to be healthy” is a poor target. “I am healthy” is better, but still too vague. “I run a mile in less than 10 minutes by December 1” is better. Or “I fit comfortably in 34 inch pants by January 2019.”

Ever watch Bedazzled? It’s a movie from 2000 starring Brendan Fraser as a guy who wants to impress a female co-worker, so he makes a deal with the devil – played wonderfully by Elizabeth Hurley. She gives him seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Each time she gives him what he asks for, but literally, and in ways that make him anything but happy. He asks to be “rich and powerful” – so she makes him a Columbian drug lord.

Writing a good target statement forces you to think about what you really want, as opposed to the clichés you’ve been told you’re supposed to want.


Now it’s time to actually work the magic. Create and fire your sigils. Make a poppet and stick pins in it. Brew potions. Charge stones. Call on your Gods and ancestors. Whatever it is you do, do it now.

Remember the Witch’s Pyramid: to know, to will, to dare, and to keep silence.

Pay particular attention to “keep silence.”

Monitor your progress

It’s important to monitor your progress, but use a calendar, not a stopwatch. Checking too frequently on how your spell is working is a good way to screw it up. Give things time to work, and remember that some workings take longer than others. I like to do general monthly reviews, with other comments in my personal journal when things become apparent in the middle of a cycle.

Move to the second step

Once the first step is complete, it’s time to go on to the second step. You ran a mile in under 10 minutes – now you want to run three miles in under 30 minutes. You have a good paying job – now you want to save $5000. Congress turned blue in November – now you want some progressive legislation passed. Whatever the next step is, process with crafting a target statement that is clear, positive, present, and literal.

What if your spell doesn’t work? Do some analysis. Was your statement too vague? Is what you asked for not what you really wanted? Did you not do the spell right? Contrary to what some people say, intention isn’t everything – you have to do the spell right.

Or perhaps, you’re just not strong enough to do what you want to do. If you depend on magic to protect you from a hurricane, go ahead – but then evacuate. Even the strongest witch in the world is no match for the power of a hurricane.

And for all the people who want to curse and bind Donald Trump, there are plenty of people who want him to succeed. Who’s working against you? (that’s another reason to keep silence).

If the spell fails, think about what changes you can make to increase your odds of success.

Adjust as necessary

The hardest part of magic is figuring out what you want. Even when you think you know what you want, sometimes the closer you get to your goal the more you realized that’s not what you wanted after all. That’s the advantage of progressive magic. Not only does breaking big workings down into smaller workings make them more manageable, it gives you time to see where you’re going and whether or not you like it.

It’s OK to call off the wedding a month before the ceremony – better to upset the guests than go through a messy divorce a year or three down the road. It’s OK to walk away from the career you’ve invested 10 years in building – better to start building something you like (or at least, can tolerate) now instead of working in misery until you’re 70 years old.

It hurts to admit you picked the wrong thing. It hurts a lot more to keep doing the wrong thing because you’re too proud or too stubborn to admit you were wrong.

A versatile process

Strip the magic out of this post and the process still works. Figure out what you want. Get as specific as you can. Figure out the steps to get there. Write your goals in a clear, positive, present, and literal manner. Do what you need to do to reach them. Monitor your progress. Keep working. Make adjustments as necessary.

None of that requires magic. But when you add magic to it, you improve the odds that it’s going to work. Magic can reach things ordinary effort can’t touch. If something is important enough to plan and scheme and work for, it’s important enough to work magic for.

Just make sure you choose the right target.

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