Iv'e noticed a few people in the coven and around the site forums asking about where to begin with magic, so I thought it would be fitting to write a guide for those with questions about where to begin in their craft, for this purpose I shall be expanding upon my own electic path to include broader topics.
Most helpful of all I feel is to give an account for the terminology often used in the craft to help clarify what these terms mean and how they apply, as it is with clear understanding of these terms that will help you to distinguish between certain aspects of the craft. Witchcraft is such a vast subject it would not be possible for me to cover everything here, but can if I might help give a basic introduction to those seeking a magickal life. So iv'e decided to simply formulate and illustrate the questions Iv'e seen and been asked by those wishing to start out on their path. I also hope to dispel some of the often misinterpretations that have come about over the years which have flooded into our cinemas and televisions. To all those with these questions I hope this will be useful to you.
What Witchcraft is and isn't
The benefits of Witchcraft
Importance of safety
Brief History of Witchcraft
The Nature of Reality
Altar set up
Casting the circle
Initial dedication to the Gods
Closing the circle
A Final Note
About 15 years ago back when I was in high school, I had a friend called Brighdie. A devout Wiccan as much as I was Pagan, naturally I was interested in what this was but with all the Hollywood hype I had seen over the years I was more than a bit skeptical. Ironic as it was as I later found out just how similar these two traditions actually were. Paganism for me was really a way of life, it was what our family and ancestors were brought up with, it was rooted heavily in our culture. I remember asking her how to cast spells, to which she said "you really shouldn't be considering that if you serious about this".
And in my naivety I failed to heed her advice, I mean after all, magic wasn't real right? I proceeded to look up some info online about wands, what qualifies as a want and how to cast a spell. Within a few seconds I was already looking up images and spell scripts ready to go, and with a woodland containing some hazel trees just near to my house I headed straight there to find my perfect wand. It didn't take me long to find things, and without thinking snapped a small branch off and took it back home. Now at this point I must add, I didn't have any items, alter or even a pentacle with which to conduct my workings in. I didn't even know about casting the circle, all of course I could have simply asked Brighdie about had I not been so impatient. But I really was just wanting to see if it was even real. Which is something many of us do when starting out with spells, we don't think about the mechanics involved.
Back then I didn't know what spell to even cast, but I thought if I was going to see anything I might as well throw myself in at the deep end, so I decided to do a spell to bring me some luck. I didn't really specify what kind of luck I was going to be receiving, just whatever came up would be satisfactory. That night I went to sleep and I had a terrifying nightmare, I dreamed of my God Odin, stood upon a huge redwood tree with furious eyes barring down on me. In his hand was a snapped tree branch that had was wailing in pain. The next day I awoke and worried if the place I had taken the branch from was from a sacred site or an ancient burial ground. But further research into this proved otherwise. Now when I got to school that morning, I proceeded to tell my friend about this dream. She didn't say anything, she just listened.
Everything was pretty much normal for the next few days, certainly no luck was coming my way. I got an email from Brighdie on Friday night asking me if I would like to come over, it was a little out of the blue as she wouldn't normally be asking me to hang out, she was an introvert at heart. But when I got there, she showed me her alter, she told me that the dream I had had been a warning from my God. She went onto explain that the branch I had taken belonged to a live tree, and that was a very bad thing to do. She also deduced that the spell I attempted to cast had ultimately failed simply because my intention was all wrong. She explained how everything in nature is always connected, and we must always ask for permission from the tree before we take anything from it. After this she handed me a pile of books to study and I was astonished to learn that these teachings were repeated through almost all of them! And since that day I have never been so careless with and impatient, in our defense its an honest mistake many of us make.
What Witchcraft is and isn't
It is equally important to clarify what a witch is and what it isn't, as we often tend to think of it as some glamorous life of casting spells, romance and adventure as depicted in popular TV shows such as buffy and charmed. That whilst fun escapism is not the real and true way of the witch. Witchcraft today is a way of life, something we do and live. It is about taking into consideration our actions, and how those actions affect others as well as our environment. It is a life of study, at no point will you ever find yourself getting to a finish line. It is about learning about the pests of ourselves both good and bad, about learning other faiths and beliefs. Its about listening to people and helping them where appropriate, and about respecting those we love.
The Benefits of Witchcraft
So youve made the choice to undertake Witchcraft, congratulations as this will hopefully be one of the best decisions you will ever make. This can be something which can not only help you in your spiritual journey, but also with your physical and mental health as well as all areas of your life, and best of all none of us in the field hold any objections to things such as; Homosexuality, Transgenders, Racism. War and that sort of thing. But make no mistake, just as my friend said to me, you must be serious about this. Yes it is important to be disciplined and yes you must be prepared to work hard if you wish to succeed. But the most important thing I have come to learn over the years is to enjoy it! Don't be too harsh on yourself if you fail, and don't feel like you need to push yourself. If you do you will only come to find this will be a hindrance to you, so make sure to take good care of yourself.
The Importance of Safety
Safety in magical workings is the most important element to a spiritual life, this post is extensive but essential to glean over as you learned from my story before. Although the results of my experience werent severe, I have heard of stories that will make your hair curl because someone had performed their spell wrong. And the consequences of such can be devastating, this is of course only if you meddle with very powerful magic.
Which I assume you won't be attempting to do as a newbie, even if you did it would be unlikely that your spell would work anyway. However, if through learning the things outlined in this post, you decide to venture to those parts. You could end up causing more harm than you intend to do good, and certainly should a person never do those things for the purposes of showing off. Such is akin to playing Russian roulette, it is the same with magick and if you not careful, some day the round will be in the right chamber and once the trigger is pulled it will hit you. The only difference being, it will hit you three times as hard.
Getting down to more sensible matters, protecting yourself in the craft is important. A person does not have to believe in magick nor be aware of a spell to be the target of one. Not that hexing and cursing each other in some interlocked war is something that happens in the witching world, but being protected in your workings will help you dispel negative forces that might be trying to harm you. One thing to note is when you become involved in this life you open yourself up to these forces, just like we use insect repellent or sunscreen to protect from harmful elements.
Safety in magic is no different. There are many ways you can arm yourself and your home, one thing I do is lay clear quartz crystals at each corner of my house inside and out, and hang protection vigils at some of the entrances. It's really up to you how you go about this, but the safest thing to do is simply not get involved in things that will harm you or things you have not studied or have enough understanding about.
Brief History of Witchcraft
Now it is important to note here that the term 'witch' is very broad, the term 'Wicca' began in England back in the late 1930s started by a man called Gerald Gardener. But witches and witchcraft go back thousands of years, all the way back to the neolithic era when humans were burring their ancestors. It's really something that has formed as a result of our evolutionary processes. The men would go out and hunt for food and the women would forage for berries and other vegetation that could keep their tribes fit and healthy. Eventually penicillin was discovered which began the dawn of chemistry as we know it today, the many witch trials that occurred back in the middle ages were really peopled killing healers and witch doctors as they are so known.
They were in fact doing humanity a great service for which the Roman Catholic church so persecuted. Back in the times of Gerald Gardener, witches were very rare. And with the British witchcraft act still in force it meant that many in the craft had to maintain secretive and dualistic lives. But through the efforts of Gardener that was all about to change. There has been some debate over who exactly started Wicca as a religion, this therefore is why it was called Gardenarian Wicca as opposed to the main stream. However, Gardener did very much follow the same base rules that all Wiccans today follow.
The Threefold Law Just like with everything in nature, magick as the primal governing spiritual force is governed by laws. The law of relativity for example is what I like to view as the great deity consciousness, not something I'm stating here as anything traditional this is just my viewpoint. But when we consider the God and Goddess acting as one, just before the big bang this single consciousness would have needed a reference point with which to form reality with. As it is written in the Bible "And God said, let there be light", when he did this everything we know it was created. Time, matter and space.
In a sense relativity allowed us to live within 'Spacetime', and thus this enabled the divine creator to experience reality and live in it with us in harmony. Now taking this concept and applying it to the threefold law we can see how our actions in life have consequences. For those who are not familiar with the term, the three fold law states that whatever we do in life, good or bad, we always see the results of that come back to us three times more than the original. This view is held throughout many traditions and faiths all over the world. Buddhism and Hinduism are prime examples of this.
The Nature of Reality
Before I spoke about the divine creator as if he was a male, this is a false concept that has meant the more restrictive religions have effectively capped what is an essential part of nature. Male and female. Which is something all of us adhere to in our craft, by honoring the God and Goddess. But let me stress here that It is not for me to state how reality is, the nature of reality has its base elements but it is we who draw our interpretations and mythologies from that. Not that this is false, in fact quite the opposite.
For it is this divine nature and force that actually assists us and manifests itself for us with which to draw them from! What we do with these gifts is really up to us, but this is where the fun can begin. Let the universe be your spiritual playground and never be afraid to test your limits. As you are always being held in one way or another, there is nothing you can do yourself that is greater than the whole, for you were made by it. In effect it is the whole that lets you live, so whatever it is to you, always treat it and its contents with great respect. Just as you would your parents, so should be for the grand parent that is the world and universe with which we inhabit.
Magic & Spells
It is vital to learn the difference between what a spell is and what magic is. Magic is something we come into contact with every day, it is rooted in every single aspect of nature and in the imaginations of us all. It is the divine energy force that binds reality together and holds the unity of divinity, so that we may live through it experiencially. But Magic in the sense i'm speaking about is the art of bringing together your intentions to a specific vibration to see your intent manifest or transform an idea into reality.
A spell on the other hand, is the intent with which you are specifying. They both appear very similar, and in some ways depend upon each other. Although a spell really is the medium or buy product with which you make magic happen. Magic is a very dynamic and primal aspect of nature, it is something we can use in many ways such as rituals, rites, sabbats, festivals and so forth. A spell on the other hand has very much to do with your intent, whatever mediums you put in between are simply vessels or conduits to help aid your spell. When Christians gather to pray, they are sending their intent to God and thus the magick or holy spirit of God is bestowed to bring about the very things being prayed about. Are you beginning to notice a pattern forming? When it really comes down to it, it's really about your intent. For where else do you begin with anything in life?
This is what I like to call, the thought behind the thought or the sponsoring thought. This thought is always operating in one of two modes, love or fear. And we subsequently base our choices from these two modes. One of them produces pleasant results, and the other not so pleasant. Therefore, you must always be asking yourself what your intentions are, be very clear about this. As it is the very thing that will define you as a witch and thus what kind of magick you will practice. I won't give an opinion as to what I think is the right way to go about it, but understand something here. There is no black magic or white magic, not in the sense that they are inherent in themselves.
More that they are the kinds of magick we will be working with depending on what place our intent is coming from. Before You Begin Now before you do anything at all, whether that be buying items, setting up your altar space etc. It is essential that you have practiced some meditation and chakra work, sure it is perfectly okay to prepare these things in advance. But the important thing is to never rush into doing spells right away, that will come later in post. Your energy and intent are the things that need to be sorted out first, think of yourself like a musical instrument. If you are all out of tune your magick will be too, and you will not have any luck in your spell work, or even worse could encounter a backfire.
There are many articles on the site which can help you learn about grounding, centering and balancing as well as working with your chakras. You can use a chakra want to help you if you like. I have one with me at home that I often use to help me visualize cleansing and healing certain areas. For this reason it would be more than okay to use a want to help you, so long as you do not attempt to cast any spells with it until you feel well grounded in your spirit as well as your basic knowledge of Wicca. Now this next part is optional but it is the fundamental aspects that are most important. Getting into the right zone with which to practice magick in is as essential as your intent, in fact it is with this that will help you focus your intent more into getting ready for magick.
You need to be putting yourself in a mindset that separates you from every day mundane things. You can do this by wearing ritual robes and gowns, this is not only to help with this, but also as a sign of respect to the Gods when inviting them into your home. Preparing ritual baths, playing soft sweet music and burning incense are all things which can help program the senses to get ready for making magick happen. Are You Ready? For the purposes of this post, I will be coming at this from the perspective of my own practice of electic witchcraft which is a more independent and broader form of the craft.
As you begin to study the various topics of the basics of Wicca, one of the most important is that of the elements. The elements are something we come into contact with every day one way or another, we call the elements in when we cast a circle. They aid us in our work and provide protection. In magick we work with the four main elements of earth, air, fire and water. You want to be spending a large portion of time getting to know the elements before you do any magick, I recommend spending a month on each one, from full moon to full moon.
Immerse yourself with each one, really try to come to understand it and build your relationship with it. Remember this is very much about re-connecting with the elements and this will greatly help you in your craft throughout your life.