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Once you change something in the past, anything from that point forward becomes uncertain. The future, as you can see, is a blank page.

Rumplestiltskin to Hook and Emma Swan src

The Time Travel Spell is a spell featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. It first appears in the twentieth episode of the third season.


Before First Curse

A long time ago, the Time Travel Spell was written in the dawn of the Dark Arts, but had yet to be cast. ("Bleeding Through")

Abandoned at birth by her mother, Zelena becomes immensely jealous of her half-sister's extravagantly royal life. She asks the Wizard of Oz to send her back in time so her own past can be rewritten, but he states that's not possible. In her frustration, Zelena pulls down a curtain, unveiling the Wizard as a fraud, and then turns him into a flying monkey to punish him for his deception. ("It's Not Easy Being Green")

Temporarily, Zelena gives up obsessing about changing the past when Glinda welcomes her into a sisterhood of witches. Glinda believes, per a prophecy in the Book of Records, that Zelena is the destined Witch of the West. However, this foretelling proves to be faulty as Zelena suspiciously believes a newcomer, Dorothy, will steal her seat. After faking her own death, she masquerades as the Wizard and sends Dorothy home. Zelena then banishes Glinda to the Enchanted Forest and becomes more determined than ever to change her own past. ("Kansas")

Coming from the future to the Enchanted Forest, Emma and Hook accidentally change history by interfering during Prince Charming and Snow White's first encounter. Nonetheless, Emma and Hook set things right by ensuring the two meet in order to leave the future unchanged. Having saved a woman, Marian, who was set for execution, the two decide to take her with them to the present. They obtain a wand from Rumplestiltskin to make a portal, but he warns only those who have traveled through it can recreate one. Since Emma cannot, he entraps her and Hook in his vault. Casually, Hook pulls out an urn from a cabinet; hoping it has some use to take them home. Emma, reaching an epiphany, realizes she now truly considers Storybrooke as her home, which restores her lost magic. After she opens a portal, Hook and Marian are sucked in. Before Emma joins them, she tells a demanding Rumplestiltskin about his missing son, Baelfire, who dies in the future to save them all. As Rumplestiltskin lets her go, he drinks a potion to forget learning such devastating information. Emma, as well as the urn, are pulled back into present-day Storybrooke. ("Snow Drifts", "There's No Place Like Home")

Before Second Curse
Through some means, the Wicked Witch of the West, Zelena, discovers four key ingredients for enacting a time spell; a symbol of wisdom, courage, love and innocence. When Prince Charming and Snow White learn she wants to steal their unborn child, they consult with Glinda, who confirms their daughter, Emma, is their only hope of defeating Zelena. Thus, Snow White casts another curse to reach Emma, sacrificing her husband's heart, though Zelena interferes by adding a potion to erase everyone's memories of the last year in the Enchanted Forest. Zelena, however, retains her recollections by ingesting an elixir. ("A Curious Thing")

During Second Curse

After the second curse is cast, Zelena poses as a midwife to get close to a pregnant Mary Margaret, whose unborn child will serve as a symbol of innocence for the time spell. She also works on obtaining a symbol of courage from David by drugging him with night root and forcing him to fight a manifestation of his own fears. Armed with his sword, David kills the illusion with a spark of courage. Following the battle, the weapon disappears and ends up in Zelena's possession. ("Witch Hunt", "The Tower")

With her true identity as the Wicked Witch disclosed to the public, Zelena attempts to gain a symbol of love by tearing out the heart of her half-sister, Regina. Unexpectedly, she is outsmarted as Regina cleverly took out her own heart prior to the battle and hide it elsewhere. Zelena retreats from the fight, and later admits to an imprisoned Mr. Gold that she isn't collecting ingredients for a curse, but to change her own past. ("Quiet Minds", "It's Not Easy Being Green")

Since Emma's light magic is Zelena's greatest weakness, she curses Hook's lips and orders him to kiss the savior and drain all her magic. Then, Zelena distracts Regina while Mr. Gold takes her sister's heart from Robin Hood. ("The Jolly Roger", "Bleeding Through")

After Second Curse

Shortly after Regina breaks the second curse by giving Henry a kiss of true love, Mary Margaret goes into labor. Though Emma prevents Zelena from closing in by blocking her with a shield, she forfeits her magic in order to resuscitate a drowned Hook. With the barrier gone, Zelena breaks into the hospital room to steal Mary Margaret's newborn son. In a barn house, she assembles all the ingredients on a drawn symbol, preparing to cast the spell, when David, Emma, Hook, Regina and Robin Hood arrive for a battle. Harnessing new-found light magic, Regina immobilizes Zelena and stops the spell by taking away Zelena's pendant, which is the source of her magic. She later stores it in a vault. Left powerless and confined to a jail cell, Zelena is killed by a vengeful Mr. Gold. Unseen to him, her ashes dissipate and the pendant, giving off a green mist, activates the time spell. ("Kansas")

Through some investigation, David and his allies find Zelena missing, though Mr. Gold magically manipulates the situation to make it seem as if Zelena simply annihilated herself in order to activate the time spell. They decide to stay away from the time portal for now, but Emma and Hook are sucked into it. Unknown to them, Zelena's life essence also travels to the past with them, where she regains her body, and spies on Emma and Hook as they devise a way to bring one of the Evil Queen's prisoners, Marian, to the present with them. Once the pair leave an unconscious Marian alone for a few moments, Zelena kills her and assumes her form. She is then taken to present day Storybrooke with them. As a further consequence of time travel, the portal Emma reopens to return home sucks in an urn containing a trapped Elsa. After freeing herself from the urn, Elsa sets out to explore Storybrooke. ("Snow Drifts", "There's No Place Like Home", "Heart of Gold")


Additionally, a drawn outline of a compass symbol on the ground is required with each symbolic bearing facing in the direction of the real bearing, and the caster must stand inside while casting the spell.

Ways to Break the Spell

  • Regina uses her light magic in order to expel Zelena from the symbol carved into the ground and stop the spell. ("Kansas")


On-Screen Notes

Fairytales and Folklore

  • These elements are derived from the items sought by Dorothy's traveling party in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—the Scarecrow's brain, the Tin Woodman's heart, and the Cowardly Lion's courage.


Note: "Archive" denotes archive footage.


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