No so long ago I wrote Over Fifty Things Every Witch Should Try at Least Once! It was mostly a fun list to inspire people to explore and get out there with their magick. Some felt I included things that were dangerous for folks to do. Yes. Yes I did. Witchcraft is not something that is completely safe and easy, but requires some outside work and research as well as the possibility of making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. The idea that every ritual, every spell, every teaching will come out perfect is misguided. A master learns by making mistakes. The teaching should challenge, you, change you, and humble in you in some way, at some point. Otherwise you are just trying to validate what you think you know and not actually grow as a practitioner. The whole point was to not just talk about things, but to do them and learn by doing. None of the options were stick a metal fork in an electrical outlet level of magickally dangerous, and when followed with common sense and common courtesy, pretty simple and fairly safe in reality. You learn by doing.
That inspired some deeper thought on practices I’ve found helpful that likewise, have gone out of fashion in our current age of magick. So here is another fun, but serious, top ten list for you.
Journaling – You hate it! I hate it! We all hate it, but still…. why do so many of us advocate it and do it? Keeping a journal, of both magickal experimentation and your personal life, helps show how one influences the other. Not keeping track of your personal ups and down and process is like doing a science experiment without watching the results. You are the experiment, and if you want to see how real magick is, look back upon your journal from ten years ago… oh wait, you’d need to have kept a journal ten years ago. If you didn’t, start now, so we don’t have this conversation again in ten years. I might not be as diligent as I was when I began my training, but it’s still a core practice for me, entwining dreams, daily life, goals, rituals, meditations and magick. I think it’s essential when you start magickal training to journal religiously at least for the first few years, and ideally hard core for five or so years, so you get used to taking an honest assessment of yourself, your life, your success, failures, and relationships. With that foundation, you can more easily determine what is important to journal about, and when it’s necessary, rather than avoid it when it could help you. While people have breakthroughs in recognizing their patterns in their own ways and in their own times, it’s the folks who think journaling is not important who are often deeply surprised about things in themselves that would be pretty basic for a journaling practitioner. Journaling allows the journaler to get further, faster, in a clearer manner. We only have so much time on the Earth and enlightenment isn’t really close for most of us. Time to do the work and be as present as we can be to our lives and patterns. Too many of us endless repeat the same patterns unconsciously. Another eye opening journaling experience is to have a vivid, clear memory of exactly how something happened, and then re-read your journal from the time, and realize your memories don’t match your record. You have to then think, if for something important that I have such vivid memories of, I can be mistaken, how many other mistakes and tricks of memory am I playing on myself? Perhaps memory is more subjective than we’d like to believe. How often has that inhibited my growth, or kept me in a bad frame of mind with a person, and is it even true? The past is not as solid as we’d like to think.
Past Life Regression – Know where you have been to know where you are going! A huge aspect of the mysteries of the Witch is the cycle of birth, life, death, and love, for we are called back and return for love’s sake. We could also argue karma’s or wyrd’s sake too, and be right. We seek to know the mysteries between lives, but we should also be aware of how we got here and what in our past is influencing us now. I don’t care if you have a one soul model, three soul model, or nine soul model, parts of you carry memory, be they the arc of the soul’s journey, genetic inheritance, or akashic records to prepare you for life on Earth. Likewise I don’t care if you believe in karma, fate, soul groups, life contracts, and starry beings, you have a history and it’s good to know your history so you don’t repeat it. At one time, past life exploration was mandatory for it was both illuminating and healing. You would go through periods of healing patterns from this life and those you couldn’t, or those that were untouched in the healing of your life thus far often had roots in past incarnations. Multiple past life regressions, not just for healing but for understanding your patterns and mission here on Earth helps you have empathy and perspective both for yourself and others, including your enemies now. It can help you relate to perspectives that are no longer yours, but were, and the people who might share those perspectives today. You can also see where bonds or conflicts today originated. If you can’t see that in your own life, what hope do you have in seeing, and contributing to healing those conflicts in the greater world? So many of our world problems are rooted in the past, such as those in Israel and Palestine, Kashmir, slavery, racism, and colonization upon indigenous populations. Magickally we have to start on the personal and work our way out to the global.
Astrology – While astrology might not be your thing, if you are going to get into magick for the long haul, I think you need the basics, both for magickal timing and a more universal lens to look at the patterns in yourself, your life, your community and the world. Any system of astrology can be a tool to help you navigate the shifts, have better language, and understand perspectives other than your own, and how your own perspective interacts with those new ideas. I remember being in a meeting with a group of Pagan leaders more focused on social justice than the esoterics, but all were esoteric teachers. I brought up the astrological perspective to the situation as a lens in which to look at how to handle it and one priestess rebuffed me, feeling that it was inappropriate to talk about astrology in relation to real people’s lives. Astrology is talking about the relationship of real people’s lives! It was like I was in a room of meteorologists who had only their small window as their tool for weather prediction and refused to take into consideration maps, models, pressure systems and humidity. That language was not appropriate to them. I know that as an occultist, that this was not a place where I could be effective, and said group soon could not come to agreement and fell apart with conflicts and accusations. Astrology gives you patterns and potentials. We can choose how they manifest, but it’s both a versatile tool and a versatile language.
Learn An Art – Many old world Witches I know have learned, and by that I mean formally studied, some form of art, and the balance between the technical knowledge of the art and the creativity informs their craft today. Many of my mentors and peers have formal backgrounds in graphic arts, dance, music, acting, writing, poetry, and now photography and film. Today we might include reclaiming other artistic crafts such as landscape design, weaving and other textile arts, woodworking, blacksmithing, cooking, and herbalism. I would even include things like calligraphy. I would certainly include martial arts here. All have great creativity and flexibility, but all have an underlying structure and “science” to their craft. All require a level of consistent skill learned only from years of practice. All have levels of professionalism that can be easily recognized by another professional and easily seen when missing. Learning an art teaches patience, craftsmanship, respect for the past while creating a new future and how to fail, take critique, and get back up again and keep going at it. The key is in the education in the arts, working with a mentor or teacher who can pass on traditions while encouraging growth, giving feedback and answering questions. Through it, we learn the process of art, like Witchcraft is both deeply personal and not personal at all, one of the paradoxical mysteries.
Response vs Reaction – You cannot come close to any level of mastery of magick, which is ultimately consciousness, if you have no sense of discipline and impulse control. There are times for furious energy and emotional responses, but you must decide when. If others can push those buttons and decide for you, over both important and trivial things, you have given away your power, control, and life force to others. In this media age, it’s easy to do. The best thing I have learned from my more eastern oriented mindfulness meditation teachers is the ability to differentiate reaction from response and to observe myself from the place of the witness. Reaction is uncontrolled and unconscious. When someone pushes your buttons and you react without thinking, you are not in control. Response might be the same exact outward action, but you have chosen your response consciously, and even when seemingly out of control, you are in control. The witness is the part of you that can observe your ups and down. We might think of it as the higher soul. The witness can see things happening to you and by you but is not the “you” reacting and responding. You have to learn your weak spots, and why they are your weak spots, and then determine what you can do to heal them, or simply be aware of them, so when they are touched you are not surprised. How do you do that? Journaling, astrology, learning an art, past life regression, but most importantly, simple meditation, witnessing yourself and learning to bring yourself back to center before taking action is the key. Mindfulness for the Witch includes observing nature without attachment. Be present watching clouds, watching bees gather pollen, watching rain fall and watching branches sway in the wind.
Hearing and Saying No – Part of managing your energy is learning to draw boundaries and being comfortable saying no to others, even if you want to say yes. Hard lesson for me, I admit. Sometimes it’s not about protecting your energy, but protecting another or not crossing a line your heart and gut tell you not to cross. Being a Witch means you have to sadly be comfortable being the villain in someone else’s story. You won’t be able to give everyone what they want, even with magick. You won’t feel comfortable doing magick for everyone, teaching everyone, or helping everyone. When you fail to do something, set a boundary, limit, or say no, you’ll often become the villain. Witches are projected upon and while it’s not my favorite aspect of the life, its doesn’t happen to just us, but we have to understand the mechanic and simply grow comfortable with it. What someone else thinks of me or says about me is truly none of my business, even in the days of social media. Likewise, learn to hear no, and not paint the other as your villain. People can say no to you. It’s okay. You’ll find another way.
Gratitude – Being thankful and grateful for what is, is such a key to manifesting anything else. We must acknowledge what we already have, even when we might not be satisfied, before we can create something new or different. In magick, we learn to recognize the gifts of when a spell doesn’t work and we don’t get what we want, we have to frame other aspects of our life in the same way, being grateful for what we have as the foundation of whatever comes next. Even our problems provide blessings, lessons and opportunities. When we can frame things in such a way, we are able to tap into the living flow of life more fully to manifest things more consciously. Make gratitude a part of your daily devotion and practice, and interweave an attitude of gratefulness in all your magick. Make it a regular mantra and see how your magickal life, and regular day-to-day life flourishes.
Take Care of your Health – Your body is your primary tool as an advanced magician. Doing work means running a current of energy, often somewhat alien to normal human consciousness, through your body. You build your vehicle of light to traverse different dimensions, but it is still anchored to the physical body. Take the time early in your magickal career to get as healthy as possible. Get a handle on your weight and regular exercise. Learn how to truly rest, because your nervous system needs rest and regeneration. As you grow, your body will do weird things that modern medicine won’t always recognize, but magicians will. Seek out homeopaths, herbalists, alchemists, and spirited body workers to help you manage your health, and learn how to take preventative care before damage is caused. If you have got any physical addictions that impede your health take care of them and don’t let them be a magickal crutch. Some people manage psychic ability through alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. While all can be fun in moderation, they are not a replacement in regulating your own abilities and magick. Some people can smoke with very little ill effect. I know two magickal people who don’t seem to suffer, but the vast majority of magickal smokers I know have a lot of energetic problems they are unwilling to admit. Understand your own constitution, and what foods and practices work best for your constitution, and which don’t, even if you love them. Be aware how these things change as we deepen the practices. Make exercise, nutrition, rest, and general health a part of your spiritual awareness and practice.
Being Open Hearted – Here is where I will get accused, as I often am, of being a “love and light” Witch. I am. I am also a “life, law, and liberty” Witch too, but that’s a whole other story. I would argue that being loving and forgiving is also utilitarian for the evolving magician. Being open hearted and learning to forgive frees a tremendous amount of life force and mental energy that would otherwise be held in grudges, prejudices, and ruminating over your personal past. Being openhearted doesn’t mean you forget when you have been wronged, or ignore the bad behavior of another. You are open enough to realize people, including yourself, can change, but depending on the level of behavior, draw a boundary of what situations are acceptable to you and which ones are not. I can choose to not hold a grudge against someone who has been truly awful, and genuinely wish them well, and choose to no longer engage with them on a personal level. Attempts to do so in the past have shown me that even demonstrations of remorse have not been genuine or long lasting enough to move forward, so I can’t spend my energy there. But not spending my energy is also in not holding anger or hate and just moving onward. If something happens that alters my opinion, I’m open to it, but not expecting or seeking it out. While certainly not a love and light sorcerer and most likely involved in some shady practices at the very least, I still like to reference the Toltec sorcery of Carlos Castaneda, as there are sound teaching in his books, and one often missed out in modern Witchcraft is letting go of our personal importance and our attachment to personal history. I value tradition, yes, but I don’t want to get stuck in my own stories of what happened or even what I think happened. It becomes poisonous, and you either learn to transmute and let go, or you become toxic yourself. While I walk a baneful path of plant poisons, I don’t want to live my life toxic to those who I love. So I choose love, forgiveness, and open heartedness, remember that unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional relationships.
Collect Things but Use Them – Something I find in common amongst a lot of crafters and found it funnily validated in the novel Circe by Madeline Miller, is that so many Witches collect stuff for future use. There are the unusual herbs and stones and these days even bones. But in deepening your magick, gather shells, lightning struck tree bark, horse hair, rabbit fur, graveyard dirt, water gathered during a thunderstorm, water from a holy well, an empty bottle of wine from a happy wedding reception, a special stick, a discarded tissue from someone who has done you wrong, ashes from a fire pit, morning due collected on a kerchief, a dead bee, rose thorns, a votive candle snuck out of a church, moss from the north side of a tree, a coin found in the street, a childhood toy, beach sand, flowers from the grave of a loved one. Bottle it up. Save it, but use it to make your magick. Some of my best magick uses these little finds and gifts! Some of my most treasured ingredients include ancient Irish big oak, powdered meteorite iron dust, shaving from a mandrake root, homemade sloe gin from the UK, and wolf hair. Part of the magick is in finding, receiving and recognizing the Wyrd and eldritch in the world and seeing that as a part of you being wyrd and eldritch yourself, and then working it together to change the world, or at least your little part of it. Things will speak up when they want to be used to make the world new, and we have to be able to listen, and not become a hoarder of magick for a future that never comes. Any talk about possession, magickal or otherwise, reminds me of the teaching of Dion Fortune, “An initiate owns nothing, but has use of everything.” Through this, we understand our nature as caretakers and partners, not owners of anything, truly. We have to let go of everything when this Earth-walk is over. Everything is interdependent and impermanent.
And your eleventh bonus tip in this guide you might think doesn’t need to be said, but I think it does: Service to a Greater Good.
The best magicians I know are dedicated to something beyond their own personal gain, be it tradition, a community, an ideal, a deity, or some other form a service. The ability to put yourself in context with something larger and work with it, not sacrificed to it, but not exploiting it solely for your own gain is the greatest bit of alchemy I know. Over time it transforms and transfigures you. Many people in Paganism, magick, Wicca and Witchcraft are often faking it, though faking it with sincerity. They play out roles of what they believe, hope, and wish to be. This higher dedication is what transforms them on the inside into what they appear to be on the outside.
What are your own Ten Really Important Things for Every Witch?