I tend to use a fair number of pop culture quotes in my spellwork. “Make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it,” “I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you.” Why? Because the people whose profession it is to come up with powerful words that stick in your head forever are better at doing so than I am. Well crafted quotes can trigger deep emotions and connect to deep energies in ways no words I could come up with would ever do. The story context, emotional cues, and place in popular thought can make the right quote become the best set of “magick words” imaginable.
A spell is, more or less, any deliberate action designed to focus your intent and project it out into the world in order to manifest that intent. The actions you take in the process of casting your spell are designed to: 1) focus and energize your intent, 2) direct the intent to your target, and 3) send the intent and energy to the target to manifest. Arm the missile, target the missile, send the missile. There are almost limitless forms that spellwork can take and almost all of them use either written or spoken words.
Although words are not a requirement, most spells do involve words in some form or another. The majority of the world uses words as their primary form of communication; our brains expect words to narrate and explain what we do. This makes words the natural choice for defining our intent in magickal workings. In spellwork this is most often done via incantation - the words spoken during a spell; quite literally your “magick words.” We use words to define and focus our intent, to describe where we want our energies to go, and often as a trigger for sending that energy out into the world. Quotes can be used in any of these steps if they're appropriate. For some practitioners, particularly the writers and speakers among us, the incantation can be seen as the magick itself. Incantations often use archaic language, rhyming, and specific mental imagery to best connect to our core being. The right quote can do all of those things automatically. The more points of connection in our minds between the words and actions in the spell and what we want that spell to actually do, the greater the volume of energy we transmit to our working and more easily to boot.
Using an appropriate pop culture quote can increase the success rate of spellwork without any extra energy from the caster. A movie quote, song lyric, book passage, etc., can have a lot of power beyond the mere words spoken. Of course, in terms of using quotes in spellwork, the words are the primary basis of power. It’s critical that the words of your quote mesh completely with your intent. It’s better to modify the quote slightly than to use it verbatim and risk it pushing your intent off track. For example if I wanted to use the quote “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope,” while petitioning a specific deity I might exchange “Obi Wan Kenobi” for the name of the deity in question. Further, I wouldn’t want to use a quote spoken in a negative context, no matter how beloved or appropriate the mere words seem, in a success spell (i.e. just about any line from season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Be certain the words of your quote totally and completely mean what you intend.
Beyond the words of the quote is their context and the emotional weight they carry with you. Movie, television, and video game quotes are particularly potent when it comes to the weight they carry within individuals and in popular consciousness. When supported by music, imagery, or movement words become even more powerful as we engage with them more fully. A pivotal line spoken against the backdrop of striking imagery and powerful music becomes iconic and striking (think “‘Till the end of the line”, “As you wish”, or “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you”). Then one must examine the personal context for the quote. Did you see the movie once and kinda like it; does the song lyric get stuck in your head; have you recited these lines more times than you can count since childhood; are they so important to you that you’ve literally tattooed them on your body? While it might not work as well for someone else, as someone with a deep love of the Iron Man movies in general and Phil Coulson in particular I might use the following quote in a binding spell: "If you try to escape, or play any sort of games with me, I will taze you and watch ‘Supernanny’ while you drool into the carpet." The emotional power of the movie you watched over and over during the best summer of childhood or the album that was the soundtrack for your first love taps deep into our souls and personal power, making their words that much more potent.
To the immense well of a quote’s personal meaning, you can also add popular weight. The beauty of pop culture magick is that you can add the power of everyone else who knows and loves your bit of pop culture to its intrinsic power. How well known are the words of you quote? Is your quote a bit obscure, but perfect? Is it from something mildly popular or are the words so ubiquitous that everyone and their grandmothers know them (think “may the force be with you” or “live long and prosper”)? The qualities of appropriateness, personal weight, and popular weight of a quote can give your incantation a lot more bang for your buck than you might think.
Keep in mind that there can be too much of a good thing. Using one or two mindful quotes will serve as powerful exclamation points in your spell. Using too many quotes may have the effects of either diluting their power or muddling your intent as you get wrapped up in your own cleverness. Better to use just a few quotes as attention grabbing flourishes. Is it possible to do a potent and effective spell with a ton of quotes? Of course it is, but it would have to be extremely carefully crafted and probably wouldn’t end up being any more effective than a spell consisting mainly of original language with one carefully curated quote. Then again, a spell or ritual made up of tons and tons of quotes and references could be a fun experiment if you’re willing to do the work to get it right. My personal preference is for just one or two quotes because I want my spells to feel like they’re mine: my words, my emotions, my energies. Using too many words written by others makes me feel like my energy gets diluted. Be mindful of quote density and be sure that your intent is being expressed as fully and powerfully as it needs to be.
Say your right words and you can enhance the power of your spellwork with the weight of popular stories, their emotional cues, and their place in the popular mind. The right quote has built-in connections to immense reserves of power both through individual significance and their place in the greater currents. Used mindfully, pop culture quotes can give your spells an instant and effortless boost in potency and joyfully take your magick to the next level.