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May 19th. 2013 ...
The Role of Identity in Magic
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My Wiccan Journey
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May 12th. 2013 ...
Pagan Studies I: How Should We Define Modern Paganism?
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The Third Path
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The Value of Multicultural Awareness
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April 28th. 2013 ...
Lessons from the Lessers: Iris
April 21st. 2013 ...
Taken By The Goddess: The Crescent Moon Tattoo
The Gods/Being Godbothered
To Be A Witch
The Archetypes are Gods: Re-godding the Archetypes
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On The Inclusion of Children
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Lessons of Freedom: On Divinity and Healing
April 7th. 2013 ...
Out of the Broom Closet... Sorta
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March 31st. 2013 ...
What is the Magickal Self?
Ethics and Numerology
March 24th. 2013 ...
Keystones of the Sacred Land
March 17th. 2013 ...
Why Some Pagans and Witches Still Hide
Witch Heritage 101: What Happens When Witch Haters Joke about anti-Witch Films
I'm Not a Broom. So What's with the Closet?
March 10th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Things I Did as a New Pagan: Part 3
Hunting for the Real Witch in Film
The Collective Shadow
Lies - The Opposite of Truth
March 3rd. 2013 ...
Grounding and Releasing Negative Energy
A Patchwork of Magick
February 24th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I Made as a New Pagan (Part Two)
February 17th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I made as a New Pagan... Part One
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A Call from the Ancestors
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances and Black Water Snakes
February 10th. 2013 ...
We Are the Weirdos, Mister: A Completely Uncool Story of Origin
February 3rd. 2013 ...
"I'll Grind Your Bones to Make my Bread": Pagans and Animal Husbandry
The Role of Contemporary Culture in Magic
A Pagan Response to Endangered Earth
The Great Mother's Gift, Heinlein, and the Nature of Squirrels
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January 27th. 2013 ...
Why We Do Need Wicca
The Cosmos In the Coffee Shop
On Travel Spirituality and Magick
January 20th. 2013 ...
Beloved Backs and How to Save Them
Building or Burning Bridges?
Plants, Magic and Intuition
Plagiarism - How It Harms Our Community
January 13th. 2013 ...
Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Stupid Clichés
The Magick and Power of Words
Aging Is Not Easy
The Riddle of Who We Are?
January 6th. 2013 ...
Wicca v Witchcraft
A Witch in the Closet
How Many People Can You Fit Under An Umbrella?
Gut Hunches, Mouse Dreams, and Pinkie Sense
December 30th. 2012 ...
Ritual "Cheat Sheet" Bracelet
Magick is All Around Us
Confessions of a Living Satyr
A Tiny Bit of Belly Dance History
December 23rd. 2012 ...
The Warrior Goddess and You.
World Change: A Message from Greece
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My Brother's Keeper
December 16th. 2012 ...
Keeping Christ in Xmas
Love is the Law
Listen to Your Heart's Wisdom
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
The Second Step|
Posted: October 14th. 2001
Times Viewed: 3,385
The first thing you need to do once you feel that you have moved beyond the basic level of 'how-to' books is to trust your own feelings and opinions. Secondly, take a giant step away from the Mind Body and Spirit section of your bookshop or library. Now it's time to start to formulate your own opinions, to learn from nature and history, to be prepared to seek out knowledge wherever it may be.
Look around you and notice what is happening in the world around you. Look at the trees, the weather, the moon, the stars and the skies. Forget about books for the time being and watch. Get to know the changing seasons, the stars moving across the horizon, the growing crops, the activities of birds, insects and other animals, the phases of the moon, and learn how they affect you personally. This is Witchcraft you are learning and it doesn't come from books. Grow your own plants (even if it is a houseplant) and watch the rhythms of nature. Feel how they affect your feelings, your health and your behaviour. Take time to think as well as to feel and formulate your own opinions rather than simply accepting those of others. Question what you have been told, feel whether it fits into your forming system of beliefs.
Go for walks and feel the elements around you; feel the changing patterns of wind and moisture, feel the earth and stones under your feet. Listen to the sounds around you, of birds, water, leaves. Look closely at everything, at the patterns you can see. Some areas may have activities such as bat or butterfly walks, or even nature lore, , run by countryside rangers. Ask your local library, your local college, look in the newspapers for such things. Buy nature books and learn to identify the native plants, trees, insects and birds of your area. Many useful ones can be picked up in charity shops or car boot sales.
If you cut yourself off from nature, you cut off all connections with the basis of Witchcraft. Even if you live in a town or city you can still grow houseplants or window boxes, study the trees and birds in the parks, feel the difference in the wind as it comes off a river or off the surrounding land. When you go on holiday, notice the differences from your own area and try to tune into the local spirits of the land.
And it goes without saying, leave only the memory of your presence: offerings of many sorts can be damaging, whether they be candle wax on stone or items that can kill animals if eaten. Digging holes can damage plants and insects; fire can split stones and spread quickly, killing wildlife. Candle wax and graffiti damages moss and lichens. Never leave artificial materials: if you must leave something, let it be part of nature itself, such as a fallen feather found nearby. It is no part of any nature religion to damage nature itself which many well-meaning offerings do. Likewise, never remove anything (other than litter) as plants may be rare and other items may be important in some way to the spirits of the land. Always think about what you are doing and what effects it may have, some not always obvious.
If you are interested, delve deeper into herb lore. Grow some of your own, in small pots if necessary. Look for courses around you, which may not necessarily be advertised in your local 'Witchy / New Age' shop. Many small towns may have their own qualified herbalists quietly practising and selling herbs and herbal products. They will often be glad to talk to interested customers and shop staff may be training themselves, whether as dispensers or as herbalists. Local colleges may run evening classes or weekend workshops. My local council runs herb walks with countryside rangers and a qualified herbalist. It is not necessary to become an expert unless you wish to do so but some small knowledge can provide useful background to other subjects.
Likewise, explore the various means of meditation, scrying, Tarot and means of divination and study a subject in more depth if it resonates with you. Don't flit from one subject to another though; study in detail and try to master your chosen skill. Dilettantism is of no assistance in educating yourself.
Explore deities and mythology. There is a wealth of books and programmes out there but try to find those which are on a sound academic basis. Many accessible books have been published which are solidly founded in history and archaeology (Miranda Green's books on Celtic gods and goddesses are excellent). Again, look at what your local college can offer or contact your local or national museum service. Find out what is known about, for instance, Egyptian gods from Egyptologists; museums can also have excellent shops with books and deity figures! Believe it or not, The Mists of Avalon is fiction (I have met those who thought it fact!), although a tremendous book and useful for workings, as are many other fictional works.
Haunt the history, mythology and archaeology sections of your local library and bookshops. Find out what is actually known about ancient civilisations, deities, heroes, druids etc. New discoveries are made all the time and what may have been accepted knowledge ten years ago may be woefully incorrect now. Mistaken beliefs can be passed from new age writer to new age writer; go back to the facts (and, no, the potato was NOT sacred to the druids as one published book would apparently have it - it didn't arrive in Europe until the sixteenth century!). There are several web-based magazines on archaeology, history, etc, as well as those, both academic and popular, in print.
Investigate your local history or folklore society. For many years, those who were interested in Witchcraft were only notable by their interest in folklore and it is still an important source of knowledge. Again, study your local area and connect with the local spirits of the land. Local knowledge may have been published and be available in the local library; it may be locked away in an academic's thesis available at the local university. If you are really interested, ask around. Older people may be a fount of knowledge with regard to local customs as many have only died out recently as homogenous society spread.
Be prepared to let go of many beloved preconceptions and beliefs. Much research has been done in the past few years into the history of Witchcraft and common beliefs proved to be fallacies. It is not wrong to want to know the true facts and turn away from misconceptions. Whether or not Witchcraft was handed down in an unbroken line from time immemorial or whether there was ever a golden age of matriarchy is totally irrelevant. Witchcraft exists and it works, full stop. 'Nuff said.
Therefore, be on the lookout for academic lectures, workshops and conferences which are open to members of the public. Some university departments, such as the Department of Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh which runs a course on the Scottish Witch hunts, are founts of information. While I was writing this essay, a friend telephoned to tell me of a talk being given by an archaeologist on Pictish paganism; he had found the talk advertised in an academic journal/newsletter.
Once you step back into that occult section of the bookshop, look for older or more detailed books, perhaps on single subjects. I would recommend trying to get hold of reprints or second-hand copies of older books such as those by Gerald Gardner and so on. Read the books, biographies and memoirs of those few who pioneered modern Witchcraft in the public eye, such as Gardner himself, Doreen Valiente, Sybil Leek, Lois Bourne, Patricia Crowther, Alex and Maxine Sanders etc. Dion Fortune's novels are full of 'good stuff' regarding magic, as are the reminiscences and studies of the Golden Dawn and the Fraternity of the Inner Light. Ronald Hutton's history of modern Pagan Witchcraft is well worth reading (and his other books!), as is Philip Heselton's study of the New Forest coven. Capall Bann (www.capallbann.co.uk) is an excellent small publisher of serious Pagan-orientated titles but other small, perhaps academically-orientated publishers can produce very useful titles.
Begin to observe what festivals and turning points appeal to you. It can be as simple as waking early to watch the sun rise on Beltane morning and wash your face in the dew. Remember that complex rituals and glorious robes are not necessary and in fact can detract from celebrating the beauties of nature. This is Witchcraft rather than ceremonial magic, though it is useful in its place. Work out a system that suits YOU, rather than what suits someone else, or which has simply been made up out of whole cloth. If it works, use it but be aware of the spirit of the land and beware of putting together a pick-and-mix of elements from different traditions - they may not work together. Take a good long look at the information you have put together and decide yourself what feels right to you.
Remember too that drumming is not essential! Neither are exotic robes or a fancy new name - many people of long standing in the Pagan community have yet to acquire either. Get to know as many people in the Pagan community as you can by going to moots, meetings, camps, festivals and so on. Remember that more traditional 'old guard' Pagans may not be 'out' on first observation; such places as folklore and historical societies may also be sources of Pagan contacts, if a little slower burning. Be wary, particularly of those who are ... . That you join their groups on short acquaintance. There is an old Pagan tradition of the seeker having to ask to join a coven or group and permission only being given after some considerable time. This is in fact a great safeguard for both sides in that you have the opportunity to decide after calm consideration whether or not the connection is suitable for either or both parties. Don't be rushed into making decisions. Likewise, although you may be keen to advertise your new and exciting path, a slow and steady journey is to be recommended. Apart from perhaps avoiding throwing yourself into unfortunate situations or confrontations through enthusiasm, those who choose to show and tell all may not gain by it; it is an oft repeated maxim that an empty vessel makes most noise and those who do may not be the most respected, both inside and outside the Pagan community.
Go slowly, enjoy yourself - it may take many years to reach this second step.
Location: , USA
Bio: Jacquie Clapperton is an initiated Gardnerian Witch from Scotland who works for a government body in the heritage sector. She lives alone with the traditional black cat and hates woolly thinking and bad research. Channelling Morgan Le Fey doesn't impress her, solid groundwork does. She is not so much new age as old age.
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