Have you ever made a wish in a fountain or well, and were disappointed that it didn’t come true? That’s because you did it wrong. Let me guess; you tossed your coin into a marginally glorified birdbath, just asked for something off the top of your head and expected some vague benevolent supernatural force to go ‘sure, no problem,' and hand it to you on a silver platter? I’m afraid it’s not quite that simple.
Even the most cursory examination of mythology, religion, and folklore will tell you that any gods, fey, or spirits who might be inclined to grant your wish are fickle creatures. They’re sticklers for rituals, and easily offended. If you want your wish granted, it will be on their terms, and you must tread carefully lest you falter and instead earn their ire rather than their favor.
The first thing you need to do is choose a wishing well. Mall fountains are no good, since they’re purely ornamental and their money is eventually collected by their proprietors or too easily stolen by unscrupulous patrons. Malls are also far too crowded and modern, along with being cathedrals to capitalism and consumerism; two things most ancient spirits aren’t overly fond of.
What you need to find is a functional well, one that is or was the primary or even sole source of potable water for the locals. It must have sustained life at some point, making it sacred. The ideal candidate will be older than a hundred and twenty years, older than any mortal who still walks upon the earth. It should look like the proverbial fairy tale well, made of moss-covered bricks with a bucket, hand-cranked pulley, and roof. It needs to be in a rural area; the more bucolic, the better. It should be isolated enough that you can be certain that no one else will see or hear you make your wish, as this will be a confidential arrangement between you and your preternatural benefactor. Bonus points if the area has been abandoned and reclaimed by nature, and if you should stumble upon a well within a circle of wild mushrooms, you’ve hit the jackpot.
The well needs to be deep enough that you can’t see the bottom, and for any coins you toss in to be effectively irretrievable. A wish will only be considered if the coin lands heads up, and if you are unaware which side it landed on. However, the well can’t be so deep that you won’t be able to hear the coin when it hits the water. Oh, and the well does need to still have water in it. For the sake of this ritual, dry wells are just holes.
Once you’ve found a suitable wishing well, you’ll need to select an equally suitable coin to offer up. Fiat currency is completely worthless here, since the powers you’re appealing to don’t recognize or respect any mortal governments. The coin must be of precious metal, preferably silver. It doesn’t have to be pure silver, but the purer the better. Silver, as you’re probably vaguely aware, possesses thaumaturgical qualities. This makes it even more valuable than gold to those of us who dabble in the occult. Copper is also acceptable, however. Silver and copper both have biocidal effects that help keep water clean. By throwing in a coin of silver or copper you are performing a civil service, purifying the drinking water and keeping it safe for your fellows, pleasing the gods.
Like the well, the coin must be older than a hundred and twenty years, and one that predates industrial minting practices will be even better. The best possible coin of all will be one that you did not purchase or seek, but rather one that came to you by sheer luck.
About now you may be thinking that such a coin would probably be pretty valuable in terms of ordinary, material wealth; and that’s the point. No one’s going to trade you a wish for pocket change. The offering is a sacrifice. You must show that you are first willing to give up something of some worth to prove you are sincere and that this wish is not some mere passing fancy. The granting of boons to mortals is not something that spirit folk do casually, and they will be gravely offended if you treat it as such.
That said, you must choose your wish wisely. It must be worth the spirit’s time to grant it, but it also can’t be greedy or excessive. Try to avoid wishes that are overly materialistic or selfish. As a general rule, spirits regard the material plane as illusory and consider everything in creation to be highly interconnected and interdependent. Wishes that help you help others will be seen as more deserving than ones that are blatantly self-serving.
The wish should be something that would have been difficult or impossible for you to have done on your own, but not humanly impossible. If you wish for an overt miracle you will almost certainly be denied. The wish should not rouse too much attention since, as already stated, this is a confidential arrangement between you and your benefactor. The wish also mustn’t cause too much collateral damage. For example, do not wish for a prominent public figure you dislike to die or otherwise be removed from office. The spirits care not for your petty politics, and will not risk throwing our world into chaos in exchange for a silver coin.
Do not wish for petty vengeance. But, if you are certain you have been justly wronged, wishing that your wrong-doer be punished is acceptable.
Once you’re confident your request is reasonable, you’re ready to make a wish.
When you make the wish matters. Nighttime is better than during the day, with the moon up and unobscured by clouds. As mentioned, the well needs to actually have water in it, so avoid making your wish during the winter. I know that it has to be pretty cold for groundwater to freeze, but better safe than sorry. Besides, the weather should also be reasonably clement, though that’s more for your ease in conducting the ritual than it is for the spirits’ sake.
The best possible date I could recommend for this would be Midsummer’s Eve, as that is a date when the Veil between the physical and astral planes is relatively weak, and the spirits will generally be in a festive mood and feeling generous. Any of the remaining Sabbats outside of winter would be an equally good second choice.
You’ll need to walk to the well alone, ideally from home. If this is not possible, park your vehicle at least one mile away and out of sight of the well, and make the rest of the journey on foot. This constitutes a token pilgrimage and is the first part of the ritual. Carry no weapons, no electronics, and the only money on your person should be what you intend to sacrifice.
Once you’re within no more than seven feet of the well - or outside of the mushroom ring if you were lucky enough to find one of those - you must stop, bow respectfully, walk the entire perimeter once counter-clockwise, and then bow again before approaching the well. Lower the bucket, and fetch a pail of water. Using both hands, cup the water and sip a handful of it. Drinking from the well is important since taking even a sip of life-sustaining water from it makes you a beneficiary of its guardian spirits and brings you to their attention. One sip is enough though, and it's probably best to avoid drinking too much since the water may very well not be potable anymore.
Once you’ve taken your drink, knock exactly three times on the roof, loudly enough that you can hear an echo coming from below. You then need to shout loudly into the well:
“Wishing Well, Wishing Well, have I found a Wishing Well?
Will you take my coin tonight? Will my dreams come true at day’s first light?”
Wait until any echo has completely died down before bowing again, then shout your wish down the well. Again, wait for the echo to die before bowing and tossing your coin. Throw it in with as much flourish as you can, such as flicking it with your thumb and forefinger. If you miss, you’ve botched the entire ritual. Pick up the coin and try again another time. But if you do hear the ‘plunk’ of the coin hitting the water, you’ll need to bow once more.
You are only permitted to make one wish per coin. If you can find three suitable coins, you can make three wishes. It is recommended that you make three wishes since each only has a fifty percent chance of being considered. Toss in three coins, and the odds that at least one of them will land heads up is nearly ninety percent.
Three is the limit though. Any more will be seen as greedy, as will trying to shoehorn multiple wishes into one, wishing for more wishes, or anything of that nature. Basically, any attempt to cheat your benefactors will offend them, and you need them to like you for this to work.
After you’ve made your wish or wishes, walk the perimeter clockwise, bow, and then return to your home or vehicle. You must wait at least a year and a day before using that wishing well again, but if you can find another well, you’re free to use it whenever you please.
It's important to note that the wish you're making is an 'open offer' of sorts, and there's no guarantee any spirit will take it up. If one does, there's a not-insignificant chance that it will be mischievous, malevolent, or even just plain incompetent. Be aware that there's a risk of a 'monkey’s paw' scenario with this ritual, and a wish could backfire, have consequences you didn't anticipate, or just be fulfilled in the worst way imaginable.
Less common, but more dangerous, is when a spirit decides that they want more than a coin from you, and will use your initial wish as a ‘foot in the door’ to entice you to make more and bigger sacrifices. Exactly how they’ll communicate with you will vary, but that doesn’t matter. They’re not to be trusted. Ignore them. No matter what they say, no wish they grant you will ever be worth what they ask in return. Some are more persistent than others, and the worst of them may go beyond mere pestering and actually start threatening you or causing harm, but all will give up eventually. Be warned though, that your resolve may crack before their's does.
Those risks aside, if you do manage do find a benign spirit willing to grant your wish, you should notice a change in your fortunes at the first opportunity. The right wish combined with the right benefactor can have an enormous impact over time. Career opportunities and business prospects you otherwise would have missed will present themselves to you. Chance encounters with well-connected or otherwise desirable people will become more frequent. You will more easily become adept at whatever skill you practice, improved interpersonal skills will raise your social standing or advance your love life, and you could even live to be over a hundred if that’s what you wanted. It’s not hard to see why so many people find this ritual alluring.
But there is one final risk you need to know about before you try this yourself, and it’s one you’ve likely heard since your earliest birthdays; if you tell someone your wish, it won’t come true. Confidentiality is a condition of your pact with the spirit who granted your wish. If you ever tell anyone what you wished for, if the wish can be undone it will be undone. If it can’t, then you’re in even more trouble. You will find yourself subjected to a sudden tide of misfortune, enough to cancel out the benefits of your wish, not just in the present but every benefit you’ve ever derived from it. That’s if the spirit is content with merely annulling the wish. They may feel you deserve additional punishment for your breach of contract, or that it would perhaps be prudent to make an example of you. As I said, they're sticklers and easily offended.
You will almost certainly be tempted to make another wish to undo the damage, but this is the worst thing you could possibly do. The offended spirit will no longer be willing to consider wishes from you, and trying to get one spirit to undo the work of another will be seen as an egregious sin. Not that another spirit would ever consider your request in the first place, as you’ve effectively been blacklisted by them at this point.
Anyone who’s ever attempted to make a wish after telling someone else what they wished for – or even telling someone what they planned to wish for before doing it - has never returned and were never seen or heard from again. It’s not known for certain what becomes of them, but some clairvoyants say that the angered spirit or spirits will rise from the well and pull the offending party down with them to drown. Their rotting corpse will be left to befoul the well, denying its life-sustaining water or life-changing wishes to anyone else.
Be aware of all these risks and perils before attempting this ritual, and make sure you wish for something that’s worth the danger. Mind your manners, never speak of your wish to another living soul, and – if you do – never go anywhere near a wishing well again.
I wish you luck.
Written by The Vesper's Bell