Why magical rituals fail
Why magical rituals fail

Why magical rituals fail

Some rituals have the best intentions

Although occult books are full of yarns about magic’s success stories there are few tales of what happens when magic goes wrong  I have been noticing that a sector of my life is largely immune to magic of late.  I have tried a number of different rituals to over come this problem and nothing has worked.  As a result I have been focusing on the issue a fair bit and I am looking to find a solid rule for magical failure.
I have been playing devil’s advocate on Facebook on this question to see what people’s thoughts about the matter are and it was about what I expected.  Occultism suddenly becomes a religion when things go wrong.
Magic is about you having some measure of control over yourself and your inner and outer environment.   At some point you have be able to decide what you want, and make it happen. A ritual is designed to make this happen.   The opposite side of the coin to this is religion.  In religion you pray to your chosen god and ask it to make it happen.  
In my Christian days it was drummed into our heads that “God always answers prayer; it is just that he sometimes says “no” or “wait.”   The flaw in this approach is that you may not get what you want and if God keeps saying “no” there is nothing you can do about it.
When I asked on Facebook why people think that their rituals failed I got the following answers:

Technical reasons – your ritual was badly written or performed incorrectly.
This is not always true.  I have written rituals that worked once or twice and then failed for some inexplicable reason.   I am pretty good ritually and most of my performances are not different enough to have made any difference to the rite.  Astrological conditions can make a ritual more difficult (or improve them) but a magician is supposed to master the stars not the other way around. Generally it makes sense to avoid the tricky configurations anyway.

God tells you to Go forth and multiply

God has forbidden it to work 
Many rituals include the phrase “if it pleases the Divine” in their intention.  This means that if the ritual did not work then obviously it was blocked by God.    But when I started looking at some of the rituals that went wrong, it was clear that could not have been the case.   For example, a flat I was living in had mould and it was making me and my partner sick.  It was also falling down and the neighbours had become intolerable.  It was also too small to do regular meetings and was too expensive.  Why would God want me to stay in a house in which I was getting sick, was interfering in my work, and was too expensive?  If I am an expression of the One Thing, then I am torturing myself by saying “no.” Besides if God can veto rituals in this way then we might as well be praying to it and not doing magic at all.

The Ritual did not accord with your True Will
His is a modern variant of the “God says no” argument above.  The answer is similar it cannot be my true will to suffer and be miserable.

Your Higher Self wants you to live here

Your Higher Self has a bigger and better plan. 
Well the Higher Self should inform me why it wants me to die from breathing toxic mould and it had better come up with a damn fine excuse.  In fact I think this idea of the Higher Self being seen as a separate entity is a bad idea.  It ends up with the Higher Self replacing God, when it isn’t.

You have somehow blocked yourself from attaining your goal
Normally this block is unconscious in that you think that you should not have the thing you desire.  Now this is a good point in that the unconscious would have created the “lack” in the first place.  But one thing I have noticed is that this lack should not apply to rituals worked on your behalf.  While I might not be able to get my house ritual to work, someone else should.  I know a few magicians who could do the job for me and yet they can’t do it either.  The point here is that my unconscious must be putting a mother of all blocks on things.  The only weak side to this as being the main reason why a ritual would fail is that overcoming these sorts of problems is exactly what magic is designed to do.  Nick Farrell might not be able to overcome his problems, but if he gets the help of an appropriate angel then he should manage it.  After all Michael is the Angel of the Sun and that energy is pretty damn powerful.

Nothing wrong with prayer, just ask a male praying mantis

These are all good reasons, but you notice how close they are to religious ones? God says no, Satan has stopped you?  God has a perfect plan for your life, you have to wait upon him. You are a poor sinner, a slug who is born to suffer and  who can’t overcome a minor problem that others are good at.   This sort of attitude is nothing like such affirmations like “There is no part of me which is not of the gods” and other sayings which hare supposed to model who we are in terms of the universe.
I mentioned that I was playing Devil’s advocate when I asked my question because I expected those sorts of answers.  Other than an interesting suggestion that it might be because I was not prepared to use black magic, they were statements that had been given to me by my teachers over the years: more or less “just have faith.”
Golden Dawn chief Martin Thibeault came closer to my way of thinking when he said that magical failure did not really exist.  He wrote: “Magic is like any other form of action…it has an impact on the world but sometimes the world is not so easily moved.”
He added that a ritual was a form of worship in its own right and even if it did not work it still had value.  Martin and I have something in common that we do not believe in karma or fate. That being said  he thinks that will is the varying factor for rituals to ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’.
Now I agree with some this and so I will post a hypothesis to be tested as to why magic fails.
The world is made up of patterns, cycles and flows which make things happen.  Some of these are the consequences of our actions, others are consequences of God’s.  A magician wants to step outside these patterns and move the elements about himself.  Some things are easier to change than others.  A ritual for me to get $5 should be easier to achieve than one where I win the lottery.  Other things are harder for me to achieve because I have patterns which I find personally challenging, perhaps because of my own experiences.

Hoover dam could be damaged by one person
with a sledgehammer or an energetic ram given
enough time 

These patterns are changed using power which is bought into play by a ritual.  However like some power complexes require a little bit of power, other things require a lot of power bought into action over a longer period of time.  Thus a short ritual, done often enough, will bring about change eventually, in the same way that someone armed with a sledgehammer will eventually collapse the Hoover dam.  In this respect all rituals work, but some will not have enough power to change the flow of energy which creates the bad situation enough.  The rituals need to be repeated, or a more powerful ritual developed.
So if you have a ritual that does not work, the suggestion would be not to give up. Instead do the same ritual several times until it does.
Now, there will be those who do sigil magic, or who followed the BOTA course who will disagree with me here.  Both those systems suggest that you should do your working and forget all about it for it to work properly.    I am not sure that is right, because you end up trying to make some of the excuses I outlined above.   However I have not had much luck with sigil magic either. BOTA would say that you are giving your unconscious a negative suggestion by repeating the working.  The answer to that is that is no more negative than what it already has to work with.  Instead you are giving it a more suggestion that it has more power to work its magic.
The aim then is to keep doing your rituals until the power has reached a point where there is a tipping point and reality is forced to change.


  1. Anonymous

    “So if you have a ritual that does not work, the suggestion would be not to give up. Instead do the same ritual several times until it does.”

    Isn’t a definition of insanity doing the same thing and expecting a different result?

  2. Not really if you fill up a fish tank with one cup… you dont give up after the first one… you keep filling it up until the tank is full. The water idea is apposite. If the block is a dam you are filling it up with water until the dam breaks.

  3. to Anonymous…whoever you might be… the quote is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”…means expecting every time another result, you have missed the point here.
    Perseverance is the secret of all thriumphs 😉

  4. I think the BOTA thing is a way to put more emphasis or power into your actions, I.e. to “wield a bigger cup”.

    In your example of housing, what a terrible situation you faced! I wouldn’t have thought to do a ritual. I would have just moved.

    If you are renting, most countries have laws that your rent can be 100% refunded when there is mould or lice problems.


  5. Not completely. But sometimes things have take a lot longer than I expected to come to fruition. There was Once where I thought I failed and just went . I forgot all about the ritual and the divination until it became realized a year later. And then I remembered. Duh. Next time divine if I can make the results go faster by doing another ritual etc. but I generally believe what you are saying here. Some obstacles are harder to move in one’s life and require more oomph. And then I also believe that sometimes negative stuff happens after results are achieved.

  6. I won’t imply that I have an answer to this, but you have raised great questions here and so I will share my thoughts.

    Astrology is exceedingly important in my opinion. Some failed rituals I did, when going back over them with an excellent astrologer who also does magick, he was able to point out some “deal killers” that I missed. So, there’s that. I don’t believe we can “master the heavens”, per se. I think we can overcome some obstacles of astrology, but mostly we ride the waves, learning to surf them. To fight against a tsunami is sort of insane. But let’s assume you did a chart and had a perfectly beautiful election planned out, and we’ll move on.

    Did God shoot it down? Well, possibly… but I doubt it. Still, I cannot presume the Will of the Almighty. I read just the other day that sometimes the “good” of the Angels is not identical with the “good” of this realm. Meaning that the experience might be seen as “good for you” by God and the Angelic Host. I know, I shudder to think this, myself; just playing “God’s advocate” here 🙂 I have no clue how this moldy experience could be good for you, just throwing it out there that however small the possibility, it might be true, even if it’s beyond my understanding. Next.

    Failed technique: Well, I have a vague idea of your skill level (which is Adept, if I am not mistaken), so I give you the benefit of the doubt that even if you missed something crucial the first few times, you would eventually figure it out and if you had others take a crack at it and they also failed, then that’s clearly not it. At least the odds of bad technique being the culprit become radically reduced. So, I doubt that’s it.

    I would encourage you to take a harder look at the “God says ‘No’ and so that’s that” scenario.

    Now, I do NOT take from this the idea that God and the Angels feel that staying in a pit of mold is somehow good for you. I very highly doubt that they do. But I do believe very strongly that some problems are just not magickal problems at all. I think that sometimes they say something like “No. Work this out on your own, in the mundane way of the world, because there is something in that realm that you need to learn”. In other words, it’s like they are saying “You know how to tackle such a problem via magick and yes, we could intervene here on your behalf and just fix this for you. But that would actually weaken you by causing you to rely too much on magick for your problem solving. We feel it’s in your best interest to fix this problem in a very ordinary way. We’ve looked at the issue and our answer is ‘Fix it yourself’, because that is what will cause your greatest good. You’ll get more out of fixing this on your own”.

    Sometimes we beyond our ability level in this world and so magick is the answer. We need Divine intervention and for that, we look to magick. But sometimes we are not out of our depth, we simply think we are. Now, I do not know what your situation is. You may be in over your head, or you may not. But it can’t hurt to explore the idea that maybe there is a perfectly boring, mundane solution that somehow you overlooked? If there isn’t one there, so be it. But taking yet another look probably won’t hurt.

    I do not mean to be insulting or belittling in any way. You obviously have a very real and very frustrating problem here. If there’s anything I can do to help, I will be glad to try. I don’t presume to have a solution. Bu you asked for a genuine discussion, and this is the best my limited understanding has to offer. So, I give you my best guess. I also offer a heartfelt wish that you are able to get yourself out of that mess as soon as you can.

  7. I am not really having a big problem here… just a couple of duff ritual which made me wonder “why and no one researched why they dont work” and then try to come up with rules or a solution as to the problem. If it is, as I think, that one ritual is not enough then we might have an answer to work with. My rituals generally work!

  8. While I don’t believe that God may be stopping you from going forward, or has a ‘better plan’ I also don’t agree with Dean’s reply that ‘there is certainly an element of us blocking the result’ because all we’re doing is swapping external daemons for internal ones.

    Then again, the ‘sledge hammer theory’ doesn’t seems to be sound either. Why? Because every time the ritual fails you can say ‘oh well, I need to try one more time’ and then eventually when the change manifests you might exclaim ‘and that’s how many times you need to hit that wall to take it down!’. In my mind there’s a lot of magical-thinking and not a lot of magic in that attitude. It’s just not ‘scientific’ enough – you cannot tell how many times you have to perform the ritual until it works.

    There is a story about a magical cure for every disease – you need to put 7 stones in your pocket and each day cast one away. By the time you throw them all out you will be cured. If not, repeat the procedure until you’re cured (or dead). This is exactly the same kind of thinking! I must say I agree with the first comment about insanity.

    Sadly, I don’t have a good answer. I guess everyone has their own answer they are comfortable with. My take is – if it doesn’t work, there’s something wrong with the ritual. Either the procedure was not bulletproof or magic doesn’t work. I think that Magus gave some good ideas. Astrology is often an issue (in my opinion). Unconscious issues – yes, but only to limited extend. As you noticed, you invoke powerful entities to deal with the problem, so personal imperfections should not be in the way.

    Personally, I have a few on my count that did not manifest or manifested much later than specified and it is frustrating not being able to say why. On the other hand, those that did go spectacularly well, one thing they had in common was that they were all spontaneous(ish) and they fell right. That is I felt with all certainty that now is the right time for the change to manifest. Perhaps here lies the key?

  9. Anonymous

    I realize I am anonymous and I apologize for that,

    Frater Nick, I am saving up to buy membership in your order, I respect you in great amounts and deep depths,
    You are quite the inspirational man may I ask you in the hermetic order of the golden dawn they do not suggest that you study the seed of the material you are working with in MOAA, is it a different case?

    Frater Dean, you are another inspirational person, may I say that I have met you briefly in the past.
    And I will be attending Blackrock boarding school in Dublin in September, I saw your YouTube video of your lecture and you executed it very well.

    In LVX

  10. There are differences in approach once you get through the alchemical transformation work and intellectual process of the first order (lots can’t), the second order is serious magical training followed by experimental work. We also incorporate a lot more Whare Ra developments and inner work.

  11. The more I think about it, it is not merely the Magical methods (tech) used. Even more important is the skill and power of the Magician. Can everyone who trains become an Olympic athlete? No. We can only develop our innate talent to the best of our ability. As leaders, this should be our goal – to help our students to unfold their innate talents to the best of their ability. An important piece of this is helping them to understand if the Magical path is really the right one for them to begin with.

  12. Perhaps your objectives are unrealistic? Or perhaps you are addressing the wrong deities? If I repeat a ritual long enough then I change rather than the whole of the rest of existence ……


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