No, Not Even Books
OK, this might upset a lot of people, but what I say usually does, so I’m used to it. The reason not to buy a comprehensive library of “Wicca 101” books is because 98% of them are trash. Further, those who can really teach you tend to find you when the time is right. Sure, you won’t die if you mistakenly think that Cunningham is the comprehensive guide to all things Wicca for a few years (most practitioners grow out of that). No, you also won’t die if you (ugh) decide that Silver Ravenwolf isn’t a worldwide laughing stock for writing the most useless crap with the word “Wicca” on it in the history of all parallel universes (but she is, sooo….). If you like the idea of wasting your time and being told half truths, then, by all means, do your thing. BUT…if you want to save your time and money, you MIGHT…just MIGHT want to listen to me on this one. I have a book on this subject, which is here, but I can food bad dog this for you for the sake of this post.
Here’s why beginner books suck:
- They don’t tell you that the very act of being a solitary without initiation changes the path in a basic way. Now, that doesn’t mean that if you’re an uninitiated solitary practitioner that you suck or that your path isn’t good or anything like that. But the books insult your intelligence by refusing to tell you point-blank that a Wiccan ritual has 4 officiants at MINIMUM and a sole practitioner, trained or not, is doing a massively truncated version of the basic ritual by virtue of not being able to split him/herself into 4 people. The ONLY way that you’re going to gather the whole of what you’re trying to do as a solitary Wiccan is to understand what those 4 trained officiants do so you can get used to doing all of their jobs yourself. Yes, you can do that. But not if no one tells you.
- They don’t tell you that Wicca has very solid parameters that define it, and that unless the Rites of Wicca are present, you’re performing a Pagan ritual, not a Wiccan one. No, it isn’t WRONG to perform a Pagan ritual and not a Wiccan one. But it’s a bit silly to insist on calling yourself Wiccan if you are not, in fact, able to discuss the Wiccan Rites and what they mean. “That’s not Wicca” isn’t an insult. But you’re a bit silly if you insist that you’ve got a grilled cheese sandwich when you’ve actually got a plate of delicious spaghetti there. You can only decide to break rules you know exist. Wicca means a specific set of practices. Most books don’t tell you in plain language what the Erecting the Temple Rite, the Invocation, the Great Rite, the Simple Feast, and the Clearing of the Temple are, and that’s insulting you in very real terms. The Gods don’t care if you don’t do these Rites, but you should at least know what they effing are. Most books think you’re too simple for such complicated stuff as all that. Yeah, I know. Insulting AF.
- They don’t tell you what you are NOT GETTING if you elect not to train and take the 3 degrees system (or a portion thereof). There’s this absolute untruth floating around that says, “Oh, well…um, you know…initiation is only for people who want to join a COVEN.” Um, initiation gives you access to the other 90% of the religion. OOOOOHHHH, that? Yeah…there’s also that. Sure, you don’t NEED the other 90% of the religion, but you can’t decide that if you don’t know it’s effing there. Is that ME being “arrogant,” or is that me defending an egregious insult to your intelligence? Guess which one. Go ahead. I’ll wait. No, self-initiation is NOT the same initiation to which I refer. Yes, self-initiation can be lovely and meaningful and stuff. NOT THE SAME THING NO MATTER WHAT UNCLE BUCKY SAYS. Reject it all you want, but be sure you know exactly what you’re rejecting. You owe it to yourself.
How Do I Learn Without Beginner Books, Then, Smarty Pants?
Well, you do that by NOT ASSUMING YOU START BY SETTING AN ALTAR AND CASTING A CIRCLE AND DOING RITUALS AND SPELLS AND TAKING A CRAFT NAME AND STARTING A BOOK OF SHADOWS AND GETTING A PENTACLE NECKLACE AND MAYBE A TATTOO AND BUYING A TAROT DECK AND A BEGINNER HERB KIT FROM EBAY AND ALSO GETTING A BLACK ROBE AND DOING A CEREMONY TO MAKE YOUR CAT YOUR FAMILIAR BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS KNEW THAT MOONBEAM WAS A MAGICAL CAT AND ALSO CHARGING CRYSTALS AND……AND…..AND…..
Because every damn one of those stupid-ass books is going to tell you to do exactly that and it’s absolutely ass-backward. That’s why. Yes, I use swear words sometimes. Swear words have power (all words have power).
OK, got it. I know what NOT TO DO. But what DO I DO, then? Glad you asked. Here’s a list.
- You study what a Wiccan Tradition is, and you learn the difference between a derived Tradition and an Eclectic Tradition. You learn that some people call what they do a Tradition but don’t actually understand what a Tradition even is. It’s a body of liturgy that describes practices that either do or do not align with the basic building blocks of original Wicca. Not aligning with BTW or British Traditional Witchcraft is not a sin and it doesn’t make someone’s practice wrong or bad. But you can’t be educated unless and until you understand “Tradition,” “British Traditional Witchcraft,” and “Eclectic Tradition.” First assignment…go forth and figure that shit out. Because you can’t decide what matters to you by not knowing what’s out there. The first badge of stupidity is rejecting something you cannot define. Don’t be that guy. Hint: Try the Traditions page on witchvox.com.
- You talk with people who have trained in the 3 degrees of Traditional Wicca FIRST, and then you talk with people who have chosen NOT to train in the 3 degrees of Traditional Wicca. You ask them pertinent questions, like, “what have you gained from taking the training?” You ask those who have chosen NOT to take the training and discern whether they even understand “Wicca” vs. “Eclectic Paganism.” You don’t judge them; you learn the value points of each way of learning. You come to the intelligent realization that taking the training does NOT MEAN that the training constrains your actual practice. It means you KNOW WHAT THE TRAINING IS, and now you can choose to use all of it, part of it, or none of it. And if you still don’t want training and initiation, then great. Your choice.
- You go to fests. Yup, if you’re over 18, you save up your pennies and you go to some real Pagan events that have all sorts of Pagans at them, not just self-identified Wiccans. You take the advice of people who are experienced at fests by taking the class, “Grounding and Centering at Fest,” or some similar title as the VERY FIRST THING YOU DO WHEN YO GET THERE. You talk with tons of folks, you take classes that interest you, and you remember to ground and center OFTEN. First time around, best not to overdo the alcohol or decide that you’ve met your soulmate.
- You learn the difference between a healthy, qualified teacher and someone who is NOT a healthy, qualified teacher. You learn what a healthy coven looks like and what a toxic group looks like. You learn about religious abuse and how to spot it. You do NOT JOIN ANY GROUP until you are well-versed in these things. Believe me, I’ve heard stories. You do NOT want to join an unhealthy group. If any group, at all….
- You align with the Sabbats and learn about which are the Greater and Lesser Sabbats, what they mean, and what their energies are. You journal about your observations of how each Sabbat’s energy is felt by you personally. You can do this for a whole year without setting any altar or casting any circle or praying to any Deity. Just align. Just journal. Just feel and study. This basic stuff is all over the internet for free. Search “Wiccan Wheel of the Year.”
- You learn about the different Pantheons of Gods with Whom Wiccans can work. You study Their myth cycles. You can learn about individual Deities and Their consorts. Are you attracted to Norse, to Greek, to Welsh, to the Orishas, or to Whom, exactly? You learn about reconstructionist religions, such as Hellenic Reconstructionism and Asatru, instead of just deciding you’re Wiccan. Wicca is ONE Pagan religion of many. Get searching. Find web pages. Read them. Maybe even attend a public ritual….
- You ATTEND PUBLIC RITUALS! Look on witchvox.com for “local events” and bring a friend. Attend a public Samhain circle or a moot. Attend a blot for Freyja or an Ostara tea or something. Go, see, and meet folks. Ground and center before and afterward.
- And finally, when you have done these things, you read book reviews and, with your newfound knowledge, proceed not to waste your money. Buy books and read them. Maybe NOW you might want a pentacle necklace. Or not. I’m a High Priestess and I don’t have one.
- You subscribe to Pagan blogs…like, you know…maybe this one…and also others!