Beyond the Basics of Witchcraft

By Aly Cardinalli

© 2020 Aly Cardinalli.  All rights reserved.

I guess everyone understands the basics of witchcraft, “intention, ingredients, casting, etc.”, but what happens after you get past the basics? Do you learn spells? What is the difference between a candle/oil love spell and one that uses apples and rose petals? Is there any truth in categorizing witches based on their talents?

We see it in all kinds of fiction: The Magicians, Harry Potter, The Last Airbender

I’d like to take a moment to look at the fiction of magic and how we might be able to learn from it. We may even be able to pick a discipline that we can excel at and make our magical lives even more magical.

Let’s first look at The Magicians by Lev Grossman. In this series, magicians are chosen from around the world to attend the magical university of Brakebills. This fantastic book series was made into a TV show, which strays from Grossman’s original story, but I still loved it. At Brakebills, magicians have the ability to have very individualized specialties based on these main disciplines:

  • Physical Magic – ability to manipulate nature, the energy in nature, and possibly its matter, basically anything physical.

  • Psychic Magic – ability to work psychically, using time, space, feelings, knowledge, and other sensitive unseen experiences.

  • Illusion Magic – ability to create illusions, where targets experience the desired actions of the magician. They use invisibility, cloaking, projections, and glamours.

  • Healing Magic – ability to cure, design new magical healing techniques, and are respected like doctors

  • Knowledge Magic – ability to discover the physical magic and psychic magic disciplines in a more deepened approach.

  • Natural Magic – ability to influence the environment through magic. They harness Earth’s power, specifically with things that grow or how things grow in nature.

I like this idea because each magician then can have a specialty within their discipline. For instance, a physical magician can specialize in phosphoriomancy, fixing things, or war magic. A psychic magician can specialize in space travel. A Healing magician can focus on energy healing. They learn all they can in the discipline, to keep them well rounded, with a solid foundation, and then specialize in a discipline, like mirrors.

Also, in The Magicians, Grossman gives the ability for there to be mixed discipline, do what you want and work with what you can: Hedge witches.


Now let’s move into the very famous Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. Here, magicians are distinguished by their personalities, and not how they are magically connected to the world around them.

  • Gryffindor – they use magic in brave, noble, daring, and chivalrous ways.

  • Ravenclaw – they use magic in smart, creative, witty, and curious ways.

  • Slytherin – they use magic to boost their ambitions, and in cunning, resourceful, and self-preserving ways.

  • Hufflepuff – they use magic in loyal, fair, patient, and to help with dedication and responsibility.

If we combined the two areas, you could, technically, have a discipline, a specialty, AND a way of which you use it.

Nature discipline, tree magic, Hufflepuff? Anyone?

Before we jump into our next book, I want to point something out:

These magicians don’t get to choose.

There is no choice in the kinds of magic they are good at, nor is there choice in their personality and the nature in which they use magic. It is a part of them, like their skin color, height, and hair type. The magicians can practice other forms, but their natural abilities are linked to (dare we say) genetics? Their natural abilities are not by decisions.

And, as a practicing witch, you can figure out your connection to nature by trail and error. This is how magicians found their magic in The Magicians. They try spells that require mostly herbs, then try chants, then try crystals, then try potions, then try working with spirits, then try doing spells that use time or planetary energy. You would do the same.

Or, you can take a test, like I have at

You can also try just looking at you book of shadows and notice if there is a pattern for which you usually cast. Do you already have a favorite way of casting spells? Do you do a lot of potions like sour jars? Or mojo bags? Or dolls? Or energy casting? Or chants?

This takes us to our next look at magical delineation.


Let’s move to The Last Airbender. This one should be rather simple to uncover and talk through:

  • Air bending – able to energetically manipulate air

  • Water bending – able to energetically manipulate water in all its forms

  • Earth bending – able to energetically manipulate minerals

  • Fire bending – able to energetically create and manipulate fire and ignition

  • Energy bending – able to manipulate energy of things

  • Lighting bending – able to manipulate lighting and its direction

  • Metal bending – able to manipulate metals

  • Combustion bending – able to use heat and oxygen in concentrated force to explode

  • Blood bending – able to manipulate beings through their blood and microscopic attributes

  • Spirit bending – able to manipulate the state of spirits

  • Lava bending – able to manipulate the movement of lava

  • Spiritual projection – able to transmit and experience other locations by sending your spirit in an intangible form, but requires heightened sense of spirituality

  • Plant bending – able to manipulate plants at the microscopic level through their water

  • Healing – able to use water as an agent to heal water-based creatures

This being more fantastical, I still love the little clubs they all belong in, and the personalities of the different kinds of benders.


Finally, we move onto my favorite, V.E. Shwab’s Shade of Magic series. Here, again, people are born into abilities. Unlike The Last Airbender, many magicians can have more than one, but not normally more than two. There is a special kind of magician if they have all of the abilities (but let’s not give the books away).

  • Fire - one of the hardest abilities to will, must be able to create fire and use it

  • Water - one of the easiest to will, and can change water’s form

  • Air - able to restrain people and move with the power of the wind

  • Earth - another easier to will, and can manipulate its place in space and shape

  • Metal - rare, but able to manipulate metal’s shape

  • Bone - move and change people’s bones, can control people

  • Black Magic - primal magic with no restrain

  • Blood Magic - can only be used by a specific kind of hereditary witch, and requires knowing a secret language which, mixed with blood, creates the desired request.

Patterns in fiction might actually point us to how we, as magicians/mages/witches, might excel by honing the natural talent and natural connection we have to mother Earth.

How are you connected to the world around you? What are you drawn to? What makes you magical? What are you bad at? Knowing these things, and turning to the world of fiction, can help you develop as a mage. Because remember, there has to be some truth for someone to fake. Fiction has to be built on something we can recognize in ourselves or others.

Happy Self-Discovery and Happy Casting.

#darksomemoon #darksomemoonarticles


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