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December 27, 2007

Beginning Practice

Hey everyone

(apology here)

I'd just like to point out a few things for those who are interested in paganism and pagan practices, and are unsure of where to do. Keep in mind this is purely advice, and in fact, you are most likely more knowledgable than I on much of what I say. First, term definitions:

Paganism is a collection of polytheistic or animistic traditions which focus or center around either the concept of many gods, the concept of nature, or a combination of both. Being pagan does not necessarily mean you are of a particular religion. Pagan practices do not make you pagan - being pagan is a title you choose to adopt. As the Wiccan religion focuses on nature and polytheism, Wicca is a pagan religion.
Wicca is a religion based on the teachings, at its base level, of Gerald Gardner or Alex Sanders. These two figureheads of Wicca are the most well known (in my own opinion) and are worth mentioning as well as devoting some time to studying. Wicca, itself, is a non-hierarchal religion, centering for the most part on the individual or small groups, known as covens. The three documents most well known and respected regarding Wicca are:

Magic is an intentional act or series of actions meant to cause change in the physical world through use of thoughts, words, prayers, rituals, dances, meditation, etc.  Everyone practices magic by this definition, on a daily basis.   In addition to the practical magic of making every day decisions and executing plans, magic can be used for healing, self improvement, control, enhancement, advancement of knowledge, and any other number of things.

Divination is an intentional act or series of actions or rituals intended to discern past and future events via extensive symbolism.  Sects of divination include tea leaf reading, tarot card reading, numerology, I Ching, Runes, cloud reading, pendulum use, etc.

Magical tools are objects which aid in any of the above.

This all being said, if you are interested in any of this, you have a wealth of decisions to be making.  The first question is:  Why and what are you interested in?  Are you interested in the practical aspects of pagan belief, the theoretical and religious aspects of pagan beliefs or just divination?  Do you want to heal?  Divine?  Better yourself?

If you're interested in just the practical aspects, with none of the religious and morality issues that tag along, be warned:  they tend to go hand in hand.  If you are Christian and in a church which believes that forms of divination or use of magic is morally wrong, you'll have to find some way to reconcile those differences.

If you're interested in just the theory and religious aspects, be warned: the practical aspects come along too.

Now, for the fun part.  I picked this up in high school, but generally, let's review the learning curve.  Information which is valid will be:

  • Something that is effective (in cases of practical magic and using those aspects of paganism)
  • Something that is universally accepted (if you can find something in more than three resources, chances are, its a good concept)
  • Something that is spelled correctly (if the person who's trying to teach you can't bother to run spell check...should you really be taking their knowledge at face value?)
  • On the internet, free resources are always better.  The resources being free means that the person who has taken the time to post them is interested in helping you, and not the money.
  • Something which references the three documents listed above, if you're examining Wicca.
  • Terms to avoid: Warlock, Wizard, Harry Potter

Now, in terms of book learning, for Wiccan students only, I would recommend these authors:

  • Scott Cunningham
  • DJ Conway
  • Starhawk
  • Deborah Lipp
  • Margot Adler
  • Richard Hutton
  • Doreen Valiente
  • Gerald Gardner
  • Alex Sanders

I would avoid anyone who publishes under an extensive 'magic' name - full of hawks and moons and wolves and colors (Uriel RavenHeart-Jackal or something similar).  It shows they're either not ready to come out of the closet to others around them, they're too open about what they do and otherwise lacking in knowledge, or one of the few who believe that they are dragons in human form.  And, I personally, tend to avoid the following few authors:

  • Silver RavenWolf
  • Raven Grimassi
  • Raymond Buckland

If you've made it all the way down here, I congratulate you and myself:  apparently, I'm not that boring!

7 comments on “Beginning Practice”

  1. Hello again, 🙂
    Which these authors (copied below) would you recommend for a "beginner" like me?
    The most useful book I've found so far is by Fiona Horne. That was a few years ago now and I'm ready to look at Wicca with fresh eyes and a more open mind!

    Scott Cunningham
    DJ Conway
    Deborah Lipp
    Margot Adler
    Richard Hutton
    Doreen Valiente
    Gerald Gardner
    Alex Sanders

  2. Scott Cunningham tends to be the favorite for not-too-crazy. He has great books out, and I'd highly recommend him. DJ Conway is also good - Celtic Magic and Norse Magic were some of my first reads. Starhawk's Spiral Dance is a classic, but also a good resource for different rituals, etc.
    [Those three are modern, easy to read, your best bet sort of authors. The others are all good for background and supplement.]

    Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente and Alex Sanders are all historical figures. Deborah Lipp has a great book for advanced practitioners, about ritual construction. Richard Hutton has a scholarly history of Wicca out, very dry, but packed with information. Margot Adler is another more-historical name, but her book, Drawing Down The Moon, is also an important influence on the craft.

  3. thank you so much for all this info for beginners, i have been searching for so long and i stumbled upon this site it is so full of information.

  4. Thank you for writing this, even if it is quite old. It is exactly what I needed to know right now. Would you have any new information for beginners? I am trying really hard to learn all I can.

    Thank you

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