It’s not uncommon to hear people discuss intention in relation to magic. I’ve often heard people say things like, “Magic is about intention”, “What you do doesn’t matter, it’s about what you intend to happen”, or some variation on this theme. While yes, your intentions do matter it’s more what you say and do about those particular intentions that matter more. “They had good intentions” is practically the epitath of every failed dialogue, action, and even relationship. “I didn’t mean to offend” doesn’t erase the offense let alone cause it not to happen, does it?
I touched briefly on intentions in magic when I reviewed Jason Miller’s book The Elements of Spellcrafting since he had similar rants, but I wanted to get a bit more in depth into this.
First of all, YES, what you say when crafting a spell matters. Troubleshooting spells and why they aren’t working are definitely a thing, and no one should be all passive and “leave it in the hands of the gods”. That’s not how this works! You need to be exacting on what you request, put on your adulting pants, and do the thing! Anything else is prayer–which is fine and in some instances can border on magic but it itself isn’t strictly magic. This is especially the case when you work with spirits and blind forces: do not assume that your intentions are intuitive and clear to the spirit or daemon to whom you’re making the request. This is why people often advise that you write down your spell and what you want to make happen. It’s not that writing somehow is magical in and of itself; writing helps get your thoughts in gear and helps to focus your phrasing on what you really, truly want. Often times before I work on a major spell I’ll journal about it in advance and think very hard on how I want to phrase the request. This especially goes for anything that involves a petition to a particular deity or daemon. Communication matters! Words matter!
Then we get to the second part: not just your words matter, but actions too. Magic is all about making the connection and then establishing communication. Too often people stop at the “I brushed past the spirit” and not realize that it wasn’t enough to create the handshake, so to speak. If you’re not making the connection, you can’t communicate. If you can’t communicate, you can’t make your intentions known let alone have your intentions factor into the equation at all. Communication is something which isn’t just words, it’s actions. Making a request, sure. Actually stepping up to the plate and formalizing the request by a ritualistic action–that’s something else entirely. And with some types of beings you have what amounts to protocol, diplomacy, and etiquette. Showing up and doing a thing denotes respect to that action, and respect towards the deity or daemon you’re communicating with. You care, and you care enough to show up and give it its due in the appropriate fashion to whatever being you’re calling on.
Even if you don’t do spirit work, there’s a hidden dialogue or handshake occurring between you and whatever part of underlying reality enables magic. Getting to the heart of that is trickier than it sounds, and while psychic development and energy work can help iron out the bugs with that (and any sort of spirit work that underlies magic) ultimately getting that connection and communication to work is what ultimately makes magic work.
“Magic is about intention” is the belief which causes some people to make the same mistakes over and over again until they realize that yes, what you say and do matters. Make it clear, don’t assume it’s intuitive on both ends of the equation. Know the playing field you’re working in, and pay it its due.