Ask A Witch: Why Isn't My Spell Working?

Also, let's celebrate two years of this column!

In "Ask a Witch," Gabriela Herstik answers your questions about channeling ancient wisdom in the modern age. From spellcraft to finding your path, explore what it means to be a millennial witch.

Hello, witches! Can you believe we made it? The year is almost over, and regardless of how you feel, you're still here. You made it—you survived! Every day you show up and commit to yourself, and your magick is worth celebrating. This month, Ask A Witch is back and keeping that energy alive, as well as celebrating two years of the best witchy column on the internet! To honor this, instead of answering three questions, I'll be answering two and doing a roundup of my favorite columns. Thank you all for being here as we navigate this intense and ecstatic era.

Question: I tried a spell, and it's not working. WTF is going on?

Answer: Out of all the questions I get for this column, and just in general, this is the one I've received the most over the past two months. Though it's come in different forms, the message remains the same: I did a spell or ritual, it didn't work, what the heck. And to this, the first thing I say is: Even in magick, receiving anything is never promised. Like in life, there are many more variables than just the magick and the thing you want to happen. Magick isn't guaranteed, unfortunately, but it is an energy and a relationship you can learn about. There are rules to follow, laws to understand, and correspondences to keep in mind. And, if you're a serious student of magick or the occult, you should have a diary of your magick for cases like this, when you want to revisit and see what you did so you can tweak it and learn. Here are my suggestions for what to check for before you try the spell, or another, again.

  1. Look over what you did. Were you specific with what you wanted? If you were vague, could you have already received what you asked for? (For example, if you asked for love, but didn't specify romantic, and have now received a lot of platonic love.)
  2. Did you make an effort to meet the universe halfway? If you did a love spell, have you downloaded Tinder/updated your profile, etc.? If you want more money, have you updated your resume/social media/followed up on missing money? If you want to heal, have you taken time to take care of yourself?
  3. Did you plan out the moon phase and day of the week to do your spell?

The waxing moon, from the new to the full moon, is good for manifesting. The waning moon, from the full to new moon, is perfect for releasing. Monday is ruled by the moon, Tuesday is ruled by Mars, Wednesday is ruled by Mercury, Thursday by Jupiter, Friday by Venus, Saturday by Saturn, Sunday by the Sun. Research the planets and what they correspond with to know what day to perform the spell.

  1. Did you take time with the magick? Did you create a ritual out of it, making it an intentional and sacred act in honor of connecting to your desires? Could you have really enjoyed the process, and raised the energy more?
  2. How did you raise the energy, if at all? Try something else next time!

Magick isn't just a pizza you stick in the oven!! It takes time to find the crust you like, make your own sauce and ingredients, and cook it right. It's an experiment. Getting the balance right is key, and, if you want results, you have to put in the work. If you don't have a grimoire (magick journal), make one. You can use any notebook, real or virtual, and make an effort to write down all the steps, ingredients, and reflections of each of your spells and rituals. Try new things. Think about correspondences, and think of why you're doing the spell too. Then try again.

Question: I'm just getting started with witchcraft, and I'm overwhelmed. Where do I start?

Answer: Start where you can: today. Right here, right now. Take a deep, slow breath, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Do that a couple more times. Now close your eyes and ask yourself what you need right now to be more present. Do you need to stretch? Take a break? Drink water? The first thing you can do to practice witchcraft is be present, and know yourself. Honor where you are. And then, start creating rituals that you can come back to day after day.

Another question I was asked recently was for advice on how to not feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the energies of the world, if you're sensitive. My answer to that is the same as my answer to the above: create rituals or a daily practice.

When we create rituals, we're creating magick in the mundane. When we carve out a time for ritual, we're telling the universe that this time is special, it's intentional, it's different. Rituals—whether it's drinking tea, lighting palo santo, or a more involved ritual working with energy—are repetitive actions we take to connect us with something bigger than ourselves. Mindfulness practices like meditation (which I recommend any witch do as often as possible), yoga, journaling, and breathwork are all things you can incorporate into a daily ritual. Anything that gets you unplugged, in the present, in your body, and feeling GOOD is important. And knowing yourself, as I mentioned before, is the basis for magick and spiritual work.

Learn about the days of the week and the correspondences with planets. Learn the phases of the moon (see above for both.) Create an altar. Dedicate regular time each day or week for ritual. Take time each week to check back in with yourself and set intentions for the next week. Drink water. Breathe. Ask for help when you need it. Allow your practice to fit into your life, and evolve with it. Baby steps, my love. You have your whole life to figure this out.

Now, for my five favorite columns from the past two years.

These are in no particular order. (You can check out ALL my Ask A Witch columns here.)

All About Self-Love
In this column, I talk a little bit about what self-love is, why self-compassion is key, and how we can use our spiritual practice to honor where we are, and give ourselves some TLC while we're at it. I guide you through creating and using talismans and mantras and share a ritual you can use to call in self-love. Magick is balm for the soul—don't be afraid to use it!

Is Magick Just For Women?
In this edition of Ask A Witch, I talk to queer astrologer and all-around amazing woman Emily Heather about whether or not magick is just for women (it isn't) and how divinity, the universe, whatever it is, exists outside of the gender spectrum.

Sex, Magick and Shadow Work
Probably my favorite column because I got to talk about some of my favorite things: shadow work and sex magick. If you're wondering WTF either of those things is, or if you want to know how to start a practice with either, I got you. I also give simple rituals and exercises you can do to de-stress and re-focus your energy (and yes, orgasms are on there.) This was a fun one.

Everything You Need To Know About Tarot
I love tarot, and I love the Tarot Lady, Theresa Reed! I talked to Theresa about the origins of the tarot, how to start working with the cards, and what they can be used for. If you have been looking to start a tarot practice, but are not sure where to, read this. I got you.

All About Morning Routines, Deities, and Self-Love
If you've wanted to start a morning ritual, this is your column! If you have wanted to start a practice and relationship with goddesses and the divine feminine, this is your column! If you were wondering what it means for spells to be transmuted through self-love, this is your column!

AND, in case you want even more witchiness, you can check out my book here.