Haven Craft’s Tips for Beginner Witches, Part One
Tips for Beginner Witches
Let’s start with this – I am not the witch Pope. I cannot speak for the witchcraft community as a whole; only for my own tradition.
5 Things I Believe Beginner Witches Should Ask Themselves
Note that the answers to these things will change, but that a firm grasp of the answers at any point in your practice may be helpful to you. I recommend actually writing your answers down, and every now and again check back and see if your stance has shifted.
1. Is magick real?
If yes, then what do you mean when you say, “Magick is real”. (Do you mean that you can effect reality with your will, intent, and energy? Do you mean like, Harry Potter real? What will disappoint you to realize might not be probable? What will inspire you to realize you can accomplish?)
2. Where are your lines? (What do you firmly believe is true/false, right/wrong? Violence, doing harm, controlling others, etc. Would you punch someone if they threatened a friend? Would you curse someone if they threatened a friend? What would you do, if your coven head told you it was right but you felt it was wrong?)
3. What are you looking for in a magickal path? (Pro Tip – no one has all the answers and there is no one right way.)
4. What are you prepared to do in order to accomplish your goals? (How many spoons do you have to give this practice? Can you devote one night a week, are you going to randomly pick stuff up on Tumblr, are you going to leave society to pursue your studies under a waterfall, etc.)
I recommend that no one make any oaths or vows in their first year of practice. Get to know yourself, how you feel about magick, and what you actually want to do before you do any big commitments. (Historic anecdote – this is what the original year and a day was for.) More strident, but still personal, recommendation: if someone tries to get you to oath to them within your first week of being a witch, run.
Things People Should Tell Beginner Witches, But Often Don’t
1. Don’t be afraid to change your mind.
2. Don’t throw good energy after bad by continuing to do something that isn’t right for you.
3. Don’t be afraid to continue your education, even if that means learning something that was right for you before is no longer right for you.
4. There is no one right way to do this. There is no Witch Pope - there is no dogmatic enforcement of the path to being a witch.
5. There are absolutely as many assholes in Paganism and witchcraft as there are anywhere else. Don’t think that these people are all spiritually enlightened beings who mean you well and who will give good advice.
6. Yahoo Answers is not your friend. You have the internet – which has access to both all of human information and all of human misinformation. Look for credible sources. Anything that seems too easy or too good to be true probably is. Work on critical thinking.
7. Try Scholar.Google.Com over “this article says so on Patheos.com.” Seriously, recently an article on there claimed Friday the 13th was a sacred holiday in goddess centered pre-Christian Paganism before the patriarchy ruined it. There is no historical validation for that, but a bunch of witches reblogged it. (Things you learn from scholarly sources rather than the latest poorly edited Llewellyn mess: the Burning Times didn’t happen, different kinds of Pagans warred amongst themselves long before Christianity came onto the scene, there was no great unified Pagan religion before Christianity, and Gerald Gardner was probably lying about almost everything he said.)
You Should Probably Learn the Difference Between Paganism, Wicca, and Witchcraft
What is Paganism?
Pagan is an umbrella term for a member of a religious, spiritual, or cultural community, other than those of the main world religions, so:
Non-Abrahamic – it is not Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or Mormon
Non-Eastern – it is not Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Sufism, or Sikhism
Theistic – The belief in some kind of divine power, which is sometimes polytheistic (a belief in more than one god), but not always
Some Pagans practice witchcraft – others do not.
This definition isn’t quite right, though it’s in hugely common usage, because there are Abrahamic and Eastern persons who consider themselves Pagan. Keep in mind that there will be exceptions to this definition and that those exceptions are valid.
There are also secular Pagans, so it isn’t even always Theistic. I know – it’s complicated. Though this is the largely accepted Academic definition, it doesn’t really work when applied to the real world, if you’re considering someone saying, “I’m Pagan” as a self-identifying definition, which I do.
Wicca is a religion. Most people consider Wicca as falling under the Paganism umbrella, although not all Pagans are Wiccan. Not all Wiccans are witches, and not all witches are Wiccan.
Wiccan is generally defined as:
Dualistic – There is a God and a Goddess
Pacifistic – Wicca has a rede that requires Wiccan do no harm to themselves or others, though not all Wiccans (such as those who follow Doreen Valiente’s suggested guidelines) are Pacifistic, so there are definitely exceptions to this
Earth-based – Having a respect for and acknowledgment of the powers of the Earth
The spiritual or secular art, craft, and/or practice of the witch, defined many ways by many different people.
A witch is a witch who says they are one.
Again, there is no witch Pope and no witchy excommunication because you define yourself as a witch differently than someone else does.
Yes, male identifying and/or presenting persons can be witches.
Pagan and Witch Fallacies
There are certain ideas that most beginners in the witchcraft community will encounter over and over again. I’m going to run down some things – with the reminder, again, that I can only speak for my personal tradition.
1. “You should remove all negative influences from your life! You should purge all negative feelings! Be positive all the time!” Not everything that is negative is bad. Not everything negative can be avoided – we can’t all just quit our jobs and live in a witch shack in the mountains. We have to endure negative things, both because it is healthier to experience the full range of human emotion rather than to ignore a large chunk of it, and because it isn’t possible. What we should do is stop victim blaming witches who are going through hard times and stop telling witches they can’t be angry when they encounter something that should be angering.
2. “But, tradition!” Just because an affluent white guy in the 1400-1600s said something, doesn’t mean you should do it. We don’t follow their medicinal advice anymore; we don’t have to follow their magickal advice either. Seriously, I don’t care if tradition says a trans woman shouldn’t be in a sky clad ritual – that’s bullshit. We don’t put leeches on our bodies anymore – let’s leave the past nonsense where it belongs.
3. “We have to make sure everyone feels included and welcome!” Not if they abuse the welcome of others, we do not. The problem with making some people feel included and welcome is that you make their victims feel excluded and unwelcome because you’ve made them unsafe.
4. “We have to support each other and love each other and be a positive force in people’s lives.” Okay, yes, in small doses, this is a great aim. It doesn’t work for everyone (some witches are spite and malice fueled and they are still witches), but okay, it’s a nice idea. Until it becomes ableist or demands free emotional labor from people, which it often does.
5. “We have to educate them!” Okay, it’s great that there is this effort in the community to educate others. But if you don’t have the spoons or if it seems like they’re using the demand for their own education as a way to still have access to a community they are abusing, then no, you have no obligation to put their education over your well being. None. They have access to Google (even if they have to go to a library to use it.)
6. “You have to earn your right to be a witch.” No, no you don’t. Seriously, though, from whom? Dusty white men in graves? A Llewellyn author who couldn’t fact check themselves out of a paper bag? Again – no witch Pope. I’m just gonna keep pointing out the lack of a witch Pope until people get it.
7. “You have to be ________ rank, degree, etc. to have an opinion on this topic.” Yeah, okay, I’ll be sure to wave my certificate in your face before having an opinion on my own tradition. No. Your opinion may be an uneducated one and you may be corrected for it, but that doesn’t mean that you didn’t have the right to it before you completed your O levels at Hogwarts.
8. As a corollary to above, “This is just my opinion and you can’t be mad at me for it!” People absolutely have a right to their opinions. And everyone else the right to decide those opinions make them an asshole.
9. “I’m super special and powerful because xyz, which means I get to tell you what to do.” People only get to tell you what to do if you let them. Sometimes, that’s an exchange we willingly make, but other times, people will feel they have the right to tell you what to do because they are a hereditary witch or because they’ve been practicing longer. Just remember – their position doesn’t trump your humanity and you don’t have to kiss the feet of someone who kicks you.
10. “The person really wants _____ from you, and you should help them on their path. Helping them on their path helps you on yours!” Just because someone wants something from you, doesn’t mean they get it. Being a witch doesn’t take away your right to say no.
Please remember that you don’t have to earn your right to be here. This one is tricky on some level – to be the respected person in your community, you need to put in your time. However, in order to be part of a group you don’t need to give the High Priest a blow job (seriously, run).
You don’t have to earn admission to witchcraft, but you do have to earn specific positions and other people’s trust. If you teach people not to trust you through your actions, they won’t trust you.