Western vs. Eastern mystery traditions –> one of the first things you need to conceptualize, if you’re interested in witchcraft, is that it’s a WESTERN mystery tradition. The important dichotomy here is outer-vs.-inner. In the Eastern traditions, the adept commonly seeks some sort of mystical union with the great Oneness, which implies a withdrawal from the common, everyday life of human beings, and a focus on one’s internal processes. In the Western traditions, the adept is very much a part of the activities and community of humankind. A witch does indeed have a special awareness of their inner world and their connection with the all-permeating Oneness (Goddess), but a witch is also a member of society–a farmer, a healer, a parent, a warrior, a writer, a scientist, an artist, a computer programmer, etc. In becoming a witch, you don’t dissociate your spiritual life from the rest of your life–rather, you apply the principles of the Craft in everything you do. You seek to take what you have learned on an inner level and MANIFEST that awareness on an outer level. This is not to be confused with the Christian dichotomy of works vs. faith. Witches don’t have to BELIEVE in anything–they are much too concrete, too practical for such notions. The rituals of the Craft all get down to the same thing: sanctifying the everyday activities of your life. When a witch makes love, writes a program, cooks a meal, rides a bike, these are all the rituals of the Goddess.
What to do:
Learn some simple form of meditation, and practice it often, the idea being to master the art of a QUIET MIND. In order to be attentive to the world around you, you have to learn to let go of the inner chattering.
T.S. Eliot (in “East Coker”) puts it this way:
“…the mind is conscious, but conscious of nothing–
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the
Listen to everything. Above all, listen to your body. Starhawk recommends a regular program of exercise, and I agree. Again, it quiets the mind.
- Get in touch with the movements of the Earth and the Moon. Get a calender that has Moon phases, and make a point of knowing what phase you’re in, at all times. Notice the differences between the dark of the moon (empty but ready for new birth), the new moon (time for initiating things), the waxing moon (growing in power), the full moon (peak of intensity), and the waning moon (fading, turning inward, consolidating gains). If you are a woman, pay attention to your menstrual cycle, and how it matches up with the phases of the moon. If you are a man, get in touch with the cycle of a female friend or lover. Get out under the moon as much as possible. When She is full, lie in a grassy field or on a rooftop and LISTEN to her.
- Pay attention to the natural world: the seasons, the plants, the insects, everything around you. If you can, go out hiking and camping as much as possible–alone, or with someone else who can be silent and observant. Even in the city, even in a very restricted urbanized environment, you can see things of nature all around you. Try to walk to work, if possible. Go out in your back yard and sit on the grass and look at the world close up. When inside, observe your pets and your fellow human beings. We are all flesh: we have smells, we have appetites. When you have sex, try to forget the cultural context (lace underwear, etc.) and focus instead on the body, the pleasures of the body. When you play music, let your body dance.
What to read:
For the rational side of you, Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (a good overview of many pagan systems), for the spiritual side, Starhawk’s Spiral Dance.
But reading is less important than observing. You will be tempted to try to become a witch by reading, because those of us w/ big brains and big educations always operate that way. Try to keep a balance between hours spent reading, and hours spent walking in the woods.
Joseph Campbell’s PBS series on mythology is now available on video. He’s a good storyteller and has a wonderful philosophy of how to incorporate myth into your life.
Anything can be a tool for working magic and gaining understanding (a leaf, a stone, a pen, a plastic dinosaur)–it’s all in what you invest it with.
Be slow to acquire toys (blades, wands, etc.)–it’s better if they find you, then your finding them
More important than a lot of gidgets, is setting aside a special place in your home as an altar. Start with candles and incense, and invent simple rituals: lighting a candle while you read, burning incense while you meditate.
Because it’s nonverbal in form, the Tarot is actually a better source for learning about the Craft, than any book. Seek out one of the less Christianized decks–I personally like the Barbara Walker and the Motherpeace.
The first formal “magic” you should learn, is how to set aside sacred space. Pick a place in your home or your yard where you will practice this, and practice often, even if at first it makes you feel self-conscious.
I realize that a lot of this sounds terribly vague. I used to get frustrated when I read books about the Craft, and they didn’t have, like, RECIPES to perform. The hard part of it is, that you learn more from the Goddess, than you do from any human being. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do some simple spells, right from the very beginning: both Adler’s and Starhawk’s books have some straightforward descriptions of working magic.
Don’t get hung up on issues of reality, or the unknown, or the verifiable, or whatever. Just DO. It’s far more important to TRY things, than it is to READ about them.