Here's a pretty good article that was posted on one of my Druid email lists. It's written for Wiccans but much of it is applicable to just about any pagan/heathen path.
Craft Basics; the 10 Big Beginner Mistakes and Pitfalls
By: Keitha (FireWind)
You've made them, I've made them, we've all seen them.. the dreaded 'beginner fluffy bunny mistakes'. These are the common mistakes that all beginners make at some point and other Wiccans groan at. These are the pitfalls that we have all fallen into at least once (or twice) during the learning curve. And this isn't your 'mispronunciations during ritual' pitfalls, either. Some of these are merely annoying to others, and some have serious implications. Most will make you grin abashedly in a year or so.
Not that I'm saying that you shouldn't make these mistakes at least once. It's a great learning experience to suddenly realize that you've recently been acting, well... a little strange. That maybe the reason people stare at you isn't because you wear a Pentacle; it's because it's three inches across. And don't feel too embarrassed, I've done most of these myself at one point or another.
Pitfall #1: 'I Read it in this Book...'
One of the first important things to learn is to not believe everything you read. Just because it's in print doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Be a critical reader. Don't even believe me, I'm just one person and I make lots of mistakes, too. Get opposing opinions and figure out what You believe. Goddess, if you only saw how many times I've stared horrified at my monitor at a beginner website with all the wrong information. Please be a critical reader.
Pitfall #2: Overenthusiasm
Enthusiasm is great... it's wonderful! Enjoy this time of awareness, of excitement and the golden aura of everything! But also be careful of overenthusiasm. While it is possible you were Wiccan in your last lifetime, it is very unlikely that you've been a Witch since the beginning of time or that your cat was indeed an attendant in a Temple to Isis. You grandmother probably didn't initiate you at age 5, and you probably didn't inherit all the knowledge of your now Wiccan ancestors. I'm not trying to step on your beliefs or hurt your feelings, but please be reasonable. There are over 6 Billion people on this planet, and very few Witches in the last few centuries; what makes you think you are a reincarnated Witch? Like I said, it is quite possible, but it's not the point. Whether you were or weren't has no bearing on who you are now. You will never again be the person you are RIGHT NOW; what better person can you be? As the saying goes: 'What you cannot find within, you will never find without'. Another issue to be aware of is being really excited about Wicca. This is wonderful, and I'm glad you feel proud of your decision to study Wicca. But daring people to disagree with you so you can tell them What Wicca Really Is is not the way to go. In fact, this is barely disguised prosthletizing, and this is something we just don't do. You will need to learn to depend on yourself, and sometimes others will just never understand. That's their right, and it's not your job to try and change their mind. The Christian standing in front of you never burned anyone at the stake and probably never will. They're not out to get you, and if they wanted to be Wiccan, they would be. Remember that the Witchcraft of the Burning Times is not the Wicca of today. Don't tell people what the Wiccan way is really about - show them by your own wisdom and maturity.
Pitfall #3: 'Wicca is as Wicca does'
Wicca has nothing to do with Tarot Cards, Seances, Dowsing, Pendulums, Psychic Fairs, and especially Ouija boards. A new moon ritual does not involve calling up Fluffy or Uncle Bob from the grave. I don't know any Wiccans who use Ouija boards and frankly the things concern me. I've never attended or heard of a 'Wiccan Seance'. That being said,
there are things here that Wiccans may like to do. I use the Tarot to advise me when I need perspective in my life. I do free readings for those who need it. I sometimes use a pendulum; I am learning about Runes. I may learn other forms of Divination in future. I don't charge money for Tarot readings if the person needs it, and you probably won't find me exhibiting at any psychic fairs. None of these things
have anything to do with Wicca. If you dream of something that comes to pass, it's not because you're Wiccan; it's because you are a sensitive human being. Smelling snow on the wind and celebrating the return of spring - this is Wicca. Sensing vibrations through a pendulum - this is not Wicca. This is something a Wiccan person may, or may not, have interest in. Wicca is a set of beliefs and a way of living; it is not fortune telling or the tools thereof.
Pitfall #4: Degrees and Titles
Dedicant, Initiate, 2nd Degree, High Priestess...how do I get these titles? Actually, unless you are part of an established tradition, don't count on the titles themselves meaning
much. I was dedicated as a solitary by an eclectic coven 3 months after I heard of Wicca and dedicant I have ever remained (as of this writing). Oh, if I wanted I could initiate myself as a solitary; hell, I could initiate myself a 3rd degree Master of Bubblegum Wicca if I really felt like it. But that would get me nothing and nowhere, fast. As a solitary, a Dedication is a good place to start. You can do it by yourself, and you never need be initiated. Remember, it is the Gods
alone who initiate. I've seen 'covens' of three people where the '3rd Degree High Priestess' was chosen because she had been studying for a few more months. This degree is meaningless and you are doing yourself, and the Craft, a disservice by using it. In the absence of an 'official' system of degrees, a title is only as good as it's wearer. You can call yourself a High Priestess until you are blue in the face, it still doesn't mean squat unless you actually are. Generally, it takes a year or two of hard work to earn initiation. 2nd Degree is much harder and may never be reached. 3rd Degree - good luck. My advice, as always, is to be yourself. Don't claim to be something you are not, because others will know. Be proud of who you really are.
Pitfall #5: Spells
Spells are cool. Spells involve cool words and candles and powers and energy, and you can make things happen. This is true; spells do involve all these things and more. But be aware that spells are generally a last-resort 'I don't know how to deal with this' action. It's not that spells are bad or wrong; it's just you don't have to tinker with every aspect of life. In my 3 years of studying Wicca, I've done maybe 10 spells maximum, and none of them recently. Why? I don't need to right now. I have four walls and a roof, I eat, I work, I have transportation and I can pay my bills. I have family, friends
and health. None of my friends are in any immediate need that I know of. I am truly a blessed person. If I have a financial crisis I will get another job. If I have a health crisis I will see a doctor. If my car breaks down I will take it to a mechanic. If I decide I have been single long enough I will go out and meet people. If, however, the car is unrepairable, I will really have a problem and then may consider a spell. And the spell will not come from a book or a website or a friend. I will do whatever is meaningful for me at the time. Whether I
chant, meditate, or dance around a big green candle doesn't matter worth a damn. It doesn't really matter whether I do it at new moon or full moon or midmorning or the hour of Saturn while Mercury is in the right house and the moon isn't void of course. It doesn't matter if I call the elements or the watchtowers or the elementals. It doesn't really matter if I call Mercury or Hecate. It doesn't matter if I do it robed, disrobed or painted yellow and purple polkadots. It doesn't
matter if I do it standing on my head. It doesn't matter if I do it in English or Japanese or pig latin. No spell has power. You are the power, and you must respond to need when need arises. How could someone else's 'spells' express the meaning of your situation? Writing your own rituals and doing your own magick makes far more sense.
Pitfall #6: Coming Out of the Closet
Now, you're studying Wicca, you've picked up a Ravenwolf or a Cunningham and visited the 'Voice. You're doing rituals and actually starting to get the hang of this. What now? Tell the world!! ...Whoa there, hold on! Think about this. The closet is there for a reason; let's look at this for a minute. In Africa, today, now, in the next few hours, someone may be brutally murdered because they were accused of Witchcraft. Whether or not they are or aren't doesn't matter. Just an accusation. This culture exists a mere plane ride away. In North America, today, now, in the next few hours, someone may be forced into a mental institution for practicing Wicca. Some institutions believe that practicing modern Witchcraft is a sign of mental distress or social maladjustment. This has happened in my hometown. In North America, today and now, someone is losing a job for being Pagan; someone is losing a friend. Someone is polishing a gun and muttering about the 'baby killers'. Someone is holding community action meetings
to deal with the 'Wiccan threat'. As you now begin to feel that cold sinking feeling near your gut, do you begin to see why there is a closet to be 'in'? This is frightening, absolutely. But is is also one of the first lessons Wicca has to teach us: 'To Know, to Dare, to Will, to be Silent'. If you choose to come out of the closet, things in your life will change, and perhaps not the way you intend. Are you prepared for this? I say these things because I care, and I want you to understand what this is about. I know people who have been harassed by students and teachers at school. I get hate mail. I follow the news. Is this something you feel prepared to handle? Now for the good news: on the whole, on a daily basis, my experience has led me to understand that it's not usually that bad. Most of my friends have been wonderfully supportive. Professors have never given me a hard time. Employers have been very tolerant. I've had religious friends-
Christian and Muslim and Buddhist, none of which had any interest in Wicca, but who were very tolerant. Keep in mind that there are various degrees of 'out'. At what point do you become out: Buying a book in the local store, telling family, telling friends, wearing a pentacle, telling co-workers, telling employers, writing to a newspaper, dancing naked down main street, leading a national campaign for Witches Rights? Where does 'out' start? One lesson Paganism has to teach us is how not to box yourself in with labels. What is the difference between an 'out' Wiccan and an 'in' one? Which one suits
Pitfall #7: Balancing Facts and Emotions
Is it important to know what element goes in what corner Yes. Is it important to know why, the historical basis and significance cross-referenced by culture? Probably not at the beginner level. Facts are important, but emotions are, too. Study the basics, they are vital. But leave lots and lots and lots of room for personal expression. Wicca is a learning process, and a lot of that learning will be about yourself. It's all about balance. If you find you are more worried about candle colours and places than you are about celebrating, then perhaps it is time for a readjustment.
Pitfall #8: Making a Website
We know you're excited about finding Wicca, and you want to tell the world about this wonderful discovery you've made. But please, PLEASE sit down and think about this first. Is there anything you can tell the world about Wicca that hasn't already been said a hundred times (or more)? And if so, does it warrant an entire website to say it? If not, instead of creating an entire website by yourself, why not write a page to say what you have to say and publish it to a larger website? You will reach a much wider audience while not having to go through the 'We don't Worship the Devil' routine. Believe me, both you and every other beginner already knows this, otherwise you wouldn't be studying Wicca, right? Non-seekers also know this by the time they get to your site. Offering up 'What Wicca is' as a main page only causes visitors to skip what they already know, and possibly your entire site. There are many quality websites, EZines and
magazines/newsletters that will publish your article; you should be able to find them easily at a search engine. If you truly do have to create a site, please at least read these guidelines first.
1. Please don't use the same gold spinning Pentacle that everyone else uses. Thankyou.
2. Do NOT use other people's pages without permission!!! No matter how large or small the site, no matter how known or unknown the author! I've seen said yellow spinning Pentacle used as a background for a Witches Voice page done in yellow text. When I told Witchvox (and generally someone will), we both agreed it was the most hideous thing we'd ever seen. Not only did this person steal the page and the graphic, but even the code was ripped from the Voice. Please be respectful and tasteful.
3. Don't put the 'We Don't Worship the Devil' info on your main page. If it has to be there, please just link to it. Don't make me and other people have to read this stuff which we so obviously know. Write for Wiccans, or write for non-Wiccans, but please choose your audience.
4. Spells. I can't tell you whether or not you should publish spells. Generally, though, people who know what they're doing write their own, and you are karmically responsible for those who don't.
5. Graphic Mania. Believe me, adding a ton of beautiful graphics does not help you improve the image of Wicca or get your point across. In fact, by the time half the images have loaded, the visitor is long gone. Decent webpage design means less than 35 seconds of load - on 56k dial-up. Good webpage design means less than 20 seconds. Professional sites with high volume load in 10 seconds or less. If your site takes longer than 35 seconds from 'click' to 'done', your site needs to get nekked fast. (Hint: add up the file sizes of all the images and text on your page. If it's under 50k including images you're doing just fine).
Pitfall #9: Ritual Tools
You don't need any Tools. Really. Tools will not help you be a 'better Wiccan', no matter how much money you spend. You will never be considered a 'serious Wiccan' by other 'serious Wiccans' just because you have the biggest/nicest athame. Do your rituals using no tools at all. Now you can begin to get some work done.
Pitfall #10: Other Common Mistakes
Wicca is not more logical than other religions. We make as little sense as any other religion. In fact, it's quite possible we make even less sense. If you want a logical 'religion', try Atheism; it's the only one that can be even remotely 'proven'. Finally, someone studying for 6 months can know and understand more than someone studying for 8 years. Don't count 'Years Studying' as a guide to knowledge and understanding. If you spend 6 months obsessively studying you will probably understand more than someone who has been 'studying' (read 3 books) in 8 years. Like degrees, be careful of titles and claims.
Copyright Info: All articles by Keitha may be copied, posted, printed, distributed, reprinted, and linked to as long as the text is notchanged, money is not earned, full credit is given to Keitha at www.glasstemple.com
and this notice is attached.