I was blessed (or damned, depending on some folk’s viewpoint) to have been raised in the Way. Both my parents were raised in It as well in varying degrees, so it just seemed to be a part of life I took for granted. However, even being ‘raised’ in such an environment produces its own types of struggle and one finds that no matter how much you may have been taught by others, the only Truth that really changes you is the Truth you have discovered for yourself.
For those just starting out or looking for tips on how to more effectively pursue their Path, I offer the following suggestions. I hope some newcomers to the Way find them useful. Please note that these suggestions reflect my own tradition and personal preferences. Yours may vary. Please feel free to take what benefits and leave the rest.
- Research, read, explore, discover, experiment –
While having a ‘mentor’ or someone close by to show you how to Work the Way is typically and historically the most effective way to gain an occult or magical education, most Neo-Pagans would have to agree that a dependable and responsible adept teacher who lives nearby or who is willing to actually spend time with a novice can be hard to find, if not almost impossible.
Therefore, the next best option is the written word. There are many extremely talented and highly experienced occult writers who have shared their expertise in book form. I take advantage of this storehouse of knowledge daily.
Reading and research can help you discover which paths, traditions or systems feel ‘right’ to you and which do not. It is an effective way of weeding out systems that do not move or inspire you to greatness. As with any new piece of information, the student must weigh it. Think it through, sieve it through your mind and see if it resonates with you. Oft times, what we reject at one point in our lives, may become a foundational Truth for us later. Growth is constant change, so keep an open mind and listen to your Spirit.
I have a recommended reading list here on the blog. I have read and own each book on the list and can verify as to their aid and guidance. I don’t always agree with every single point of which an author may try to persuade me, but invariably, I always come away with bits of knowledge and insight I did not have before. These books obviously reflect my own personal interests but they may lead to sources more to your individual taste.
If purchasing books is a stretch for you at the moment, please don’t forget your Public Library (and interlibrary loans) which will probably have excellent books on mythology, ancient religions, paranormal studies, and archeology. With the popularity of Neo-Paganism, most libraries will probably have some introductory works on Earth based religions as well.
2. Don’t Buy the Hype
You may be tempted to go ‘shopping’ now that you have discovered a new found faith or a tradition that enchants you. Be careful. You cannot ‘buy’ your way into becoming an adept. You cannot purchase Power.
It is unfortunate, but many have jumped on the profitable bandwagon celebrating the resurgence of Paganism and/or Crafting and have gained monetarily from the spiritually hungry or chronically lazy. Don’t let yourself fall into either category. There is no short cut. Try to keep ‘purchased’ magical tools to a minimum, at least at the beginning.
In reality, you gain more experience and knowledge by making most of the implements yourself. Your essence permeates the item. Your energy is stored and your intent is harboured within each tool on your altar. Making your own instruments infuses those items with more ‘you’ than those made by others.
Obviously, if you prefer tools that would be difficult to make yourself (chalices, knives, etc.), then purchase them, but don’t equate ‘expensive or ornate’ with power. I know of many weak practitioners with rooms full of expensive magical instruments, but sadly, both spiritually and magically, they are not bettered by them.
YOU are the conduit. The Spirits and Powers through speak and use YOU.
You are the Incense. You are the Wand. You are the Offering. You are the Magic. The tools are merely there to help you focus and for a novice, to help switch your consciousness to a deeper level where the magic can more easily occur.
I have been practicing for decades and my altar consists of a clay bowl (handmade) with stones, three tea light candles (made from a hobby kit) and an incense burner that was given to me as a gift. My way is simplistic and pared-down. I realize it’s not for everyone and that many enjoy more elaborate settings. Just keep in mind that all the tools in the world; all the herbs, candles, robes, athames, wands, chalices and incense will not make a Worker out of someone unwilling to put in the time and study.
3. Meditation, Awareness and Trance Work
Lastly, I think that nothing is more important to the novice and even the adept than a regular meditative practice. There are many fine books and internet resources on mediation and trance techniques available (see Recommended Reading List, particularly Apophis and Liber Null), so I won’t go into the steps on attaining these states here, however, once learned, I believe there are fewer practices in an occultist’s daily life that can be more fruitful.
In trance, we go to the Sabbat. In trance, we speak to Spirits. In trance, the Wisdom and Knowledge of the Ancients is passed to us. We travel to the Hedge, we visit the astral realms, we commune with our beloved Dead and we become enlightened.
A true Worker is able to pass beyond the veil and bring back Wisdom. This is the Shaman. This is the Path of Wizard, of the Witch, of the Pagan Priest and Oracle. By altering our consciousness, our inner and outer perceptions are heightened and by practice, we become more ‘aware’. We notice tiny fluctuations, movements, colours, vibrations, shadows, emotions and signs that most miss.
By practicing awareness, mental clarity and control, silence and meditative states, we become ‘otherworldly’. We are stronger in the mundane world as well. We are not slaves to our emotions. We are able to maintain our equilibrium while the world around us is swept up in waves of opposing and constantly shifting polarities.
In the end, finding Wisdom and walking the occult Path is not an easy journey for any of us. It can be demanding, frustrating, overwhelming, frightening and downright stubborn in release of Truth. But, that is what separates True Workers from hobbyists and dabblers.
If you seek, you shall find and the Way shall be made known to you.
Be brave. Be persistent. Become the Magic.
Blessings of the Light and Dark to all who dare to travel the Winding Road.