There tends to be a mindset in modern witchcraft that all you need is a good book and/or a teacher/an initiation, and BOOM, you’re a Witch! Everything you need is right at your fingertips on the web, so just absorb and go!
Books are awesome (if they’re written well and contain solid information) and so are teachers (if they know how to teach and foster growth), as are schools (though everyone learns differently and at separate rates) but that’s only part of the process of truly understanding witchcraft.
In a recent discussion seen somewhere in my spiderwebbings, somebody commented about “re-inventing the wheel” in regards to resources and learning witchcraft. Why do all the work if it’s already been done?
And I thought, huh…isn’t that sort of the point? To know how to make the wheel in the first place, instead of just buying the wheel and using it?
And if we’re going to keep rolling with that metaphor (ahem), making a wheel is more than just having the parts and putting them together. Or knowing how to drive. You have to understand the materials, the science and math of it, and appropriate application. Woodworking, metal smithing – learning to use the tools and materials are all key parts. They’re not as glamorous and they certainly are a LOT of work. However, in the end, you have a superior wheel because you truly understand it inside and out.
I’ll give you two fictional references I come back to a lot. The first is a young adult novel by Monica Furlong called Juniper. It tells the story of a young Cornish girl being apprenticed to a Witch, who is also her aunt. Fantastical parts aside, this book is one of the best examples of a fictional book that really nails down (for me) the essence of witchcraft. Juniper is eager to learn spells and magic, but she finds herself doing relentless chores, being tested about the number of crows in trees, the names and uses for herbs, and making sacrifices. It’s through this mundane hard work she develops real skills. She learns there are certain things she has to figure out on her own to truly understand them.
It can be easy to learn the short version, to acquire the trappings, check all the boxes, and have guided assistance. But if you don’t go deeper, then maybe it’s a hobby, not a vocation. It’s playing the role, without being it. And that can get you into trouble in the long run.
Every Witch’s path is different. Sure, we have a lot more resources available, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. Having access to a lot of books or a teacher doesn’t mean your path will be easier or better than someone else’s. It’s not a better/worse, hard/easy, it’s just different. I long ago learned not to assume ANYTHING when teaching witchcraft to others. Even the basics can be a revelation, and there’s nothing wrong with multiple approaches.
In the end, what matters is this: do you really understand the how and why of what you’re doing? Can you build the wheel on your own? If we take away the flash, crystals, glitter, velvet, limited edition grimoires, and fancy trappings, can you still witch?