Charms were probably the original form of portable magick (see Chapter 14 for more about charms in spellcraft). The word charm comes from the Latin carmen, which means “incantation” or “song.” This would imply that, at least at the outset, charms were sacred words uttered with intention. Later on, the term was also applied to small symbolic items that a person carried to encourage good fortune or avert evil.
Charms play an important role in various magickal traditions. In many tribal cultures, a person could not claim the title of Shaman until she knew how to contrive dozens of traditional charms.
Usually charms are relatively simple and straightforward. Charms can be created in three ways: spoken, written, and physical. Once devised, a charm's energy remains active (unless the witch intended otherwise) for a period of time, typically no more than a year.
Verbal charms are the easiest and most convenient, because they require nothing more than some clever phrasing and your vocal cords. A charm is like a poem, or in some cases a prayer. Many charms, both ancient and modern, rhyme or have a poetic rhythm that helps a witch commit them to memory. The following example is a simple verbal charm from Europe:
Leaf of ash,
This little ditty isn't a literary masterpiece, and yours doesn't have to be either. What's important is that the charm expresses your wish or goal and is easy to remember. That way, you can repeat it whenever it comes to mind, giving the original charm energy to manifest your objective.
Verbal charms can also be set to music. The Greek mathematician Pythagoras, who lived in the sixth century
It's quite common for charms to be repeated a specific number of times. This repetition utilizes the mystical value of numbers (see Chapter 12). A witch might repeat a phrase eight times (the manifestation number) or perhaps twelve times (the number that represents cycles coming to fruition).
Even in ancient times magi, Druids, and other wisdom-keepers were often literate. Therefore, it's not surprising that they eventually came to express their magick on paper. This medium provided the practitioner with even more options for symbolic value. Now the color of the ink, the color of the paper, the pattern created by the paper, or the words themselves could support the spell.
You can write a spell on a ribbon, then wear it in your hair or around your waist. Written spells may also be placed in an amulet or talisman. Buddhists hang prayer flags that contain written blessings outside their homes and temples; when the wind blows the flags the prayers are carried around the world.
Written charms involve more than the words themselves. Of course, the words must reflect the witch's intention, but that's only part of the spell. How the words are written — not only their meaning — is also important. For instance, if you're trying to banish a habit, you might write the name of that habit backward on paper. What happens to the affirmation or incantation after it's written adds another dimension to the charm. Many spells are written on paper and then burned to release the energy of the charm. In a spell to banish an old habit, burning symbolizes the destruction of the habit.
Physical charms involve actions or objects, sometimes in conjunction with spoken or written spell components. The little ditty used earlier to illustrate a verbal charm can be followed by a physical charm. As the witch says the word “pluck,” he takes a leaf from the ash tree and carries it all day to inspire good fortune. Many physical charms are derived from nature; a fourleaf clover and a rabbit's foot are familiar examples.
You can make your own lucky charm for prosperity — all you need is a coin minted in the year of your birth (or in a year that has special significance for you). If this is a coin with a high silver content, all the better. Empower the coin for luck by repeating the following incantation:
By word, will, and this silver coin,
Carry the coin in your wallet or purse. Or place it on your altar. If you know feng shui, put the lucky coin in your home's Wealth gua.
During the nineteenth century, man-made charms became popular, specifically in the form of charm bracelets, which were often given as presents. Each charm contained symbolic meaning and its own special blessings for the recipient. An anchor represented strong foundations; a heart was the gift of love; a dove brought peace.