As a teacher, I’m constantly meeting new witches who are in the very early stages of their craft. There are tons of things that characterize new witches as a group, from fears about summoning spirits on accident, to being confused about what all of the terminology means, to having no idea how to identify reliable sources of information. These stages of learning are normal, pretty much everyone experiences them!
Today I want to focus on one particular phenomenon that I see among newer witches: Stockpiling stuff rather than actually doing witchcraft. What do I mean by stockpiling? Think about those times early in your practice when you found yourself walking into witchcraft and crystal shops with absolutely NO idea what you’re doing. You don’t know what you’re looking for. You don’t know what half of this stuff does. You aren’t sure what you would even do with most of it. And yet, somehow, you end up walking out with a bunch of stuff. You buy a bunch of herbs and rocks and tools that you’re not sure how to use with the best of intentions about learning to use it.
You might learn to use some of it but, more than likely, it just accumulates. You don’t find a good use for the stuff you buy and you still feel kind of lost in your craft so the next time you walk back into that witchy shop, you do it all over again.
This cycle can continue for quite some time if you never figure out how to build a practice. And it’s no wonder! Nobody teaches us how to build our practices.
Why We Become Hoarders
There are plenty of reasons why this hoarding phase happens but I think the biggest one stems from knowing where we want to be but not knowing what it takes to get there. We see witches with amazing practices, doing spells and rituals all the time, with the perfect aesthetic and gorgeous tools all over social media and blogs. They have their practice together. We want that! Nobody hands us a roadmap of how to get there though. So we look at what we see and try to reverse engineer it. And what’s the easiest thing to recreate? What’s the most concrete aspect of this? It’s the physical stuff.
So every time we think “ok, I’m going to do this for real this time” it’s off we go to the store to buy all the tools so that we can be badass witches too. We buy a million herbs and rocks that we know nothing about and head off home to learn everything and quickly lose steam because learning this way is boring. It’s all backward. You get things and try to shove information about it into your brain in the hopes that it’ll be useful somewhere down the road but you may or may not actually be able to make use of it now and then within a few weeks all of that information is forgotten and the herbs sit untouched, gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.
In order to learn information and have it be usable in our practice, the knowledge needs to be anchored in our lived experiences. This lived learning process moves in the opposite direction. First you identify a need in your life, you learn about spells, techniques, tools, and ingredients that will help meet that need, and THEN you go buy the things you need to accomplish that goal. This is how you get witchy info to stick in your head. I will never forget that patchouli is a great herb for all kinds of drawing and happiness magic because when I needed a money spell, it was the base of 80% of the formulas I was learning about.
It’s The Consumerism
There’s also a more insidious reason why this happens. Most of us have been raised in capitalist societies that train us to measure our progress and solve problems by buying things. The person with the biggest paycheck and the fanciest car is the most successful. The newest upgrade to your phone will definitely make you happier instead of just being pretty much exactly like the perfectly good phone that’s already in your pocket. Those new crystals will definitely make you feel like a real witch finally.
These ideas are bullshit in most of the places that they crop up but they’re particularly problematic in witchcraft and spirituality. The reasoning is simple, you can’t buy magical ability or spiritual experiences. They are lived, not bought. You can own every herb, every rock, every ritual tool, and a fancy set of robes to boot but if you never use any of it to experience your spiritual practice, then you will never be a witch.
Conversely, you can own absolutely none of that and still be an excellent witch. You can do magic with your morning coffee, a pencil and scrap paper, or random stuff you find on the ground. Magic can’t be bought, it’s something that you have within you and only consistent practice and spiritual exploration will give you what you’re looking for.
How To Build A Practice That Isn’t Stuff-Focused
Identifying the problem is all well and good but that’s only half the battle. If this whole buying stuff habit that witches get into is just a bandaid for feeling like our practices aren’t good enough, then how do we build practices and learn? We’ve already touched on it above, we reverse the order that we do things in!
1. Find a foundation
Every witchcraft practice needs some kind of foundation, a cornerstone that the rest of their craft hinges on. If you’ve ever wondered how some witches seem to be practicing all the time while you can’t seem to keep up a consistent practice, this is it. They have a cornerstone practice!
This cornerstone can be any number of things and it may take you a while to find the one that suits you. For most people, this cornerstone is going to be something spiritually important, regularly repeating, and cyclical. This is one reason why moon observance is big in modern witchcraft. The full and new moon create a sort of external clock that allows you to regularly come back to your practice in a scheduled way.
Lunar observance doesn’t work for everyone though, we’re not all super lunar people. Other options include deity work, ancestor work, work with particular spirits, repeated spell work, etc. For example, my cornerstone at the moment is praying and making offerings at my ancestral shrine. I do this every Monday. Realistically, I am at my ancestral shrine way more often than that but this scheduled time helps me to come back to my ancestral work every time my focus wanders. This practice is literally in my calendar! It’s important to me and I don’t want to forget it so I set reminders in my calendar, it doesn’t make it less meaningful or heartfelt because it’s scheduled.
If it’s a practice that repeats at least once or twice monthly and it’s important to you, it can work as a foundational practice. Some people will do better with daily practice, some with weekly, and some with monthly. You may find yourself with a combination of the above as I have, don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you.
2. Build auxiliary practices
This is generally something that happens quite naturally. For those who do deity work, spirit work, or ancestral practice, they will often prescribe other practices for you to carry out. My ancestors have given me full rituals to practice weekly, complete with ritual specific incenses, oils, and prayers. The beings you work with might also suggest practices other than magic, a god I work with had me pick up bullet journaling to organize my life a few years ago. While this isn’t specifically a witchy action, it was a devotional act and brought me closer to him and to my practice.
Auxiliary practices in my current craft include a purification rite that my ancestors have prescribed every Sunday, planetary observances for Venus and the Moon, and a trance dreaming practice at each quarter of the moon.
If you’re not working with an entity as part of your foundational practice, that’s just fine. You’ll need to be a little more creative perhaps but your auxiliary practice can still develop quite naturally. Instead of being handed ritual practices, you will need to develop them as you need them. Magical hygiene is a great place to start with this. Cleansing, grounding, and warding are important for every witch and doing them on a schedule can be very beneficial to your practice.
Divination is also a great practice to give some kind of cyclical rhythm. Reading tarot for yourself at the beginning of the week, pulling a daily rune, or doing short 10-minute meditations every morning on your preferred divination method can both give you guidance and improve your skills as a diviner.
Finally, scheduling learning into your week is a great idea. You would schedule work, projects, homework, etc. so why not pencil in your witchy learning? For me, this looks like reading 35 pages of a book every day. I try to keep to this pretty stringently and make up for missed days by reading more when needed. Witchcraft is what I do full time though, your learning practice does not need to be so stringent! 10 pages a day is a great start and easily accomplished. If we assume the average witchy book is around 200-250 pages that means you’ll get through a book a month pretty easily. Daily learning might not fit your schedule, if that’s the case, it’s ok. Even once weekly learning can have big benefits and keep you moving forward in your craft (this is why I send out weekly emails!)
3. Add as-needed practices
These practices aren’t cyclical. As-needed practices are exactly that, spells and rituals that you pull out when you need them. These are best developed in response to actual situations in your life. Again, you start from the desire or need to change something in your life, do the research, find a practice that you think will work, and then go get just the tools you need.
Doing this has many benefits. The first is that you won’t end up with a huge stash of tools and ingredients that you have no clue how to use. You craft a carefully constructed toolset that reflects your actual practice and needs and you know how to use every piece of it. This is a lot easier on your wallet as well!
The second benefit of doing this is that you develop a repertoire of spells and rituals that allow you to respond to the situations that crop up in your actual life. Every witch needs quick draw practices that they can use whenever they need it. These may be things like curse breaking, money drawing, sweetening spells, health spells, banishing spells, travel protection, etc. The point is that you find the spells, learn them, and get the necessary tools as you find yourself in need of it. Don’t try to preemptively guess what you’ll need, wait until you need it and then find a spell that feels powerful, practical, and achievable.
4. Cull your practice regularly
This is important to any ongoing practice and there are a few different ways to do it. By culling your practice I mean sorting through all of the stuff that you’ve accumulated and getting rid of what you don’t need anymore. Many witches will buy herbs thinking they might use them and then never actually do, leaving them to sit and clutter up their space for years. Here’s a good rule: Date all herbs when you buy them and all oils, incenses, etc when you make them. Most herbs need to go after a year, some less than that. Oils are usually good for a year if they’re properly made. Incense is quite variable, some recipes will last nearly indefinitely while others go off quickly. You can test these by burning a bit of it. If the scent has changed dramatically then it’s time for it to go.
If you haven’t used a tool in over a year or you aren’t even sure how to use a tool, then it should probably go.
Lots of witches keep leftover candle wax to melt and reuse later. If you find these leftovers in with your tools and still want to use them, now is the time! Find containers and wicks, melt those suckers down, and make yourself some recycled candles. If you find yourself wanting to put it off until later, it may be time to throw the wax out. Good intentions don’t make candles.
This is also a good time to reconsider your scheduled practices and take a look at the spells that you have in your repertoire. Does anything feel off or out of place? Are you still relying on spells that feel too basic or not in your wheelhouse? Are you maintaining a regular practice that feels flat, dull, or boring? It’s time to clean house and shake things up then. Try something new, revamp your schedule, and find ways to inject life and your personality into the parts of your craft that feel dull. In some cases, you might decide to just drop a practice altogether, that’s ok! I have a trance dreaming practice right now but my adherence to it varies over the years, coming and going as my life changes. Flexibility in your practice is a good thing!
As always, one of the keys to making your craft work well for you is to know yourself and not ride on the hope that you’ll suddenly be someone else. If you have a crazy schedule that’s all over the place then giving yourself rigidly scheduled rituals every Tuesday at 2:45 pm probably won’t stick for long. If you don’t like working with crystals, then basing your as-needed spells on crystal magic probably won’t feel right. Take your life and your inclinations into account when you’re creating your practice. This is YOUR craft, it should be tailored to you! It doesn’t need some external stamp of approval to be real witchcraft, it just needs to work for you and produce the results you’re looking for.