Crafting Effective Petitions

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When you book a service with me, I usually ask you for a one- or two-sentence petition, prayer, or request. If you’re doing work for yourself, you’re free to create petition papers and name papers however you please, but the principles outlined here might help you create more effective ones if you’re newer to this practice in the hoodoo tradition.

One of the reasons I ask for clients to send a one or two sentence petition is that it requires them to prioritize and helps avoid the common trap of trying to do way too much with a single light setting or mojo bag, for instance. These work best when they are focused, and the light setting reports are more valuable that way too.  Otherwise you don’t know which of the many facets of a complex petition the various signs are reporting on, so the trick is to think of each light setting in terms of the spiritual action you want it to do. Same with mojo bags and pendants or any paper you set under a candle.


Usually, petitions work best with one main subject and one main verb, and no more dependent clauses than you can comfortably speak out loud. If you run out of breath speaking your sentence aloud, your petition is probably too complex (not always, but a decent rule of thumb).

And there is a bit more to it than just fitting your petition into a sentence or two.  The stuff in the sentence needs to logically connect and needs to be complementary, so that I don’t end up setting a light or making a mojo that is too “diffuse” and working in too many directions at once to be able to do a particularly good job of any of them.

Examples of good, focused petitions:

  • May the members of this household, name, name, and name, live together in peace and treat each other with patience and understanding. (for a peaceful home working)
  • Bind Jane Doe from spreading malicious gossip and slander. (for a binding working aimed at stopping gossip)
  • St. Christopher, protect me from all danger while traveling. (for a St. Christopher light setting and Safe Travel mojo bag being made simultaneously)
  • May the hiring manager at Smith Enterprises view my application favorably and offer me the job this month. (for a working to get a specific job)
  • Remove obstacles and red tape associated with my business license. (for a road opening working)

Case Study

I recently got a petition to remove obstacles in a business situation – or at least that is how the petition started.  But it went on to request things about clientele, about the rate of incoming projects, and about how the partners were communicating.  “Remove obstacles” is a good example of a spiritual action.  Everything that is included in the petition should logically make sense as going along with that action.  “Remove obstacles standing in the way of regular incoming work” makes sense.  Even adding “so that the business partnership is steady and profitable” would make sense. 

But once you add something about a business partner’s attitude toward you or the business, that’s becoming a new, separate issue, and then to work on having him make better decisions is yet another issue.

This is part of why I ask for sentences and not just intentions or wishes.  It’s not that it cannot make sense to want to remove obstacles towards him deferring to your experience or whatever, it’s just that it doesn’t necessarily make sense as stated, as a petition to “remove obstacles,” and it seems like something else would make better sense.

Notice that none of these examples are *affirmations.* They are not written in the present tense as if the desired situation or event had already come to pass, e.g. “I am married with my dream home and dream career.” By definition, a petition is a request or appeal, usually to an authority (be it a saint, spirit, God, the universe, however you are working/conceiving of it), but not always – sometimes they are addressed towards your target if you’re trying to influence them, for instance. But they are not affirmations – affirmations work on an entirely different principle *when they work at all.* For more on the difference (and how/why affirmations often do not work at all, see this article on petitions vs. affirmations (forthcoming).

And spiritually, it would – the target would no longer be the business but him, and the desired action would no longer be “remove obstacles” but “listen to me” or “be wiser” – for which you would want not Road Opener but perhaps Commanding, for you, or King Solomon Wisdom for him (or both of you).

By the same token, then, with a petition that complex, it’s hard to say what the signs I see in the candle’s progress are referring to.  If the work to remove roadblocks keeping new clients away is fine but there are some big, deep-seated issues interfering with the partnership between the two business owners, it’s asking a lot to ask me to tell you whether this streak of soot has to do with the one and this squiggle of wax with the other. Sometimes signs are clearer – a certain shape or symbol may give me more specific info – but sometimes they are not. So especially if you are concerned with the “report” part of your light setting and whatever signs may come through the candle burning, it’s best not to try to cram too much into one light setting.  It’s not impossible to do complex spellwork that does a few different things at once, but it’s usually going to involve something more complex than a single vigil candle.

I get this with relationship stuff a lot.  Someone will send a light-setting petition for their ex to leave the new partner and come back to them.  Or they will ask to draw John Doe for a serious loving relationship leading to marriage and healthy children and the ability to be a stay at home mom.  I guess the idea in their heads is that their worker will make up a combo of oils and herbs for whatever they want.

But it can be helpful for them to think in terms of conditions or formulas, which are all created around specific “actions” or “directions,” instead of just thinking of petitions. We have to read what you want and find the right approach to manifesting it. It might involve combining formulas like Crown of Success with Steady Work, or Come to Me with Love Me Now, but there are some “basic building blocks” or basic principles that we are going to have to start with.

A single Attraction working can draw more than one thing – love, luck and money for instance – but that’s not the same as trying to draw money AND putting the smackdown on your competition at work. See the difference? What energy do you want? Do you want want confusing, crossed up energy being raised?  Or do you want loving, forgiving, attracting energy to be raised?  A single light can work towards sowing dissension between two people OR drawing one of the people to a third person, but not both at the same time (I’m referring to simple, one-color, one-layer vigil candle settings here). If you want both, get two vigil lights. (Or do some altar work that is more complicated than a single, one-color vigil candle.)

Or sometimes the desired action is overly specific or tries to project too far into the future.  Do you want a new lover?  Do you want a marriage and three kids?  Ok, but you can’t have all that this week, so why not just do things in order?  If you MUST have it so the new partner is willing to have three kids and let you stay home with them and so you don’t want to waste time drawing somebody who just wants to party, maybe you want to work on “drawing a marriage-minded partner with solid income and good future prospects and an openness to traditionally gendered family roles.”  Otherwise, when the candle burns black, I don’t necessarily know if the problem is that John Doe is not interested, or is interested but already married, or is interested in marrying you but is impotent and opposed to adoption or already has seven kids he’s paying child support for, or is interested in marrying you and having kids but wants to stay home with them himself, or is about to get a job in another country or get fired or get committed to a mental hospital or WHAT.

If you stick to one thing at a time, then you’ll get a report on one thing at a time – a report you can use and understand. Otherwise, your report may not be much more useful than “signs show that you will not get everything you want when you want it.” Or “signs show a good chance for eventual success, after delays.”  I don’t know about you, but I prefer to get more specifics than that.  But I can’t give them to you if your petition is all over the place or trying to do too much.

This principle of “directionality” (which I discuss in more detail, in another context, at this post) explains why you sometimes see two-toned candles (or even three-toned ones), which are usually called something like “double action candles.” They are designed to do two things, often to work in two different directions, to both “push” and “pull,” or, to be more precise, to reverse bad luck and draw good luck, for example, or to remove love (or money) jinxes and draw love (or money).  So they are made to do two things at once – on the face of it.

But if you understand how these are used and the symbolism, you’ll see it’s not a simple matter of “combined the herbs do x” with x equaling *everything in the whole world that you want right now,* or “together the colors symbolize y” with y equaling *everything related to this relationship that you want to change.* They are made in sections, basically like two candles combined into one, because it’s *also* a question of “directionality” – the herbs or colors may do two [or more] things, but the candle does one thing at a time. FIRST it uncrosses or removes, and THEN it attracts or draws or whatever.  It’s not substantially different from burning two candles, one for uncrossing and then one for attraction, one after the other (though in the case of reversing work, or cases where you literally burn a candle at both ends, two-toned candles can get more complex than that, but I’ll leave that for another post).

The black and purple votive is a double-action Uncrossing and Protection candle, of the type available at my shop.

So you need to think logically about the tools you’re using and make sure you are doing first things first and not getting one vigil light to try to work in too many directions at once.  The process of drafting a petition can help you do this. Sometimes, then, it’s helpful to start thinking about your light setting petition NOT with a sentence, but with a sort of verbal sketch.  You can start with a phrase or verb, and then tack things on. Make sure those things link logically to the phrase or verb.

Back to the business example, you might do this:

  • Desire: remove obstacles to business progress.
  • What obstacles? obstacles to new clients, obstacles to new investors, obstructions preventing me and my partner from communicating clearly.

This will “translate” into multiple targets, but they all hang on or refer logically back to that desire — which you will note conveniently contains a verb, aka an action word. (Never knew grammar would help with you spellcasting?  It can!)

And the desire or action will “translate” into something like Road Opener.  THEN you write your sentence for your petition: “Open the way to better business and remove obstacles preventing an increased client pool, new potential investors, and good communication between me and my partner.”

There are, of course, other ways to approach these same goals — and in this case, this is still kind of a clunky petition, though it’s much improved. But once I read the whole petition in my client’s example, which did NOT center around a particular action or formula or verb or anything but was a cluster of assorted desires all related to business, I thought of many possible ways to approach it (and “remove obstacles” would probably not have been my recommendation).  In this case, it might make more sense and be less strained to think of what these assorted goals have in common – is the bottom line that business needs to be improved, and you see all these things as being needed to improve business?  Then make that your desire:

  • Desire: improve business.
  • How? by drawing new clients, by drawing a steady stream of projects, and by fostering understanding and clarity between me and my partner on business decisions.

If I received this petition with a new light setting booking, I might handle it with a Better Business vigil, since that is a formula that works on money/income issues but also works on attracting people who want to spend money AND on improving communication by making tongues “smoother” and speech more appealing. (Or I might still recommend two vigils – this is still kind of a lot for one working and the understanding and clarity really seem like they need their own working.)

But say the real issue is not so much that you are your partner aren’t communicating – it’s that your partner isn’t taking you seriously, and/or you can’t agree, and it’s hurting the business.  And what you *really* need, in addition to new clients and steady incoming projects, is not so much to “gain” more or better communication, but for your partner to act differently towards you.  And come to think of it, you need him to also *follow your lead* – you need more respect, more power in an imbalanced business relationship.

You might then have trouble writing out a petition where everything is based on one action, and that’s because you really have two or more things going on.  (And in this case, which is based on a real life example, I do think the stuff with the partner does not quite “fit” neatly into any of the petitions/formulas that we’ve imagined up to now).

The solution?  More than one petition, which equals more than one light setting.  The income end of things lines up neatly with an attraction/drawing focus: “Improve business by drawing new clients and a steady stream of projects and income.”  That is what Better Business and/or Steady Work was invented for.  And the partnership might need the real focus to be on the other partner and not on the business per se: “May John Smith respect me, listen to my ideas, and follow my lead on business decisions.” That is what Commanding or Do As I Say was invented for.

Or you could leave out the details and just book a light setting for business success, and not specify exactly what components you want to affect if you are not absolutely sure exactly what the problem is.

It really is up to you and we workers need you clients to tell us, in your petition, what is most important.  If you say you want Road Opening, well, I’ll set a Road Opening light.  It might not be the right thing for the job though, so if you find yourself with an unwieldy petition, think about all the moving parts and if they fit, or if some can wait for later, or be left out, or maybe need a second light setting.

Bottom Line

So yes, I need a petition to set your light.  And I need it to be one or two sentences so it will fit on a petition paper and so that you don’t write me a life story but send me something focused so I can clearly see what the bottom line is.  But I most of all need to understand the proper spiritual approach to take for your case, which involves choosing the proper formulas and herbs and saints and colors and prayers and the like.

I will personally be happy to help you if you have doubts or questions about your petition, and most workers will do the same. I am happy to read a draft petition and give you feedback on it, if you aren’t sure about yours.

Just keep in mind that this whole thing will go smoother and quicker if you have given it some thought yourself, too, and made an attempt to get your needs boiled down to a sentence or two.  If you have to write out a Great Big Wall of Text or your life story in order to sort through your own thoughts and arrive at a clearer understanding of what you need and what the major issues are, that’s actually normal. A lot of people process that way.  Just try to summarize your goals in a sentence or two when you’re done, and give that summary somewhere near the beginning, so I don’t have to duplicate those processing and distilling efforts 🙂

If I’ve made writing a petition sound harder than you ever thought it would be, don’t let me scare you off.  More times than not, a simple heartfelt statement of your needs or desires is just perfect and works great as a petition.  But complex situations – and those involving relationships with other human beings are almost always complex, whether that relationship is business or romantic or familial — sometimes need a bit more thought.

Writing a good petition can help you focus your magical work.  But it can also help you focus on and evaluate your own priorities in life, and sometimes that is by itself powerful magical work.  So don’t feel silly if you find yourself investing time into a petition – it’s a statement of intent and/or position and/or identity and/or dreams, given in a ritual context, to the universe, the spirits, God.  So it’s worth a few extra minutes and a little extra thought!