When you’re just starting out in witchcraft you will notice there’s a lot of information out there focused on specific topics. Learning terminology, etiquette, and gaining a general direction onto the right path can easily become overwhelming. Whether you’re new to witchcraft or just looking for some beginners tips, here is my ultimate list of new witch tips for being successful in your craft.
You Don’t Have to be Wiccan to be a Witch
This little bit can be frustrating when you’re first starting out. Many of the books written for witchcraft contain Wiccan elements or a general pagan religious aspect to the text. It’s important to know that you do not have to be Wiccan (or even pagan) to be a witch. This isn’t to say that Wiccan or pagan books are not helpful to you. These books can still help you learn the fundamentals of the craft and help you along in your path.
Witchcraft is a practice, and just like any other discipline it’s important to make sure that you have a good foundation to work on and to incorporate your practice into your life in a way that is compatible with your thoughts, views, and feelings. So even though you might notice that many resources will talk about the God and Goddess, it does not mean you are required to believe in them in order to practice the craft.
Witchcraft Isn’t Trendy; It’s Hard Work
You’ve probably seen photos on Instagram of people doing hand-stands and complicated yoga poses; sure they are a popular trend right now but they also take a lot of practice, patience, and hard work to achieve good form without injury. You will likely see me mention a lot in this blog that witchcraft is a practice and is to be treated as such. I talked a little bit more about this in my post Witchcraft is More Than Aesthetics.
Don’t skip the boring stuff. It’s really tempting to flip past the history lessons, the basic lingo, the meanings of objects, and the stories to go right to the spells and rituals. As the saying goes; build your house on the rocks not on the sand. Having a good foundation to build upon is what’s going to help you in the future.
It’s also important to remember that, like many other practices, there are dangerous elements to practicing witchcraft. Aside from the obvious things like burning yourself while lighting a candle, there’s also a lot of harmful information floating around. Consuming substances, breathing in certain smokes, putting things on the skin, and even just handling some tools can be extremely dangerous. I have come across quite a few “spells” and rituals which ask the witch to use things which are actually poisonous, toxic, or even deadly. Sadly, these risky rituals are something new witches come in contact with a lot. Many people want to rush their practice and might resort to spells or rituals that are intended to enhance psychic powers or promise other abilities to strengthen their magic; but they call for making teas out of toxic herbs.
Which brings me to my next tip. . .
Study! Then Study Some More
It’s simple; knowledge is power. This is how you will avoid mistakes and dangers. Over time it will become easier for you to identify the good resources from the bad. You will be able to see a spell that asks the caster to drink a tea made of belladonna and remember that is another name for deadly nightshade and you should not consume it.
Studying deeply and vastly will help you become a better witch. It’s imperative that you not just learn that which is talked about in witchcraft related books, but also remember that science, history, and most importantly common sense are vital to your success. While doctors used to use mercury in the past to heal the sick, we know now that this does more harm than good. It is through study which we grow into better versions of ourselves.
Don’t Rely on Others to Answer Questions For You
This is a very annoying habit in the witchcraft community (and well, probably every community): a newbie comes along and asks a very basic question hoping the more experienced practitioners will just tell them the answers. It seems like every other day we get questions like “what does a black candle symbolize?” or “what are the magical properties of amethyst?” and I have sadly seen people get very upset when you suggest they look up the answer themselves.
The world is at our finger tips and it’s never been easier to obtain information! Often times a quick Google search can answer your question for you with less effort than it takes to post your question to a forum. Moreover, those of us who are more experienced in the craft want you to look things up and learn for yourself because we want to teach you. That might sound counter-intuitive but hear me out. . .I think it might be safe to say that most people know what it’s like to look up information on something random then found yourself going deeper into the metaphorical rabbit hole of the internet reading up on something you might have never heard of. This is a rather organic way of learning new things which pique your interest. You are more likely to retain the information you read and figure out how to implement it into your personal practice better.
Furthermore, everyone has different views on things. When I teach others I often use the example of the colour red. If I had a room full of people and I asked them all to tell me in one word what the colour red means to them I would get a lot of different answers. Some might say “love”, while another might say “anger”, and yet another might say “emergency” and none of them would be wrong. For this reason, some answers you have to come up with on your own.
Free Resources Do Exist, and They are Your Friend
You might hear us older witches make “when I was your age. . .” style statements about how difficult it was to learn witchcraft when they started out. While later in my life I did have the internet (Geocities anyone?), my main source of learning was found in the Dewey Decimal System. While I got the majority of my education from the DDS number 133 section, there’s plenty of other resources available now (and frankly, I’m jealous).
Libraries remain an excellent resource for witchcraft and it’s completely free. Getting a library card is a simple process and gives you access to a fabulous variety of topics to browse and borrow at your leisure. E-books are also an alternative to going to a physical library. Not every city or town will carry a lot of witchcraft related books, but there are websites such as OpenLibrary.org and Amazon which will allow you to borrow e-books. Also, many public and private libraries are moving their resources to the internet as well. I have used some local librarie’s e-book rental services and I have enjoyed the convince of not having to leave my bedroom to get a new book.
YouTube has become a power house for content in just about any subject you can think of. If you are more of a visual learner or find that you retain information better when someone is talking to you, consider watching some videos. Podcasts are also an option for the auditory learners. And of course, there’s bloggers and the simple Google search bar available to you for free.
These are all wonderful ways to study in judgment free environments as well as saving your wallet. It’s references on demand which will, at the worst, ask you to subscribe to the creator’s content at no cost to you. A simple click of a button can give you a treasure trove of knowledge delivered to you free of charge, hidden fees, and shopping taxes. Following content creators also gives you access to other points of views on various topics.
Oh, and don’t worry about feeling awkward checking out witchcraft books from libraries; most librarians don’t care and there’s also self-checkouts at most libraries now so you don’t even have to speak to a librarian if you don’t want to.
Know Yourself, Be Honest With Yourself
Before you begin practicing witchcraft it’s important to know who you are and what you believe in. Why do you want to study witchcraft? What does magick mean to you? Do you believe in deities? Do you believe that magick is real? What are your personal strengths and weaknesses? How can you improve upon them?
Knowing the answer to these questions will help you to develop your own personal path. When I first started I thought I had to be Wiccan and that I needed to believe in the God and Goddess in order for my practice to be successful. I was lying to myself that I actually believe that the Goddess was helping me, because deep down I felt really awkward asking for the help of a deity I didn’t truly think was real. I thought this was a weakness that needed to be corrected; but really it’s a strength because what I do believe is that my power comes from within myself. Knowing who I am and how I find my strength helps to keep me on my path.
The Lingo is Weird; Try to Get Used to Saying it
Merry meet. So mote it be. Blessed be. These are just some of the phrases you will come across a lot in the craft. Witches have their own lingo just like any other group of people. It can seem weird at first and it might even be confusing. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it. Of course, you are not obligated to say any of it if you don’t wish to either. Personally, I don’t like “so mote it be”, I find it clunky and weird to say. . .that and I can’t stop picturing a castle’s moat when someone says it; so if I use this phrase I prefer “so shall it be”. If you wish to use the lingo, get used to saying it out loud to yourself. Even the names of tools and objects. It will help to make things more familiar to you. It will also help you with chants and spells in the future.
Perhaps the most important word to get used to saying out loud is the one you use for yourself. Whether you consider yourself a witch, Wiccan, pagan, wizard, warlock, shaman, druid, or anything else be sure you can tell yourself that. Coming out the broom closet (as we call it) is difficult, but the first step is coming out to yourself. Being comfortable with calling yourself what ever you feel you are out loud will help build your confidence. Words have power, make sure you are happy using the words you choose to speak.
Keep Up With Your B.O.S. (Seriously)
BoS is the abbreviation for Book of Shadows. Your BoS is essentially your magical journal. You can choose to write about whatever you wish in your BoS. And, as a quick note, your BoS does not need to be anything special; a simple folder on your computer full of text documents is just as good as any notebook.
Your BoS can help you keep track of your progress on your path. It can serve as a reminder of things you might have forgotten and it will show your growth over time. Many times, witches find themselves in a bit of a slump and they lose touch with their practice, writing in your BoS habitually can help to keep you on track with your goals. Think of it as your personal witchy bullet journal to success.
You Don’t Need to Buy Anything: It’s Just Stuff
We’re all guilty of wanting to dive right into new things that we enjoy. Consumerism has always been a problem and with the help of social media it’s only getting worse. It’s so easy to see more seasoned witches using expensive, fancy tools in their practice or see them surrounded by a myriad of things they have collected over the years. But I urge you to know that more things does not make a better witch. Knowing what you need versus what you want is another key component to your happiness and success on your path.
If you find that there is a tool or something that you absolutely feel will add to your practice then try to avoid over paying. There are many budget alternatives that you can use until you know for sure that you are dedicated to using that object in your craft. Don’t get drawn in by the trends. You will pick things up along the way and you will appreciate them more as you grow.
Picking a Magickal Name Can Be Frustrating, and it’s Not a Necessity
I admit I have always been a slave to this concept. Personally, I love the idea of a magickal name, but I have never actually been able to pick one and stick to it. When or if you choose to join a coven you might be expected to use a magick name which will be used among the coven upon your initiation. There’s a lot of pressure to picking a name and sticking with it. Let me put you at ease and tell you that you don’t need one. There’s plenty of witches who just use their birth names and don’t care for any other name.
If you feel that a magick name is right for you, I advise you to wait awhile before dedicating yourself to one name. People change over time and what was relevant to us 6 months ago might not apply to you now; especially when you are first starting out. It’s something I hear a lot of witches say; “I picked this name when I was first starting out and just kept using it because it’s what everyone knew me by, but I don’t feel like it fits me anymore.” There is nothing wrong with changing your magickal name either. What’s important is being true to yourself.
“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.” ~ Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Labels are Confusing, Frustrating, . . .and Helpful
Yes, I hear you, it’s 2018 and we’re not about labeling people anymore. You do not need a label either if that is what is best for you. However, the use of labels in witchcraft is used more like a description rather than a header under which you are categorized. There are so many different types of witchcraft out there I’m not sure it’s possible to make a list of all of them. Having an idea of what kind of witch you are can help you with your research and growth. It can also be helpful when talking to others. Knowing the type of witch you are is kind like telling the difference between the word “animal” and “zebra”. You can tell someone you saw a statue of an animal today, but that doesn’t give the person listening an idea of what you’re describing; but saying you saw a zebra statue today gives the listener a better understanding without being too specific. In magickal terms, if someone says they are a witch it just tells me they practice witchcraft. Now, if they tell me they are a hedge witch, I now know that they likely work with herbs a lot and practice communicating between the veil. This will allow me to help point them to resources which will be of more practical use to them and their craft.
All that being said, don’t be too quick to label yourself. Explore your options before nestling down into one subject. Many witches tend to dabble in a little bit of a couple of areas even if they consider themselves to be more under a specific category. You can be under as many categories as you like! But having an idea of what you like and what works for you can help you to pin point more things to learn and can help others to help you.
Practice! Test What You’ve Learned!
There’s no other teacher quite like experience. You can’t become a master marksman by simply reading up on how to aim perfectly with every possible projectile weapon. You have to be active and take aim yourself and be willing to miss your target. . .a lot.
Get Used to Listening to Your Intuition (it’s harder than it seems)
Humans over think everything. It’s just what we do. But much of witchcraft involves looking inward for the answers and manifesting our intentions outwardly. Your “gut feelings” though, are a more primitive way of figuring things out. Ever just had a feeling about something then kicked yourself later because you didn’t listen to yourself? I think everyone has this issue and it’s one we often do to ourselves. We knew that person wasn’t right for us, but we dated them anyway. We knew that place seemed weird, but we went in anyway. And there’s the ever common day when something just feels “wrong” and then something bad happens.
It’s so easy to dismiss your intuition! I do it all the time. I’m sure you do too. Being a witch means allowing your intuition time to talk. Listening to it, and then logically considering the possibility that it might be right. This doesn’t mean it’s always going to be correct, just that you should learn to trust yourself.
Haters are Going to Hate
It might be an overly used saying, but it’s a cold hard fact. Sadly, in the over 20 years I have been studying witchcraft this is one of those lessons that I continue to feel the sting of. Everyone’s situation is different and your experiences will vary by the company you keep and how well you handle things.
I think the biggest hurdle for most newbie witches is facing their family and friends as a witch. Choosing to come out as a witch to your family and friends is a personal choice and not one that anyone else can make for you. If you do choose to be open and honest with your loved ones, it’s important to be ready for receiving some tough questions or criticisms.
Rude people will still feel compelled to make unnecessary remarks to you for simply wearing a pentacle around your neck, or being seen reading a pagan themed book in public. Try to remember that these people are not the majority and that their ignorance and hate is what drives them to act in a negative manner. If you ever find yourself in this sort of situation bare in mind that you are not obligated to respond to them. If you choose to, speak your truthand try not to let their hate weigh you down with them.
You’re Going to Fail, and You’re Going to Suck
It happens to all of us. You’re going to do something wrong or even stupid. Such is human nature. You’re probably going to be a little weird and awkward for a little while and you might get things mixed up. There’s going to be some things that you are just going to struggle with for the rest of your life. Not everyone is good at math, and not everyone is good at reading runes either.
Your first spell or ritual probably will not be perfect; and neither will your hundredth. It’s all part of learning. With many disciplines the first thing you’re taught is how to fall. This is for two reasons, the first being so that you can minimize the damage you might do to yourself from falling in an awkward position. The second reason is because you are going to fall. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Write down what happened in your BoS, figure out how you can do better next time, where you messed up, what you did right, and what changes you can actively make to move forward.
I accidentally set my house on fire one night after a ritual because I didn’t properly put out a candle before starting dinner. Let’s just say I got into a lot of trouble, lost a lot of things, and had some damage to repair. I figured out what I did wrong and I know now not to do anything like that again. We all make mistakes.
Learn to Laugh at Yourself
It’s easy to take everything so seriously. Even the best veteran witches can sometimes find themselves being a bit of a stick in the mud. Witchcraft is about energy and what you put out into the world and into your practice. Life isn’t always serious. Sometimes it’s down right embarrassingly hilarious! You’re going to mess up during a ritual or a spell or even while just meditating, don’t hold back from laughing if you feel the urge to.
I’ll never forget being in my first yoga class as the teacher was guiding us in Savasana. She was trying to get us all to release the tension we might have built up during the class but all I could think about was something a friend said to be earlier so I busted out laughing. Everyone glared at me for breaking their concentration and being disruptive. As I was putting on my shoes to leave the teacher approached me and asked what happened. I just told her “I let go of all the tension I had”.
Witchcraft is strange and you’re going to do things that just seem silly when you really think about it. It’s okay to admit that and have a good laugh about it. Sometimes, after all, laughter is the best medicine.
Don’t Think You Know it All: You Will Always Be Learning
You’re probably going to notice at some point in your practice that you will plateau. You will come across a lot of the same information over and over. You will feel like you’ve got nothing left to learn because you have a solid understanding of the basics. But this is not true. The world is ever changing and new information is always being reveled to us.
Remember that there’s more to witchcraft than just the candles, crystals, divination, and spells. There’s also a lot of history, science, and culture involved spanning all around the world. Learning about practices which may differ from your own can also be helpful. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall, try going in a different direction. Keep an open mind at all times. You never know when new information will present itself. You might even meet someone with different views from your own which may change the way in which you work.
Utilize your resources to their fullest and diversify your chosen methods of study.