Symbolism isn’t worth a damn if it doesn’t actually reverberate with you.
Or to paraphrase, magic only works for you if it works for YOU.
I officially apologize – I teach all these things in layman’s terms. I don’t end up speaking pretty spell language, encouraging people to gather things according to my own list, or giving anybody a script, ever. But allow me to explain this concept anyway…
Example: If red roses symbolize blood to you, then they aren’t going to bring love. They’re going to bring pain. And if you hate the color orange, it isn’t as likely to successfully stimulate your second chakra, nor is it likely to bring self-love and happiness.
There needs to be a certain level of innate understanding for a spell to truly work for you. Even if it’s just a strong sense of the mystical that reverberates within you, the only time one should use a ready-made spell is if the words and tools feel right.
This is addressing two things. 1. One often finds oneself asking if you can substitute ingredients in a spell. This responds to that with a question – are those ingredients illogical for you to use? If so, then omit them and substitute freely. But the second one is more general. What should magical tools LOOK like, for you?
Which is more sacred: the knife you use to cut the food that will become your body and soul, the one you use to sustain the beings that you grew in your womb – or the one you keep next to candles and incense and only use for “sacred” purposes? What is sacred, after all? Call me a kitchen witch, but… I still have an athame, but for magical purposes I don’t discriminate.
What is sacred? Do we have to keep it in our altars, or can we decorate our houses all over with it? I would expect that the sacred in life is allowed to be…wherever it wants to. Assuming that we aren’t hiding from the world or confiscating its awesome for special occasions only, each moment can feasibly be sacred.
We are given lovely annals of history that describe the many purposes of stones and herbs, trees and colors. But many of the magical purposes in those books are relative to the people who practiced it, and the enemies who owned the rights to a mine, or claimed a color or tree for their own.
Purple became associated with royalty and power because it took thousands of small mollusks being harvested, their inner lining removed, and then pounding the particulates down to a fine powder, in order to color one single royal robe of Greek antiquity. That is a very specific reason for purple to symbolize power. In other areas, red was the color of power and gold was the color of royalty. Heck, even today, the colors associated with our favorite opponents in professional sports are harder for us to embrace, even if it’s only on a joking level!
This doesn’t mean you get to ignore the research of others. You don’t want to use quartz as grounding, because it amplifies. One shouldn’t ignore the amplification process – it would potentially backfire terribly. Just because you decide mint is good for snow magic doesn’t mean that its innate spice won’t potentially interfere if you switch over to peppermint instead of spearmint. And just because chamomile appeals to you as a person, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to help with a spell to bring you energy or riches. You want to be open to personalizing, but aware of the general uses of all the ingredients you use and substitute with.
We are each, as witches, given a certain level of scripting when we first learn magic. I’m not hating on the script. I studied the histories of sacred trees in Celtic history, the stones of potion-making and also the breastplate of Aaron, the herbal work of Scott Cunningham as well as medieval manuscripts alchemical, Islamic, and scientific. These things belong in a large world, though, and as a practitioner, you are the only person who can decide how to personalize for yourself. So feel free to think outside the box.