Witchcraft 101: So Ya Wanna be a Witch? (part 1)
Since its inception, the Witches’ Voice, has been barraged with email asking the simple question… “How do I become a Witch”? Although, it has never been the mission of the Witches’ Voice to actually teach Witchcraft we find ourselves constantly shocked at the aweful responses the Teenage Witch or new seeker receives from many that “claim” themselves “elders” of the craft. For this we apologize. We will never preach or claim to “have the answer”.There are indeed many paths and many ways, it is our goal to give you the tools to get started and what to look out for.
I Want To Be In A Coven. How Do I find One?
Many newcomers to the Craft begin to learn about Witchcraft/Wicca by reading a few books. It doesn’t take them very long to discover that each author has a different slant on the subject. Information, even about the most basic elements such as history, circle casting or spellwork, can sometimes be not only different, but often conflicting. At this point, the newcomer may throw up their hands in despair and decide to find a real live person to help straighten all this out. And who can blame them?
When newcomers ask the question, “Where can I find a coven?”, they are quite often taken aback by the response-or rather non-response- that they may receive to the inquiry. They are told to read more books, check out various websites and practice working on their own. This can seem like a ‘brush off” to the seekers-sometimes it is!-and they may go away more frustrated than before. So how CAN the new seeker find some help- and perhaps eventually meet other Pagans?
So You Wanna Be a Witch?
There are some real issues that should be discussed right at the beginning of this section. The first thing that the seeker should know is that much of the “knowledge” that we possess today about Witchcraft and its origins is a combination of archeological data, the myths and legends that have been passed down and some historical documents that have been translated. The rest is conjecture and the “best guesses” of scholars who are working on “bringing it all together.” In other words, no one can say for certain what the Ancestors really did or why.
That does not mean that we have NO knowledge-we certainly DO!- just that we do not have THE historical knowledge of the origins of the Modern Craft. Different interpretations will continue to abound both in written materials and in any teachings that you may encounter. There will never be only one Way of practicing Witchcraft. Get used to it. No one has the “one true answer”…and any teacher worth his or her salt will tell you this up front.
The above is your first introduction to what is involved in following the path of Witchcraft. You are expected to do a LOT of research on your own. This is actually a very healthy way to approach the beginning study of any Path you are considering. Read many, many books on the subject-both scholarly and those that some would consider in the “fluff’ category. Why? Because this is your first foray into unknown waters. You should approach it with an open mind-ready to question and probe and ponder. I cannot overestimate how useful this first step will be. It can help you to formulate your own ideas about what this Path may mean to you.
Do not try to incorporate all that you read into one cohesive whole at the beginning. Look at whatever material that you are reading as a “theory” or “hypothesis” of Witchcraft. Some things will appeal to you right away. Others will seem “off the wall” or too fantastic to be of use. Accept or reject nothing at this stage; just keep on gathering information. You are doing “research”. The more you read, the more a “coming together” of certain aspects will begin to form within yourself. Then you will have a foundation from which you can take the next step.
Part One-The INTEREST PHASE:
You saw a movie (which shall remain nameless!), you read a few books, you stumbled onto a website, you talked to someone who said that he/she was a Witch-and now you want to know more! You have an “interest” in the Craft.
Many seekers at this point rush into the nearest message board area and cry out, “Teach me everything you know!” The reaction of others to this plea may range from the semi-helpful, “Do more research” to the out and out rude, “Those Wannbees!”
Either one of these responses will probably will leave you feeling unsatisfied (If not hurt!) and discouraged. Why can’t you get the help that you are asking for? Well, perhaps you did not phrase your request in a way that would elicit the sort of assistance that you were really looking for.
Witchcraft is a Path with depth. It can not be summed up in “25 words or less”. You need to learn how to ask SPECIFIC questions. This is where your previous research comes in. An intelligent and thoughtful question about a specific topic will generate an intelligent and thoughtful answer or opinion in return. Cite your sources. “This author writes that this is the way to cast a circle, yet this other author states it this way. Can anyone give me their opinion or experience on this? Does it matter?”
Interest Phase Do’s and Don’ts…
DO… Read as many books on the subject as you can-on History, Myths, Poetry, Psychology and Science as well as books on Witchcraft or Magick.
DO… Make yourself a research library. Take notes or highlight passages that particularly interest you. If you have a question on what is written, place a question mark next to that passage. You should enjoy what you read at this stage-the enjoyment will actually help you to retain what you read better than struggling through dusty tomes on alchemy (unless you happen to love alchemy, that is!).
DO… start a journal. You can even call it a “Book of Shadows” if you want to. (It can just be a loose leaf notebook, These are handy for creating different sections.) Write down both the things that you have found to be of interest and the things that you would like to know more about.
DO… Look at Nature. Witchcraft and most other Pagan paths are called “earth or nature based” religions. What is Nature saying to you? Bring home rocks, sticks, leaves or other things you find that attract your attention. Now ask yourself-WHY did you bring that home? Write it down.
DO… get organized. Concentration is an important skill in Magic. Disciplining yourself to make regular entries into a journal and writing things down will help you to develop concentration.
DO… learn to ask SPECIFIC questions of other Witches or Pagans when you need help. And ask yourself some questions, too. “What do I think Witchcraft is? What do I find here that has meaning for me?”
DO… tell the truth. Can seasoned Witches tell if someone is “full of it”? Yes, they can and rather quickly, too! Be honest about what you know and what you don’t.
DO… spend time alone to think carefully about how you feel and what you want for yourself. Some people think at the onset that Witchcraft will allow them to change other people or circumstances. But YOU will be the one who changes as you explore this Path. Do you really WANT to change?
DON’T… take it too fast. You have not made any commitments yet. You are doing research into a subject that interests you on a personal level. Jumping into a group situation at this point may hinder your development more than help it. You need to find out where YOU are going before you hit the trail with someone else.
DON’T… get discouraged. Sometimes it is very difficult to “go it alone.” But the Craft is made up of individuals who bring something of value to the Path-as well as receive benefits from it. Many “old timers” have the “Grampa attitude”. You know, the “When I was your age, I had to walk three miles to school every day…in the snow…with no boots…carrying my little sister…and a load of firewood…” Well, in a way that is true. It WAS much harder to be a Witch only a few decades ago. So be forgiving if they are not ready to hand you all their hand gathered “firewood” on a silver platter….you may have to walk a mile or two by yourself….in the snow…with no boots…..
DON’T… ask about joining a terraspace coven just yet. A coven is a close knit group working together. It is a difficult process to create an effective magickal unit. Most covens are not actively looking for new members, as each time a new person is added to the group, it takes time for the unit to re-adjust. There are some cyberspace “covens” that readily accept new members. If you look on it as a “training exercise”, you could learn a few things. Ask around the Internet.
DON’T… be afraid because you are not part of a group. Many, many Witches find out after much trial and error that they actually PREFER to work alone. Traditionally the Witch WAS a loner…and many still are by choice. Often solitary Witches get together to talk and exchange information and then happily go back to their solitary practice. You CAN do a little bit of both.
Still “Interested”? Then you will probably want to go further into…
Part Two-The “EXPLORATORY PHASE”:
You have read quite a few books, taken tons of notes and written faithfully in your Book of Shadows or journal. You have found some resources on the Internet and may have even asked a Pagan a few of those pesky questions that have been bothering you lately. Now what?
This is where you begin to exercise your discretion a bit. As you start weeding out the things that you have decided are not for you and embracing what DOES feel right, you are also making decisions about what sort of group you may eventually be comfortable with. (And many seekers still feel at this point that they DO want to find a group.)
Does the whole circle casting with sword, smoking incense and flickering candles appeal to you? Or would you rather simply sit quietly and let your heart speak?
Are you more introverted than extroverted? All grand dreams of leading a large public ritual aside, do you feel comfortable right NOW speaking to large groups of people? Or do you prefer the company of a few close and intimate friends?
Do you like to mull things over before making a decision? Or are you spontaneous and always dashing off to go rock climbing or roller blading?
Asking yourself these and similar questions will help you to make decisions. What are the reasons that you would want to be part of a coven or group-and what sort of group may that be?
You may also begin visualization techniques at this time. You begin to see yourself in the tales of mythic heroes and heroines. You may visualize actually doing the rituals and circles that you have read about. You imagine what it may be like to be a member of a coven-laughing as you all run through the woods on your way to the bonfire. How do these images and scenarios make you feel? Be honest. No one is looking over your shoulder at this point.
Most importantly, how comfortable are YOU with this Path that you are researching? Does it fit who you are? Not who you would like to be…not who you would like others to think that you are…but you as you are right now. Think about this a lot. It will save you much disillusionment in the future.
You may begin to collect a tool or two or think about setting up an altar area. You start buying lots and lots of candles and incense. You browse the herb shops and look through catalogs for magickal items. You may even buy some things. You are beginning to actually make some outward decisions about what you feel inside. You are “exploring” new possibilities.
Explorer Phase Do’s and Don’ts…
DO… Continue to read, study and record notes in your journal or Book. Why did you choose this athame over that wand? Why do you prefer sandalwood to jasmine? Should you hide your altar when Granny comes to visit?
DO… Begin to think about which Way appeals to you…Celtic? Egyptian? Druid? Can’t decide? Maybe you are the Eclectic type?
DO… Understand that you will be challenged as you begin to speak and interact with other Pagans. It’s our hobby. And it makes you think about what you say you believe in. It will tell you a lot about your commitment to the Path that you have chosen for yourself.
DO… Keep a sense of humor. It puts things into perspective. You will be laughing at yourself for a lifetime as you look back on your early days. We all do. We were just learning when we began and we weren’t always very good in our first attempts. (I’m laughing right now just thinking about the first time I cast a circle by myself!) But we did learn and you will, too. And since we all are continuing to learn each day, you will never run out of things to laugh about!
DO… “Talk little and listen much”. Lurk around the chat rooms. Peek in on a cybercircle. Check out your local area for open circles or workshops. Keep your eyes and ears open…opportunities for learning are everywhere.
DO… Continue to ask SPECIFIC questions. It is easier now that you have some real information under your belt, isn’t it? Instead of a broad-based “I dunno anything about this!”, you can ask “Well, what about THIS?” At last those answers are beginning to make some sense!
DO… begin thinking about Deities and ritual structure. Who of the Old Ones speaks to you? What sort of relationship would you have with the Deity of your choice-or the One who has chosen YOU?! What are the symbols associated with these Deities? Learn Their stories.
DON’T… Get ahead of yourself. All worthwhile lessons take time to become integrated into your spirit. The mind is usually the last to know! That is because your subconscious is learning through dreams and visions and symbols while your conscious mind is still struggling with the words. Continue to spend time alone to allow all your new feelings and thoughts to become clear. Take a walk and enjoy your life!
DON’T… Put all your spiritual eggs into one basket. Even though you may have a favorite author, continue to read other viewpoints. Even though you may respect a Witch or Pagan, continue to listen to other voices. Read about the latest “conspiracy theory”. It may be ridiculous, but it does train the mind to be on the look out for alternatives. (However do know that if you are abducted by aliens, they didn’t hear about you from us!)
DON’T… Tell all that you know and don’t pretend to know about something that you don’t. Complete honesty may be difficult with other people, but it is essential to be honest with yourself. Lies waste energy.
DON’T… get frustrated because you STILL haven’t found out how to contact a coven. That will come later…if it is still what you want to do.