The Newbie Witch’s Guide to Witchcraft

A woman in a cloak in the woods at dusk, holding a gas-lit lantern.
(Image Credits: Unknown via Pixabay)

There is a tremendous amount of information out there regarding witchcraft and the many paths that intersect with it – and certainly more than was available when I began my studies. Even back then, in the days of fumbling over forums and scrounging through static web pages, I found myself a bit overwhelmed as a newbie to the craft. Today, I have composed for you a – hopefully – digestible beginner’s guide, from a witch who was once a beginner herself.

What Is (and Isn’t) Witchcraft?

As with most of the metaphysical terminology I use on this blog, I find that the most useful place to begin is defining what exactly these words mean in our practice. Truthfully, that can be a bit difficult when dealing with topics like these, as one’s spiritual or mystical path is a very personal thing, and there may be slight variations in how each individual may define these things. As the saying goes: Feel free to take what serves you and leave the rest.

Let us begin with the topic of this article: witchcraft. Witchcraft is quite simply the art and practice of working magick. This makes a witch a practitioner of magick. It is not evil – or good, for that matter. The nature of the working is all in the hands of the practitioner. It is also not inherently Pagan, Polytheistic, Luciferian, Satanic, Kemetic, Druidic, or even Wiccan. In fact, it’s not a religion at all. You can consider yourself a part of any religion or none at all and still practice witchcraft, because that is all it is – a practice of magick.

Which brings us to the next important question: What is magick (also spelled ‘magic’, but many people use the alternate spelling to differentiate from sleight of hand)? Aleister Crowley, as questionable as his morals may have been, offered us some worthwhile material to work with in the realm of magick, including a promising definition. He defined magick as the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will – that is, the process of using intention or desire to bring about real-world change. I would add that this may include calling upon external energies and entities to assist you in achieving your goals by way of their own magick.

How Does Magick Even Work?

While there is a great deal of skepticism – and perhaps even cynicism – within mainstream science regarding magick, there are a tremendous amount of people who have seen results with their own eyes. And to those who have seen that success, there is little doubt that magick works. However, how exactly it works is another question entirely. Currently, there are five popular models that have been proposed within occult circles which offer varying theories on how the process of magick could potentially function:

• The Psychological Model: This model suggests that our subconscious mind is naturally privy to the process of manifestation. When connecting directly to the subconscious through magickal workings, a perceptual change occurs which results in guiding our decisions, thoughts, and actions in the direction of that which we wish to obtain. Many of the current popular manifestation methods – including subliminal work – I would say serve as a good example of this model in action, as much of the work is done on the subconscious belief system.

• The Energy Model: This model suggests that the practitioner channels and manipulates the everpresent energies that flow throughout and all around us. During a magickal working, we borrow energy from relevant sources, add a touch of our own, and put that newly concocted energetic stew toward our ultimate goal. Many of the common enchantment methods recommended to beginners would likely fall into the framework of this model.

• The Spirit Model: This model suggests that all magickal power flows out from a sort of Otherworld and the beings that inhabit it. Gods, spirits, angels, demons, and other entities that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye lend their unique abilities to us in order to achieve our goals. Magickal workings, in this model, come to fruition by communing, cavorting, and/or calling upon these beings to assist us with what we may not alone be capable of. Prayer, as it is understood by many major religions, could be considered an example of this.

• The Information Model: This model suggests that everything around us is simply but a blank slate to be imprinted upon. It is quite similar, in my opinion, to the energy model, but rather than combining unique energies to put toward our goals, we conjure up our own energy – or, in the case of this model, our own information. A magickal working that falls into this model can be likened to programming a computer. Per the theory that upholds it, information cannot be considered mass or energy as we understand it in mainstream science, and it is therefore not bound by the mainstream laws of physics. Morphic field programming is a good example of this particular model in action.

• The Meta Model: Finally, this model suggests that any and all of these previous models can be true depending entirely upon the needs and beliefs of the practitioner. It is very fluid and open to the fact that, at this time, we truly know nothing for sure about how magick functions. And actually, there are many people who don’t consider this a model at all, but rather instruction on how to interact with other proposed models when conducting a magickal working. “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” This is the modus operandi of chaos magick.

It’s no news to anyone that we live in a very disenchanted, nihilistic era of brutal realism as the gold standard of academia and intellect. Some people I’ve come across over the past decade are so resistant to mainstream theories being proven wrong that you’d think they were part of some unspoken religion. Still, I do hope that one day we’ll have the means and the interest in magick to bring it to light within the scientific community. In the meantime, you might find the book Real Magic by Dean Radin to be of interest for a deeper look into current limited research.

Who Can Be a Witch?

In short, absolutely anyone can be a witch, and if that is a satisfying enough answer for you, feel free to skip this section entirely. If you’re in need of a bit more to go on, however, I’ve answered some of the more common beginner questions below:

• Do I have to be naturally gifted to be a witch? While there are a great deal of people out there who may be naturally inclined when it comes to this or that magickal practice, it is not at all a requirement to become a witch. Just as with any skill – such as painting or writing, for example – magick may come naturally to some while requiring a bit more practice from others. Anyone of any starting level can, over time, become a skilled magician with practice.

• Does it have to run in my family to be a witch? Again, while there are many people out there who may be hereditary practitioners, anyone can become a witch. There are no special bloodlines or genetic makeups that make you any better than any other witch. Typically, the only benefit you’ll see from a practice that runs in a family is either a particular passed-down talent that led them to the craft in the first place and/or a groundwork of familial folklore to give you a head start on your own path. While these things are nice, they are not a requirement.

• Do I have to be a woman to be a witch? This is a common misconception. While, historically, many of those famous names in the craft have belonged to women – and nearly always in a negative context – it is not the case that it was exclusively placed on women. Witch is a gender-neutral term. That said, if you are, for any reason, uncomfortable with that label, there are many other terms that magick practitioners commonly use: Sorcerer/sorceress, wizard, warlock, magician, and mage, to name a few – with further options still for those who may fall into more specific magickal paths and practices.

• Do I have to be Wiccan to be a witch? I mentioned prior that witchcraft is a practice, not a religion. On the other hand, Wicca is. Wicca was introduced to the public in 1954 by a man named Gerald Gardner as a very eclectic neopagan religion that heavily implemented the use of witchcraft to connect deeply with oneself and the world around us. And though Wicca, in its creation, drew from many other practices from around the world, there are some sects (such as Gardnerian Wicca) that are much more rigid in tradition and practice. On the other hand, there are plenty of solitary Wiccans out there who value the framework over the details. Regardless of whether or not any of these paths are appealing to you, however, you do not need to practice Wicca – or any religion, for that matter – to practice witchcraft.

• Do I have to [insert any individual “witchy” task] to be a witch? Don’t like tarot? Not into candle magick? That’s completely fine, because your path as a witch is entirely your own. For the first few years of my practice, I was not all that interested in things like divination or spirit work as I was into connecting with nature and bringing happiness and good fortune to my loved ones. You do not need to practice – or even study – every little thing that is considered “witchy” to be a witch. You only need to explore what calls to you and practice witchcraft in some sort of capacity to be a witch.

• Do I have to practice magick to be a witch? This is the only question that I would personally say “yes” to in this section. To be a witch, I do feel that you have to, at some point, leave the realm of study and actually practice witchcraft. It’s similar to how I wouldn’t call someone who simply enjoys watching sports an athlete. There’s nothing at all wrong with the enjoyment of watching a sport, and the person watching may know all the rules and etiquette that surround it. Unless that person also plays a sport, however, I wouldn’t call them an athlete. An athlete is someone who practices a sport, just like a witch is someone who practices witchcraft. That said, this doesn’t mean that I think someone needs to practice all day, every day to be a witch. Sometimes we’re busy. Sometimes we’re tired. Sometimes we’re not feeling well physically or emotionally. Sometimes we’re just not feeling it in general. And actually, I’d go so far as to say it’s inherently “witchy” to be in tune with your body’s own natural cycles of work, play, and rest. As long as you practice witchcraft from time to time, you, my darling, are a witch.

The Innate Beauty of the Craft

Witchcraft, in my opinion, is such a beautifully romantic path to walk. There is great emphasis, on this path, on the power and uniqueness of self, the mindful observation of our surroundings, and the emotional energy that we utilize to conjure up our manifestations. These are some of the possible changes you may notice within yourself should you choose to walk this path:

• An awareness of the subtle energies and realms within and without this world and existence. As you begin working with energy, you’ll begin noticing it all around you more naturally. One mystical experience is all it takes to get us questioning whether there is indeed more to life than we’d been previously led to believe.

• A tuning to the natural cycles of this beautiful planet and the cosmic bodies that serenade us from above. With this newfound subtle awareness, you will also find yourself becoming more mindful of the natural cycles present everywhere. You will find yourself in an active relationship with reality and the energetic threads that weave within and without it.

• An inclination to animism, the perception of the spiritual essence within all things. From here, you may find yourself becoming aware, as well, that spiritual energies, perhaps even souls, can be found within all things. People, places, and things all have their own unique essence that can be felt and mingled with should you choose to open yourself to it.

• A sense of control and comfort in the certainty of your own innate power. Finally, with your first successful magickal working, you may begin to feel a certain sense of control that comes with the realization that we all have so much power to do wonderful things in this world – for ourselves, for others, and for the world at large.

And these things are by no means the extent of it, nor are they necessarily part of everyone’s path. Perhaps these changes are not for you at all, which is perfectly fine. I do notice, however, these things to be a common theme among witches, and I certainly noticed them within myself as I grew and transformed while walking my own path.

Intention & Enchantment

Now for the moment many of you have likely been waiting for while reading this article: How to do magick. When it comes to starting out, the actual practice of making magick happen can be quite daunting and confusing, but it all starts with two simple terms: Intention and enchantment.

As I tend to define it, your intention is simply your goal. What is it that you would like to happen as a result of casting a particular spell or ritual? To get the most out of your workings as a beginning, I would recommend that your intentions be translatable to a simple, to-the-point sentence – a statement of intent. That statement of intent can then be paired with a visualization of your goal having come to fruition to brew up emotional energy to be used for enchantment. You can word this statement of intent however you like, but I find that for most people, the most effective wording comes in present (or sometimes past) tense and is free of negatives (such as “don’t” or “not”) – a positive affirmation. We can get into affirmation work more specifically another day, but for now, we’ll stick with intention as it pertains to enchantment.

Enchantment, as I define it, is the act of filling a person, place, or thing with intentional energies relevant to your goal. So, let’s say you’ve come up with your intention, you’ve taken some time to sit with it, and you’ve built up that emotional energy inside of you. Once you’ve reached this point, you focus on that emotional energy, and you will it into the thing you are trying to enchant. Willing, in the context of magick, tends to refer to strongly knowing or believing that something is occurring. When you will your energy into something, you know your energy is moving toward it even if you are unable to see, feel, or otherwise sense it. Visualization is again a useful tool here, as it can be helpful to visualize the energy flowing out of you and into the target through your hand, your breath, your eyes, your third eyes, or wherever is most relevant to your goal or gives you the strongest results. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles this video by Lady Gravedancer on YouTube offers one of my favorite techniques to practice sensing the subtle energies in and around you.

Enchantment, by the way, doesn’t necessarily have to involve your own energy. You can also utilize the energies of the sun and moon, of items from your witchy toolkit, of specific locations that feel relevant to your goal, of anything at all that has an energy that you feel would be useful to your intention. Perhaps you’ve heard people refer to something called “charging” when referring to placing water or crystals under the moon or sun. I would say that the terms enchantment and charging could be used interchangeably, but I, like others I’ve seen, prefer to use the term charging when referring to placing target objects near a particular person, place, or thing to absorb those nearby energies passively, while enchantment, in my practice, is more of an active thing. The goal, however, is the same: Get those energies where you want them to go. Since we are likely picking up on surrounding energies all the time, we may as well utilize this to our benefit when working magick.

As a final note, I want to mention, for those who struggle with visualization by way of “imagining images with your eyes closed”, that this is not the only way to build emotional energy. You may be inclined to different senses. Perhaps your strong suit is sound, and you can imagine sound easily but struggle with visuals. Perhaps you are someone who has impaired vision, and your other senses are all you have to go on. You can still build emotional energy by focusing on those other stronger senses. Some people find success even simply repeating their statement of intent to themselves over and over like a lullaby. Others find success by sheer will alone – by just knowing that their spell or ritual has come to fruition. If your magick works, it works.

You can learn more about this process and energy work in general through two of my other articles on this website: A Field Guide to the Energy Body and The Basics of Spiritual Safety & Wellbeing, both of which are linked within my Digital Grimoire for reference and convenience.

Cultivating a Daily Practice

While not a requirement, it can be good for forward momentum on your path to have some sort of daily practice, even if that practice is just a few spare moments of introspection or energy circulation in the morning before starting your day or in the evening before going to bed. Not every working has to be this big, grand spell or ritual, and I’d say that for most modern witches, most of our workings are not. Here are a few small things you can do on a daily or weekly basis that will benefit you on your path and provide some framework for your practice:

• Prayer or Spirit Conversation: If you are someone who works with deities or spirits, making room of them in your space and taking a moment every so often to check in with them not only helps you to cultivate your relationship with them, but it also helps to improve your subtle perceptions when you practice listening with your mind’s ear for a response.

• Taking Time with Nature: As I view natural magick as one of the bigger components of witchcraft, this is a given in my practice. Getting to know the genius loci (the protective spirit of a place) of your area, leaving appropriate offerings for your local fae, feeling the energies of the flora and fauna around you, visiting with the spirits of your local cemeteries, and really making an effort to take in the many beautiful gifts of Gaia is another way to improve your subtle perceptions and help to grow your bond with the world around you.

• A Regular Meditation Practice: Be it “true” mindful meditation wherein you work toward completely clearing your mind and becoming fully present, guided meditation, or some other practice of meditation entirely, these moments of going inward can help to improve your intuition and your awareness of your own energy and inner guidance.

• A Regular Divination Practice: If you are inclined, you may like to practice divination regarding your intentions for the day. Whether it be through cards, runes, pendulums, spirit boards, or some other sort of divinatory tool, a regular divination practice can help improve your intuition and can also help offer necessary spiritual guidance to further you along your path. In addition, divination can be a useful tool prior to any sort of magickal working to help you determine what focus and methods would best help get you the results you desire.

• Morning and/or Nightly Manifestation Work: This can range from writing and ruminating on a thorough list of current manifestations or simply taking a few moments to visualize, but it is one of the most common (and sometimes most validating) forms of magick. Needless to say, a daily practice of making magick will certainly improve your ability to do so.

And before we move on, I thought it might be good to define and explain the difference between the terms “spell” and “ritual”. As with some other terms we’ve defined today, these are two terms that some people choose to use interchangeably, but I personally prefer to differentiate between the two based on the repetition, length, and involvement of the magickal working in question. In my practice, a spell is often a smaller working – perhaps spanning three days at most – which can be repeated as needed but isn’t necessarily performed on a routine basis. A ritual, on the other hand, to me, may involve coming to the altar space for a week or more at a time, may require a full circle-casting (another topic for another time), or may be repeated on a “ritual” basis (daily, monthly, weekly, or yearly). Of course, this is all just semantics.

Getting Started in Witchcraft

Truthfully, all you need to get started on the wild path of witchcraft is yourself, but many of us like some degree of structure and find it beneficial to come into the practice with tools that have pre-established energetic signature and subconscious symbolic associations to give us a better visual point of focus, additional energetic assistance, and a more physically involved practice. In this case, I would say your most beneficial tool will be your grimoire, a personal journal for recording magickal information and keeping track of your practice. In Wicca, they also refer to this as a Book of Shadows, though to me, a Book of Shadows is more for journaling magickal experiences, while I use my grimoire more to store information and correspondences. If you need a starting point for your grimoire, feel free to check out my printable grimoire over on Gumroad for a total of 304 pages, templates, and paper crafts to get you started.

From there, many witches like to have an altar or sacred space – that is, a workstation or area designated for magickal practice – to work on or within. In this space, you may like to have a representation of the elements (in ceremonial magick: a dagger for air, a wand for fire, a pentacle for earth, and a chalice for water, all of which have their own functions for magickal workings), a cauldron for blending brews or burning incense, a variety of colored candles (even birthday candles or artificial candles would work for this), a representation of your deities if you work with any, and any additional herbs, crystals, oils, sprays, or other tools with a variety of unique energies that may assist you in your magickal workings. Do remember to practice fire safety if you plan on working with fire. If you enjoy the “smoke” effect but don’t necessarily like working with fire or are unable to, consider looking into some herbal sprays that can offer a similar effect.

I do think, personally, that it is important to get to know the flora, fauna, and spirits of your area. Not only is it pleasant to sit out and enjoy, but can also be beneficial in a more technical sense in that you can bring the seasons into your sacred space to harness those energies, you can research the “weeds” in your area that may actually be useful in your pantry or medicine cabinet, and you can get involved with your community and local farmers’ markets to help support and improve the place you live your everyday life. There is so much power, wisdom, and beauty in everything around us, right at our fingertips, and it so often gets overlooked in favor of the shinier, more heavily marketed things out there. For anything you can’t find, though, allow me to suggest Mountain Rose Herbs, an online herbal shop based in Oregon which was recommended to me by a fellow witch. For things I can’t find here in my hometown, this is where I often look next for all of my herbal needs, both witchy and medicinal.

For just a tasting of correspondences, have a look at my Digital Grimoire. I will be expanding over time with much more information, including some in-depth videos which are currently in the works. I will, of course, update this post accordingly as new information is added.

Resources for Further Exploration

My little corner of the internet is, by no means, the only source for exploring witchcraft. Actually, I highly encourage you to explore other people’s teachings, wisdom, and techniques to really get your feet wet and discover what it is you wish to pursue and achieve. I’ve been practicing for about 15 years at the time of writing this article, but to this day, I still learn so much all the time from other people, from new experiences, and from the world around me. Life’s a journey, and existence may even be an eternal one. Here are some of my favorite resources for you to explore should you desire:

YouTube Recommendations
Lady GravedancerPyperhMolly RobertsFoolish Fishmindandmagick
Crescent MoonSancista Brujo LuisHouse of Spiritual VibesMadame Pamita
Noah TempestariiGuidwife at the Crone HouseEmber HoneyRaven

Book Recommendations
Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland
Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications by Raymond Buckland
Modern Magick: Twelve Lessons in the High Magickal Arts by Donald Michael Kraig
The Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente
Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences by Sandra Kynes
The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Meanings by Brigit Esselmont
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham
Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magick by Scott Cunningham
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen by Scott Cunningham
Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid’s Day by Carl F. Neal
Ostara: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Spring Equinox by Kerri Connor
Beltane: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for May Day by Melanie Marquis
Midsummer: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Litha by Deborah Blake
Lughnasadh: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Lammas by Melanie Marquis
Mabon: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Autumn Equinox by Diana Rajchel
Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween by Diana Rajchel
Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Winter Solstice by Susan Pesznecker
Art Magick: How to Become an Art Witch and Unlock Your Creative Power by Molly Roberts
The Magical Household: Spells & Rituals for the Home by Scott Cunningham
The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews by Scott Cunningham

Finally, before we part today, let me say that before starting anything at all, it may be a very good idea to figure out for yourself what exactly it is you want from this path. Are you looking to enhance your spiritual and/or religious practice? Are you looking to learn and explore the more mysterious facets of this existence? Are you simply looking to achieve a specific material goal – and if you achieve it, what then? Why do you desire to pursue this path? It isn’t a path for everyone, and some people do stumble upon it in hopes that it serves as a quick fix to some sort of problem or missing element in their life. Be sure that you know what you are looking for when you go out into the wild on this journey. Whatever you decide, good luck to you, my darling, and many blessings wherever those decisions may lead.

Ready to take the next steps on your spiritual, mystical, or magick path? Check out my Digital Grimoire which offers a plethora of information for beginner and intermediate practitioners and make sure to subscribe to The Witchy Housewife below to receive updates by e-mail whenever you release a new article. No spam – just updates! )O(

Affiliate Notice: Please note that some of the links within this article are affiliate links, and purchases from these places will go towards helping me keep this website afloat at no extra cost to you. Rest assured that the companies I work with are ones that I personally use and trust myself. Thank you for your support.

Subscribe to The Witchy Housewife

This is a spam-free zone. Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *