Just about every “Intro to Witchcraft” tome out there covers the basic structure of setting up a ritual space; a container of sorts for you to do your workings in which is relatively safe for you and whomever else may be practicing with you. For many Pagans, that will include things like casting a circle, calling in the directions, calling in the Ancestors, and so on.
Most of these resources also include instructions for how to take this space back down again (I have Very Strong Opinions about the ones that tell you how to construct or summon things, but not how to make them go away again), but I have noticed that not as many of them give you guidance about what to do with the physical materials that are left over once a ritual or a spell is done. I feel this is something of an oversight, as the flowers and the water and the food offerings and the candle wax and so on are all still imbued with that lovely energy you poured into them, and to merely throw them out seems like a missed opportunity to me!
The following list contains some ideas for the cleaning up of spell components, more or less based on how I do things. If something else feels more appropriate to you, then by all means please do that! The important thing here is that you take a moment to consider what you think would best serve the intent that you are working towards.
Some General Considerations
- The first thing I consider is the scope of the working. Am I performing this spell for a specific person, or is this a more general “my community needs more of this thing” scope?
- If I have performed a spell for a specific person: Carefully gather up what remains of the components and give them to that person, usually contained in a scrap or fabric or a box, with instructions on what to do with said materials when they feel it is time to dispose of them.
- If I have performed a spell for myself: Ditto the above.
- If the working did not have a specific target: Depending on the intent of the working it may be useful to save things like candle wax to use again at a later date, for an extra energy boost.
- I tend to do a lot of my candle spells while I am relaxing in the bathtub. If you are like me in this regard, it may be prudent to consider the order in which the bath is drawn and the candles are lit, and vice versa. Do you want some of your magic to go down the drain with your bathwater? Sometimes the answer is definitely yes! For general spells, I drain my bath water while the candle is still burning and then extinguish the candle once the bath is empty.
Some More Specific Suggestions
- For rituals that have included food or drink offerings: if there is enough left to share with the living, by all means eat it! Witchcraft is hungry work, and many of us are very good cooks.
- For intents involving drawing something to the person (a new job, a raise, new love): the “target” of the spell should keep the materials with them until they feel the spell has had its intended effect. This doesn’t have to be on their person, per se, but it should be somewhere safe.
- For intents involving pushing something away (keep-away, discouraging street harassment, assistance with a difficult breakup): dispose of the leftover components in or near running water, if you can. If it’s safe to do so, flushing it down the toilet or putting it down the garbage disposal works a treat!
- For intents involving a little help in the bedroom, for sex and/or baby-making: keep whatever you have worked up under your pillow or mattress, or in your nightstand if you have one.
- For cleaning out containers that held candles, incense, salves, etc: wash or soak in a saltwater solution, then wash with regular old soap and water.
- For sigils, or other magical writings: for “one-time use” sigils, I usually burn them in order to activate them. Once they have been completely burned up, I consider the ashes to be effectively null. For items that have seen longer-term use, I follow the “wash with saltwater, then the stain remover of your choice” method detailed above.
I hope some of these ideas are useful to you, or are getting you thinking about the habits you’ve built for yourself if you have a more established practice. Please add your own ideas in the comments– I would love to hear about your own process!
In Joyful Service,