Updated: Sep 23, 2018
I found a baby bird outside my Dad's house the other day. It didn't have its wings yet, and it perched in the grass chirping in distress. We fed it worms, picked the ants off it and stuck it safely in (what we assumed was) the nest he fell out of. There was an egg in that nest, and while hopes weren't high, it was all we could find and do.
Spoiler: The little bird didn't make it and the odds were stacked against it. But that didn't stop this hedgewitch from sprinkling some lemon verbena and salt around the base of the tree in an attempt to protect the bird and ask nature spirits to help it live (lemon verbena is archaically associated with invoking nature spirits and salt...well, we all know about salt).
I find this experience mimicked what we all might experience during any spell casting, even if it is an unexpected small ritual conducted on the spot.
Anyone who has spent the time preparing and conducting spells or ritual work knows the disappointment if (read: when) a spell doesn't come to fruition. It's almost a rite of passage for any witch. And even the crones among us still re-evaluate what could have been done better, stronger, at a different time, etc. While that's always a possibility, it may not be anything you've done in particular; let's take a look at what could have gone awry.
Not Enough Correspondences
Spell work operates, in part, on having as many correspondences as possible aligned toward one goal and molding the energies they have with our words to send out into the ether our desires. And while a candle is beneficial, let's consider all you could incorporate to increase the energies that your spell has:
Adornments: Clothes matter. If you've ever been underdressed or overdressed for anything, you know just how true that statement is. Your spellcasting clothes are no different. I'm not suggesting you purchase full-on witchy garb (though it's definitely cool if you do), but be mindful that you may not feel "in it" when you're in the same shirt that has dried toddler cookie goop on it. More about prep later.
Specific Colors: Colors are important, as they invoke certain moods and intentions, but think about specifics of what you need and what variety of colors you're using. For instance, your spell may be about increasing your finances, but you may want to consider incorporating red for increasing the bravery and courage needed to seek out money-making opportunities in your everyday life. Adding that specific color can help mold the energies you send and, ideally, change the situation so that you can make money.
Herbs: Herbs are a great, cheap addition to correspondences. You can often purchase herbs by the ounce or as a plant for a few dollars (maybe more if purchased online). They're also versatile; use them dried or fresh and, for some herbs, eat them later as inclusions in ritual food.
No Ritual Preparation
We often call it spell-casting or spellwork and reserve the term "ritual" for longer-winded activities, like celebrating Samhain with a ritual for the dead. But really, we need to consider every spell-casting activity as a ritual in that we need to prepare for them much like we would for a lengthy ritual. Doing so gets you in the mindset of what you're about to do, because it's hard trying to do a spell for healthy relationships when you've just changed the rabbit's cage and are still writing work emails in your head (I'm not projecting. Who's projecting? IT'S YOU! Just kidding.) Whether your prep involves changing clothes, taking a bath, giving yourself a massage, setting up your altar space with correspondences (see how we're connecting to the previous point?), meditating or just completing your work so you're not thinking about it, how you prepare is vastly important because it determines how much energy you have to manifest your intention.
Assistance is Needed
Sometimes our energy levels are low, because we can't be full-time practitioners and bills need paid, kids need to know where (insert out-in-the-open item here) is, and we deserve to zone out in front of YouTube for an hour before bed. When that happens, or when we know we're asking for a large undertaking, it might be best to ask the elements, the moon or the sun, or any relevant gods or goddesses to help. I don't mean demanding their presence. I don't mean begging them. I don't mean leaving it up to them. I don't mean a simple "Moon, I ask for your presence." Invoking the elements means calling the corners; invoking the moon (or more dangerous: drawing down the moon) is a lengthy process; working with gods and goddesses takes reverence and courage. Understand your undertaking. But don't be afraid to ask for more energy.
Assessing the Motive
Right on the heels of that concept lies an assessment of motive. After all, if your motive is to manipulate another into love, your god or goddess may not agree with your intent. In fact, often, overly ambitious or selfish intentions have been considered taboo, and the spell-caster is rarely successful. While some who practice differing witchcraft-based practices, like Voodoo or Hoodoo, may disagree, the Rule of Three and the Wiccan Rede dictates that harm to others guarantees harm to self. Consider whether you're shooting yourself in the foot by asking for more than you need.
While these may be affecting be your spell work, one of the main reasons may be that the answer from the universe it a big no. And that's hard to take. Why not? It may take some re-evaluation of the why, but by taking care of the "hows," you can better help any future spellwork you conduct. After all, witchcrafting is a process and getting to the crone stage takes time and hard work.