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Deep Beginning Witchcraft: 10 things easy to get wrong in witchcraft



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Image of a young boy at his studies

Welcome back to the Golden Apple Deep Beginning Witchcraft series! Today we're going to talk about some common errors that happen when you're first starting out!


Witchcraft and other types of magical practice are not one single cultural incidence. (Although some people will quite stridently tell you that. John Oliver's piece on the condescending, toxic practices of the British Museum tells you everything you need to know about people who insist on that.


Witchcraft is an anthropological phenomenon that appears in almost every culture. It fills in needs that aren't resolved within societies; in less industrialized places, that can be medicine, spiritual counseling, and protection from dangers, material and abstract. In industrialized cultures, it can give medicine to people denied it, provide spiritual support to people who can't find succor from their churches and mainstream communities, and protect them from quite real dangers people in the industrialized world are told don't exist.


Because witchcraft and all other aspects of the occult are multi-cultural, it's very easy to get bad information or get confused about recurring concepts. I understand the temptation to simply collect memes and call it education: they distill ideas into a single concept.

The problem with that is that memes generally aren't fact-checked; you don't necessarily know the motivations or sources of the meme-maker, and there's a human bias to believe the first thing you're told about anything or anyone you have to fight through to practice witchcraft successfully.


  1. Witchcraft is not automatically Celtic. Also, there's a lot about the Celts that need to be understood.


A. Celtic is pronounced with a hard C, "Kel-tick." "Sell-tick" refers to a basketball team when used with the soft C.

B. Celtic refers to a grouping of cultures and is not a single monolithic culture. The same error is made with another cultural grouping that will get attention next. While I'm wary of using any group-generated research resource, the Wikipedia article at this time seems decent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celts#Names_and_terminology

C. Ireland has different deities from Wales, which has different deities than Scotland, and so on. Gaulish and Iberian Celts are very different from the rest and, at times, are marginalized in the Anglophilia of it all, but more Iberian and Gaulish Celts are speaking up of late.

D. Celtic spirituality includes Celtic Christianity, Druidry, the study of Arthurian legend, different specific traditions of witchcraft traditional to the British Isles, and Faery Lore. The market is loaded with books on many aspects of Celtic magickal practice. I've read a few, but I am not the Celt at Golden Apple, even if I have a bit of Scots-Irish and English in me, and it is better to get recommendations from people who resonate with that grouping of cultures.


2. Faeries aren't Tinkerbell. I demonstrate this in my spirit identification in the field class by inviting a plant deva and then, under strict requirements, inviting a fairy. What most people identify as faeries are plant devas, the intelligence and guardians of plants. Faeries are both a class and culture of spirit, and even the "nice" ones can be quite dangerous, especially if you don't know their culture. ) Fairies in North America are immigrant spirits that came with families, and while they are in nearly all areas of the country, they appear most openly active in Appalachia.


3. Witchcraft doesn't really overlap much with North American native practices, outside of animism. Native American / indigenous practices are not what most of us pale folks were taught in school AT ALL. If you're serious about reparations and respect, you'll be finding yourself digging through the whole genocidal history of the residential schools and the mythologization of the American Indian. These practices ARE NOT interchangeable with witchcraft practices, especially witchcraft practices rooted in Europe and Asia. But for now, here's the cliff notes:


A. MOST IMPORTANT: North American indigenous people are alive and present today. They live in cities, they live in reservations, and no, not all of them benefit from casinos. Please stop talking about them like they're dead, they're not, and THEY CAN HEAR YOU.

B. Indigenous people are, like the Celts, a vast, NOT a monolithic culture. Every nation and tribe has its own practices. I am using sage as a brief example here, and sage will have to get some attention on its own in addition to this. White sage is not used by all nations or tribes - often because it didn't grow naturally near where that culture originated. If you ever follow Native TikTok, you will see some indigenous people adamant against the use of sage by anyone but themselves - and others saying, "It's OK, let's share it." There are some native tribes and families that rely on the sales of white sage to make a living.


Indigenous Americans are not a single homogenous group; they are several cultures that can be very, very different from one another. The whole "Great Spirit" idealized story most of us got in public schools was disinformation, a plan to stamp out all indigenous culture, very purposefully generated starting with President Ulysses S. Grant.


C. Most cultural appropriation concerns are rooted in injustices against Native Americans. While there are some nuances - you can't close a plant, but you can close a tradition - it's wisest not to claim you're doing something like the American Indians did or working with "Great Spirit" unless you are indigenous. Also, my understanding is that the "Great Spirit" is a white invention and misapprehension of animism.


To learn about indigenous practice, look to YouTube and TikTok. (I recommend reading books for other traditions, depending on how the root culture transmitted information.) Many indigenous traditions are oral, and it's best to learn directly from people living those traditions - and it's a good way to see how different they all are.


4. White sage doesn't work on every spirit, black sage is NOT mugwort, and the Latin names of plants matter A LOT for safety, cultural respect, and conservation reasons.


5. You don't need to be psychic to practice witchcraft. Yes, it can help. Also, most people develop sensitivities and expanded perception as they practice the Craft. It's a whole thing with pumping up your energy bodies. A few subsidiaries regarding witchcraft and psychism:


If you can recognize other people's emotions, that doesn't make you an empath. It makes you empathetic. Being an empath means you mistake other people's emotions for your own and feel their emotions and aches and pains with them. The ability to do so can be used in healthy ways but only after a lot of boundary and energy work.


There are other ways you might be psychically sensitive, and you may have psychic perceptions without realizing you're having them. There's a crossover between our lizard brain recognizing danger and our energy bodies experiencing foresight, communication, and energy shifts.


6. You don't need someone else to gift you your first tarot deck. I have no idea where this came from, but tarot isn't meant to be gatekept that way. Also, tarot originates from Medieval Italy, not ancient Egypt.


7. Starseeds, etc., have origins in eugenics, which itself originates in an attempt to bridge Western and Eastern philosophy called theosophy. Here's my strong opinion about this whole thing: starseed is new age, rather than witchcraft. The line can be blurry, but there is one. Second, any spiritual practice that sells you on how much better and more enlightened you are than the world and people around you is guaranteed toxic and will lead people into doing harm in the name of healing. Feeding anyone a sense of superiority always leads to obnoxiousness at the mildest and to cult-danger levels bad when it grows. Mostly, I've seen a lot of racism, Dark Ages science and medicine, and toxicity come out of the Starseed movement.


8. Reincarnation isn't a requirement and isn't in any way an exact science. Some European witchcraft traditions have a strong belief in reincarnation. However, not all groups or individuals do. While in specific coven traditions, it can be a precept of belief, the focus on Earth's solar and lunar cycles is usually way more important.


9. Calling. You don't have to practice witchcraft like your ancestors did, and while it can be profoundly helpful to have an ancestral connection, we are sometimes called to paths outside our cultures. This is very rare, and that person has to work within the context of the culture that calls them rather than adopting practices here and there into personal work. It does happen, and it's loud and clear when it does. When it does, it often turns out the person had hidden ancestry that led them to the practice.


10. Spells are NOT recipes. You are likely to get different results each time; you will often have to adjust your formulas and ingredients, and all sorts of factors can impact your actions. It's a lot, but accounting for the variations and resistances is a skill that will build over time.

Learning witchcraft is a fun but tough pursuit, and sometimes, the Internet has made finding your way to your path within it harder in its efforts to make your life easier. While the information is a lot - I am infamous for my infodumps - it will help you navigate the torrents of information coming out of our small world with a little more grace and a sense of what to embrace and what to skip.




 


 

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