Grovedaughter Witchery

Advice for Beginners

The best thing to do when you’re starting is to do lots of research. Look into the different philosophies and religions under the pagan umbrella. Talk to witches on tumblr, get a first-hand account of their practices if they’ll allow it.

Read blogs and articles and field guides about herbs and trees. Gain an understanding of basic biology, chemistry, and physics. Develop a base of practical knowledge in addition to magical theory and spells. It doesn’t have to be encyclopedic; you just need a basic understanding of how things work in the physical sphere in order to work effectively in the metaphysical one.

Discover why there is no such thing as “black” magic and why there are some formerly common words (g*psy, spirit animal, smudging, totem, chakra, karma, etc.) which you should never use improperly again. Learn about cultural appropriation and why you should never, ever do it. Become aware of the social issues facing the pagan community.  Make yourself socially aware and socially responsible.

Learn about yourself. Discover what speaks to you. Develop your own set of beliefs, your own set of practices. Understand and accept that these can and will change as you continue to learn. Understand that witchcraft is a practice, not a religion, but that you can apply religion to it, if that is your wish.

Be aware when you look for book sources that a lot of authors in pagan literature are coming from a Wiccan or Neo-Wiccan viewpoint. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to know, and it’s important to read critically. Steer clear of books by Silver RavenWolf, Laurie Cabot, Margaret Murray, Edain McCoy, and D.J. Conway. These have been known to be problematic and rife with incorrect information. If you do pick up books by these authors, be sure to double-check the authors’ claims, particularly where history is concerned.

And remember: Not all witches follow the Wiccan Rede.

Respect your fellow practitioners, no matter what deities they do or do not follow. That includes the Satanists, the Luciferians, the Lokeans, the Christopagans, the secular witches, the atheists, the Pop Culture Pagans…EVERYONE. Do not knock it because you don’t understand it.

Expect that as a new practitioner you’re going to catch some flack if you make a mistake. Don’t take it personally. Consider your mistakes to be valuable learning opportunities. If you’re in the wrong and an apology is called for, make one. Learn from that too.

There is no one right way of being a witch or practicing witchcraft. There are only three hard and fast rules:

  1. Be respectful of the beliefs and practices of others, even when you don’t agree with them. (That includes not forcing your beliefs on others.)
  2. Never stop learning, always seek more knowledge and experience than you had yesterday.
  3. Don’t be an asshole.

Discovering your area of expertise may not happen right away; some specialties only come with time. There are three things you can do to help yourself along the way:

  • EXPLORE - Read. Network. Talk to people. Find out about all kinds of shit you can do with magic. Find out what types of magic interest you. Find out which types of magic are appropriate for you to be practicing (be careful not to take things from closed cultures or religions).
  • LEARN - Make a list of magical things that pique your interest. Study up on those things. Talk to people who include those things in their practices and see if they’re willing to give you some advice. Build up a knowledge base.
  • PRACTICE - If it holds your interest through all the studying, give it a try. Start with the basics and hone your skills. See if it feels right. If it does, keep at it. If not, move on to the next thing.

If you’re going to work with herbs, definitely get your hands on some medical books and field guides. It helps to be able to identify the plants and also to be aware of any health risks associated with using or handling them. Here are a few that I recommend:

  • The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines (Fetrow & Avila)
  • Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (Rodale Press)
  • Western Medicinal Plants & Herbs (Peterson Field Guides)

One last thing: family situations.

While it’s important to have pride in yourself and to not be ashamed of being a witch, it’s also important to maintain your personal safety. If you are in a situation where you honestly feel that you could be harmed or evicted for openly practicing witchcraft, then either find a safe space elsewhere for your physical practices, restrict yourself to non-physical practices (i.e. meditation and studying), or don’t practice until you’re in a place where it’s safe to do so. I don’t generally encourage lying, but if lying, even by omission, if going to keep your skin whole, then do it.

 

Stay safe and good luck, witchling!

Disclaimer
The views expressed on this website are the Unshared Personal Gnosis of the witch known as Bree NicGarran. They are not intended to be taken as absolute truth, nor are they intended to invalidate the religious views of the reader. They are meant only as a suggestion and are limited by the knowledge of the writer.
Please always be sure to double-check your sources, refer to medical texts, and read critically before using any information in your own practice.
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