Saturday, April 14, 2018

Spell Reversals: When Your Own Spell Backfires

One of the core types of spell work I like to teach Novices is the spell reversal.  When working on our Novice classes this year, I noticed a rather strange lack of resources for reversing your own workings.  As I sifted through endless curse breaking and return-to-sender spells, I was surprised.    Even with all the proper precautions and wards, some spells decide to blow up in your face and your only defense remaining is a reversal.  So why were there so few resources?

Not one to allow a deficit to continue, I decided to compile the portion of the two-part spell working class that deals with reversals in hopes of assisting someone out there in need!

Before the Backfire

Before casting a spell, and especially so with heavier or more wide-spread spell work, you'll want to take the proper precautions.  Five categories cover the majority of your essential defenses, the first of which is warding.  Having your space properly protected in case of "cosmic retaliation" is important.  Without going into detail about my personal wards, I would suggest having a decoy poppet and a mirror ward along with some kind of protection "field."  Your first line of defense is a barrier between you and the rest of the universe.  Sprinkle around your house or work space with crushed egg shells, lavender, sage, purified water and/or salt (do not use salt outside; it will kill your plants).  If the bounce-back from your spell penetrates that barrier, a mirror ward can reflect it back out.  It's not ideal to have erratic rebound energy aimlessly shooting out but it can help you stay safe.  If the mirror ward fails, then your decoy poppet will absorb that spell and put it out of its misery.  In fact, you can program your poppet specifically to take on that kind of backfire.  A triple-defense system is the best way to ensure you stay safe, even from yourself.

The next step is to have a conversation with the universe and your deities or spirits.  This may mean utilizing your favorite divination technique, lighting a candle on an altar and making an offering or just having a general chat with your guides.  Talk the spell over with whatever greater power you believe in and see if it might have any negative consequences.  If a risk of backfire exists, these greater powers might see how you can tweak your spell without having to forgo it.  Try breaking out a tarot deck or offering up a glass of purified water and listen!

If all is well so far, the next way to minimize your risk is to cleanse yourself and your space, both before and after.  This sweeps away any negative influences prior to the spell as well as any kind of residue that might cause a problem afterward.  A simple smoke cleanse, blessed water spray or sprinkle of salt should do the trick for lighter spells, while heavier ones may require a house cleansing or a blessed shower.

Be prepared for spell reversal later by ensuring you take clear and concise notes on your spell as well as keeping your ingredients together.  Spell reversal gets tricky if you can't remember what you did or don't have the components anymore.  Begin by writing out what you plan to do, down to the nitty-gritty detail.  Note all of your ingredients, the actions you'll take and the words you want to say.  When you perform it, note the exact date and time as well as any unusual occurrences before, during and afterward.  If the spell requires you to bury something, bury it where you can find it again, just in case.  Otherwise, keep the spell container or ingredients collected nearby.  Having all of this on hand will make life much easier should something go awry.

Finally, if you're truly concerned something may go sideways, consider creating a loophole in the spell to instantly break it.  A loophole is our own personal if/then statement that renders the spell moot upon completion.  My favorite personal loophole is creating a knotted string that, when cut, formally breaks the spell, ending any of its effects.  That being said, you don't have to have a physical object.  You could create a "password" - a phrase that, when spoken in the right way, will end the spell you've cast.

As always, your best defense is the proper preparation.

When Spells Don't Work

So you performed your spell, but nothing happened.   You haven't seen or felt any changes for days.  Don't panic yet.  A non-functioning spell is not the same as a spell that backfires.  Here's some reasons why your spell might not have worked:

  • The medium of your spell wasn't conducive to its intent.  Try changing up how you performed the spell.  For example, if you utilized a jar for a sleep spell and sat it next to your bed but it's just not working, try switching to a sachet spell.  You can then hang this sachet over your bed or place it under your pillow.  Sometimes a different medium creates a far more effective working.
  • Your correspondences were off.  I'm guilty of it as well: Sometimes I'll just grab a book and reference whatever correspondences I find within.  This isn't the best method but it usually works.  Usually.  If a spell fails to produce a result, often the correspondences are somehow off.  If you go to three different "witchcraft correspondence" websites, you'll get three different answers for the same herb.  Some of this is a failure of research, some of it is UPG and some of it literally just comes out of nowhere.  I encourage my students to create their own correspondences by researching the item's scientific background and uses, its history and lore and then working with it regularly to learn their own personal correspondences.  So if a spell fizzled, try double-checking the science, history and energy of the ingredients used.  You may find a conflict.
  • The timing or environment conflicted with the spell.  I have a tendency to work in the moment, utilizing emotion or a certain energy to fuel my spell work.  Most of the time, this works out wonderfully but, when it doesn't, it just... doesn't.  If your spell has disappeared in a puff of smoke, try double-checking the timing of the spell.  Were you in the middle of Void of Course?  Was the day ruled by the wrong planet, conflicting with your intentions?  Was the moon phase waning for a gaining spell?  What about your location?  If you're working inside and the spell revolves around nature, you may need to move your space outdoors.
  • Close any outside loopholes by clarifying your intent.  I often say that the universe is like a really good lawyer.  If you leave any stone unturned, any wiggle room in your statement, it will take it.  Magic likes to go down the path of least resistance.  If you're performing a money spell and you don't give it a hard due date or amount, you might be finding pennies for the rest of your life because that's the easiest way to manifest money.  So take a look at your statement of intent.  Where could magic seep out?  Where is it slightly vague or not quite as you intended?  Or, on the flip-side, are you asking for too much?  Something the universe simply cannot grant?  If your spell has dissipated, this might be the key to reworking it in your favor.
  • Patience.  If you've been through all of the above but still haven't seen an effect, give it some time.  Sometimes, spells don't work as quickly as we like or manifest in subtle ways.  Give the working some breathing room and see if that doesn't aid it.
  • Everyone has energy at play.  You cast a spell to win the lottery, but millions of people have invested in a ticket with the same hopes at winning.  It's like you're all holding the winning ticket, pulling at it.  You're not going to get the ticket in whole.  You might not even get a ripped corner.  Instead, all of these wills clash against each other, truly making it anyone's game.  If you've cast a spell without results and cannot find another plausible explanation, there's a chance that other people are sending out conflicting intent that's knocking up against yours.  This doesn't necessarily mean that someone's intentionally working against you; different desires, different wills, can simply create conflicting energy.  Sometimes, this causes the energy to simply poof out of existence, nullifying it.  In these cases, there's not much you can do but go back to the drawing board to either create a stronger spell or tackle the issue from a different angle.

Reversing a Spell You have Cast

Sometimes, we make mistakes that do not simply "poof" out of existence.  Sometimes, it's not even our fault; all of these extra intents and wills at play - even from non-corporeal entities or simply the swing of the universal pendulum - causes a spell to fly back into your face like a stray baseball.  If this is the case, congrats!  Your spell has officially backfired.  Don't be too hard on yourself: It happens to all witches, from beginners to the most experienced, for the simplest of reasons to the most complex.  If things are going sideways, it's time to consider reversing your own spell.

Let's consider a scenario where you did not create a loophole to break your spell easily.  If you took my initial advice, you'll have clear notes on exactly how your spell was performed and all the materials you used, including the spell itself if it has a physical form.  It won't matter if it's been a day, a week, a month or even a year later - you'll be able to easily and effectively break this spell.

One way to end a spell is to deconstruct the spell object.  If it's been buried, dig it up.  If it's a jar, open it and burn the contents if it's flammable and safe.  Break it, untie it, bury it or shred it.  Whatever "deconstruct" means to the spell you've cast, do it.  Once you're done, cleanse the broken-down items and dump the contents into the trash or, if biodegradable, a hole away from your home and work space.

If you don't have the spell itself but you still have the ingredients, you can do the spell backwards.  Use your notes and materials to work in reverse of your initial spell work.  Keep in mind that this may require special preparations.  You might need to look at the timing and decide what the "opposite" of that timing means.  You may decide you want to say the words in backwards order, entirely reversed or create new wording that undoes the old.  The choice is yours.  Just ensure it counteracts your original movements, statements and actions.

But what if you don't even have the ingredients or the original spell list?  There's one final option: Create a spell to break a spell.  You could look up a spell to break a spell online and attempt it but I find, when it comes to spell reversal, a spell you've had a personal hand in creating bears more weight.  When creating a reversal spell, think of ingredients common to banishing, warding and cleansing.  Black, salt, sigils, mirrors, water and more can be used as ingredients to break your own spell.  Think of the symbolism behind what a reversal of your spell means.  Could it be absorbed?  If so, a sponge can "soak" it up or a decoy poppet can be created specifically to transfer the spell's effects.  Think of actions that involve reversing and breaking: Cutting, tearing, smashing, burning, etc.  Utilize these and more to create your own personal spell breaking spell.

Regardless of the method, you'll want to end it with a grounding, centering and a good deep-cleansing.  In fact, sometimes a good cleansing is all that's really needed.  Ensure you cleanse your work space, your living space and yourself - anywhere your spell may be "tracked" like muddy footprints.  Take a good cleansing bath or shower and consider your spell broken!

A Final Word of Caution

Reversing a spell does not reverse the damage done.  Spell reversal is mostly preventative in hopes of avoiding more problems than has already occurred.  Whatever effects you've experienced prior to this won't magically disappear.  Even more so, removing magic from the equation sometimes doesn't stop the ball from rolling when its path has been previously defined.  Sometimes, we can catch our bowling ball of a spell while it's still angled in the wrong direction.  Unfortunately, once it's in the gutter, it's going down the gutter.  By removing the spell, you're simply changing your aim and strategy.  You will still need to perform physical world actions to help contain the backfire.

Best of luck!

Other References:
Grovedaughter Witchery: Practical Spellcraft by Bree NicGarran


  1. Thank you for posting this - I'm going to add it to my Very Useful Pagan References list. Thankfully I have, as yet, not had any spells I've done backfire, but there have been one or two that fell flat. Amusingly, part of one of them did, indeed, include lottery tickets as part of the working...

    1. I'm always surprised that there aren't more references out there for spell reversal. As a (very) young witch, I had a number of spells explode in my face (metaphorically) and had little recourse. I hope this helps! And thank you so much!

  2. Thank you for posting such thorough information on this topic. I have not had anything back fire but there's always a first time and the information you laid out will be a very useful reference tool.


    1. Thank you so much, Di! I'm so glad nothing has rebounded on you yet. Hopefully you'll never have to use this but, just in case, I'm glad it's out there!