The following is a list of suggested topics for teen (or adult) study in a rather closed-minded environment. If your parents are likely to throw away materials dealing with alternative paths, this is the place to start. Trust me, there is plenty to learn that will enrich your experience of Witchcraft as you grow older. If you are in a somewhat more open minded home, you might be able to study some of the New Age topics. If you are able to study with materials that are specifically designated “Witchcraft” or “Pagan” materials, you might find the Pagan topics of interest.
It’s like keeping a diary. One of the goals of a Witch is to be aware, to know. One way to become much more aware of the world around you and of your reaction to it is to keep a journal. You might write in it every day, or once a week, it’s up to you, but be sure to be honest.
Here is a very simple exercise that you can use to get you started if you are stuck. In Witchy fashion, it uses the four elements of earth, air, fire and water to describe an incident. First write the date on your journal page. Now, think about your day, and write down the following about anything in that day:
- Earth: What happened?
- Air: What did you think about what happened?
- Fire: What did you do about or because of what happened?
- Water: How do you feel about what happened?
Soon the words just come. You can choose any form for your journal: a notebook, an audio cassette, a “blog“, a video tape. It’s totally up to you. For a long time, I simply sent myself an email every day. The important thing is to create a record of events, and your thoughts, actions and feelings regarding these events. Eventually, you will include information about rituals, prayers, or spells you performed. This will become your Book of Shadows—a record of your journey on the Path through life.
Daily mediation and record keeping (journaling) are often the changes many students find most difficult to get used to, therefore, I recommend dedicating the first few months of study to developing these habits.
Herbalism and Holistic Remedies
With herbal and other natural remedies gaining popularity in mainstream society, having an interest in natural healing is far from suspect. However, anyone interested in Witchcraft will certainly want to learn the properties of herbs. The magical uses of herbs are often indicated by their medicinal properties; for example, an herb that induces calmness, such as lavender, could be used magically to create peace. Two good and very basic primers on herbalism that I use are The New Holistic Herbal and Herbal Remedies For Dummies. Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies also comes very highly recommended, but I have not used it.
One of the best ways to learn about herbs is to grow some. Not only are they wonderfully easy to grow, you can include cooking herbs and flowering herbs for color. A small window box herb garden is easy to set up, and will help you learn the responsibility of daily care and bonding with non-human life. My favorite herb book like this is The Complete Book of Herbs , but any of Lesley Bremness‘s books are spectacular.
This was once a subject included in herbalism, but has become so popular that it gets a category all its own now! Go to any grocery store and you’ll find aromatherapy bath goodies, candles, even aromatherapy dish soap these days. So, learn something about the subtle art of blending plant essences and you are on your way to discovering magical oils, baths, candles, etc. Any skilled Crafter gets to know the basics of aromatherapy, even if she always purchases pre-scented candles and incense. If you choose to practice, invest in good pure essential oils. You’ll only need a few basics to start.
To learn more about the subject, try these favorite books of mine. (My copies are all dog-eared and stained with drippped oils!) Aromatherapy : A Lifetime Guide to Healing With Essential Oils, The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy & The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews. Please note! The last title is a magically oriented book! There is plenty to learn in the first two if the Cunningham is taboo in your home! If you become deeply interested in the subject, Valerie Ann Worwood’s follow-up book, The Fragrant Mind, goes much deeper into the psychological effects of aromatherapy, very useful to the budding scent magician.
Mythology and Folklore
Most pagan paths work with deities of old, whose stories are conveniently recorded in mythology and folklore. Greek and Roman are interesting for a start, but don’t be afraid to move on. I recommend the works of Joseph Campbell for anyone interested in mythology, as he spans the globe, comparing the stories of ancient Babylon with the tales of Medieval France. The Bill Moyers interview of Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, is likely his best known and most accessible work.
Archaeology & Ancient History
The study of Archaeology and Ancient History will put into perspective how magic and religion fit in as a part of every-day life to ancient peoples. Go to your local historical museum and spend time wiht the artifacts there. Try to see them as a contemporary of the item would. It can be a very enlightening experience, and those around you will merely think that you find the dusty old stuff “neat”.
This is a subject that becomes important when you start to wonder why Witchcraft became “Witchcraft” as opposed to just “the way things are”. There was a time when most individuals practiced what we now call Witchcraft to some degree, and most people were of a pagan spirituality. Study of the political and socio-economic factors that rocked Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire on will begin to clarify things.
Witchcraft, indeed all of paganism, is nature oriented. You won’t get very far as a pagan if you never get out into the environment and see how it works. Camping, nature hikes, and other outdoors activities help to build a basic understanding of how Nature operates, what is healthy for the world and what isn’t. Some pagans become very passionate about ecological politics and involve themselves in “Green Activism” as a part of their path.
This goes hand in hand with Herbalism. Do you need to become a botanist to be a witch? No…but it certainly helps to have a basic knowledge of the trees and plants that grow in your area. Buy a plant identification book for your region and go on a nature hike, or a walk through a city park. See how many plants you can identify. In days past, this was common knowledge. It will save you alot of trouble when you need a twig of Ash tree for something if you already know what an Ash looks like and where you can find one!
One day you may want to explore the uses and energies of crystals and stones, and this is one of the places where a little geological knowledge is handy. For example: all beryls (emerald, ruby, etc) are formed by the same process, but the introduction of different chemicals while the crystals are forming give them different colors. With this basic information, the witch can begin to make decisions about substitutions and which crystal will carry the proper energy for her needs.
Some geological study will also help in understanding water tables and power points. This is more obscure practice than most witches need in this age of running water in every home, but it is our heritage!
Whether you join a coven or grove, or choose to remain a solitary and simply want to get involved in your community, you will need to have some understanding of organizational dynamics. Sadly, not every member of your magical community will be as sincere as you may be, and an understanding of power plays, social maneuvering and the dynamics of leadership will help you avoid ugly conflicts. If you plan to study to become a High Priest/ess, you will certainly appreciate having some mundane leadership experience under your belt. Join clubs and volunteer groups, or begin a study group for one of the topics on this page. Scouting is not only helpful in learning leadership skills, but will teach a respect for nature and other skills essential to the Craft. I found that my participation in high school and college organizations has helped me immensely in the leadership of my coven and Clan.
Particulary the work of C.G Jung on Archetypes. Terry Pratchett’s character Granny Weatherwax is fond of saying that Witchcraft is mostly “headology”. Knowing how the human mind operates can is critical in magical work, particularly mental programming. Study of self-hypnosis is also recommended, as the techniques involved are nearly identical to visualization magic.
That’s an awful lot of topics to start studying, isn’t it? And you thought you couldn’t study the Craft in your home!