So You Want to Be a Witch?
Not everyone knows what they believe in right away, for some of us, we’ve known since we were children, others might have been lucky enough to be raised this way, still others might find it quite a bit later in life. There is no more pride in growing up with Paganism and/or Witchcraft than there is coming into it later in life. We all find it when it is our time to do so, but when we do find it (or it finds us), there is an overwhelming amount of information–so much so, that we can experience burn out and maybe even decide that it isn’t for us after all. This happens because we’re trying to consume too much information at once, witchcraft and Paganism are such interesting topics and the wealth of information is like an addictive drug, you just can’t get enough of it.
So, if you’re new to the path and don’t know where to start, don’t worry–you’re neither the first nor the last to face this problem. In fact, in our Facebook group (A Solitary Witch) we frequently have questions about where to start–many more knowledgeable witches are prone to get tired of the question, even if they truly want to help. The reason being is when a lot of us started, we didn’t have the plethora of resources at our fingertips. What they don’t remember is how frustrating it can be to not know what to look for, we’ve taken for granted that we know the terminology and what we want to research. Many of us also don’t realize how much of the information available is incorrect, misleading, or poorly explained. So, I apologize on behalf of the witchcraft community, if you’re made to feel insignificant or ignorant in any way. Just remember, much of being new to the path is dispelling common myths–we’ll save that topic for another day.
With that in mind, here is some advice from a mother (not old nor wise enough to be considered a crone).
It’s incredibly tempting to want to dive right in, but the truth of the matter is that witchcraft is something that will take years of dedicated study to truly understand; eventually, you’ll still end up realizing that you’ve still only seen the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be in a rush to find out who you are, the journey is what really makes it all worth it.
Reading is important, but so is practicing
The most useless advice that new witches often get when they ask, “I’m new, where do I start?” is, read, read, read… well, no shit Karen, but what do I read, why should I read that, when do I get to the meat and potatoes of witchcraft? What experienced witches often times mean is, read everything that interests you and then read some more—find what resonates with you and then pursue it for a while. There’s a term floating around there called, an Armchair Witch—which no witch wants to turn into. We want to practice witchcraft, not just read about it–even if you’re nerdy like I am and just enjoy reading. There is a point in every new witch’s practice where they are itching to practice spells. If you read too much, you can feel in over your head and end up feeling inadequate.
What does it mean to be a witch?
That’s a complex topic–something that might eventually end up getting its own post altogether, but in a nutshell, being a witch means practicing witchcraft—it is not a religion, even if you tie it into your religious practices. It is a craft. A practice. You might even call it akin to a hobby? Witchcraft isn’t just about casting spells, just like being a knitter isn’t always about actually making scarfs or other fiber goodies. Being a knitter can sometimes be reading about new techniques, or watching videos, or staring in awe at a bunch of yarn, searching for new patterns, or creating them from scratch. Witchcraft is being in tune with the natural world, it’s eye-balling crystals, feeling the energies of the universe, taking pleasure in the moment, and enjoying the ability to see things more clearly the more you understand them.
So what do I start to practice, if I haven’t read that much?
There are several things you should try to get a good handle on when you’re new, but feel uneducated on the topic. Here is a brief list of some things you can try that will start you off in the right direction:
- Meditation: it’s a simple enough process that helps to clear your mind and allow you to relax, an uptight witch is not going to perform quality work. Essentially meditation is where you use techniques, like mindfulness and easy breathing, while either clearing your mind, or focusing on a particular object, thought, or activity. This is to train awareness, be able to be mentally clear, as well as emotionally calm and stable whenever you need or want. There are great guided meditations online for those new to the practice or have trouble initially clearing their mind while meditating.
- Grounding: an essential part of witchcraft—it keeps you close to the earth, literally grounded, in the here and now. Especially useful for empaths or those experiencing intense levels of harmful emotions, anxiety, or stress–to put it simply, it helps you calm down extremely well.
- Visualizing and focusing: Visualization and focus is of the utmost importance–learning focus is attainable by practicing meditation–not exactly one of my favorite practices, but I still find myself doing it to clear my mind of the clutter. Visualization requires focus to be strong, when you’re practicing magic, a huge aspect is being able to visualize your spell manifesting in reality. You want to practice seeing the result of your spell while you’re casting it, which aids in it coming into fruition.
- Casting and closing circles: Now, not everyone practices casting and closing circles, but it is a good exercise in shutting out negative energy and creating a sacred space. Some of us who are more experienced generally make our entire home sacred space and cleanse our homes regularly to ensure that everything inside is in working order. Casting and closing a circle can be a part of the ritual as well as spell-casting and it works to help promote the frame of mind you want to be in when you practice your craft.
- Cleansing and charging tools: Just like everything else in the world, your tools are prone to absorbing negative energy–ever been around someone that is having a really bad day and they end up putting you into a foul mood? Well, the same goes for our tools, what we’re exposed to, they are also going to be exposed to. It’s important to know how to cleanse the objects that you use in your craft and then charge them with intention and positive energy–not saying they won’t do their job if you don’t, but cleansing and charging are powerful practices that enhance your magical practice and helps your tools work better for you.
- Intention in magic: intention is a powerful tool in your magical toolbox–manifesting your will begins with intention, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all of magic. Every witch needs to practice setting their intentions while practicing the craft, but there ought to be other elements in your practice other than intentions, as they alone are not going to make a satisfied witch with a satisfying practice.
- Starting a magic journal: I try to remember to recommend to every new witch to start a journal about their magical practice–it doesn’t have to be included in your Book of Shadows/Grimoire–a topic that I’ve already discussed in the blog (What is a Book of Shadows?). It’s just a way to keep track of your progress, journal about what you’re learning, what resonates with you, and what direction you would like to see yourself go.
- Starting a dream journal: Not everyone remembers their dreams, so this isn’t something you need to necessarily worry about–sometimes it’s hit or miss for me as well. Although I don’t necessarily enjoy recounting my dreams, it does sometimes give me perspective on where my mind is at, and it gives me insight into how I am dealing with situations in my life.
- Invoking the god/goddess: this one is only for witches who incorporate religion into their craft. Some witches are pagans, so will have multiple deities, others are monotheistic, so will have different varieties of saints, archangels, etc. that they may call upon for help. This kind of thing is important to research before practicing, but even if you don’t end up sticking to your initial way of doing things, doesn’t mean you were doing it wrong.
Don’t worry if you don’t know much about any of these things—we’ll be discussing them as their own separate topics here soon–they also give you some specific things to look into on your own, if you really just want to get your hands dirty.
Get back in touch with nature
Sometimes it’s difficult to separate yourself from the daily grind–but for witches, it’s a must. You need to be able to find a way to get back to nature, whether it’s going to a park and leaning against a tree, or sitting among a series of potted plants and flowers and just breathing. Go outside, play in the mud, release yourself from the bonds of adulthood and all the stress, muck, and mire that come along with it. Rest your mind, discover yourself again, and allow yourself to feel connected to nature.
I’ve read that I need a bunch of tools, but I can’t afford them…
Well, first of all, you need to see if this path is truly for you before you go dropping a bunch of money on a bunch of fancy tools that frankly sometimes cost way too much if you’re getting them all at once. So, don’t go on a buying spree. I find that when I’m not well-off enough to get a bunch of new candles (something that needs to be replaced every so often, depending on how much you practice), I’ll find somewhere that has cheap ones for $0.99 per seven-day candle—like the grocery store. No need to splurge on fancy candles from a metaphysical shop if you can’t afford it, and no need to put off practicing just because you can’t afford them! Packages of incense from the grocery store where I am are about $1.99 and they come in all sorts of fragrances–although I am deeply in love with the fancy stuff, they work just as well. Can’t afford that silver chalice that you’ve got hearts dancing in your eyes for? Use a regular cup, or a mug, something in your home already that you can cleanse and re-purpose for your magical needs. Need herbs, but can’t have your own garden and don’t have a local shop to buy exotic herbs from? The grocery store has an aisle specifically dedicated to herbs and spices. Those are just as good when you’re in a bind.
Things seem so daunting, but they don’t have to be, be creative with what you need, re-purpose things you already own and go from there. When you can afford that fancy chalice or that quartz wand, go for it! Until then, learn to make do with what you have and you’ll find that not only does it make you feel more accomplished, it helps you to grow into your practice and appreciate all the steps even more. The day I got my first mortar and pestle was one of the happiest days of my witchy existence and I haven’t looked back since. Later I plan to make a blog topic about how to be a witch on a budget, so look out for it!
How do I choose a pantheon of gods/goddesses?
Again—I feel it necessary to mention, since not everyone seems to think about it—your witchcraft practice does not need to tie into your religious beliefs, there are all sorts of witches and many practices do not call upon any gods or goddesses to help them with their craft.
That being said, the only way to choose which gods/goddesses you would like to focus on is to explore folklore, read about a bunch of different cultures. What seems to resonate with you? Even if you pick a certain set, feeling sure that they are the ones that you relate with best, doesn’t mean you need to continue with them if you feel a disconnect. In my early years, I bounced around so much I felt like I was offending gods left and right–really though, depending on your perspective, they’re all the same, just with different names and different cultural backdrops. I personally feel most connected to the Scandinavian and Germanic gods, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to pick a culture that they belong to–if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
Some people, including myself, meditated on it long and hard, spoke to the nameless gods and goddesses regularly until a manifestation of a specific goddess found me in my dreams. When she acted as a messenger, I took it as a sign of who I should be dedicating my practices to. Choose your own course, follow your intuition.
How am I supposed to know what to study first?
Simply put, figure out what you are interested in, do general searches through books or articles and find topics that make you go “ooh!” chances are, what interests you is what you should pursue—at least for now. I personally don’t look for information on chakras or auras, because they were never topics that interested me. I eventually got around to learning more about them, but they are not a part of my practice. You don’t have to include every witchy topic in yours either. Pick one thing that speaks to you, or you feel drawn to, and learn as much as you can about it. Once you feel like you have a healthy grasp on that, you’ll probably already be set up to learn about the next thing. If you’re having trouble with the next step, think about joining a community of witches and we can all lend a helping hand.
Can you make me a witch?
WOAH! RED FLAG! Be very wary of anyone who tells you they can make you a witch—they are in fact trying to scam you. No one can make you a witch, they can mentor you, they can guide you, but if they try to charge you for introducing you to the magical side of things they are con artists. They are scammers, they are only in it for the money and they don’t actually care about your spiritual journey/practice. Now, supporting businesses like tarot readers, rune casters, empaths—that’s perfectly fine, because they’re not trying to tell you that they are the only way to the craft, they’re just using their talents to give you advice and that may or may not have to do with the craft, because you’re the one asking them for the reading, they’re not typically telling you that you have to buy one from them. Avoid the people who say they can do outrageous things, especially avoid people who claim to be powerful witches, warlocks, wizards, priests—whatever their flavor of con is. Those people are not there for your personal growth and they will abandon you once they have gotten as much from you as they possibly can–they will leave you feeling taken advantage of, vulnerable, and likely unable to want to pursue something that you passionately pursued before. Please do not fall victim to these kinds of people. If your gut is telling you that they are not on the level, LISTEN TO YOUR GUT.
Some parting words…
Never be afraid to seek out new information and don’t be worried about joining a coven—it’s not necessary—you find a witchy community that you jive with if you really want a sense of belonging. Be content with what you know, but never stop trying to learn, don’t let people make you feel bad for being new or for wanting to learn more about a taboo topic, and learn to trust your intuition in your own practice. Not everyone believes in karma, the rule of three, and not everyone adheres to the idea of letting someone have free will. Controversial topics, for some, but I’ll reserve that for a later post.