So it's come to my attention the more I watch these forums that we get a lot of posts here along the lines of "Do spells work?", "What are the basics of magic?", etc.
It's really a lot of tedious work for our sites more experiences members to repeat themselves over and over again in order to help answer these questions. While I understand the questions will still be asked regularly, even after this post, I still thought it more valuable to the time of everyone here to post this:
In order to have success in any field of magic (as well as any field of study in general) it is necessary to come to an understanding of things fundamental to that study such as what exactly it is and how it's mechanisms work.
First I wish to start by the explaining the solution to the question, "Is magic real?".
Everything is only as real as you believe it to be, it is that simple. You can make something true by believing in it. Using internationally accepted definitions for the English language (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary - i.word.com), we can observe that for something to be "True" it must be accurate (See "True" as a noun, definition: "the quality or state of being accurate"). The origin/etymology of the word "True" is traced back to Middle English "trewe", from Old English "trowe" meaning faithful. Your faith is what you believe in. Let's look at it this way: The arrow was accurate; The arrow was faithful to the target; The arrow held true. So by placing belief/faith in something, and by holding high faith, we may be accurate in our dealings, that in the end it will equate to truth. The degree of accuracy or precision is dependent upon skill which we will discuss more in depth shortly, however, now it should be clear and evident to you by the English language that the truth and nature of your reality is based upon your perception of the world shaped by your belief. It's perfectly fine to disagree with this or anything else I say here, but the logic is solid and is provable in the very essence of communication and language. Keep in mind though that just because you believe in something, it doesn't become a universal truth, it just doesn't work that way. Existence is relative to everyone so truth must be universal, yet reality is relevant to you and your perception, therefore you create truth in your world through belief. I hope this clears some things up.
Next question, "So what is magic?".
Magic as it is understood in our modern time is defined thus: "the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces". You might or might not see it already but there is something wrong with this definition! Supernatural. Supernatural means above (super-) nature, but magic is a natural thing, it is contained in nature and therefore is not above it in stature. Using an Etymology Dictionary (www.etymonline.com) we can look up "magic" and we get this:
late 14c., "art of influencing events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces," from Old French magique "magic, magical," from Late Latin magice "sorcery, magic," from Greek magike (presumably with tekhne "art"), fem. of magikos "magical," from magos "one of the members of the learned and priestly class," from Old Persian magush, possibly from PIE *magh- (1) "to be able, to have power" (see machine). Transferred sense of "legerdemain, optical illusion, etc." is from 1811. Displaced Old English wiccecræft (see witch); also drycræft, from dry "magician," from Irish drui "priest, magician" (see druid).
So what we can extract is that magic is the art of influencing events using or manipulating hidden (occult) natural forces/laws. We are also referred to "tekhne" or "art"; art is skill acquired by experience, study, or observation (using dictionary). To be wise means to be skillful. Skill is wisdom. Skill is defined "the ability to use one's knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance". So from this we may say that magic is wisdom that has been obtained through experience, study, or observation that allows one to influence things using natural forces/laws. We are also referenced to Magh- (machine) as a possible link from the origin of the word and this makes sense as magic is a machine; it is a constructed thing that runs on a system based upon a function. Magic is an understanding and tool we construct through knowledge, it is a system of influencing the world around you and it function's based upon natural laws/forces.
Let's look at the next question, "How do spells work?".
"Spell" as a noun means "a spoken word or form of words held to have magic power". The etymology being akin to Old High German "spel" meaning "talk". A spell is also called an incantation. Incantation - "a use of spells or verbal charms spoken or sung as a part of a ritual of magic; also : a written or recited formula of words designed to produce a particular effect". So what you're doing when you do a spell is this: you are formulating your words to produce a desired effect. You place your words in a certain pattern in order to influence a thing in a desired way. Everything I have been typing here is one large spell/incantation. I have been patterning my words in order to influence you, my desired effect being that I wish for you to understand the fundamentals and truth better.
"So why all of the importance placed on words and grammar?"
Well I'm glad you asked because I'ma tell you anyways. When people operate different systems of magic, what they typically do is extract the system from a grimoire (the Goetia is probably the most popular). This isn't always true, however, it is very typical that the knowledge comes from a grimoire. A grimoire is "a book of magic spells and incantations". The etymology of grimoire "magician's manual for invoking demons, 1849, from French grimoire, altered from grammaire "incantation; grammar" (see grammar)." So the word grimoire is actually an altered word that we trace back to "grammar". This is logical in the sense that the etymology of "grammar" contains "For the "magic" sense, compare gramary. The sense evolution is characteristic of the Dark Ages: "learning in general, knowledge peculiar to the learned classes," which included astrology and magic; hence the secondary meaning of "occult knowledge" (late 15c. in English), which evolved in Scottish into glamour (q.v.). "
So grammar actually had a secondary meaning of occult knowledge which is why we developed the word grimoire for grammatical magical books. Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric are the trivium of the liberal arts.
"So what is a good way to get started with magic?"
This kind of turns out to be up to you. You can go learn anything you want and practice that skill. If you haven't found your 'path' or even if you have one, perhaps consider the following. With what we have learned here today, we now know that we need to learn how to influence things with the natural laws and forces that govern the cycles and processes of the world. Well before you can influence anything, you're going to need to observe these laws and forces; to observe the energies of the world and learn how to change/move/work with them. The first man had no grand knowledge already known to break down, he had to build his understanding of the world with his five senses. He didn't have television, he slept under stars; stars that inspired him as he stared into an abyss he came to call the heavens. He observed the motion of celestial bodies that were above him and tried to understand how they influence him and Earth; what significance they had. That is where the practice of astrology was derived. Of course ancient man had arts and sciences that accompanied astrology but for simplicity's sake let's stick with it for now. So he learned the heavens, it's constellations, signs, bodies, and he seen how the projections of the heavens affected the cycles of Earth/Nature. Man observed that plant's, metals, animals, substances took on characteristics of celestial bodies we call planets and so he built his systems around the world he was places in. Numbers, Letters, Symbols were all marks that were to represent the energies and forces he had come to interact with. Perhaps we would do well to try to reteach ourselves these things so that we can come to that same wisdom and understanding that was drawn out of nature by first man... This part is a bit of me rambling so I will skip on to my last topic question and answer for this post.
"So if magic transcends the physical plain of existence, how do we work with it?"
Spirit is often misunderstood. There is a spirit behind everything. You as a person have a spirit, but there are also spirits that don't require physical bodies. Let's examine this. A "god" is "a spirit or being that has great power, strength, knowledge, etc., and that can affect nature and the lives of people ". Technically a person/human is a god; you will never be greater than THE God who created the universe (this is my personal logical view), yet you still are a minor god walking among other gods on a day to day basis. Spirit is "the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person". Spirit is the intelligent part of a person, hence spirit is mind. You are an Entity, a god/spirit/intelligence/mind that dwells upon the earth in a physical body. You operate based upon you intelligence/mind. In the same sense, there are minds, intelligences, entities that need no bodies to exist. They have an operation that they perform as an intelligence, this is what is behind cycles of nature. A lot of magic takes place on a spiritual/mental field.
I would explain more... in fact, I didn't want to stop typing, but this took several hours to put together efficiently and I am getting worried about the size of the post; I don't want you to lose interest in the writing, I want you to learn, to use your intelligence as a human being and to grow. I have so much more to write about so I will make sure to do another post similar to this in the future but for now if you have any questions just comment below and I will respond as soon as I can.
I sincerely hope this helps you, all of you. Also feel free to contribute below! I love to learn so please share anything relevant. If you have different views and opinions then feel free to voice them! It is okay to see things differently and I highly encourage the discussion as it may lead to the unveilment of truths that could benefit us all on this forum. There certainly is a lot more behind the topics I wrote of so please remember this is just some fundamentals to help out for anyone new.
All in all, I wish you the best of luck.
My Gift to The Forum