Hello. I'm very new to this lifestyle. I am very interested and have much to devote to get started, but I'm honestly not sure where to start. I've never done anything like this before, and the town I live in is very small and conservative in that I know that there is nobody I can look to for this kind of stuff. I've read through many threads and traced the whole newbie section, but it still all just seems like a foreign language to me. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I'm not dumb, but sometimes instructions don't quite make the same sense to me as they do with others (I've been diagnosed with Aspergers, but that's netiher here nor there), so please specify any advice or help. Thank you.
It's not a race. You can and should go at your own pace so don't worry if it's taking you a while to pick something up or to absorb information. I would suggest though that you take some extra time to think and reflect after reading something. Magic isn't just about knowing everything about one branch or path. You need to remember to take the time to know yourself, to sit and ponder what you've just read properly and thus attempt to weed through what you believe and what you don't. Once you've reached the point that you have a solid foundation in yourself, the spells and such will begin to make more sense (or at least that's what I've found).
I agree with Caoineag, people who know anything in magic did not become that way overnight, it probably took a good couple of years for the basics to settle in properly- and this continues to be built upon for years after.
I have been practicing for nearly 8 years and often I still find that I don't understand things, or I will find that I learn something new to a certain aspect quite often. I expect most people will still be learning for decades, and I hope I am one of them.
Knowledge is less important than understanding. Reading is certainly important in the early days, but get practicing as soon as you can. Understanding comes from practice. Some beginning exercises I would personally recommend:
-Watching the Breath: Sit in a position you can hold for a period of time without fidgeting, preferably with a straight back- sukhasana, half lotus, god pose, even savasana are all good. If you google the terms you will get images.
In this pose simply focus on the breath and the energy of the breath. Mentally repeat to yourself "The breath moves in, the breath moves out." Practice this for at least a month, you will begin to notice various things.
-Relaxation: Relaxation is important in daily life, but also good for sensing energy and various types of trance work. Lie down with a straight back and focus on each body part in turn from the toes to the scalp and sense and release all tension. Tune into the body. You could couple this with a visualisation of warm relaxing white or golden light moving into each area if you wish.
Dharana: Pick a simple object to visualise and focus on. This will be hard at first, but will eventually get easier. I recommend the tattva symbols (google images). Simply visualise it and try and maintain the visualisaion and complete focus on it. Then when the mind wanders do not struggle, merely nudge it back into focus.
All of the above are more yogic practices, but I personally see them as a preliminary to magical practice. They allow the person to develop skills necessary for magic. Whilst doing them read all that you can, there are many books which can be found online from places like darkbooks.org and hermetic.com.
Books will introduce concepts and often practices which you may eventually want to try out and make your own and fashion a daily regimen.
I also recommend keeping a diary of all practices you do, how it goes, any noticeable effects, improvements etc. Also note down how you are feeling, any changes in your life etc. Magic is a way of life and can effect many areas of your everyday life. I recommend seeing how the mundane and the spiritual interact with you and overtime identifying the best conditions and practices for you. Magic is an individual path, and only you can decide what is right for you.
As Caoineag said it is not a race. The joy and wonder is in the journey, not at the end- in fact there never will be an end.
While i can not top what the others have said, i will try to offer my advice.
Again, knowledge isn't the number of years, or how much you know that makes you smart. In fact it is very opposite!
It is how you apply the knowledge, and concepts that you do understand, and then take those teachings to progress further.
Some may say, that age influences how you see the world, while getting older can give you more maturity, and ability to understand material more quickly, there are benefits to youth, itself.
I have had ruffly 4 years of practice, and boy i'm young! As you can probably tell. But the truth is, age doesn't matter. It's how you apply yourself, that influences your path, and the world around you. First off, in every new person's path, they tend to make the same mistake, which isn't typically their fault. ''Spells, are cool'' they'll say! But in reality, the media doesn't really know what there talking about. Due to this, people can be drawn to the path for the wrong reasons.
* Start by keeping a journal. This will evolve in the book of Shadows. Write down your thoughts, and feelings. This may sound lame, but it has it's benefits. Heck,you'll get better writing! :). Along with that i suggest writing on a seperate sheet of paper, your goals, and what you know already. Next write what you want to know, and why. After tape/place it somewhere you can see it.
*Next start the basics. You'll hear this alot, but don't worry! The basics tend to be, the following:
Also i know this seems discouraging, but don't try to learn several things at once! Focus on the basic's, and work up.
Get any color candle, it can also be fake.
Sit in a comfortable position, back straight, shoulders back.
Close your eyes and breath in, and out. Repeat about 10 times, or until calm.
Next open your eyes, light the candle, ect.
Stare at it, and think about the color, it's meaning, and ask yourself questions, or just talk to it.
Focus on the flame, with each flicker, breath in, another, breath out.
Do this for 5 minutes a day, in 7 days it will be 35 minutes.
Sit on the floor, preferably outside.
Breath in, and out, again as above.
Feel yourself with each breath, and feel the earth cradle you.
Next imagine yourself as a tree.
Imagine that with each breath, you have roots that grow deeper.
After record the smells, and feelings. Repeat every 1-2 days for 5 minutes.
Lie down, or sit down.
You can use your voice, and/or drum.
Next ground yourself, and chant a word/sentence over and over.
Some words can be: Earth, Chant, Mmm, Ahh, I-ya, or your name. I usually chant the following lines: Circle, beginning, circle, beginning. And/or : Circle within a circle . And yeah, it's from the song :)