As a solo witch, it’s up to us individually to learn all of the things that one would learn under the guidance of a coven. Before the dawn of the World Wide Web, it was obviously much harder for a solo witch to learn about Wicca and develop their skills in the Craft. My goal in this section is to give you a clear, easy-to-follow list of topics that a newbie witchlet should study. This is by NO means exhaustive, and you should branch out to other Wiccan resources both online and offline.
One of the key advantages (read: freedoms) of being Wiccan is there is no “one” book, dogma, or central governing body to tell you what is to believed and what is to be rejected. Different traditions of Wicca believe some things that other traditions do not, and that’s okay.
The most important thing to remember is Wicca is a religion of inclusion, of peace, of harmony, and of nature. So while the Dianic tradition concentrates solely on the Goddess aspect of Wicca, I believe strongly in the duality of the Divine. But I do not condemn anyone who resonates with the Dianic tradition. Wicca has answered the age-old question of “can’t we all just get along?” with a resounding “Yes! Yes, we can!” And we do (for the most part; of course no one’s perfect).
Required Resource #1: Critical Thinking
In many religions, especially the Abrahamic religions, you are told what to believe. But where dogma rules the day with those religions, it is quite another thing that rules the beliefs of the modern witch: critical thinking. Wicca is not a religion with a list of “thou shalt and shalt not’s” — rather, it is a collection of experiences and discoveries that is unique to each practitioner.
Instead of dogma, we have guidelines. The Wiccan Rede is a great example of guidelines. Even then, there are traditions of witchcraft that do not regard the Rede as something that is strictly adhered to. I could go on and get into a deep philosophical discussion about this, but I’ll spare you just this once.
What’s important to remember is your set of morals and ethics as a witch do not come from an old book or a minister or even me. Chances are you’ve already got a general sense of morals, as these are usually developed as children and adolescents. If you want to drop some science up in this, check out Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Just search for that in the Google. To give you an extremely condensed version of Kohlberg’s stages, there are six, four of which are generally achieved by the time we become an adult.
As you begin your journey on this new path, you’ll likely experience some conflicts with what you’ve generally held to be morals. This will vary depending on a number of factors, not the least of which is the degree to which you were raised in a Judeo-Christian or Muslim household. For instance, if you were raised in a strict Christian household, you may have been told that sex before marriage is immoral. If you were raised by peace-loving hippie parents, then you may have a more liberal view of sex.
If, for you personally, sex is something that you prefer to share only when you’re legally wed, then that’s okay. If that particular dynamic is truly what resonates with you, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to begin having promiscuous or non-marital intercourse.
What I implore you to do, however, is to apply critical thinking and logic (!) as you begin to learn more about the Wiccan path. There seems to be a common thread in the Abrahamic religions that eschew reasoning and logic, condemning such things as ungodly or even outright evil. But remember, Wicca is different. So, in my rather saucy example of sex, if you prefer to reserve sex for marriage, there’s nothing wrong with that; but don’t condemn others for believing otherwise. This applies to everything, not just sex.
“Well, wait, are you saying that if someone believes that it’s okay to murder, then that should be considered okay in general?” No, no, not quite. The last few lines of the Wiccan Rede state: “An harm ye none, do what ye will.” And even though some Wiccans don’t “follow” the entire Rede, those eight words are generally held by the vast majority of witches.
Don’t do anything that would harm yourself or harm someone else. Acts such as murder, rape, abuse (physical or otherwise), robbery, etc. are all acts that cause harm to someone. Religion aside, as a society, we’ve evolved to a point where acts that harm others (and ourselves) are (generally) illegal. So you see the importance of using critical thinking and logic. And here again I could wax philosophical, but I’m feeling particularly non-sadistic as I write this, so I’ll save the debate for another time. Bottom line, it’s alright (and even advisable) to use your head as you journey on.
Topics of Study: a 30,000-foot View
If you were to look at my library (or the library of any Wiccan who’s been at this for a while), you’d see books. Oh, boy, are there books! I’m constantly finding new books at my local metaphysical shop or on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. (I may have a slight spending problem when it comes to books… I justify it as “investing in knowledge.” You, however, should only spend what you’re comfortable spending; I’m hardly a good role model when it comes to strict fiduciary budgeting.)
But you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on books in order to get knowledge (all hail the power of the Internet!), and here are some great online resources in addition to the titles of some of my favorite books on Wicca & witchcraft.
The purpose of this section is not to bombard you with tons of detail about the minutiae of Wiccan beliefs, but rather to give you a good high level view of what you should begin to study. Failure to study about any of these topics in depth will not make you a bad Wiccan. One of the hallmarks of a good witch is the desire to learn and discover; to expand one’s knowledge in both a logical AND a spiritual sense.
With that in mind, let’s discuss 7 topics that should be at the top of your list as you begin to study. You’ll find as we go through these topics that I provide links to articles I’ve already written. The articles are more of a deeper dive into the topics.
Tools of the Trade
As I said about 80 pages ago, when we were discussing the development of your self-dedication ritual (remember way back then? I’ve said a lot of words since then, I know.), the only ingredient you ever need to do a spell or ritual is INTENT. Such is also the case when it comes to tools. If you can’t afford a broom to replace your current means of ground transportation, don’t worry! Plenty of witches prefer transportation of the four-wheeled kind.
Don’t feel like you have to rush out and buy a ton of stuff to be a witch. If you’re able to comfortably afford to do so, then by all means, do so. But you’ll do just fine without them. You already have the best tool a witch can have: your body!
My article “Tools of the Trade” covers the basic items and goes into a little bit of detail. There’s pictures, too!
Sabbats & Esbats
Sabbats are the Wiccan holidays, of which there are eight in total. Each of the Wiccan Sabbats are rich in their history. Many of the Sabbats have their roots in ancient pre-Christian pagan festivals, and you’ll find some interesting corollaries between the Wiccan Sabbats and the symbolism used in modern holidays in the US, UK, AU, and other countries who celebrate the Judeo-Christian holidays.
Esbat is a fancy word for celebration of the full moon. There are generally 12 full moons per year, or 12.37 if you want to get really technical. There are 29.531 days in a lunar cycle. Boom, I just dropped some maths and astronomy! The phases of the moon will soon become a very integral part of your life as you begin performing rituals, but more on that later.
More details about the Sabbats can be found in the “Wiccan Sabbats” section. You can start celebrating the Sabbats any time. A great idea would be to figure out when the next Sabbat is and begin studying about the history of that Sabbat. Here’s a quick view of the eight Sabbats in a calendar year. It all starts with Samhain, which is widely thought of in the Wiccan belief system to be the “Wiccan New Year.”
|Yule||The Winter Solstice (usually around Dec. 21)|
|Ostara (or Eostara)||The Spring Equinox (usually around March 21)|
|Litha (Midsummer)||The Summer Solstice (usually around June 21)|
|Lammas (Lughnasadh)||August 1|
|Mabon||The Autumnal Equinox (usually around September 21)|
Spells and Such
As I mentioned earlier in the guide, spells are one of the first aspects of Wicca that newly dedicated witches want to learn about. You’ve already performed your first spell/ritual with your self-dedication. Spells and rituals and such are a very important and very sacred aspect of the Wiccan path. “The Anatomy of a Spell” article I wrote goes into depth about the different parts of a spell/ritual. I also have a section on How to Write Your Own Spells. But there are some additional questions that new Wiccans will invariably face: how often do I practice ritual and/or cast a spell?
There’s no one formula that’s right for everybody. You can perform a ritual or write a simple candle spell for any occasion, even something as mundane as getting ready for the day ahead of you. Some people prefer to perform rituals whenever a need arises (prosperity, health, love, etc.), while others may like to perform a weekly ritual for spiritual guidance.
As a newly dedicated witch, start with some simple candle spells first, and keep it to once a week. As you begin to learn more about rituals and you read different books and articles on the topic, start adding new elements to your spells until they’ve become a full ritual.
Then there’s the “…and such.” This includes things like casting a circle (which could arguably be a part of the ritual and, for that matter, can and should be done anytime you’re casting a spell), doing a guided (or free-form) meditation or visualization, or grounding (which is similar to grounding for electricity; it sends the excess energy back into the Earth to be recycled). Again, it all comes down to personal preference. It doesn’t make you a bad witch if you don’t meditate daily.
Indeed, many people may not even be familiar with proper methods of meditation (I was one of them). To go into the different ways to meditate or visualize is something best saved for another article. Daily meditation is always a good benchmark towards which we should all strive, but you won’t go to Wiccan hell if you don’t meditate every day (due mostly to the fact that Wiccans don’t believe in hell, but also because we’re not rigid like that).
As I mentioned earlier when we talked about Esbats, the phases of the moon are extremely important, especially when it comes to performing certain rituals. Here’s the deal: the moon goes through four (arguably five; more on that in a minute) different phases: new, waxing (getting “bigger” or more visible in the sky), full, and waning (getting “smaller” or less visible in the sky).
There is a fifth term sometimes used called the “dark moon.” The dark moon refers to the time when the moon is neither waxing nor waning, but it is not yet “new” (i.e. it hasn’t begun the process of waxing). Depending on where you are on the globe, the dark moon is usually a 24 hour period when the moon stands still (or so it seems) because it is neither waxing nor waning.
Confused yet? Don’t worry. Let’s just focus on the four “common” phases for now. Certain rituals are designed to be performed during a certain phase of the moon. Here are the most common guidelines for moon-phase-specific rituals:
New Moon – This is the phase of the moon where rituals involving new beginnings and fresh starts should be performed.
Waxing Moon – This is the phase of the moon where rituals involving drawing things to you (i.e. money, love, good health) are most effective.
Full Moon – After we all turn into werewolves, rituals that have to do with abundance and manifesting. As you work on drawing in the positive during the waxing moon, the full moon rituals are sort of like the “big finish.”
Waning Moon – Getting rid of negativity, cleansing, and banishing are some of the things that can be focused on during a waning moon.
So what if you need to do a spell to get rid of some negative energy brought on by, say, a crazy ex-lover or overly pushy co-worker, but it’s only two days into a waxing moon? Oh noes! We have to wait for like two weeks before we can do a negativity banishing ritual, right?
Wrong. Again, these are guidelines. Yes, rituals are most effective when they’re plugged in neatly to the “proper” phase of the moon. But if you have a need to perform a ritual that does not correspond to the moon phase, do the ritual anyway! Intent, remember? Intent is the strongest element in ANY ritual. The Universe understands that life doesn’t always fit neatly into categories all the time.
Since we’re already talking about the moon, let’s take it a step further and discuss astrology. Let me be clear: you do not have to read your horoscope every day (or, for that matter, even believe in the validity of horoscopes in general) to be a good witch. However, astrology and astronomy play very big roles in the Wiccan belief system.
Like the moon, the planets in our solar system impact our lives to varying degrees (just ask anyone who’s fallen victim to the craziness that Mercury retrograde brings!), so it would be advisable to at least do some cursory research on astrology, the signs of the zodiac, etc.
Astrology is more than just knowing what your zodiac sign is and what the generalized characteristics are of the different signs. Astrology involves things like how the different planets have an effect on our lives and astrological birth charts (also known as natal charts). Our astrological signs are also associated with one of the four elements. Here’s a list:
Air Signs – Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Fire Signs – Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Water Signs – Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Earth Signs – Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
The topic of astrology is one with an interesting history and its correlation with many of the beliefs of Wicca cannot be ignored. So even if you skip right over the horoscope section in the newspaper, you should make an effort to learn about how astrology connects with Wicca. And astrology dovetails nicely into our next topic, divination.
Divination (from the Latin divinare, meaning “to predict”) is something that many people seem to think is only done by psychics. And while psychics do, indeed, practice divination, you don’t need to be a psychic medium to practice divination. In fact, many Wiccans use various methods of divination for spiritual guidance and to receive messages from their Spirit Guides.
In my article “Wicca and Divination,” you will find in depth information about different methods of divination, how divination can help you in your spiritual practice, and some pointers on how to do divination properly and successfully.
As with astrology, you don’t have to practice any method of divination if doing so does not resonate with you. It’s always advisable, however, to do some research on what divination really is, as many times things like divination and astrology are viewed by Judeo-Christian religions as evil. So check out some non-religious resources to get the real deal on what divination is (I’ll give you one quick fact now: divination is NOT just fortune-telling!).
History of Wicca and Witchcraft
There seems to be two types of people: those who LOVED history class in high school and those who LOATHED history class in high school. Personally, I always had history teachers with the most dull, monotone personalities, so history class never really excited me. But regardless of whether you loved it or hated it in school, history is our greatest teacher. This is also very much the case in Wicca.
The history of Wicca (and witchcraft in general) is a rich one, filled with mystery, intrigue, tragedy, victory, and so much more. While Wicca (with a capital W) has only “officially” existed since the late 50s, witchcraft spans thousands of years. To know where you’re headed in your path, you must first learn from whence this path originated.
My section on the History of Wicca would be a great place to start if you’ve never read about the origins of witchcraft. There is a TON of information about the history of witchcraft, and I strongly encourage you to read everything you can about where we come from. From Margaret Murray to Gerald Gardner to ancient pre-Christian pagan societies, our origins are anything but boring.
I warned you from the start, studying Wicca will involve some homework. Here’s a list of resources that you may find helpful as you continue your journey of studying. And remember, you’ll never stop learning as long as you don’t stop seeking! As you continue on your journey, you should always look for new resources wherever possible.
But like I said at the beginning of this section, you’ll need to use your critical thinking and logical reasoning skills to determine what information is accurate (or, more appropriately, trustworthy) and what is hokum. The Internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to information; anyone can post anything and pass it off as accurate, and the topic of Wicca and witchcraft is no exception. So if you read something that makes you go “hmmm…”, then I suggest you find additional resources on whatever that topic is.
On the other hand, it’s also important to remember that not everything about witchcraft is going to come from an “authoritative source.” I discuss this dilemma in the History of Wicca, in the “Witchcraft & Wicca” subsection. Basically it boils down to this: the standard by which historians judge whether or not something is “historically valid” is a different standard than how most witches determine whether or not something “resonates” with their spiritual beliefs.
For example, much of what Margaret Murray wrote in her book “The Witch-Cult in Western Europe” was ultimately disregarded by historians because of lack of empirical evidence. However, witchcraft (and most pagan religions and traditions) was something that was usually passed down via spoken word. And if there were books or writings that existed, they were most likely either destroyed during the witch craze or have otherwise been lost. Nevertheless, when it comes to matters of spiritual relevance, one does not need “empirical evidence” to believe in something.