Some people come to witchcraft and try out a few spells that never manifest and then give up and decide that magick doesn’t work. While there’s nothing wrong with deciding that a path isn’t for you, this isn’t the fault of magick itself. Boiled down to it’s most basic definition to remove religious or spiritual differences, witchcraft is indeed a craft. It is a skill set that is constantly worked on and improved to gain greater and greater mastery of the skill. Hence the idea that we practice witchcraft. Practice is how any skill is improved. This is a skill that utilizes willpower. Willpower is developed through discipline and concentration. Discipline makes a huge difference. Sure you can still get results as a dabbler, but sloppy witches often have sloppy results.
During my first year of training in the Temple of Witchcraft Mystery School, we were taught about discipline. We had to maintain a daily “ritual of discipline” where we focused on one spiritual practice or technique for a certain amount of days and hold ourselves accountable for doing it daily, regardless of what life threw at us. If we missed a day, we were to start over again.
Silver, my teacher that year, was particularly persistent and had us go beyond the required amount of days in the Mystery School syllabus of seven days and had us eventually work up to forty days straight. Trust me, it’s a lot easier said than done. Like an undisciplined child, there were many times this felt like a chore and tons of resistance builds up and comes to the surface coddling many inner excuses. However, the whole exercise was about building discipline, just like building muscle through regular exercise. In retrospect, I’m very thankful for Silver’s emphasis on discipline and pushing us in this manner.
“The discipline aspect bothers some students. Feeling witchcraft is light, spacey, and free, they don’t understand the need for discipline. Discipline is one aspect of the craft, but an important one. It is the earthly foundation upon which all other free and ecstatic practices are built. It is easy to get distracted, physically or magickally, and proper discipline lets us keep our focus clear regardless of distractions or surprises.”
– Christopher Penczak
The Outer Temple of Witchcraft: Circles, Spells, and Rituals
A regular meditative practice is perhaps the most essential discipline for focus and willpower. I often find that when I ask occultists of varying nature, what is the most vital aspect of their practice the response is almost always “regular meditation”. Meditation is the easiest ways to alter our state of consciousness, which is a crucial component to magick as seen in various definitions of magick by occultists such as Dion Fortune who wrote that, “Magick is the art of causing changes in consciousness in conformity with the Will”. Through attempting to master our minds, we not only master our ability to slip into different states of consciousness – we also learn to master ourselves and our ability to assert our willpower.
“If I had to give up all magickal and spiritual disciplines except one, I would happily ditch every invocation, spell, and exercise that I know in favor of simple meditation. Meditation is the key to the system of magick in this book, and will assist you in any other systems of magick or spirituality that you will ever engage in. Indeed it will assist and enhance about any human endeavor whatsoever. I cannot stress its importance enough.”
– Jason Miller
The Sorcerer’s Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick
I believe that discipline is crucial to enhancing one’s magickal practice. It seems to be a common trend where people state things such as “I’m a [natural/hereditary/initiated] witch” and think that there’s no more room for growth or learning. This is the biggest act of foolishness that I think any magickal practitioner can make. When we think that we know it all or have learned all that there is to learn we immediately stunt our magickal and spiritual growth. By constantly seeking to learn and grow, we do. In yoga this is often referred to as “beginner’s mind” which is an open minded attitude with the hubris of your ego silenced to learn and experience something as if you were first starting out.
“Real magick is not merely an assortment of skills and techniques. It’s more like an open minded attitude, a blend of interest and dedication, which allows each honest mage to observe, to learn, to adapt, and to invent unique ways of changing identity and reality from within.”
– Jan Fries
I encourage every magickal practitioner to stimulate their minds and push themselves to learn more. Take the time to read books about subjects you’re unfamiliar with or that you would like to understand better. Learn about a different tradition or religion than your own – contemplate the different viewpoints of these ideologies and challenge your own beliefs. Take a workshop about a subject that interests you. Be able to entertain multiple ideas with an open mind, even if they are contradictory or paradoxical without blindly believing in any.
Don’t just be an armchair witch though. Create a routine practice. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Just like lifting weights, build a solid foundation through learning or revisiting the basics and working from there. Set aside time everyday to meditate or perform some sort of magickal act. If you can only meditate for 30 seconds at a time, that’s okay! Do that! Slowly you’ll be able to increase the time. Try to perform some sort of magickal act daily, even if it’s just simply grounding and centering yourself. Create a psychic/energetic hygiene routine and mix it into your daily routine in the morning – you can do energy work and visualization while showering or brushing your teeth. Spend time trying to connect with and build a genuine relationship with your gods, spirits and allies. Build that foundation and work up from there.
Most of all, keep records. When you cast a spell write down the spell or ritual, when you performed it, the planetary hour, the moon phase, the sun sign and other information. Simultaneously keep a journal for your every day life, your thoughts and emotions. Comparing these two records will provide great insight and by going back and reviewing the records of your spells and rituals you start to discover which magick works and why. Just like a cook book, you begin to recognize what you need to add or omit based on the results.