Practical Magic for Beginners was an easy book to write because I have been teaching these exercises for so many years. I just imagined a new class sitting in front of me and started talking to them.
What I love about teaching this material is that it doesn't assume that the person just starting on a magical path has already decided to be a Witch, a Pagan, or a ceremonial magician. A lot of the people I talk to aren't sure what they want to do. They're interested in learning a little about everything and exploring until they find the right path for them. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of things they'll need to know that are common to all the paths of the Western mystery tradition. Everyone needs to know how to handle energy, how to work with the four elements and how the planets affect us. Students in my classes have been happy to have a chance to learn basic skills without having to make a decision about how to spend the rest of their lives.
One thing I noticed is that people who have been practicing a particular path for years, accomplished magicians or Elders of Witchcraft, will decide to take a beginner's class. I ask them, "Why are you here?" and they say, "I want to look at it from a different angle." Also, some paths emphasize particular skills and spend less time on others. So it's a good chance for them to review their education and learn more about the skills they skipped over when they were just starting out. I know it's true for me that whenever I take a new class or read a new book, even if it's a beginner's book, I learn something new, or learn to see magic from a different perspective.
In the last few years, as I taught I found myself wishing I had a book to hand people that explained the things I was describing. I also noticed that people were taking a lot of notes. Some students would try to capture everything by scribbling in shorthand. Even though I handed out notes, they were still interested in capturing more information. There are also people who just don't have the time to take a class but still want to have the information. I decided that it was a natural step to work the material into book form.
I had the most fun writing the rituals in this book. I've been doing rituals of these sorts for several decades. My idea this time was to combine an element with a planet to generate the energy of the ritual. I made a spreadsheet of all the possible combinations of four elements and seven planets. Then I took the practical magic I'd been doing and mapped those ideas onto the grid. I didn't have a ritual for every combination. I left some for other magicians to develop or for myself to work on later.
As I worked on putting these rituals into words, I did every single one of them. Although I'd done versions of these in the past, I wanted to make sure that the exact wording of the ritual would work. It made a very interesting couple of months! I liked the feeling of strength that it gave me to work on all these areas at once. It showed me where my strengths are and what I am still working on in my life.
When I passed out the book to my writer's group to review, it was particularly interesting to me that they noticed how some references to specific paths had crept in. I am a Witch, Pagan, and magician, and sometimes I use ideas specific to one of those paths without thinking about it.
One of my readers challenged me about the use of the broom as a tool to clean a space. My reader thought that the broom belonged specifically to Wicca or Witchcraft. I discussed the idea with this reader—what else could be used to move energy out of a space? One option is to use the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, but that's a specifically ceremonial tool. In the end, I decided to keep the broom because it is a simple tool and does something that no other tool will do. Brooms: not just for Witches!
I'm certainly going to go on teaching; now I have the book to hand students! I'm excited that this self-study course will be available to a wide variety of people. If I had one thing to say to everyone who picks it up, it would be "try it!" Do at least one of the exercises. Magic is for everyone, and the best magic has a real effect on our daily lives.
Brandy Williams (Washington) is a Wiccan high priestess and ceremonial magician who has been practicing and teaching magic for over 25 years. In 1997, Williams founded the Seattle Pagan Scholars, and she has served as ...