The 6 Principles Of Sympathetic Magic & How To Use Them
Sympathetic magic, sometimes called imitation magic, is a creative and intuitive form of witchcraft. The concept behind this magic is that objects that resemble each other (in appearance or energetic qualities) have a connection and can affect each other. Sympathetic magic is all about exploring the connection between those two objects through witchcraft.
There are several ways to interpret this connection, and you might find that you’ve already been making many of these connections in your own witchcraft subconsciously or through your own personal associations.
Principle #1: Things that are similar attract each other.
According to sympathetic magic, things that are similar attract each other. For example, when you use coins in a money spell, the coins themselves aren’t worth that much. However, those coins have the potential to attract money in all amounts. This is also the same idea behind vision boards or using photographs in spells. The images on a vision board aren’t the actual things you want, rather they resemble your desires enough that they can be used to attract what you desire into your physical reality.
Principle #2: What you do to one thing will affect another similar thing.
Another principle of sympathetic magic is the idea that what you do to one thing will also affect another similar thing. The use of poppets in witchcraft is a form of sympathetic magic. Because the poppet is crafted to look like the person it is meant to affect, that poppet is connected to that specific person. If you want to cleanse yourself of unwanted energy, you can create a poppet that looks like you, and leave that poppet out under the full moon. As the moonlight cleanses that poppet, you will also be cleansed.
Another example is when you use fire to burn things during your releasing spells. If you want to banish a certain person, energy, or situation from your life, you can journal about it and burn the journal pages. When the journal pages are burned, they change from paper to ash. The words that you wrote are no longer legible, and according to sympathetic magic, the person, energy, or situation those words were representing will also disappear from your life.
Principle #3: Objects that resemble other objects hold similar energy and can be substituted for each other in spells.
A third way witches use this energetic connection between objects in sympathetic magic is by substituting objects that have similar energies. For example, if you’re calling in the element of earth, you can use something that represents the earth. Objects that are green can be used because many healthy plants found in nature are shades of green. If you’re working with lunar energy, you can use a bowl of water to call the energy of the moon to your altar because the moon affects the ocean tides on earth. Therefore water can represent the moon in sympathetic magic. If your spell calls for solar energy, use sunflower petals because the yellow petals resemble the rays of the sun.
Principle #4: Objects that symbolize other objects can be used to call upon the energy they symbolize.
In witchcraft, keys are often used to symbolize solutions, clearing away obstacles, or creating opportunities. This concept comes from sympathetic magic, and there are many more items you can find symbolism in. Think back to high school English class. What images or symbols showed up in literature, poetry, art, fairy tales, and mythology? All of that is fair game in sympathetic magic.
What does the seed in Jack and the Beanstalk represent for you? Rapid growth? Big aspirations? How can you use that energy in a spell?
What does the forest in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream represent to you? A place of magic? A place removed from the oppressive rules and structure of society where you can truly be yourself without judgement? In that way, how can you use that symbolism in your magic? There are no wrong answers here. Get as creative or abstract as you want when you’re using symbolism to power your magic. It’s like stepping into your own story.
Principle #5: The more similar an object is to another, the stronger the connection. Less similar objects have a weaker connection.
According to sympathetic magic, a dollar or coin will have a stronger connection to the energy of money that a piece of paper with the word “money” written on it. Both can absolutely be used in a money spell, but if you are using the paper with the word “money” written on it, you’ll need to use more of your own energy to fuel that money spell. This concept can be helpful if you’re feeling pretty drained, but still want to perform magic. Rather than expend more energy, you can gather up several objects that represent or resemble money, and let the objects provide most of the power for your spell.
Principle #6: Objects that have been in contact with each other will share an energetic connection to each other even after they have been separated.
A fourth principle in sympathetic magic is that objects that have been in contact with each other will share an energetic connection to each other even when they are separated. That’s why shells hold the energy of the sea even after you remove them from the shore. Someone’s air or clothing will still carry the energy of that person. A bag of dirt taken from the site of someone’s grave will hold the energetic qualities of that person.
Going even further, if YOU travel to a place that holds strong energy like a historical monument or a lively music festival, you will carry that energy even after you leave the area.
Using Sympathetic Magic to Create Your Own Symbolism & Associations
When you get comfortable with these concepts, you’ll be able to use them to create powerful spells that will resonate strongly with your beliefs, memories and life experiences. You can also use the principles in sympathetic magic to make changes to any spell you find online or in a book in order to tailor it to your specific needs and personal beliefs.
Here are a few exercises you can do to discover and identify the beliefs and associations you already hold.
Write down several colors that you use frequently in your witchcraft on a notepad. Red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, and white are common colors in spells. Go somewhere that you know you’ll see a lot of colors. This can be an art museum, a botanical garden, a toy store, or even watching tv. Whenever a color draws your attention, write down the thoughts, feelings, images, or energies that come up for you as you take in that color. Do this until you have notes on every color.
Then look back over your list and see if there are any patterns. Look for colors that bring up similar energies and colors that bring up opposite energies. Think about these personal color correspondences whenever you are creating altars or using candle magic. You might have discovered that you associate white with the energy of love. In that case, use white candles in your love spells rather than the traditional red or pink colors.
Sympathetic Magic In Nature
Spend some time in nature and be intentional about experiencing nature through all of your senses. I recommend jotting notes down in a grimoire or journal, so you can look back on your observations when you’re putting together spells in the future. Notice what your see—colors, shapes, light, shadow, animals, clouds, and plants. Write down what words, images, or energies come to mind when you see each sight. Then bring your awareness to the sounds you hear—the buzzing of insects, the rustling of squirrels, the creak of the branches, the whistling of the wind, and the sound of your own breath. Again, reflect on what energies you associate with each sound. Do this with your other senses as well—touch, taste, and smell.
Then when you’re creating a spell or an altar, look over your notes. Did the crunch of leaves give you a sense of satisfaction or contentment? You might incorporate that sound in a success spell.
Did an unexpected snow flurry make you think of the confetti your friends threw at your wedding? Maybe you can use snow, ice or water for a love or relationship spell.
Sympathetic Magic In Cooking
Whenever you’re cooking, even if you’re just boiling water for pasta, pay attention to any thoughts, feelings, images, or energies you pick up. Maybe the boiling water in your pot reminds you of the determination you experienced when you crossed the finish line of your first 10K race.
Maybe the shiny red of an apple makes you think of the rush you felt when you got to drive your mom’s bright red convertible.
Perhaps the texture of sugar brings up memories of making sandcastles on the beach with your siblings.
Though none of these connections necessarily match the traditional correspondences in magic, because of the power of sympathetic magic, these connections are incredibly valuable to YOU and your personal magical practice.
Spend a day noticing all the words you see on signs, advertisements, books, magazines, or t-shirts. Take notes on what energies you associate with different words, sentences, punctuation, or letters. Use these notes when you’re crafting intentions or incantations for your spells. Notice in particular if you associate any unwanted energies with certain words. Maybe exclamation points make you feel anxious, or you notice that a certain word shows up in the marketing campaign of a company you dislike. Consider choosing different words or punctuation when writing your spells. These little feelings or associations might not seem like a big deal, but they could add resistance in your magic because of the powerful role your subconscious plays in your witchcraft.
Objects That Represent You
Dedicate a few pages in your grimoire or personal spell book for noting any words, objects, colors, images, or even song lyrics that represent you. Many spells, rituals, or altars call for something that represents the witch who is performing the magic. You can always use something that traditionally represents the witch such as the Fool tarot card, candle shaped like a person, or something with your name on it, but you can experiment with using something that feels inherently “you”. Maybe this is a bag of your favorite candy, a book with a character your strongly relate to, or a tube of your go-to chapstick. You’ll know when you’ve chosen the right object to represent you when you feel an immediate intuitive connection by looking at or holding the object.
Sympathetic Magic & Your Witchcraft
Sympathetic magic empowers you to make your own associations! Discover what works for you through trial and error. Because you are always changing and growing, your magic will evolve right along with you. Using the principles of sympathetic magic in your witchcraft will always keep your spells fresh.
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by Julie Hopkins
Julie Hopkins is a writer, yoga teacher, and founder of Power Within, a whimsical online space created to help others improve their lives with magic. She’s from Chicago, but spends most of her time traveling to cool places.
Julie discovered the world of magic after she got tired of reading personal development books and hearing the same ideas over and over. Looking for a new way to grow, Julie started experimenting with tarot cards and felt an immediate connection to her intuition in a way she’d never experienced before. After that, she began studying magic in all its forms, never looking back. When she’s not writing about witchy things, you can find Julie making candles, daydreaming, and playing with other people’s dogs and babies.