Spell work... newcomers to wicca want to know more about this individual topic than any other. They ask those of us who have worked the craft for years exactly what to do, what to expect, and how they will KNOW it worked.
Magic, good magic, is almost always masquerading as normal events. You do a spell for money and coincidentally, you receive a job offer the next day. Spells have to work within the confines of the natural order. This means simply- that no matter how much you wish to levitate in your physical body... gravity will prevent it. This means that you wont ever be able to make things happen that nature would not allow. You cannot change the score you received on a test you have ALREADY taken, for example. You cannot revive the dead or turn water into wine (with will alone). For the few of you who wish to disagree with me, I ask you to show of one scientifically verifiable instance when ANY form of magic has acted outside of the bounds of nature or physics, without the aid of illusion.
Now what of those historical magicians who claimed to be able to go against these laws through alchemy? Alchemy is the grandfather of chemistry, practised mostly at a time when many of the "sciences" where overlaid with philosophy and theology. Chemists can do amazing things with substances, melding them together, dissolving them, combining them and more. I honestly don't know a lot about the processes that manipulate matter to transform it from one substance to another. However, for the alchemically inclined, a great understanding of both chemistry and philosophy is useful. Those men used analogy and metaphor often, because they believed that matter was inherently linked to our souls, and god or the gods. All things were believed to be pattered after eachother so that if you could "transmute your mind" (change the nature of your thoughts) then you could similarly transmute matter (aka: turn lead into gold, turn carbon into diamonds) and ALSO transmute such ethereal things as destiny and existence. Even in alchemical and early thought however, they understood that the fabric of the universe is woven through polarities, so therefore... you still must follow the natural order even in the most extreme magical intents.
That being said, magic works best when you put a lot of energy into it. When you are focused and passionate about achieving your goal, it is more likely to come to fruition. Spells and rituals dont nessacarily have to be COMPLEX, they have to be well planned and well CRAFTED... If you do a half-hearted spell, than your outcome will never be nearly as effective as you hope. The best spells are like fine dining; a combination of perfect ingredients, timing, love, and skill created by an artisan. They are just as perfectly simple or complex as they need to be, and it matters not how long or how many ingredients it required so long as the dish (or spell) is fantastic.
So how do you know if a spell worked? To begin with you will find that you will simply have to wait and see... If you dont see results within a month or a year of your spell, then perhaps it didn't work... Eventually you will be able to sense when a spell has been successful. The more you work on developing your intuition, the easier it will become. How does a chef "know" his food is perfect? I mean we all have "cooking tips and tricks" but how do they know to bring a wonderful al dente pasta together with a rich tomato basil and cream sauce at exactly the right moment? ... practice, experience, instinct and craft. No doubt all good chefs botch and few batches of pasta in the beginning.
Sometimes spells dont bring the results you expected. I once did a spell where I yearned to know the goddess. I cast the spell asking to "see her manifest". Hey, I was young and desperate. Anyways I wanted some proof that I was not alone. I expected to some degree that a fair, glowing beautiful vision of a goddess would suddenly appear, arms open... but that isnt what happened. What did was that at the moment I released my energy and searched my circle for my "image" it began to rain. Out of the sky... rain poured down in a torrent, and I knew I had been heard. I still get teary thinking about it...
Now, that spell only worked because they ability of nature to rain was there. As powerful as the moment was for me, it was a simple rainstorm to everyone else. The gods listen, but they dont always answer according to YOUR ideas. The answer they gave me was JUST enough. It was just enough to give me the gently comfort and hope I needed.
So keep in mind that the mechanism by which your spell works may be different than how you personally envisioned it. Instead, know that the spell has worked if the desired outcome, or the path to that outcome shows itself. That means that all the wishing or spells for a job in the world wont get you one if you don't turn in any applications. You probably wont find love if you are unwilling to leave your house.
In time spell work will be natural... like breathing. Most of my spells used to require hours of research, days of planning and loads of writing and rewriting. I had a template to write them in so i didn't forget anything, and then I would do a "practice run" of the spell at the correct time before going back to my original writing and correcting errors. This was useful and taught me SO much.
However, today I tend to do things differently. I do many spells with very little "prep work". Maybe a few minutes of research if needed and the rest is by instinct. I grab materials that "call" to me and toss together a spell for my purpose. I speak my intent from the heart, build up energy and release... Easy, simple. If the spell was useful or I may want to do it again, I jot it down in a spiral notebook for editing. Then I reword anything awkward, and often post it on my blog. The last place a spell usually goes is my BOS (book of shadows) this is because THOSE spells are the most useful ones, the ones worth keeping forever and passing down to my progeny. Overall the proccess is easy, intuitive, and spiritual.
So to those of you who are new to the craft, welcome! I hope that you have some questions answered here...
Good Luck on Your Journey!