Anonymous asks: What are your tips for a young person just exploring Wicca/Witchcraft?
My best advice? Be wary of advice.
I think we all know that in today’s age when reading something online, watching the news, or generally interacting with the world, we have to be wary about quality. Are we reading the New York Times, or is grandpa watching Fox News again? We can tell that one of those is better than the other (and god I wish more folks could) but what about when it comes to advice for beginner witches? I often talk about approaching content (and the creators of said content) with a critical eye. Truly, I think it’s important to know what someone has to offer you, and what their area of expertise is when gauging whether the advice they give is of value to you, or of any value at all. I’m not expert on beginner magic per se, but what I can offer is some advice about approaching things with an eye toward determining whether it’s good information.
Determining The Value Of Information
1. What can this person offer me, and does my question fall into their area of expertise?
My little corner of the magical community is mostly death oriented, with a bit of nerd, southern folk magic, and LGBTQIA+ stuff sprinkled on top. I might not be the best person to ask about just starting out, but I do have children (one of whom is 18), and of course remember what it’s like to be just starting out. What I’m saying is that the best I, as a person, can do to answer your question is to speak from personal experience. There are people however whose area of expertise is exactly what you’re asking. The Seeking Witchcraft podcast talks a lot about being new in the craft, and has guests on who address those topics in particular; additionally, Thorn Mooney has a Vlog on YouTube where she’s been talking about teen witch stuff since she was a teen witch herself.
2. What kind of tradition (if any) is the person giving me advice a part of?
People are always going to speak from the foundation of what they know and believe, and that can be a really helpful tool to determine whether the advice is going to be useful for you. I’m a British Traditional Wiccan who swims in the Heathen end of the pool, so stuff I recommend is probably going to have a European bent, take a structured approach to learning, and put an emphasis on coven based experience as well as having a teacher or a guide. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but you have to decide if they have any meaning to you. A book like Margot Adlers Drawing Down The Moon is one that will tell you a little bit about a lot of traditions and where they come from, which will help you understand a bit about what backgrounds might have the most meaningful perspective for you. Be sure to pick up the current edition, because the original has a bit of outdated material. Will it feel like a super boring book to read? Probably. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
3. What are this person’s qualifications, and who taught them?
Do they have a degree in divinity? Are they ordained clergy? A 3° in their respective tradition? Do they teach or run a group? These are all good things to know, as it will help you determine whether the person speaking to you has information that is worth listening to. If you were to ask me my own qualifications I would say that I’m a 3° Gardnerian Wiccan, which is a British Traditional Initiatory path, am ordained clergy, run a teaching coven in WNC, I’m a published author for Llewelyn, and a columnist here on Patheos. If anyone were to ask me who my teacher was and to provide a vouch (proof) that I’m a real Gardnerian, I could do that. It’s wise to be wary of self-taught individuals who offer teaching, and be especially wary of someone who says they are a part of a tradition (or claim community elder status) but cannot provide you any proof. My qualifications may not have any value to you, (and that’s okay!) but they will help you know where I’m coming from when I speak, as well as decide if my advice is worth anything to you.
Caveat! There are lots of incredibly talented self taught individuals who can give great advice but, for example, a person who is not a Gardnerian initiate might not be the best person to take advice from on that topic. Certainly you can get plenty of good advice from someone self-taught, just be sure to look at it with a critical eye toward whether that advice is someones UPG, because while valuable to them, might not be the same experience for you.
4. Is this resource credible, or just crap?
thegardnerianlibrarian on Instagram talks a lot about CRAAP, which is a method for filtering out, well, crappy resources. I highly recommend giving them a follow on Instagram as they put Pagan materials to the test, and I bet if you asked, would be willing to tell you whether a book you’re interested in passes the test. What are their credentials, you very wisely ask? She’s a research librarian.
So what is the CRAAP Test?
- Currency: when was it published, Is the info out of date, has it been revised?
- Relevance: Who is the intended audience of the material, would it be an appropriate source for a research paper?
- Authority: Look back to number 3, what are the author’s qualifications? Are they clearly listed?
- Accuracy: Is the content reliable, correct, and true? Are there grammatical errors? Are there reviews? Are there citations for information, or is it someone’s personal knowledge?
- Purpose: Why does this information exist? Is it fact? Objective and impartial? Or is this material opinion, and loaded with biases?
Some Recommended Reading:
In addition to the materials I’ve already linked throughout, I recommend Where to Park Your Broomstick by Lauren Manoy as a no nonsense guide with some good advice geared to a young audience. Since you privately expressed an interest in activism magic I suggest Revolutionary Magic by Sarah Lyons, as well as Magic for the Resistance by Michael M. Hughes. Lots of people I asked in my own trusted community, including That Kentucky Witch who has a new YouTube channel, suggested Wicca for Beginners by Thea Sabin, and I agree that it’s a great place to start.
Elements of Ritual by Deborah Lipp was also a popular suggestion, as well as Witches Wheel of the Year by Jason Mankey, Psychic Witch by Mat Auryn, The Path of Paganism by John Beckett (all of whom have blogs). You might also consider Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences as a good basic guide. My good friend Heather at The Phoenix Nest suggested Starhawks Spiral Dance, which is also a classic.
Lastly, Parents, I recommend adding Raising Witches by Ashleen O’Gaia to your library.
I Leave You With This
Somebody at some point is going to suggest meditation – you’ll probably be bad at it, I know I am. Don’t let it get you down.
I don’t get paid by anybody for all these links, I just want it to be easy for you to find stuff.