I was raised by a witch. Though I didn't call my own practice witchcraft (at least publically) until recently, it has always been a part of my life. This is a blessing in many ways, but it leaves me lacking in the department of how to start practicing witchcraft as mine began with birth.
As I mention in my FAQ, I see myself not as a teacher, but more as a librarian, here to begin conversations and provide resources. In my journey to build my library and help others, I began to read books marketed to new witches (some call themselves baby witches) and found that I saw the same misconceptions time and time again.
Whether the book is aimed at Wiccans or witches in general, these beliefs were held fast in nearly every book.
Here are 5 common misconceptions to look out for when beginning your journey:
You HAVE to learn the wheel of the year
This is one of the most heavily perpetuated myths in the witch community. The wheel of the year with the celebration of Litha, Samhain, Yule, etc, is a largely Celtic tradition and are not requirements for all witches (1). There are plenty of witches, especially non-white witches, who do not celebrate these holidays. While there is no harm in learning about them, there is absolutely no requirement to be an expert or follow these holidays.
You can practice whatever you want!
The sentiment is correct, but there are limits to this statement. More accurately, "you can practice whatever you want from open practices". It is important to know what practices are open to you. For example, smudging is a specific ritual that originates in Native American and Indigenous communities (2). This article recommended by an Indigenous friend as it is informative, but focuses largely on Canada's approach to Indigenous practices. That being said, Burning herbs does not mean smudging. Without the training and knowledge that comes from initiation or birth into a closed practice, you do not have the knowledge you need to be practicing any part of it. This is why closed practices are closed to begin with. Even if you read every single article on a practice, you do not have the level of understanding that you would get from being initiated or born into the practice and should therefore not be doing it at all.
You need tools!
I address this in my post "Which Witch Tools?" but I'll reiterate it here. Witchcraft is a practice and items are tools, not the practice itself. You can do math without a calculator or a compass and you can do witchcraft without crystals, pendulums, cards, and the like. Focus on you before focusing on buying expensive items. If you do like the items (no shame, I do too!) gather them from the world around you. The world around you is abundant and items will present themselves to you. Rocks from the local stream, a flower from your favorite park, herbs from your garden, a feather that lands in your driveway, rainwater... The list of natural resources is long.
The guidebook always knows best!
This is a tricky one, and I apply it most to divination and symbolism, as research and sourcing is incredibly important to me. That being said, in regards to divination and personal symbolism only there is not enough stock being placed in intuition and gut instinct. If you are seeing signs, trust your gut. Different cultures have different interpretations, so if you see a sign, googling "lots of crows" may list hundreds of results. This page lists just a few of the thousands of interpretations of crows and none will be as important or as truthful to you, as the gut feeling you have (3). None will be able to tell you what you are feeling but your own intuition. Learn to listen. Learn to trust your gut.
The Elder Witch is always right.
This is a big one. While an Elder witch holds an incredible wealth of knowledge, it is the job of a witch to fact check everything. This goes for every single witch, myself included. There is a reason that sources are linked at the bottom of the page in all posts that have facts. I highly encourage you to follow the trail until you reach the end. There is a huge issue of misinformation in the world of witchcraft, especially online. It is dangerous, not only spiritually, but physically. Witches online can say anything, especially as providing sources is not Instagram-friendly. Follow the sources, and if none are provided, think critically: is this something that I should accept without thought?
This is the C.R.A.P. Test by Vanderbilt University:
Currency - Is the information current? Is it updated regularly?
Reliability - Is the source reputable? Is it accurate? [Who, if anyone, are they citing?]
Authority - Who created the information? Why?
Purpose/Point of View - Is there a balance of perspectives? Is the information biased?
As you scroll through TikTok, read Tumblr, or even leaf through a published book, read the sources and apply C.R.A.P. You will find, like I mention in my blog about Lilith, there will be times when all the sources lead to one single misconception. This could have even been debunked, but because of the train of people not doing their research, and accepting ideas as fact without confirmation, this misconception is accepted as fact and becomes widespread.
These are by no means the only misconceptions that are spread throughout the witchy world, so a part two may be on it's way to your inbox. If you're not yet subscribed, sign up below. We only email when we have new posts, promise!
If you have questions or suggestions for blog posts, leave them below!