One of the first problems I had as a newly practicing Witch was finding the right spells to use. I found LOTS of spells. There is no shortage of spells in this world. Some of them I was afraid to try. Most of them I bookmarked so I could use them later. Doing a spell is so obviously witchy, so obviously magick, that I tried doing at least one spell a day in the beginning because I was certain that was what 'real' Witches did.
But, and this is a big but, most of the spells I found were just a little off. I don't mean there was anything wrong with the spell itself, I mean that the spell didn't exactly fit my need.
Which brings up the question- how much tinkering can you do with a spell? Is it still the same spell? Is it your spell? Does it still work? Which parts are vital and which parts are personal preference of the original creator? What if you don't have all the required items? If the spell uses a plant that doesn't grow in your area, can you use a native plant- would this bring a different culture to your landbase or would the spell flop altogether because you were attempting a magick that didn't belong in your part of the world?
I probably over-think most of this stuff. Most of the Witches I know don't consider things like this, they just go right on with their work. However, some of them have problems that I don't have.
I like doing my own thing. I like doing my own thing with pretty much everything that I do. I like my own art, my own cooking, my own routines, and my own magick. I'll learn the 'correct' way and then I adapt to suit myself.
For some reason that I am yet to figure out, while there are a zillion spells there isn't much information about writing your own and when I do run across something it is really vague.
At first, I mainly adjusted spells. Instead of trying to figure out what was essential and what wasn't, I would adjust according to what I liked about the spell and what was available to me. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.
A side note here, I have discovered that most of the time when a spell doesn't it isn't the spell; you shouldn't be messing with whatever you're messing with.
So how do we know if a spell will work? It depends on the Witch. If you really want to do the spell it works. That simple. Under this logic, all spells have the potential to work.
I really believe you should be the Witch of wherever you are. I don't like practicing the magick of a country that I have no connection to. I might borrow a spell from another culture, but I won't adopt a foreign magickal/belief system. I think magick needs to fit me where and when I am.
For this reason, I think it is most important to be able to write your own spells. A Witch should be able to tap into the energies around her and meld them with her personal energy. Everything is energy. Thoughts are energy. Emotions are energy. Culture is energy. Nature is energy. It is simply a matter of frequency. Rocks vibrate slower than plants. Animals are fairly stable. People vibrate all over the place depending on personality, emotion, and stress levels.
Writing spells isn't for the newbie Witch because it requires (if you're doing it properly) the use of a divination tool. This could be a scrying mirror, Tarot, runes, Ouija board or whatever you use to glimpse into higher consciousness. If the only spread you're comfortable with is the Celtic Cross this isn't going to work.
I use the pendulum. The first spells I wrote involved using spices. I would lay out all the spice bottles I had and hold the pendulum over each one until I got a 'yes' answer. To figure out how much spice to use I held the pendulum over measuring spoons.
I like the pendulum because despite the yes/no only questions, it clearly gives definite results. Sometimes before figuring out how to write the spell I'll read Tarot cards to get an idea of what will happen if I do the spell. I like using Tarot for stitch spells. I'll focus on the mood/theme of the card to figure out what colors to use. Sometimes I select the same colors featured on the card.
Experience matters for this work because reading the meaning listed in the booklet that came with the cards won't help. This requires understanding how the divination tool works for you personally. There's not a set spread. Sometimes I draw a card and sometimes I draw one card for each element of the spell.
Let's go back to the pendulum example so I can show you how this works. And we'll stick with my spice example just so everything's neat and tidy.
We'll say that in my cabinet I have the following: Allspice, cloves, garlic, mace, nutmeg, and sage. I want a protection spell. I take all the spices out and arrange them in a line. I hold the pendulum over each spice and ask if it is good to use in my spell. If the pendulum gives me a 'no' I put the spice back in the cabinet. For 'yes' I place the spice bottle on my altar.
We'll say the pendulum indicates cloves, garlic, and sage are the best choices. Next I'll ask the pendulum if the spices should be mixed in a particular order. I'll ask 'Should this be first?' as I hold the pendulum over each bottle. I'll repeat the process with the question 'Should this be second?' Since I only have three spices to use, I'll just assume the last spice is all I need. Let's pretend I get sage, cloves, then garlic.
Next I'll ask about measurements. Starting with sage, I'll hold the pendulum over each of my measuring spoons. When I get a yes answer I'll stop. So if I get a yes on tablespoon I won't bother asking for the rest of the spoons. As soon as I have a measurement I'll write it down. Then I move on the next ingredient.
Notice I stuck with what I had on hand. I didn't ask for the best ingredients. I used the measuring spoons I had; I didn't ask about using the metric system because that's not what I use on a daily basis. I'm sticking to spices so I didn't ask about stones or other herbs. If I wanted to add something else I'd ask the pendulum if I needed anything else. Then I'd ask if that was a spice, a herb, or a crystal.
After I had my spices in the correct amounts, I'd ask about timing such as to make morning, noon, or night. Then I'd ask about days of the week. Then I'd ask about moon phases. Last, I'd ask if I needed a chant or a candle to burn. I might ask if this mixture was to carry or to scatter. And every time I asked a question, I'd write down the answer.
Once I had a complete recipe, along with instructions, I'd cast the spell. I'd make notes in my journal. I'd wait to see if the spell worked. I'd wait at least one month for results. Usually by then if the spell hasn't manifested it should be in the process of working.
It doesn't have to be spices. I could do this to figure out what charm to carry. I could ask the pendulum what tools to use- wand, broom, cauldron, or mirror. If I asked about a tool, and the pendulum indicated mirror, I'd ask if I needed just the mirror. If I needed more I'd add things slowly. I might ask about candles or herbs or runes.
You might be wondering how I know what to ask about. The truth is, I don't. I just guess. I'm going to assume that if I need something it will occur to me to ask. If I don't think of it, I probably don't need it.