Thoughts on Witchcraft:
I did my first circle and ritual two days ago (10/23/00), and it appears to have worked. Very exactly.
Iíve been giving this some thought and Iíve come up with a few things that I feel I should get down onÖwellÖ"paper".
First: One thing Iíve hit on is what Iím terming "contractual ritual". The ritual I performed was one asking the Deity in both aspects, plus the Rulers of the Four Corners for an apartment for Aimee and I. What I wrote was "a two bedroom apartment within 5 miles, with space that Aimee and I can comfortably make into a home." And this came to pass. What I did NOT add was "that we can reasonably and immediately afford".
Now because of the conditions of the spell, we could afford it, just not immediately and reasonably. So it goes. My first practical lesson.
So, the rules are: In preparation of your request, be as specific and far-reaching in the ramifications and conditions of your request as possible. Include EVERYTHING you need, especially the "provided it harm none". Do not assume the Deities know. Or they might, but, being as they are in our image or vice versa, they can be as capriciously literal-minded as we are.
Another thing I learned: It is indeed the symbology that is important, not the actual composition of the tools. In particular, I recall advice (in I believe Scott Cunninghamís book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner) stating that a standard flat "K-mart" (my quotes) broom was not advisable to use for preparing the ritual space. Lacking a homemade besom of ash and willow or whatever, I used a commonplace store-bought broom. Worked just fine. Lacking an athame, I formed the circle with my projecting hand (the left in my case). No problems. Lacking a cauldron in which to burn my petition, I used an ashtray. The petition itself was written on note-paper from the fridge in red felt pen. No special candles, just a red and a white one, lit with a Zippo. The water and salt were held in common bowls, using tap water and regular iodized salt. The altar was a kitchen chair.
What is important is the significance you assign the symbols, and the solemnity and seriousness with which you perform the ritual and consider the symbols. This is, more than anything, what is required. The ritual I described was cobbled together in a few minutes, but taken very seriously, as my need was great and I knew that I couldnít mess about with the forces I was dealing with.
The study and practice of witchcraft is not to be taken lightly, but also should not be taken as deadly serious, at least in certain aspects of it. While it is preferable, perhaps, to have tools that are properly made and sanctified, and may aid in the casting of the spell or performance of the ritual, they are not completely necessary. I think this, aside from the overwhelming wealth of often contradictory knowledge available, is what can deter a potential student from the pursuit of this path. Which athame is best? How big a cauldron? Out of the many herbs, which is more effective or appropriate? Or, as Terry Pratchett put it while talking about "research witches" in his Discworld books "Itís all very well to have a spell that calls for the fin of a ravined sea shark, but which of a hundred species that fit that description is best?" Iím fairly certain Iím paraphrasing here, but you get the idea.
Now, Iím also not saying "forget what people tell you, go for it anyway", as that can also be very dangerous, especially when dealing with herbs. Currently, being such a beginner in my studies, I do not deal with herbs. I find that particular field of witchcraft intimidating and confusing. I donít want to poison myself or anyone else through my ignorance. So, when it comes to herbs listen to those with experience.
Also when it comes to ritual preparation. The main factor is mindset. Some people find it hard to concentrate, or visualize. There are techniques that are effective to help you in that. These techniques are many and varied. In my so-far-brief time studying, I have heard no less than a dozen recommended meditative techniques, visualization exercises, and time-honored means to reaching the proper state of mind. Some of these worked, some of them didnít, as people have different tendencies and preferences, but I tried them all to see which worked for me before I contemplated doing any sort of practical application of magic. It helped immeasurably. If you feel you donít quite know how to settle yourself and achieve the proper state to cast a spell or perform a ritual, ask around. Everyone will tell you a different way, but you will soon find one or two or a dozen that work for you.
I am an eclectic, it turns out. The trappings of a particular "school" or path are not for me. I am not comfortable going "skyclad" in the Alexandrian way, nor do I like robes and hoods. Jeans and a t-shirt work just fine, so long as you feel effective and comfortable. The concept of chakras doesnít feel right to me, and my image of the God and Goddess are varied depending on my mood. I try not to specify things too much, preferring to go with what works at the moment. Some symbols speak to me, some donít. Cíest la vie.
These thoughts will of course be added to and changed as I learn more. This is just a start, after all. The Path is long and Iím just taking my first steps.
Another oddity. Normally Iím not comfortable with worshipful language, preferring to address the God and Goddess as equals. However I find in breaking the circle or ending a ritual I canít seem to stop saying thank you and all in "dismissing" them. It just goes on and onÖ.
Wonder why that is? Probably a feeling of insecurity, in a sense. I donít want them to feel that Iíve just called them and dismissed them having done what I called them for. That would be rude, and you donít want to be rude to beings that can affect your life on so many levels. I prefer a working partnership, and am trying to gain that. Nonetheless my constant bowing and scraping at the end of the ritual probably doesnít strengthen or foster that sort of perception in either them or myself. And it probably gets on their nerves. I know it gets on mine.