So... I want to be witchy and practice the craft but I've honestly no idea where to begin. I also don't really have the money to afford supplies like candles and crystals and herbs and stuff (high school student here...) so I'm not even sure if I could practice effectively because of that. I have a couple books, but I'm not sure if the authors are credible or not, so I'm afraid to practice from them. Do you... have any advice or tips?
-big warm smile- Sweetie, come and sit by me. Let’s chat.
First of all, welcome to the community! There’s a lot to learn and a lot of complications and it might take you a while to find your feet, but there’s plenty of folks around who are willing to help. We’re glad you’re here! :)
Now then, supplies and budget concerns. There are SO many witches out there working on a shoestring budget or no budget at all, and they practice just fine.
One of the things that gets fed to us a lot by popular literature and
media is that in order to be a witch you need lots of rare herbs and
fancy crystals and enough candles to set a small village on fire. Not
so. Basic spells can be done with whatever you have to hand.
It’s all a matter of working creatively and thinking outside the
You’re a student, yes? So in your accoutrements for school, you’ve got things like paper, pens, tape, maybe some markers and things, right? And your home kitchen, that’s probably got a spice cabinet with some cooking herbs, right? And you’ve got access to the internet (obviously) and a blog.
So…good news! You’ve got everything you need to start your practice.
No candles? No problem! You don’t really need live-flame candles unless you’re working a spell that requires something to be set on fire. You can use LED candles, or a picture of a candle, or a flashlight, depending on what the symbolic need for the item is. Or, if you want, you can skip them altogether.
No herbs? Check that kitchen cabinet. Amazing things can be done with the seasonings that are probably already in your home. Some of my go-to herbs are Basil, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Cinnamon, Cayenne, and Ginger, to say nothing of good old salt and black pepper. The spice aisle is a treasure trove for witches on a tight budget, and even more so if you have a local dollar store that carries cheap generic seasonings. You only need a pinch or so of an herb for full effectiveness; a little bit goes a very long way!
No crystals? Again, not a requirement. Some witches work extensively with stones and gems and such, but as with candles, unless you’re working a spell that specifically revolves around the use of a crystal, you don’t really need them when you’re starting out. If you do feel a draw toward crystal magic, small quartz points are easy enough to find as decorative items or jewelry and they tend to be less expensive than most other minerals. (I recommend checking this shop for crystals and such. The owner is a fellow witch and her product is very good quality and very reasonably-priced.)
With paper and pencil, you can work on creating your own sigils, make paper charms or poppets, practice writing spells, or take notes on things that interest you. Blogs are a great way of doing this as well; plenty of witches have blogs that function as digital repositories for their magical learning.
As for the other stuff (i.e. cauldrons, jars, besoms, statues, incense, etc), all that can wait. The most important thing that you can do as a beginner witch is research. And not just with books either. The internet can be a great source of information, so long as you don’t mind exercising those critical thinking skills.
Witchy tumblr has taught me a whole slew of things that I never would have learned from books; some stuff about the community you can only learn from other people, and it largely deals with social awareness and etiquette. Generally, if you follow Wheaton’s Law (“Don’t be an asshole”), you should be fine.
Getting back to books…yes. There ARE pagan authors who are very popular and very problematic. The only two that I recommend avoiding wholesale are Silver Ravenwolf and Raymond Buckland, due to the rampant racism and misinformation found in their rhetoric. There are others that should be avoided for other reasons, but those are the two you see in bookstores most often. (My post on other authors and their issues is here.)
EVERY pagan author is problematic in some way (including me) because there are so many viewpoints in the community about what is and is not acceptable in the craft. Generally, you want to avoid (or at least heavily fact-check) anything that tells you the following:
- There is only ONE WAY to be a witch / practice witchcraft (wrong)
- There are only Certain People Who Can Be Witches (fraud)
- Christians are evil / stole our holidays / burned millions of witches (lies)
- It’s perfectly okay to cherry-pick whatever you want from other cultures and traditions and cobble it together however you please (NO)
- You can’t do magic without deities / witchcraft is a religion (try again)
- You can only do magic for pure good / for the good of others (haha no)
- In order to be a witch, you must join a coven / undergo initiation / be trained by a person of certain rank / perform certain rituals / own certain objects / work your rituals naked / follow (or not follow) a certain religion / make vows to a certain deity or set of deities (nope nope and uh NOPE)
Whatever you end up reading, definitely supplement that learning with research on practical history (that boring stuff you learn from dusty old tomes) and a good dose of practical botany or herbology (knowing which plants do what so you don’t accidentally give yourself an allergy attack or a dose of poison).
If you’d like a place to get started, I do maintain a website with lots of free information on plant-based cottage craft (the way I do it, anyway) and advice for beginner witches. I also have a book in the process of being published that you might find useful. My two collaborative projects, The Sisters Grimmoire and The Witches Cupboard, are available on Amazon in print and on Kindle.
And if you have more questions, feel free to ask. :)
(Wow this one got away from me. But I hope it helps!)