Starting Out

Posted on October 23, 2016 at 6:15 AM


To those just starting out study, learn and practice. Remember that this is your journey and you must take active responsibility for it. To my mind, taking responsibility for your life is one of the most empowering things you can do.


Some start by using the KISS method. Keep it simple. Choose one topic at a time and methodically work it. Really study it and then work the methods suggested. Submerge yourself in it. Get really acquainted with the techniques, keep what works and discard the rest; but make sure you have experienced it properly first and understand what you are doing. Do not pick and mix and do not hop from subject to subject. Pursue a logical flow to your studies. Believe me, building on firm foundations is a necessity.


This is not a path for everybody and many may explore its ways and then choose to go elsewhere, which is fine. Serious occultism is a difficult multi-discipline subject as we shall see. Not everybody can sustain an interest in a magical path and it can be difficult and time consuming with many hidden pit falls and traps. In magic you are monkeying around with your psyche and perceptions of reality, so this is not a path for those who have mental health problems; it is path suited only for life coping adults.


One of those pitfalls is tools. They are lovely, but remember that they are just that – tools. You are the magic, the Witch is the magic. There is more magic in your mind and body than any handcrafted solid silver, crystal encrusted do-dad that you can buy for a ridiculous price. Are they nice? Of course they are. But I’ll match any found twig endowed in the mind of the Witch with meaning than any crystal tipped stick any day. Remember this is not Harry Potter. Attending a wand making workshop is not the same as practicing the Craft. It is true that Pagan artisans do create beautiful tools, but the beginner need not spend oodles of money to work on this path.


It’s funny, but your tools will be presented to you as you need them, and at the right price. It will be like the floodgates have opened. You will find that shop that you never knew existed. You will find a teacher; you will find that people you have been dealing with are Witches. There is an old occult maxim, “when the pupil is ready the master will appear”. And each are as varied as there are numbers of grains of sand. Your first teacher may not be your only teacher, so keep an open mind. And you may get the answers from unlikely sources, so discount nothing. Listening in the beginning is vital.


As time goes on, keep notes and question, question, question. Accept nothing at face value. Remember this is not a religion with things you must believe, it is a path (your spirituality), it is a questing tradition, it is a craft, it is a practise, it is an art and a way of life. This is a very important road to travel, and only you can be in the driving seat.


Another trap is ritual. Ritual is lovely, but is only a part of the Craft. Remember that Witches usually have only one ritual a month, the official part lasting for perhaps only half an hour. Some people get stuck on ritual—getting it right. It will come. Ritual is like riding a bike or any new task, it gets easier with practice but it is only a part of the Craft. For the time being leave it alone until you know exactly what you are doing. It can be dangerous to play with things you don’t understand or to invoke forces you can’t control.


Mistakes, will you make them? Of course you will; everyone does. Like anything they should be learned from; they are tools too. Actually, this is important in any area of life, not just the Craft. Remember that the clever man learns from his mistakes but the wise man learns from other people’s; hence training. Not only will you learn from them (hopefully), but also you will then have a knowledge base that you can draw from you become teachers. For that is how it works the newcomers become teachers eventually. It is simply natural progression.


The Craft has Elders, listen to them. They have a body of experience and knowledge; experience that you just can’t buy or read, it’s earned and as we know anything that is of value is something that has to be earned. Just like parents, they’ve been round the block and know or thing or two. And sometimes they may need to tell you things that you don’t want to hear (many times and for you own good). It bothers me when I hear people criticize elders, especially on erroneous data. The computer age, while wonderful in many ways, has added to this dilemma. Almost anyone can be an expert- or so they think. As I mentioned earlier, read and question, just because you found it on the web or written in a book for that matter doesn’t make it so. Believe me there are a lot of mistakes in books and this is especially true and goes double for the internet. Remember publishers and authors want to sell books and will tend to appeal to what is popular over what is difficult so make sure you exercise common sense.


It is important to acknowledge that teachers and elders are people too, they are not perfect. It can be devastating to some when they discover that their ‘guru’ is all too human. At times you will learn more from a poor teacher, or experience, than a good one. There is a role for the charlatan in the occult as they teach, all be it indirectly, discernment. It’s extremely helpful to know what not to do, as it is what to do. This all helps build your knowledge base and remember in the Craft we are training to become our own guru- after all it is your life and your spirituality.


So know what you are doing and why you are doing it. You do not need toys (I mean tools!!) or flowing velvet robes and cloaks. They are fun but you don’t need them. You are the magic; you are the only tool you really need. And don’t play with things you don’t understand, the Occult can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, it is the same as anything in life.


If you are asked to do anything illegal or immoral run. Oprah Winfrey has a saying with problems; “you usually get a pebble before you get a brick”. Beware teachers who push toys, or who charge exorbitant fees for training. Remember, you’re asking someone to share their knowledge with you, so pay for it with attention and respect. Some of the poorest things come to us on a silver platter. Listen to your instinct in all matters, it won’t let you down.


Enjoy the journey and don’t rush it. You don’t have to get everything right, right away. This is a lifelong journey, not a six week course. Take your time. Enthusiasm is one thing, but rushing is unnecessary. Don’t run before you can walk.

Trust yourself. This goes from choosing a teacher, to performing magic. Take nothing at face value, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. It’s that simple. Nothing should be forced. But does this mean the Craft will be smooth sailing? Hardly, nothing in life is and a valid spirituality is one that acknowledges that fact rather than just looking at just the light. You will be tested, but remember we have greater inner reserves than we realise. Without conflict and hardship there can be no growth. Witchcraft is not static, it grows and evolves.


However a few words of warning are in order for the newcomer. For one thing, as a newbie in the Craft, you may feel wonderful and filled with love for the entire Universe. That is not to say that the Universe necessarily feels the same about you. The Gods, and we shall be discussing exactly what we mean by that term latter, may perceive someone taking their first steps on the path of the Craft and say, “you’ve declared yourself ready to learn and grow- well here is your first lesson!” The Craft is not an answer to all your problems; you can’t just solve them by waving a magic wand.


Maybe that first lesson is to do with love and trust. “Perfect love and perfect trust” does not mean total love and trust. It means that degree of love and trust which is appropriate to the person and the situation. Just because you’ve become an Occultist, don’t let anyone tell you you’ve given up your right to make sure someone is trustworthy before placing anything important in their hands. There are people in the community who play on the theme of ‘perfect love and perfect trust’ to manipulate others to their will. We have a few bad apples in the Pagan community because we are human beings. These bad apples are very few, but they can cause harm far out of proportion to their number. Also many people are well meaning but misguided. They may use the perfect love and trust card to prevent people questioning them, or voicing an opinion that they don’t want to hear or from rocking the boat.


There are many paths in the Occult community, including secret orders, lodges, temples and initiatory traditions. Each of these have their advantages, the main one being structure. When you follow the path delineated by an established group, you will have some idea what lessons are coming your way, and can better prepare yourself to deal with them. But not all groups are reputable or competent. You should never be made to feel uncomfortable in any group. You should never be forced to do anything you find unethical or demeaning. Perfect love and perfect trust does not mean you turn your life and will over to anyone else, even to someone with a grand title and lots of followers.


Reach out and get to know as many different people in the Pagan community as you can. The more people you know, the more people you can talk to, and the more perspective you can tap whenever you have doubts about any person or group. If you have a number of contacts in the community you will always have someone you can ask about ethics and practices that you find questionable. No reputable group will insist that you cut yourself off from your roots, or pull your branches away from the air and light of the world. It they do then they are exhibiting the one of the methods of control used by a Cult; best to leave them now. By getting to know other pagans you can get other people’s ideas on their beliefs and practises even if it challenges your own. You can test if your views stand up to being challenged and constructive criticism, if they don’t you have lost nothing.


Read books by as many different authors as you can. Don’t assume that what is in Starhawk’s book, or the Farrar’s book, or Kate West’s book, is the only way. Most people get involved in the Occult because they find traditional religious concepts unsatisfactory and to get away from fundamentalism. Sadly fundamentalism has reared its ugly head in Paganism, and we need to be careful that we don’t fall into this trap. Also the more you read the more easily you will be able to spot those people who may be in paganism to indulge their egos.


Practise what you read. Do at least a little something to observe the moons and the festivals and life. Do you know what phase of the moon it is? What seasonal tide are we in? By knowing and observing these simple things we are connecting ourselves to the natural cycles of life and death and it helps to give a rhythm to your life.


There is no secret key. No one group has the ‘Ultimate Answer’. You have entered a path that leads to wisdom, balance, understanding, individuation, authenticity and enlightenment, but you have to walk it yourself. You will have lots of company, but no group and no author can carry you to the end of the path. You will have to do your own work and you will never feel ready until you have started.


Treat others as you would want to be treated and remember the words of the dictum of magic, to know, to dare, to will and to keep silent.


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