“Wall of Books” by benuski [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I’ve read a lot of books (and later articles online), over the years about how to initiate yourself into ‘The Practice’. This included countless variations of how to create an altar, magic circles – and of course love spells, luck spells and hexes.
Anything your heart could desire is promised as long as you practise magic in a certain way, follow a certain set of rules or purchase a certain set of items. This can be overwhelming and in my experience tends to turn most people away, after the first few initial spells fail, (or worse – do work in ways the caster could never have anticipated).
The books I grew up reading (particularly the older ones), would often have quotes from people who have tried the spells and swore they worked for them. “I created the talisman for good luck in gambling and the very next day I won $2.500 and bought my very first fur coat.”, says Fiona Webb from Arizona – or something along those lines. Yet for all of the beginner’s books, and various initiation rituals I could find next to nothing on what to expect when you have been practising for a long time, and by this I mean several decades.
As I got older and the internet became more widespread, I knew that discussions about magic wouldn’t take long to appear online. I suspected that there would be a lot of scams and things wouldn’t really change too much. The advertisements for amulets that could cure arthritis and offers of amazingly accurate tarot readings for a mere £3.50/minute would migrate from the back of shoddily made pamphlets, cheap books and magazines to various online platforms. Put simply, I did not think a lot would change. For years I thought I was right – until I wasn’t anymore.
Only in the last few years have I realised that there are far more practitioners now than even I had suspected. I don’t know whether this was always the case or the internet simply made occultism more popular – in the end it doesn’t matter. For the first time in history, people were able to communicate across the globe, share ideas, compare results. Unfortunately the amount of information from experienced practitioners is still extremely rare. Articles aplenty for beginners, questions from ‘baby witches’ uncounted, but advice from people who have been practising for decades is still somewhat rare… Which brings me to my point.
The following set of articles will tell you what to expect over the coming months and years as you grow in ‘The Practice’. What you take from my experiences and advice is entirely up to you – that’s the whole point of this series, but more on that later.
Firstly, you must know about me so here are the basics. I am almost 40. I live in the north of England. I have been practicing since I was a small child (the age of 7). During this time I have studied and practised Wicca, Thelema, Shamanism, Witchcraft (not to be confused with Wicca), Druidism and have read many books on various other paths – Taoism, Vodun (sometimes known Voodoo/Hoodoo), yoga as well as various holy books.
I am not promising you riches, I will not urge you down any particular path. Only you can decide what is right for you. The only thing I offer is my years of experience. I went from being a child dabbling with meditation and divination, to a teenager clutching my makeshift kitchen knife athame somewhere in the forest, to the adult writing this article. I don’t claim to know everything. I can only share my experiences in the hope you find it helpful in your practice. If this interests you, read on.
Magic has no limits… So why limit yourself?
You’ll notice that I’m using the phrase ‘The Practice’ instead of Witchcraft, Thelema, Druidism, etc. This is deliberate and I’m doing it for one very good reason. As you get older you’ll realise that the distinctions are not as important as you may have thought when you began your study of the occult. I see a lot of posts online from people asking if they are allowed to study a certain type of magic.
The answer to this question is almost always yes. The more you read the more you learn. This may seem self-evident, but lately I have noticed people being apprehensive about studying things which are not necessarily attached to their particular branch of occultism.
Please understand that I mean study as opposed to practice. There is a difference. You can know a lot about a subject without ever putting it into practice. The most common question I see being “What type of witch am I?“. We’ve all seen these questions and worries:
“Am I a green witch or a kitchen witch?”
“I want to study Taoism but I’m not Asian and and am worried about offending…”
“Can I be a witch if I’m male?”
Now I don’t mean to poke fun or seem like I’m being disrespectful, I’m not. Consideration and respect should always be on your mind when approaching a new subject in occultism and should also be applauded. However there comes a point where being respectful passes into limitation. How can you possibly learn if something is correct if you have nothing else to compare it to?
A doctor will study the basics of medicine for years before moving into a specialisation. The same goes for a lawyer who must learn the basic tenets of law before pursuing a particular branch, for example environmental law. Why would it be any different for someone who studies the occult?
The only limits to magic are the ones you put in place for yourself. Study everything with an open, but critical mind. Question everything and everyone (including me). Draw your own conclusions and see what works best for you.
No two practitioners will do the things in exactly the same way. They will do what works best for them and you should too, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study different points of view. If you don’t and accept one of the first things you read, at best it will hold back your efforts to grow as a practitioner. At worst it can have truly catastrophic consequences that affect you for a very long time.
To highlight my point I will tell you about one of the biggest mistakes I made as a young practitioner. At the tender age of 16, I had been studying ‘The Practice’ for several years (this being in the 90s when books on the occult were few and far between). I had been babysitting for a young woman and her partner for a while and we discovered our mutual interest in the occult. She had several books on the subject and said I was welcome to borrow them, this was an offer I immediately jumped at.
One of these books was specifically written for people studying Wicca, a subject I was pursuing at the time. (Disclaimer: I have great respect for those who follow the Wiccan faith and am only criticising this particular book).The book itself was very professional looking, hardback with a lot of useful illustrations of how to perform certain rituals and spells. I loved it – the book was well laid out. In my inexperienced mind, it seemed to answer a lot of questions I had about myself and ‘The Practice’.
This led me to believe that everything in the book was correct and I absorbed it all unquestioningly. Unfortunately one of the sections in the book claimed that all practitioners, when starting out, would be ‘tested’. This supposedly meant that any new practitioner would inevitably suffer various misfortunes inflicted upon them by a multitude of gods and spirits. Allegedly, this was just to see if they were serious about their pursuit of studying the occult and could therefore be deemed “worthy”.
The author claimed this period of bad luck could last from three to seven years. I swallowed this information as fact, without question. My life wasn’t particularly pleasant at the time, (is it ever for a 16 year old?). “Of course!” I thought to myself. “It all makes sense!”
I believed I was being tested and so I began to expect terrible things to happen to me. It will not surprise the more experienced amongst you that terrible things DID happen. What followed was a truly dark period of my life that lasted nearly ten years. I suffered several years of homelessness, betrayal, loneliness and other things which I won’t commit to print – as to not make you feel uncomfortable.
I consider that little section in that book to be the most harmful thing I have ever read. It was at best thoughtless and at worst, downright cruel to suggest such a thing. Anyone who truly understands the basic laws of occultism would never have put something like that in writing. I believe it stalled my progress as a practitioner for years. Even as my studies continued, no matter what I did, I still believed that bad things were going to happen to me – as a test. I never questioned it, so bad things happened accordingly which brings me neatly to my first real lesson.
That Old Law of Attraction
As above, so below;
As within, so without
Magic works, fact. Whether you believe in it or not is irrelevant. If you’re new to ‘The Practice’ this may seem hard to believe, like another worthless promise of things to come. If you’re experienced , your initial response is likely going to be something along the lines of ‘’Well duh… obviously, sometimes at least’’.
Not sometimes, always.
No matter what particular branch of occultism you’re currently studying, magic is subject to The Law of Attraction. It’ll be phrased in a hundred different ways (the above phrase being one of the most common). You will almost certainly have read something on this subject so I won’t go into much detail. Far better minds have covered this subject at length and I encourage you to learn about it from as many different sources as possible.
In a nutshell what goes on in your heart and mind affects the outcome of your spell. For example, imagine you cast a spell to attract money. If you put your will and intent behind it, the spell will work. However, the same spell will work very differently for two different practitioners and this is because of that universal law. Let’s say the first practitioner casts their spell directly after provoking a heated family argument. The second does so in a relaxed and calm state of mind. The spell will most likely give both practitioners what they’ve asked for but in very different ways. The first may get the money from a relative dying, leaving the practitioner feeling terrible about it. This will undoubtedly affect their practice in a lot of negative ways. The second will perhaps get a new job they love and feel great about the spell, therefore becoming more confident in their practice moving forward.
Disclaimer – This is a rule/law but it of course overlaps with other factors.
The state of mind of a practitioner is extremely important. It affects everything and everyone around you. I suffered, because I thought I had to. This belief attracted all those negative experiences and stopped me from pursuing ways to counteract them.
This is my first law of magic. Ironically, it’s the hardest to learn because trying to remain in a positive, calm state of mind all of the time is impossible. It’s human nature to feel anger towards someone who has wronged you or is depressed about a situation you cannot change. The death of a beloved pet or feud with a significant other are inescapable situations. No one, even the most happy-go-lucky amongst us, is happy all the time. As a practitioner you must always be aware of your thoughts and feelings, particularly before attempting any kind of spell or ritual. Learn to objectively recognise your emotions and if necessary, save the magical working for when you are in a more suitable frame of mind.
The good news is there are many ways to help you with this task, and every branch of occultism I have studied has different methods of pursuing this. Whether it’s meditation, shadow work or putting your thoughts in a journal, if it works for you, do it.
The bad news is the work never ever stops – ever. Bad things happen sometimes, that’s life. No ones’ life is perfect and eventually something will happen that can put you in an extremely negative frame of mind. But if you have a way of dealing with these negative emotions, it will stop you from attracting that undue negative energy into your life. It will also make you a stronger and more balanced person, able to deal with whatever life throws your way. Your magic will be so much stronger and work in a much more positive way than even you dare dream.