One of the problems that a lot of people have coming to witchcraft, and something I struggle with still to this day, is a lack of focus. I don’t mean visualisation and meditation, I’m talking about the fact that witchcraft is not a single skill but a huge collection of different practices; divination by lot, scrying, natural magic, spirit work, trance, sigils, hedgecrossing, wortcunning, energy work, ritual, astrology, ceremonial magic etc. etc. It can be daunting to realise just how much there is to learn, and to take on too much, too soon. If you set out to memorise the tarot, delve into trance and try to plant a half-acre herb garden in week one, you’re going to burn out fast. You’re also not going to achieve the results you want in any of these areas.
In any other craft, apprentices must practice the same repetitive steps before they move on to a new skill, sometimes for years before they master it. Just because magic makes some things easier, doesn’t mean learning witch crafts can be achieved instantly. There is no rush, you have years to learn these skills and it will take you years. Don’t set deadlines, just put in the hours.
- Pick one practice you are naturally drawn towards. It might be one form of divination, working with tree spirits, traditional astrology, creating sigils etc, it doesn’t matter. Choose the skill that you desire to learn most passionately, the one you couldn’t imagine living without.
- Seek training in that skill. It doesn’t have to be from another Witch. I’ve taken courses in Astrology, Tarot and Alchemy from practitioners for whom that is their sole specialisation. Look to other disciplines of the Occult. They have much to teach you.
- If you are limited to book knowledge, read widely, be discerning and do the work. Reading 20 books on a subject doesn’t make you an expert if you’ve never tried the skills described therein.
- Practice. Do the work, do it again, record your results, don’t give up when you fail. Work for yourself, work for others (for free at this point) try different methods, experiment, learn by doing.
- Gain competency; the ability to do something successfully with some measure of efficiency. Read tarot without looking at the book, know which herb to use without having to look it up, identify Jupiter and Venus without using a star chart. You’ll know when you’re there because it will feel natural and automatic.
- Take on another skill. Once you’ve gained the confidence of achieving competency in one area, you can probably take on a couple of new skills, although it helps if they’re not too similar (learning two forms of divination is like learning two languages at the same time – confusing.)
- Rinse and repeat until you have a working knowledge and competency of several skills that together form your regular practice. Pat yourself on the back, most people never get this far.
- Be humble. Competency is not mastering a skill. Don’t suddenly assume the mantle of an adept because you can do a few things passably well. Keep learning and developing those skills. Don’t even think about teaching them until you’ve been practicing for years and years.
- Challenge yourself. There may be certain practices you’ve avoided out of fear, laziness or disinterest. Try something that pushes you harder, drags you out of your comfort zone. That is how you get beyond the beginner stuff.
- Whenever you feel overwhelmed – too many books to read, too many divination tools, too many spells planned, too many jars of ingredients lining the shelves, bring it back to the basics. Focus on what you want to achieve and practice the skills that will get you there. Don’t be afraid to take a break from everything else to allow you to work on just one thing.
- Breathe. You’ll get there, don’t worry too much. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a witch because you don’t do X. Your practice is yours to define, take pride in the effort you’ve put into it.