So, I am writing this post because we get a lot of beginners going 'Where do I start?' or some other variant of that, as well as giving some advice on studying and practicing which I think would be more productive.
So, you're new to Magic?
Everyone was new a one point, no one started with absolutely all knowledge of Magic and how it works, a few of us have been practicing a good portion of our life and we're still learning and you're probably thinking ' So, where do I start then?', the best place, in my opinion, is to find something you can record what you're learning.
- A Notebook/Loose Paper - doesn't have to be a fancy leather bound, 1000 page Grimoire that is custom made, you can start with an old school book or even just some scrap paper from around your house - a lot of people find it easier to write things down to remember it.
- Phone or Computer - Digital devices have a lovely memo/word pad application on them, if you already have one of these, store it on there.
- Dictaphone/Voice Recording - if you're an audio learner, have a voice recorder next to you and read out the information and add your own comments about it and listen to it later and record it in another form if possible (Like on paper!).
It's all well and good to hit the books and websites - but if you have no where to stick it, what's the point? However a mistake I have seen a lot of practitioners do and come to regret it is just copying and pasting everything they read, entire websites, blog posts etc listen/read the information but keep your recording short because as soon as you try writing everything you're no longer learning in my opinion, you're just copying another persons practice.
Your brain can only take so much at once before it 'overloads' and you need to take a break for a while and will probably forget what you just read.
Okay, I have a Pen and Paper - what now?
Now it's time to unleash yourself on the big, wide, world; there is a lot to take in when you first start - now it's time to think where you would want to start your learning - ask yourself 'What do I want out of Magic?' a lot of people will answer 'Spells' or 'that cute boy from Maths class' everyone wants something and don't be afraid to state it - a lot of people want the physical result, so, how?
You're going to need to read something, but the question is - what? a lot of people suggest finding a path first, but why find a path if you don't know what is there and Googling everything will just overload you - start simple.
- Find people - your best bet to start is to find other people, ask for directions or recommended reading, someone will have something that they thought was pretty good and relevant to them. Public Chatter on SoM, or the Forums here will have post which have 'Bibliographies' or recommended reading posts - Modern Magick is a Popular one here.
But what if its a Book and I don't have any money? There are a couple of answers here - save up your pocket money/your money from your job or state that you can't buy the book and ask for 'Free Sources' - there is more places to learn than just from books - a lot of us write articles and post helpful tips online to share with others like us.
What if I can't find anyone? You're reading this aren't you? Then you've already done the first step.
- Vague Internet Searches - type in something relating to where you want to learn, i.e I typed in 'Witchcraft' and I got Wikipedia, a website called 'Witchcraft' and a video from Youtube - Youtube is great for linking you to similar videos of what you just watched, so you'll find a couple of gems in there.
- Forums/Articles - read any of these, eventually you'll come across someone saying some kind of logical/correct answer to the problem and generally there will be an explanation as to why they said it - if there isn't - more research can figure it out.
It's important to note that when you're researching - don't take the first thing you read as 'This is it! This is Magic!' There are thousands of practitioners across the world and a good chunk of them will look at you and go 'Yeah, that's not it' or ' That information is actually incorrect according to these historical sources'
Then what is the 'Correct' Information? It depends what you're reading - if someone is stating their personal belief then that is correct to them, but if someone is saying 'All Witches do this' then that is 'incorrect' because they're saying a sweeping statement that doesn't hold true for everyone - and that is their belief, not what has been shown in various studies and historical sources. You'll also find as you study that different people will say different things - and some spout false information i.e the lovely Silver Ravenwolf - how can you tell its wrong? Read more, find another book and read that.
Another thing to look for is sources in each book or article, do some research about those people - go back to the 'Find People' step and ask their opinion - if you can, read the source. You're going to spend a lot of time sifting through information and changing your mind over and over, it happens - don't fret.
Whilst books, forums, videos and articles are a great source for information, another excellent form is actually doing it, figuring it out for yourself - say you heard that Sage is excellent for Protection and Cleansing - right get yourself some simple Kitchen Sage and smell it, what does it smell like - what does that smell remind you of? How does it make you feel? how would these be usuable in a spell?
There is more studying than just reading, sometimes it is feeling.
Okay, I understand that I need to open my mouth and use my eyes - what now?
Now you do it, read, record, contemplate! Always think over what you've read - after I read a book I tend to talk to myself for the next 2 weeks going over the information - or I discuss it within a group that I am apart of, I even go back over my notes and look at past notes on the same topic and see where they match.
But I am impatient, a lot of people tell me to wait a while before doing spells or any other kind of magic. It is generally a good idea to wait and understand the forces you're working with, but a lot of times people do magic without thinking about it - this comes down to you really - if you think you're ready, then do your first spell.
Protection spells are a good place to start - but if you're wanting to see results - then well, that kind of magic is hard to 'see the results of' - so what spell do you start with? For me I started with Weather Magic (I don't recomend starting here) - and what happened there is between me and my spells - and I learnt from it, recorded my results (Or lack thereof) and thought about what I was trying to do. Magic causes a change within life - so 'Luck' spells are generally a good place to start - its simple and you can 'see' the results - perhaps focus the spell around something you need a bit of luck to help with? Just don't do spell after spell trying to see a result - cast one, wait about a month or two, do another Luck spell if not much has changed
Don't be afraid to branch out eventually into different kinds of spells - just be aware its best to know how to fix your mess before you make it, if you end up in a sticky spot a lot of practitioners won't help you because in their minds 'You got stuck in there, you can get yourself out - just think' but they may give some advice, you just have to figure out how to use it.
Studying and Practice are best done in tandem, you'll understand what you're reading if you do it and you'll run into things the books don't talk about and so you'll have to deal with an experience outside of your knowledge.
Here is a list of things that is generally best to avoid when you start your way in Magic
- Copying every word - This is time consuming and you're not always learning - keep your learning relevant and figure it out for yourself.
- Having to Find a patron or spirit/familiar - Just because one Author said you need a Patron in your practice or someone said 'It was one of the first things I did' don't feel like you need to start there, when you grow in your Magic you'll eventually learn about Spirits and Gods - don't feel like you need to jump into their lap immediately - it may harm you in the long run.
- Stockpiling ingredients listed in said book or post - Don't feel like you need to stockpile every herb under the sun - learn about them first and learn about the ones in your area - just don't go wasting your money/time on things you don't need or understand.
- Magic Paraphernalia - This is a con, don't feel like you need that large crystal chunk, that Goddess statue or that pretty Athame which is just stainless steel and plastic - when you grow, you'll find what items you do need or don't - like with stockpilling ingredients - don't waste your money on things you don't understand or need yet.
- Mimicing - Try your best to avoid mimicing another practitioner - copying everything they do, its okay to take things they say and things they do and use them for yourself - just don't become them - their magic is their own, find your own.
- 'I need a Mentor!' - Don't feel like you need a mentor/someone to teach you - its okay to ask questions though - just don't expect it all to fall onto your lap - some people do teach but they are specific on who they will teach - for various legal reasons mainly.
- Telling everyone - Just because you have started learning 'Witchcraft' doesn't mean you need to run around telling everyone you're a Witch - this will likely put you into a position where you'll have to explain yourself to them and be riddiculed or you can be harmed - when you're ready and well versed, then tell those who you think need to know - won't stop you from telling the world when you have a good while under your belt - just not at the start when you're still fresh.
Magic takes a lot of time, a lot of dedication and practice - the more you do, the more you'll understand - never be afraid to start conversations with other practitioners or join online magic groups - just be aware that you'll be dealing with various kinds of people and some may not accept you, some will even verbally beat you out.
Just remember, if you're dealing with something in Magic - we've all been there and done that at one point of our lives - there will be suggestions better than what I have just said so don't just take my words as fact.