I got to sit on a panel this week sharing tips for beginners, specifically new Witches but including anyone on the magical path. The panel was hosted by Krista Schwimmer and Michael Wamback of Sixth Sense Society. Panelists included Jacki Smith of Coventry Creations and Sandra Inman of Mystery Witch School. We spent two hours sharing how we got started on the path, how we use magical tools, what issues came up for us when we started and what we’re still dealing with today. Before the talk I made some notes on what I might talk about. I got around to some of these but not all of them so I thought I’d share them here (keep scrolling to find them below).
You own your magic.
This is my most important tip. You decide what magic you do. You don’t need anyone’s authorization to practice your magic, it’s yours!
It is also important to respect other people’s magic. If someone teaches you something and asks you to keep it secret, keep it secret. If an indigenous person asks you not to try to figure out what their people do and imitate it, learn about their history and support their right to self-determination.
You can also insist on being respected yourself in the magic that you do.
- Money: You don’t have to give someone all of your money. Depending on tradition it’s normal to pay for classes but you don’t need to pledge your house.
- Sex: You don’t have to have sex with anyone at any time for any kind of magic. This includes initiation, teaching, and grounding energy.
- Trust your gut. If you a situation doesn’t feel right, leave.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. This is human, it’s how we learn.
- It’s okay to try new things. This is how we grow.
- It’s okay to stop. Sometimes we need to stop doing something and do something else. If it’s not working for you, move on. People get stuck because they think that they have an investment in the time they’ve already spent. You will always have those experiences, but you can make room for new experiences. You can Marie Kondo your commitments.
- It’s okay to do more than one thing. Many of us spend ten or twenty years learning Witchcraft and then add on another discipline like ceremonial magick, Tibetan Buddhism or Hindu Tantra. Take the time to learn each thing thoroughly and give yourself permission to branch out.
- It’s okay to work with money. This is how we manage trade for value. It’s okay to buy stuff, you don’t have to wait around hoping someone will give you the thing you need. It’s okay to charge for stuff, your time is valuable and you don’t owe anyone anything for free. Money shouldn’t run your life. Some of us lose ourselves in trying to get rich and that makes money the focus. Not having enough to make rent or buy food also makes money the focus of our lives. If you’re able to take care of yourself and your family that’s the sign of a successful magician.
- Trust yourself. If your experience doesn’t match what you’ve been taught to expect it’s still your experience.
- Be different. It’s okay if your magical path doesn’t look like anyone else’s. It doesn’t need to be part of anything else as long as it works for you.
Help on the Path
The most important aid on the magical path is your friends. Find friends you can trust with your secrets, your fears, your joys. Your lover can count as one but also have at least one friend who is just a friend. Three friends is a good number, it gives you diversity and flexibility in your relationships.
A friend has your back, roots for you, shares your pain and fear, appreciates your success and shares your joy. If your friend doesn’t do those things they’re not your friend.
- Making friends: this takes time and shared experience. You have to be vulnerable and share to build connection. You can take that in stages and test as you go.
- Keeping friends: don’t be afraid to say you’re sorry, or you were wrong, or you got hurt.
- Changing friends: who those three friends are may change over time. That’s okay. Hang onto the old friends and be open to new ones.
It’s okay to have a teacher and it’s okay not to have a teacher. Many of us learn from books and online videos, but there are things a teacher can show you that can really help move you on the path.
If you do pick a teacher it’s okay to pay for their time. Some teachers who make a big deal out of not charging money will expect you to pay in other ways, like adulation. Personally I find it’s more restful to pay up front rather than figure out what the real charge is going to be.
All you need your teacher to be is knowledgeable and experienced in what they’re teaching. Your magical teacher isn’t your friend or your life coach. They can offer support but their main purpose in your life is to educate you about what to do and offer you options in your practice.
How to identify a good teacher:
- Experience.They should have been doing what they’re doing for a while. I see people teaching something after they’ve been doing it for three months and it’s immediately clear that they have a limited understanding and get some things wrong. Three years is a minimum. Honestly at this point I look for teachers who have been practicing for twenty years or more.
- Results. You can judge your teacher by their affect on your life.
- Is the teaching making you happier? You might be processing some intense things, but after the processing is done are you glad you did it?
- Does the teaching encourage your better nature? Are you calmer, healthier, more confident? Does it encourage you to have mutually supportive relationships, to pursue your dreams?
- They set you free. They encourage you to find your own magical path.
Books to Get Started
As a parting thought, here are the books I’m reading this week. They offer different starting points and they’re both good places to start.
Jason Mankey, Transformative Witchcraft