Let’s face it, magic can be hard to write. It offers limitless possibilities to a writer, but once we touch the keyboard or put pen to paper our options can seem much more restrained. After all, if your wizard protagonist (or antagonist) can do anything with magic, what stops them from using it to get what they want immediately and ending the story right there?

So you create rules and restrictions, outlining what magic can and can’t do in particular circumstances, and a bit of the wonder is lost. Some intangible quality that was there before is there no longer. The question is, how do you get it back?

Human beings have believed in magic for thousands of years, and when you go back to the old stories and beliefs of people who accepted it as a reality, you find some interesting things. They viewed magic as an incredible force in the world, but it also had limits. Yet in these stories and beliefs, the strangeness, the weirdness, the impossibility of magic can endure despite that. The old-style flavor is sometimes the best.

So, in the interest of helping you to make use of that, I’ve gone through quite a number of my books, collecting examples of spells. They are split into two lists. The first is from ancient myths and legends, reflecting what the people who wrote them might have once thought magic was capable of in their own distant past. These spells tend to be more fantastical, but a bit vague about how the magic was done. The second list is lifted from books of history and anthropology, and consists of spells people actually thought they or their neighbors could cast. These spells tend to be smaller scale, but provide us with more information on how our ancestors thought magic worked and was performed.

Feel free to make use of any of these spells in your writing, either wholesale or as an inspirational jumping off point.


Spells from myth and legend

Animating a corpse as a vessel for a ghost who will tell you secrets of the past, present, and future

-Animating human-shaped figurines by breathing on them and reciting spells, so that they may act as servants or guards

-Bewitching a man’s eyes so they see things that are not there

-Brewing a potion of forgetfulness

-Binding a spirit to a ring or amulet, so that anyone possessing the item can call up the spirit to act as a servant or guardian

-Breathing fire

-Calling up and calming storms, blizzards, or rough seas

-Calling up mists and darkness to mislead someone who is chasing you

-Chanting spells of protection that will see you safely through a battle

-Commanding a pair of eagles to peck out a man’s eyes

-Commanding the trees to fight for you in a battle

-Conjuring up a spirit and binding it to your will

-Creating a potion that causes the people who drink from it to fall in love with one another

-Creating a potion that will bestow all worldly knowledge to whoever drinks it

-Creating an unguent that, when rubbed on your eyes, will allow you to see through the illusory disguises of fairies

-Creating illusory duplicates of yourself from a single strand of your hair

-Creating noodles that, when ingested, turn into venomous snakes inside your victim’s stomach

-Creating the illusion of an entire fleet of warships, sailing across the open sea to frighten your enemies, despite not having a single rowboat to your name

-Drawing an unbroken circle on the floor about yourself as a means of magical protection against unclean spirits

-Enchanting a knife to fly through the air, seeking the heart of an enemy

-Enchanting a patch of toadstools so they look like a dozen stallions in golden harnesses, though they will revert to toadstools by the next day

-Enchanting a person so that they desire you above all others

-Enchanting one man so he looks like another

-Flying through the air without apparent aid

-Hearing anything spoken into the wind within your domain

-Laying conditional protections upon a person or item, so that they may only be harmed/defeated/killed/etc if those conditions are met

-Permanently creating a living, thinking woman from a pile of flowers

-Playing music that compels horses to dance, unseating their riders

-Playing music that compels people to dance, against their will

-Singing a song that causes a man’s clothes to fly off his body, turn into ducks, and fly away

-Singing a song that makes people fall into an enchanted sleep

-Putting out a roaring fire as it consumes a building, using only a word and gesture

-Chanting a spell that causes manacles and locks to spring open

-Reciting a spell that causes people to like you and view you as a friend

-Reciting a spell that quenches the hatred in men’s hearts

-Uttering a spell that turns sharp weapons blunt

-Reciting an insulting poem so potent it causes the insulted man’s face to break out in boils

-Chanting spells to raise freshly dead warriors to fight for you

-Reflecting harmful spells sent at you with a magic wand back upon the wand’s wielder

-Removing your soul from your body and placing in a large, nigh-indestructible iron ring, so that you can never be harmed unless the ring is harmed

-Seeing through the eyes of an animal, even though you are many miles away

-Speaking and understanding the speech of birds and beasts

-Speaking and understanding the speech of plants, stones, the wind, and other natural forces

-Striking a person blind, deaf or dumb with a spoken spell

-Summoning invisible, intangible spirits who wield real axes to attack your foes

-Summoning your ancestral spirits to help you complete a task

-Transforming a person into a pool of water

-Transforming a person into a swan, to revert after a set period of time passes and specific actions are taken by the transformed person.

-Transforming your army into ants so you can sneak them into a fortress undetected and conquer it from within

-Transforming yourself into a boulder for protection and then turning back again once the danger has passed

-Transforming yourself into an animal, yet retaining your own mind

-Transforming yourself into living fire to scorch your enemies, at the risk of burning yourself away

-Transforming yourself into a living whirlwind so that you may fly through the air and carry people off

-Turning a man into a marble pillar, but only from the waist down, leaving his upper half alive and mobile

-Turning a person to stone

-Turning two brothers into animals, one male and one female, and then forcing them to mate with one another to produce offspring before turning them back, so that the offspring will remind them of their common shame

-Weaving a toy horse from straw that can turn into a real horse on command

Actual spells and folk beliefs

-Allowing a powerful spirit to possess you, making your body nigh-invulnerable, shrugging off great heat, stabbing and cutting weapons, and even gun or cannon fire

-Blighting a cow by stabbing a knife into the wall, and then “milking” the knife’s handle; the milk will magically come out of the knife, stealing it from the cow

-Carving symbols into a dead man’s bone that allows you to summon up his ghost to kill other people at your command; the bone hovers in the center of a shadow, and if the bone is destroyed the ghost disappears

-Catching the wind in a knot of rope, so that you can untie the knot and release the wind at a later time

-Chopping off the hand of a hanged man, dipping it into wax, and then turning it into a candle; when lit the candle will paralyze anyone in the same building as it, except for the candle-holder.

-Cleansing yourself of lust for another by smearing yourself with some of their blood

-Conjuring up a demon from Hell by invoking the names of God and his angels, so that the captive demon might complete numerous tasks such as fetching you an item you could not otherwise acquire, transporting you very quickly over a great distance, or serving you a banquet of illusory food that does not fill you up

-Conjuring up the ghosts of the dead with prayers and offerings, so that they may appear to you in dreams and tell you the secrets of the past, present, and future

-Constructing two great fires at the crossroads at night, after putting out every other source of light for miles around, and then leading people and animals between the two fires, thereby magically protecting them from plague and vampires

-Sculpting a massive human shape out of clay while going into an ecstatic trance, then carving magical words into the clay man’s forehead to bring him to life as a servant or protector

-Creating a potion that can cure any disease

-Enchanted bridle so that when it is thrown over the head of another person, it puts that person entirely under your control, while also allowing them to fly, though if you use them as a flying mount it will cause considerable exhaustion, possibly leading to death for the person so enslaved

-Curing a fever by writing the word “Abracadabra” on a piece of paper, hanging it around the patient’s neck for nine days, and then after that time has passed throwing the paper into an eastward flowing river

-Curing a man’s crippled limb by using numerous herbs to create a potion, then empowering that potion with incantations, then splashing the potion on the road, so that when someone walks across the liquid the crippled man’s lameness will be transferred to the passerby.

-Curing a man’s tumor by cutting a root of vervain, then hanging it around the patient’s neck over a fire, causing both root and tumor to dry up and disappear; if the patient doesn’t pay for the service, throwing the root into water will cause the tumor to return

-Curing diseases resulting from evil magic by boiling the afflicted patient’s hair, blood, and urine in a jug while reciting the Lord’s Prayer backward; whatever sorcerer caused the disease will be affected by painful cramps so long as the jug boils, and if it boils to long he will die

-Cursing someone with illness or bad luck by looking at them

-Detecting water, treasure, or stolen items using a dowsing rod

-Digging up dirt at the four corners of an infertile field, then sprinkling the dirt with various liquids and substances while reciting commands, to restore the field’s fertility.

-Drawing a symbol upon a piece of paper, folding it up, and then tossing it into a passing wagon or cart to curse the driver

-Engraving a magic rune upon a weapon to make victory in battle more likely

-Grinding up amber with honey to create a cure for poor eyesight

-Making someone desire you by painting a picture of Typhon on a mussel shell, then throwing the shell into a bathhouse furnace while reciting magical commands

-Measuring a man’s shadow with a length of string, and then burying the string inside the cornerstone of a construction site; the man will slowly grow sick and die, for his spirit has been bound to the new building to ensure its stability

-Performing a ceremonial dance and song to put yourself into a trance, so that you may intercede with the spirits and ask them to change the weather

-Putting ghosts that are haunting a person or location to rest by binding them to complete an impossible task

-Reciting incantations, commands, and administering herbal potions to exorcise a hostile spirit from an afflicted person, with the goal of curing madness or disease

-Ridding a place of scorpions by creating a small model scorpion of metal while the constellation Scorpio is ascendant, engraving the name of this constellation and other symbols upon the model, and then burying the metal scorpion in the desired location

-Seeing omens of the future in the flights of birds, the movement of the stars and planets, the ripples of wind on water, the crackling of flames, or the entrails of slaughtered animals

-Sinking a ship with a storm by overturning a wooden bowl floating in a bucket of water while chanting spells

-Stopping bees from swarming by throwing sand at them and then reciting a spell

-Summoning a wind by whistling

-Transforming yourself into a wolf by putting on a wolf-pelt shirt, so that you can murder your neighbors or kill their livestock incognito

-Transmuting lead into gold by combining various lesser metals and substances.

-Using drugs, meditation, rhythmic noise, noxious vapors, fasting, or other means to put yourself into a trance where your spirit leaves your body and travels into the spirit world

-Using hair, fingernail clippings, feces, or other detritus left behind by another person in the creation of a doll that resembles that person, with the goal of remotely controlling or affecting the person in question through the doll

-Using herbs to make a lotion, then enchanting the lotion with incantations, so that when it is rubbed on the face and skin of a person the lotion will make them appear youthful and more attractive

-Writing instructions and commands upon a small lead tablet, and then burying the tablet in a grave; the tablet commands the dead man’s ghost to bind another man’s tongue so that he won’t testify against you in court

-Writing magical commands and patterns on a piece of paper, and they putting it over someone’s wound like a bandage to magically hasten the healing process


6 Responses to “MAGIC, PART WHATEVER: The Spell List”

  1. 1 Michael June 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this site. The information is wonderful, especially to someone like me who is writing about Faerie creatures. Nicely done. Look forward to reading more.

    • 2 Fakefaux June 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      Glad you liked it! If there’s ever a particular monster or topic you’d like to see me delve into, feel free to send it in an email or mention it in the comments. I can’t promise I’ll find enough material to make an article out of it, but I’ll try!

      • 3 Michael June 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm

        I’m currently outlining book one in a YA series about a girl living at the edge of an Oregon old growth forest. She discovers Faerie creatures are using the forest as a refuge after an evil troll witch destroyed their homes when they would not accept her as their queen. I have been searching for references on faerie magic and talismans—Things that will aid the girl as she takes on the troll witch and her ogre henchman—without much success. Since I’m still working out the story I can’t be too specific but any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

      • 4 Michael June 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm

        I forgot. I’m also trying to find info on Faerie charms and talismans. Both to cause harm and to ward it off. My main villain is a Troll Witch. I will have her using magic (spells, charms, etc) against other faerie creatures and against my human protagonist. Thanks.

      • 5 Fakefaux June 29, 2013 at 8:42 pm

        I’ll see what I can find.

  2. 6 Michael June 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Also, regarding your spell list; those are some great spell ideas. Are there instructions to any of them? Are there any good books on casting Faerie spells? Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: