First, I want to bring up the whole "An it harm none, do what ye will" thing. I think, honestly, that it is a good credence to live by. I live by this in general with in how I act, how I speak, how I relate to other people and also in how I practice witchcraft and paganism -- But even though I do end up being pretty optimistic about things and people do endearingly call me the queen of positivity back at school -- it's not always love and light. Life is a system of checks and balances -- honest. Opposites are important, and it is vital to understand both sides of the same coin, no matter what. The kind of person you are and your own moral code will guide you to what choices you will make with magic. Your concept of right and wrong alone is the only thing that defines good and bad. That's it. Nobody else can do that part for you. If something makes you feel guilty, or if you begin to regret -- pay attention. If you feel safe and secure and positive, pay attention. You do have some sort of conscience -- everyone does. But it in itself is neither good nor bad, it just is a part of your personality that will help you determine that for yourself.
I read once that "an it harm some, do what ye must" is the way it works in real life with real issues of defense and protection. And sometimes, I find, in issues of equality -- such as a mirror shield that would reflect a spell back towards the caster. Even if someone thought the spell would help, if it is unwanted by the target, it's still harmful -- and so it would be reflected back to the caster by the magic of the target and it would still be harmful.
That doesn't make people who use "dark" spells evil or bad, and I want to clarify that now. Life is not all a walk in the garden. While you do have the ability to make your own happiness -- and not let the way people act or think control how peaceful you are -- we are human. We will face adversity. We will be unbalanced and have to figure out how to defend our peace as best as we can.
I know there are parts to magic that define how well it will work, and the first part of that is belief. But to me, it's not about believing the spell will work. It is about having conviction and knowing that the spell will work, without having a single doubt cross your mind. When I cast any spell, it is a matter of clearing out my mind of our human tendencies to doubt and hope -- and then either speaking or thinking the intention with such conviction that anyone would doubt themselves if they didn't believe me. It needs to be rock solid every single time. And trust me, it takes practice to be able to clear your mind of its system of doubt and belief and just know when casting a spell. It has to be a fact, not a theory.
The next part is intent, which probably should have been the first thing I mentioned. Before you cast a spell, you need to know exactly what the spell is for. Why are you casting it? How are you casting it? What are the possible costs? Is it worth it? Can you handle your own Karma? Do you have enough energy to cast such a spell? The spell needs to be understood better than you understand the back of your hand as you stare at it. There can be no fresh cat scratches or splinters that you didn't notice yesterday -- you have to know it like you know yourself -- even better. How else can you believe/know it will work if you have no idea what the spell is, and what it is going to do? In asking yourself questions like "can you handle your own Karma?" and "Do you have enough energy to cast?" means being able to accept all costs of casting -- you will probably get tired, as all magic drains your own personal energies. You will need to provide energy for your body afterwards, especially if it is a big ritual working. If you cannot provide that basic thing, then you shouldn't intend to cast such a spell. And more importantly, if you cannot accept whatever consequences of casting, either good or bad, or refuse such consequences, then you should not intend to cast the spell. It's that simple. Because in my own experience, if you pretend you can refuse any consequence, it only makes matters worse for you and the spell itself could collapse around your ears. It was a pretend spell to begin with. Intent and total understanding goes hand-in-hand with knowing the spell is going to work.
The next part is will, which also ties in with all of the above. I think of magic like bending your will around the energies required in order to achieve the intended results. Energy itself, as I've been learning, doesn't have a will or a way -- it just is. It makes up everything. The will comes from outside forces and beings. Storms, for example, use and release energy to produce effects such as lightning, which then produces thunder. In the same way, a witch will use energy to cast out a spell. So now that you know every part of the spell you're going to cast -- backwards, forwards, inside out -- now you have to actually cast it. The casting itself is will. You are willing the spell to affect the world in some way. If you have the conviction you need behind your spell, you have the will to cast it already. A spell is all these parts at once. Here's a stupid analogy I heard once upon a time when I was just learning all of this-- it's like a handshake. There's a difference between a sincere greeting and an insincere one, right? You know. You've experienced both. Without will, a spell is just a slack-wrist greeting where eyes don't meet, and the first impression isn't great. In another sense, it's like a house of cards. If one of the cards isn't added completely and properly, it all falls apart and is, in essence, useless.
The last part is the concept of power. There are as many opinions on power as there are people, but for me, honestly, power comes from practice and from understanding. Not from amassing great amounts of energy or casting the most complex ritual magic there is. Because honestly, if you don't know how to deal with the energy, it's about as effective as stabbing someone with a feather and expecting them to be wounded. Not to be snarky. That's just how it works for me. I know magic, but I am no master. There is a lot I haven't tried, haven't read about, haven't learned. I might be able to clear my mind in a short time compared to some, and I may be able to will people to get out of my aura or room, or to prevent them from entering my space in general, but it means nothing. I still do not believe I have that much power -- I need practice. Always. It's a constant thing. I might be less of a novice than others, and that is fine. Power is equivalent to practice in my experience. Once you practice a certain spell enough...for example, just my barrier so the uninvited people can't enter my room... it becomes second nature. You don't have to focus as much to get the results you require. That is power. But know also you may be pit against someone with more practice behind them. If that happens, you learn. Always learn from whatever happens. Do your best if they intend harm -- because usually if you have the total conviction I spoke of earlier, your best may be enough. Never be shaken to doubt that. That ability in itself is also power. It's easier said than done, of course. And we are all only human -- we will all have moments where doubt weaves in, but you still do your best. That's all you can do.
That's my take on magic, and that's how I've come to understand it. As I learn new ways that magic works or different way energies can manifest, I gain new insight and new understanding. With each new insight, I am all at once back to square one -- back to being a novice at that particular skill. Just like with anything else, metaphysical or not. Again, practice and study helps. Weaving witchcraft into your life instead of keeping it separate helps the skill. I know that's not always possible. I am not an expert and my way is not the only way. But here is what I know, and I hope it helps those who are trying to wrap their heads around these concepts.