Once upon a time I lived in the country with a partner. During the last few months of our relationship, as our bond was disintegrating, the rosehips were extraordinarily bright, and ripened early. At the same time, a branch on one of my rosemary bushes died for no apparent reason, leaving the rest of the plant in perfect health.
I took these signs to mean the plants had plans for me, and so I created a love charm, which I assumed was for the on-line store I operated at the time.
Normally when I start a creative project, I have some idea of what I want it to look like in the end. But when it comes to talismans and charms, I always feel the objects have their own agenda, and I have to feel my way through the process. Basically, it begins with the components: in this case, rosemary twigs and rosehips, scraps of silk, and some antique crochet thread I found in a bag of yarn from the thrift store. I spread the pieces out on my table and stare at them. I drink tea. I move things around. I stare at them some more. And then somehow, something clicks, and the object comes together into a harmonious whole. The process is usually time consuming. In the case of the love charm, it took hours. But they were happy, focused, magical hours.
I charged the love charm under the full moon. It was so potent it made me a little nervous. I put it in a box and waited to learn who it was for.
And then my life fell apart. (Or should I say, finished falling apart. The process was a long and slow one.) The love charm was one of the last magical objects I made in my old home: most of my herbal supplies had to be left behind, but the love charm came with me to my new home in the the city. It hid in a box in my altar cabinet for several months while I got my feet under me.
Then, at the beginning of the new year, several months after my new start, I set up an altar and asked for love--true, soul-nourishing love. I was drained and miserable, and I couldn't summon up the reserves for a proper spell. So I retrieved the love charm from its box and placed it on my tiny altar, atop a pile of small chunks of raw carnelian, amethyst, and rose quartz. I added two hand-knit, hand-embroidered hearts I made with a friend years ago, and some beeswax candles.
Less than two months later I fell head over heels in love. We were married a few years ago.
Sometimes I don't know I'm doing magic for myself. When I created the love charm, I didn't need one. But maybe a part of me knew a time would come, several months in my future, when I would need powerful magic, and wouldn't have the resources or presence of mind to do a working of that magnitude for myself. Maybe the spirits directed my hands. Maybe both.
I know magic is largely about intention and focus, but I also know there's a strong component of mystery to it, at least for me. When I do magic, I'm setting things in motion with my will; but I'm also joining forces with energies outside myself, whose methods are different from my own. I think this element of surprise, the entrance of external forces into my carefully laid plans, is what makes magic work when my so-called mundane efforts have failed.
It's also why I never use magic before I make efforts in the physical world first. Maybe other witches are smart enough to control all the variables, but I've always had to allow a lot of room for synchronicity in my life. Yes, my spells almost always work. But they never, ever work the way I expect them to.
Sometimes, as in the case of the love charm, I'm really glad.