I’ve wanted to write a beginner’s guide to witchcraft for a while now, but there’s so much to include and cover, that I kept procrastinating from doing it. I’ve really stepped up my own learning recently regarding the craft and I finally figured out the key points I feel every baby witch needs to know.

This is probably going to be one of many beginner’s posts around this topic, but if you’re just starting out with witchcraft or spellwork, then I feel like this is a great place to begin your journey.

A brief history of witchcraft

When I say this is a brief history, I mean it. There is so much to the history of witchcraft across all different cultures, so I’ve narrowed it down to a few core messages.

First of all, a witch is a wise woman, someone that has knowledge that is niche and specialised. Many of these women were healers, medicine women or wise elders back in the day. For the most part, the main reason witches were condemned and burned was because these women had knowledge that others didn’t and knowledge is power, especially in days gone by.

The witch hunts of the 1450s to 1750s meant that many innocent women were burned or hung for practising what people perceived as witchcraft. In reality, these women were often midwives and healers, that had a knowledge of female health and herbalism better than any male doctor. This can be seen across all cultures around the world, not just in western history. In indigenous cultures, white colonisers would use the excuse that a woman was a witch to dominate and punish those that didn’t assimilate. In opposition to that, many indigenous women, particularly in Africa and South America, would adopt witchcraft as a form of protecting themselves from white invaders. However, a lot of the spiritual practices and beliefs that have been woven into modern-day witchcraft come from these cultures and many witchcraft practices can be traced back to African or indigenous routes, such as the Native American culture.

To this day, women in the Central African Republic are still getting tried and executed for witchcraft, and these witch hunts are still prominent in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, India, Nepal and Saudi Arabia amongst other countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In the West, specifically Europe and North America, witchcraft is more widely known and practised, although there is still a stigma around those that practice it. These days, there are many routes you can take within the umbrella of witchcraft, and it has become a manual practice for those that are in need of a spiritual connection to better their mental and physical wellbeing, in a very digital and online world.

Witchcraft and religion

One thing to make clear is that witchcraft is not a religion, it is a practice that is commonly associated with pagan religions, because many of the foundations of western witchcraft comes from paganism and druidism.

You can be a pagan and not be a witch, you can be a Wiccan and not be a witch and vice versa. You will find that a lot of witches hold varying beliefs, some witches practice witchcraft but claim Christianity as their religion, or they practice whilst also holding beliefs in line with Judaism and so on.

There’s no denying that witchcraft has been moulded and shaped by different religions over time. Whether it’s praying to deities or incorporating Kabbalah into divination, religion has made its mark across all forms of witchcraft. For example, modern hoodoo and voodoo has practices that are based on Catholicism and Christianity because of slavery and colonisation.

You do not have to have any specific religion to practise witchcraft, but many find a route to religion through their practices, usually to pagan religions, but it can help to open you up to religions that you may not have been raised within or had any previous knowledge about.

Overcoming scepticism

This may come as a surprise to some, but I am a massive sceptic, like many in modern society, we have so much information at our fingertips, it can be difficult to believe in things we can’t physically see, touch or hear. There’s a lot of trust and blind faith involved and that can be a tough pill to swallow.

As someone that has struggled against scepticism during my witchcraft journey, my advice would be to find different perspectives to look at certain elements. For example, something that put me off in the very beginning was believing in deities. I never believed in God or the idea of gods and goddesses, until someone helped me take a different perspective.

Although there are those out there that practice witchcraft and believe in a God or Gods, for me, the easiest way to use this element in my practice was to see the gods as a personification of different factors in life. So instead of doing a love spell and calling upon Aphrodite and believing that a woman in a flowy robe and long blonde hair is standing over me watching, you use that image of her to better focus your intention. You don’t necessarily believe she’s a physical being, but the image of her and what she represents helps you to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish with your practice.

Like I’ve said previously, witchcraft is a very personal journey, so these are just the ways that I wrap my head around things, and how I view witchcraft and magick within my own life. I believe that magick and spells work because we can manipulate the energy around us. I believe that if you put out an intent that is focused and has a great deal of energy behind it, that you will receive what you’ve worked for. Energy reacts to energy.

This is why the bigger the spell or the preparation for the spell, the more powerful it is. We put our own vibration into everything we do, so if we half-arse it, we’ll get a crappy outcome. If we go all in, we’ll receive a better outcome. We get out what we put in.

Creating a Book of Shadows

When you decide to start on your own witchcraft journey, it can be very overwhelming because there’s so much to learn and so many different paths you can take. My advice to all baby witches that come to me asking about where to start is to start by creating a Book of Shadows or a Grimoire.

A Book of Shadows is a journal that you record all your research and learnings. I like to draw images in mine to jazz it up and keep my wandering mind focused. Everything I learn that is to do with spiritualism or witchcraft goes into this book. I can then refer back to it whenever I need to. A Grimoire can be the same, but I use the Grimoire as a place to record my rituals and spells. This keeps everything separate and means I have one book for learning and another for practical magick.

To help you know where to start with your Book of Shadows, here is what I started my book with:

This is a great base on which to build from, because as you look into these things, you’ll come across other points you’ll find an interest in and want to look up further. For example, you may be researching the sabbats and want to know what activities to do on those sabbats, which could lead to you learning more about crystals or spell bottles or elemental magick.

Keep a list of things that you want to look up in more detail as you go along, and you’ll soon find that you’re filling your Book of Shadows fairly quickly.

Places to start with your research

Now we know where to start with our Book of Shadows, here are a few topics you can branch out to once you feel ready. Always start with the topic that calls to you the most, for me this was divination, but for you it may be astrology or crystals.

  • Astrology – Zodiac Signs and meanings

  • Astrology – Birth charts and horoscopes

  • Numerology

  • Crystals

  • Palmistry

  • Tarot Reading

  • Scrying

  • Tea Reading

  • Oracle Readings

  • Crystal Ball Readings

  • Herbalism

  • Astral Projection

  • Cruses/Hexes

  • Hoodoo/ Voodoo

  • Spirit Guides

  • Kabbalah

  • Hermeticism

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