Hey there, Occulties,
Time to answer another round of questions which have been plaguing my inbox. ;) Hope this is educational for some of you.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the single best skill to start working on for a new magician/rootworker/spellcaster?
A: I answer this question probably every few years, and while some of it is truly retaining information (a practiced practitioner DOES NOT consult a book throughout ritual for the whole of the ritual) I do believe meditation and learning focus of the will and mind (usually through the practice of meditation,) is hugely important.
Here's the thing: every single paradigm (that is type) of spellcraft you might want to practice can be improved by your meditating and learning meditation. You don't have to practice Hoodoo, you don't have to practice Quimbanda, you don't have to practice Enochian - but any of those three and any other paradigm you might choose for yourself will be improved when you start learning to focus via meditation, and continued daily meditation will only improve your abilities.
Q: I really enjoyed your "Magical screw up" story (regarding using Mars with reconciliation)! Do you have more of those? It's sort of a learning experience for me to see someone practiced can screw up.
A: I have more than a few, but most of them are also quite the view into my personal life as a young person...while that doesn't really bother me, I do have to account for the fact that some people I'm still close with, and many people I love (whether or not we remain close to this day,) who were with me and on my mind at that time are going to feel I'm telling too much about them as well.
It's not actually bizarre for anyone (even someone past the novice stage) to "screw up" or have a silly mistake, and/or a relatively humorous event occur here and there. About ten years ago, I lit my sleeve on fire while lighting a seven-day glass-encased candle. I was keeping my mind focused and doing my chant while trying to put my sleeve out - I suspect that was visually humorous. ;) There's the time I went on a reconnaissance to get a physical item from a target which ended up being something from his mother. There was the time an exploding plate (which was fill of spell candles) blew up, and a flying piece shattered my TV (the old box kind, not a flat screen.) All of these are at least humorous in retrospect. ;)
Q: Without psychic ability, can you tell a spell will fail?
A: Honestly, yes, I often can tell just by someone's behavior before, during, and after the work itself is complete. Anyone who whines, can't follow directions, can't take their mind off of the working, can't take their mind off of the situation being worked on, and who "gets in their own way" constantly will rarely get what they want. Sincerely, whining is like a giant glowing red flag of someone who won't ever succeed, and probably won't succeed at anything mundane, much less magical.
However, past the douchebag who won't stop bitching problem, there's always just the absolutely absurd request. Sometimes, regardless of what you do, what you want is outside of your Sphere of Availability, and so much so, you will not be able to reach it using spells. For example, trying to grow another 4 fingers (two on each hand!!) using spells is probably not going to happen. ;)
Another telling sign is how defensive a person gets if rejected. For example, if you say "Cat will you please help increase my income," and I look into the situation, and feel I won't meet your expectations, so I politely say no (so presumably, you've also acted nice and normal up to this point,) and you react by telling me off and having a severe hissy fit, and telling me I can't do shit...you already know you'll never get what you want. You had that premonition come to you long before you came to me. People who are very defensive about no already KNOW they aren't going to succeed, even with spells. Every human has a bit of precognition, and I assure you, that person wouldn't be so defensive, rude, and upset if they didn't already know for a fact that they were fighting a losing battle. :/
Q: Have you ever done anything, spellwise, that worked, that you regret?
A: I don't really know that I regret too many things I've done. I guess this is because, personally, I think it's sort of a stupid way to live one's life to regret having made bad choices, - at least as far as I can tell, - because, at least by my own definition of the term "regret," this just means you've not accepted and come to terms with something. :P And if I did something that was "bad"? Well, I mean, I have forgiven myself long ago for making those mistakes. I think it's ridiculous that someone beats themselves up over fucking up their life or someone else's for years of time after so doing whatever thing to fuck up their life. I just don't feel that way about things for very long. It's not to say I've never done something stupid or embarrassing or even needlessly hurtful. It's not to say I've never looked back on my actions and wondered what the fuck I was thinking, or realized I was being a turd. I've just come to terms with just about everything in my life, I've learned how to do better or be a better person from all those experiences, and so I don't regret any part of it. I can't say I'm proud of some of those things, or that I now think I did the right thing, I just own it, take responsibility for who I was, accept it all, and move on.
Sure, I've hurt people with curses that I probably should not have hurt like that for the "crimes" they did against me (I also didn't curse some people who really deserved to be cursed, too.) Those curses worked very well, and those people got what was coming to them and then some. Sure, I've brought back exes I should have left in the past, but I wasn't ready to let go and so I got my second chance and saw that I should let them go. I'm a human like everyone else, I fuck up, and I do bad or selfish things sometimes. It's all part of learning to be a better, less-selfish person who does less embarrassing, and/or selfish, and/or mean things by knowing from experience that doing those things or spellcasting to those ends will not bring me happiness.
Anyone who regrets his or her choices for an extended period of time has not yet come to terms with their own mistakes (at least by my definition of "regret,") and, in my opinion, needs to spend some time focusing on why this still effects them enough to make them feel regret. It's one thing to say "That was pretty stupid/shitty of me to do that," another to still feel a twang of regret or pain when remembering the event.
I'm not some mystical stone-hearted robot by any stretch of the imagination. Some times things hurt me longer than they should, but I find that time will help me get over just about anything. It can take a few months, even a few years, but everything I've ever done and experienced made me who I am today, and I like who I am.
I guess...I wish I could save some of the loved ones that I have lost - or kept them from experiencing a slow death if that was their end. In all cases, I had nothing to do with their passing or what caused them to pass on, but that's really all I regret in life... It's not having those people with me, or that they suffered - and I couldn't prevent that - before they moved on. Since it has nothing to do with a magic spell, I can't say that it's regarding anything magical. If I could go back in time and save those folks from pain and/or death, I surely would, and I miss them every day...otherwise, no regrets here. :P
That said, if you want to prevent yourself from "regrets," assuming you're the type to hold on to things, then don't do anything mean or cruel or selfish unless you're sure you're justified. Think about it for a week before you curse someone. Think about it for a week before you use coercive spells. Think about how much of your time you are dedicated to bringing something to you, and if you're sure it will be worth that investment before you devote yourself. I can't be the judge to tell you if what you want will be meaningful enough to make that time investment or to take that action. Only you can decide.
A: Please notice I put quotes around karma, because I don't think you know or understand what karma actually is if you say this to me. Now, I'm going out on a limb here, and I am going to assume you're not a practicing Buddhist (and I don't mean you read a book once, or use Buddhist elements in things, - I mean you are not a practicing Buddhist,) or a practicing Hindu (again, some elements of Hinduism in your spiritual life do not make you a Hindu.) Since I'm assuming you're neither practicing Hindu or Buddhist, I'm also going to let you know that I'm assuming you're a basic Western-hemisphere resident as well, and probably one who is naive enough to believe that karma means "That which you do in this life will have some spiritual effect in this life, like doing a good thing, brings more good things, and doing bad things brings more bad things (both as a form of spiritual reward,) generally within the next few weeks but at least within this lifetime." That is not what karma means. Loosely, karma means that which you do in this life - or I should say, that which you learn or fail to learn, that which you accomplish or fail to accomplish...because it's not really about good and bad, - will effect your next incarnation.
So, if you do a coercive spell, maybe it will effect your next incarnation. I'm a Catholic, so I'm the wrong person to ask. You might try asking a Buddhist monk, or a Hindu sage.
I personally do not believe using coercive spells to be "evil," and while I understand this was (and perhaps still is) at one-time a widely-promoted idea to keep newbies from "hurting others and themselves," I'm not that kind of teacher. I am not the "everyone gets an award so no one gets hurt" type of person. If you're going to do something stupid, at least you might learn from it. :P And, here's the thing, I'll let you know if you're about to do something stupid, but then, I'm not going to stop you from using coercion because I don't think its use makes you stupid...to be fair, I won't even stop you from doing something stupid except to tell you that you're being stupid. In fact, working ass-backwards to avoid being coercive is, in my opinion, kind of stupid. I know, I know, I used "stupid" too much in this paragraph, which is kind of stupid of me. :)
So, where exactly did this "Do not work against someone's free will, OR ELSE!" idea come from? I would chance a guess that's Wicca, the less-than-100-years-old religion which was created by Gerald Gardner. Since magic pre-dates this religion by A HELL OF A FUCKING LOT (hint: magic is thousands of years old!) I'm pretty sure that, if you're not a Wiccan, or some form of neo-pagan sect which evolved off of Wicca, that you're pretty free and clear of having any sort of Wicca religious beliefs apply to you. HOWEVER, if you're Wiccan, check with your priest and/or priestess to see how you are apply the "Wiccan Rede" to your spellwork, as some people do not use the whole rede, just the first part. I was taught it was "If you harm none, do as you will; if you harm some do as you must." So, I mean, you can protect yourself and all, as that's a MUST, it's just you're not supposed to go all harming and coercing if it's unneeded and you're a Wiccan. Oh, and as I said, some sects only use the first part, and you're supposed to never hurt anyone and turn all the cheeks you got and never protect yourself apparently.
For the rest of us who are not practicing Wicca or Wicca-derived religions, I say apply some ethics in your decision-making skills, certainly, but no, casting coercive spells is not inherently evil, and I can't speak of what it will do for your karma because I don't know if it effects your next incarnation. The widely-promoted belief that using coercion is bad did really start infecting minds around when Wicca's popularity soared back in the 1990's, so I'm going to assume using controlling spells is bad for Wiccans. Everyone else? We're all cool. Go effect some free will and all. ;)
Q: Do you think working with saints is like spirit conjure?
A: Nope. I think it's praying to saints is what I think it is. I put it up on about the same level as people who ask deceased friends and family for assistance by praying to them, because basically, it's the same thing. While not all saints are people-spirits, the vast majority did walk this earth as people, so there's that to consider (A LOT of spirit-conjure involves never-human spiritual entities.) If this saint is recognized by the Catholic church, I can also reasonably say it's not a being so dangerous to contact that I'd avoid so doing unless you are doing so out of great necessity, as well...whereas I can think of several spirits I'd say "Don't do it unless you havta," about. ;) Basically, it's a very safe practice, and you are asking the assistance of spiritually-powerful individuals on asking the Almighty for a favor on your behalf - they intercede on your behalf. It isn't calling something never-human out of goodness-only-knows-where (the ether? the cthonic realms?) to do something for you, it's asking a being who was probably human in life to put in a good word for you with the head of the Universe to accomplish a certain end. While it works quite nicely when you pray to saints to bring about that which you've wished for, it's like comparing leaves and grass in regards to spirit conjure.
Somewhat unrelated, but if you contact me to ask me which saint is best for your problem, I'll tell you to go consult one of the many guides to what saints are patrons of that exist on the internet. I'm not a guide to saints. There are these lovely places called churches where you might find clergy more willing to assist you. :) Since some knob who thinks I'm a free search engine for anything spiritual or magical asks me this at least once a month, I figured I'd just throw this out there.
Q: What is the longest ever span of time you ever heard of someone reconciling an ex? (I mean from when they broke up to got back together, so like how long?)
A: Well, non-magically, it was like 20-25 years. I mean, no one used a spell but the couple broke up something like 25 years before and got back together.
Magically, I guess it was 5-6 years. One case might be 8 years. In both cases, the petitioner had previously given up on the ex for several of those years, so it wasn't straight years of spellcasting.
Q: Can I reuse a witness sample/bio item/picture?
A: I don't feel that you can, no. If you print out a new picture (but it's the same image, just a new print of it,) that's fine, but you can't reuse the same hair or spitwad repeatedly and pull out of spells for re-use, in my opinion.
Hope that was educational. I know it was a lot of repeats, but as I always say, we'd have a lot less of those if people just weren't so lazy and read the archives. ;)