I opted to address this topic with a “Bell Chimes In” episode rather than a “Tinkering Bell” because it’s not going to be a practicum and there’s no substantive knowledge to be gained here. It’s more about my perspective and my thoughts as a practitioner of craft. So it’s just me chiming in.
If I could impart a few words to the new would-be seeker on an esoteric, occult, or mystery path, what would I say? This episode is of me giving my thoughts on where the new seeker might begin the journey…not the journey to attainment, but rather, the journey to finding your own path to attainment. (Then there’s the tough part to follow, where you have to walk it!)
Also, regrettably, after finishing and uploading the video, I realized there were points I should have clarified on (such as the “copy from the masters first” comment), so here’s the accompanying blog post to the video.
THE MONAD: DEITY
In Episode #1 of “Bell Chimes In,” I talked about my perspective on deity. That’s one place to start in your starting thoughts on deity. If you haven’t seen it, I’m linking it here.
I find that there is a lot of immediate power to be gained simply through knowledge, so for the new seeker, strive for a comprehensive education in world religions, in particular ancient religions. Go as broad as you can, exploring the most unfamiliar of cultures and terrain to you. Also learn about the esoteric and magical practices of different civilizations. Learn as many perspectives as you can on deity and this concept of a monad, or Unity. Perhaps you gravitate more toward the sciences and applying scientific principles to better understand the metaphor of the monad. Perhaps you’re interested in origins mythology of indigenous cultures and extracting core truths from those myths. Five hundred years ago, what would your ancestors have believed?
When you start to think about occultism and the mysteries of life, Western or Eastern in faith, you’re likely to start seeing something expressive of spirit in everything, whether it is a person, an animal, a tree, or even a rock. You start to intuit how everything might all be connected in some way and dialed into a oneness.
Begin turning your attention to considerations of that oneness. Before you read any spells or pick up tarot cards or try to read someone’s palm, parse through your feelings and thoughts about oneness and that concept of monad, compare it to how people from a variety of cultures and histories express that same concept, and start looking for patterns that light your way toward truth and knowledge.
Mastering the foundations of divination opens the seeker’s doors to so much more. Practicing divination regularly is how you hone your psychic and mediumship abilities. Practicing divination trains you in how to connect and interact with Spirit. Almost every divinatory system is rooted in theoretical principles of the monad, binary, trinity, and the elementals, so studying divination strengthens your mastery over the other concepts covered in the video.
I would also say that studying divinatory methods and practicing divinatory methods are two different bodies of knowledge. You want to attain both. It’s not enough to merely study the I Ching Book of Changes or read book after book about the tarot. You need to practice. Conversely, going straight in to practicing divination without supplementing it with studying divinatory methods will only get you so far.
There are more resources on this website about different divinatory methods. See below and if anything piques your interest, follow the links to learn more.
Learn Tarot as a Beginner
For the beginner beginner, start HERE, with “Tarot Basics.” Read through those pages, from “Tarot Introduction” to “What Is Tarot?” and “Why Tarot?” to my thoughts on how you can teach yourself tarot, in “Self-Study Tarot.”
Although keyed to my book, Holistic Tarot, I don’t think you really need a copy of my book to make use of the free tarot study guides here on my site. Start by downloading “Study Guide for the Beginning Tarot Student” and all the supplemental handouts for the beginner level.
Then move on over to the “Companion Course.” Generally speaking, the course is free and you can consider it free. However, if you’re one of those lucky folks in life making good money, then I do ask for a $13 donation for reaping benefit from the course. Your $13 donation helps keep the course free and is, in a sense, paying on behalf of those who can’t afford to pay.
Videos 1 through 7 of the Holistic Tarot Companion Course is keyed to the beginner level. Follow these instructions and armed with these reference materials, you should be able to gain a pretty solid beginner level education in tarot studies. I’ve also compiled in a blog post five beginner level tarot courses that you can work through for free. They’re all online and again–totally free! So be sure to check it out.
Learn I Ching Divination
I Ching is one of those paradoxical divinatory systems where it’s arguably one of the easiest divinatory systems to learn and yet simultaneously one of the most difficult and obtuse divinatory systems to master. I offer an online I Ching course, “I Ching and the Practitioner.” The course takes a decidedly esoteric or occult leaning when it comes to the I Ching. Your course materials will include a digital copy of my private and personal translations of the I Ching Book of Changes, digital files to print out your own I Ching oracle deck, and 13 video lectures that cover everything from origins, history, and culture, to different divinatory casting methods, to traditional Chinese witchcraft.
This YouTube video gives you a bit of an introduction and overview of the I Ching course. No matter what your background is, magical tradition, or esoteric leanings, I would recommend taking this I Ching course for any beginner seeker because it’s about teaching so much more than just the I Ching divinatory system. It gives you a broad and expansive overview of one culture’s occult tradition, history and lore, plus demonstrates practical methodologies in one culture’s historic form of witchcraft. Techniques and philosophies learned in this course can then be applied universally or integrated with other traditions and your particular personal gnosis.
Learn Natal and Transits Astrology
You may want to start on this site with “Astrology Basics” and “Introduction to Astrology.” Then there’s “Reading Your Natal Chart” to “The Celestial Bodies” and “Houses and Basic Hermetic Lots.” Read about “The Twelve Signs,” “Sun Sign Astrology,” “Past Life Astrology,” and then check out “Free Astrology Resources.”
The free downloadable PDF “Glossary of Astrological Terms” is a free 40-page reference document you may find indispensable as a beginner or even intermediate astrologer. That and many other totally free downloadable PDF reference guides are available on that “Free Astrology Resources” page.
I offer an online “Astrology Course for Beginners,” which you should check out. It’s a multi-media course that comes with a 570-page textbook and workbook to teach you astrology. The course comes with an astrology journal or grimoire starter kit, practice charts so you can apply the astrological techniques you’re learning, and a private Facebook group where you can interact with other enrollees in the course to learn astrology together.
Learn Feng Shui Basics
Okay, feng shui isn’t exactly a divination system… or at all, really, but I’m tucking this here in case the new seeker might be interested in adding the study of feng shui to your metaphysical curriculum. Plus, here’s something interesting… supposedly (well, I’d say for sure, definitely), if you know feng shui and you assess someone’s home, office, or living space, you can tell a lot about that person’s inner life, past, present, and future. So in that indirect, roundabout sense, maybe it’s sort of divination.
This site offers some rudimentary feng shui basics. Start here, with, well, “Feng Shui Basics.” Then go on to read about “What is Feng Shui?” and then “Basic Cosmology,” to “Learning Feng Shui,” and finally, “General Feng Shui Tips.”
THEORY + PRACTICUM
As I said in the video, your approach to studying craft will parallel the pedagogy of learning the sciences: yes, there is no way around having to put nose to book, pen to paper, and immerse yourself in scholarship. However, if that’s all you do, you can’t master craft or science. There’s a “laboratory” component as well. There needs to be hands-on personal experimentation, trials, mess-ups, going through a whole lot of trouble to get very little result, and active witness of alchemy.
Practicum is the most efficient way of teaching you how to build up your own body of experiential knowledge in craft. Wisdom comes quicker when you’ve practiced craft; it rarely comes from just reading about it. Practicum also teaches you how to problem-solve. Your personal experimentations rarely go as you expected it to based on what you read out of a book. When things go off book, what do you do? How do you handle those situations? You need practicum training to impart that body of knowledge to you.
The theoretical content of metaphysics is essential and you cannot go forth without mastering theory. Without theory, you cannot formulate intelligent methodologies in craft. And yet at the same time, you need physical training. Without training and the actual practice of what you’re reading out of the books, your knowledge has not been given a channel for manifestation. At which point you have to ask yourself: what is the point of studying craft then?
The “Tinkering Bell” series on my YouTube channel is intended to be educational in purpose. It offers theory and history of craft (mostly from an Eastern-based Taoist tradition, so there’s that…), then gets practical with tips on applications of craft techniques or principles that you can try out. I keep a novice seeker in mind when I put together the videos. Each video in the series teaches one practicum. Then check out the accompanying text and reference downloads. Homework assignments are suggested at the end of each practicum for you to try out and, once you’ve finalized your personal impressions and approaches, to be memorialized in your personal grimoire. Click on the above banner for the “Tinkering Bell” series landing page.
“copy from the masters first”
At around timestamp 13:33 I start talking about copying from the masters first. In retrospect, I think I need to explain that further and regret not having taken the time to explain what I meant right there in the video.
Advice to the new seeker keyed after my own approaches would be to start by finding historic grimoires and trying out various instructions from those grimoires for yourself. That’s my approach. The first time I try anything from an old grimoire, I follow the instructions as close to the letter as possible. That’s what I meant by “copy from the masters.” Don’t get all creative right from the beginning when you still don’t know shit. Just hear out what the masters have to say and follow their instructions, step by step.
Then slowly as I progress for myself, I’ll begin to deviate from instruction and learn to trust my own instincts to figure out what works better for me. But I always begin by following as close to the letter as possible to how someone I admire and trust has done something. I am still running my discernment and intuition on in the background, of course, but I make a concerted effort to follow instructions to the tee, and as I do that, make mental notes to myself about what feels right to me and what doesn’t seem to work for me. Then I always take time to analyze my results. And document. Document, document, document.
The next–and I would now say necessary–step after “copying from the masters first” is to depart from following step by step instructions. The intermediate step is to begin relying on your own discernment and intuition. Perhaps when you handle rose quartz, you’re getting different imprints from what everyone else seems to say rose quartz corresponds with. The intermediate practitioner will know to follow his or her own discernment and intuition and not simply buy into what others have said. Perhaps you begin to develop your own portfolio of sigils for petitioning spirit entities.
I’ll acknowledge that I come out strongly on this opinion. If you are serious about mastering craft, then you need to begin from a place of “know nothing,” and mimic the masters. By mimicking, you can discern–in an educated way–what works and what doesn’t. You can then formulate your own point of view after you’ve studied craft from multiple experienced perspectives.
Let’s be clear here. Masters do not mimic. If and when you are holding yourself out as a master of the craft, then at that point, you really are doing your own thing, forged from your own point of view, and it’s going to come from a place of innovation and ingenuity. It’ll be unique at that point.
But to try to do that when you’ve just started out on your path– spell-crafting willy nilly based on your uneducated and inexperienced hunches– if I am giving my opinion here– is a recipe for disaster. If not disaster, then the inevitable plateau. I can almost guarantee that you’ll reach a certain level and then just peter off, unable to break through that ceiling that’s formed over your head and advance on. Start with that “know nothing” mentality and build a rock solid foundation. When the time comes for you to advance, you’ll breeze through the hurdles while those who have not built that foundation struggle.
The approach I espouse for learning craft is always rooted in the theme of a comprehensive education. You can censor what you choose to practice, but I wouldn’t censor your knowledge. It is going to be difficult to ascend to the highest echelons of practice if you don’t first attain at the very least a rudimentary knowledge of all modalities of practice. Understanding esoteric traditions different from your own will strengthen and deepen your understanding and even appreciation for what you practice.
Here, “comprehensive” also means balanced. You’ll never fully understand creation if you don’t understand destruction. And same vice versa. Imprints of energy and spirit forces come in many different forms, different vibrational frequencies. The more vibrational frequencies of spirit you’ve interacted with, the more insights and wisdom you’ll attain about the occult.
Notetaking is so important for a practitioner to advance in craft because you can’t always rely on your memory of how things went down. If you make a concerted effort to be honest with yourself and factual in your documentation, then notetaking is going to be the single-most important factor in your mastery of craft.
Try your best at applying a scientific method to your craft. A log of your failures in craft is just as important if not more important than your log of success stories.
The Grimoire (or Book of Shadows)
I emphasized it in the video, and I’ll emphasize it again here. If you’re a new seeker, don’t start a formal grimoire until you’ve devoted an extensive amount of time just absorbing information, logging your findings in a casual, messy composition notebook. Wait until you’ve filled completely one such notebook. Then review that notebook’s contents, think about how you might want to organize and design a formal grimoire, and then at that point, begin acquiring that beautiful book and starting your first grimoire.
A three-video series in response to the 2017 YouTube Pagan Challenge all about my grimoire and my practice around that grimoire.
2018 Metaphysician’s Day Planner
I’ve put together a metaphysician’s day planner that not only helps you to organize your everyday schedule, whether that’s school or work, but will also help you integrate various facets of both eastern and western metaphysics into your everyday life. I believe this day planner is a great notetaking and record-keeping guide for the metaphysical practitioner at any level.
Order yours today. You can read more about the 2018 Metaphysician’s Day Planner here. For the new seeker, such a day planner is going to become an indispensable and initiatory tool to help you get acclimated with this particular realm of study.
Beyond the basics that I mentioned in the video, here are some more specific points for your consideration.
Set aside a part of your home for sacred space
Don’t concern yourself with what an “advanced practitioner” might think about your altar or how you’ve set up your sacred space. Begin intuitively. [Exception: If you’re initiating into an established tradition or working within a defined tradition, then follow the exact instructions for altar set-up within that tradition.]
As the main focal point and on a raised platform, place a physical representation of deity that seems to hold inexplicable sentimental value to you. Don’t worry if it’s small in stature or you purchased it on a shoestring budget. You can place it on a raised platform if need be.
Keep the area clean and treat it like a sanctuary. That’s pretty much the only beginner level considerations to be concerned about. Establish that space as sacred, as a place you can retreat to in your home where you will shed your worries, anxieties, and real life problems at the entrance, and enter with peace of mind, balanced heart, and calm spirit.
Think about what you can do to establish that space as a place you can go to for purification. When you enter into that space, you’re purified. How can you go about achieving that aspiration? What can you do to the space to transform it into a sanctuary for purification?
Many practitioners across time and cultures have noted that placing representations of natural elements help them to connect to the greater spirit energies around them, to help sanctify that sacred space. So give a try. Collect representations of fire, water, air, and earth, or wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, or however you want to express your work with natural elements and arrange these representations in your sacred space.
Then, get into the habit of spending dedicated time in that sacred space. Be religious about it, in the sense that you resolve for yourself no negative thoughts, no negative behavior, no disrespect, etc. can enter into that sacred space. When you enter your sacred space, it is to be personally purified. You’ll exit your sacred space recharged, energized, calmed, and blissed out.
Get into the routine of burning incense
Choose an incense, get a nice holder for your incense, and burn it at least every new moon and full moon. When you do burn incense, take a few moments to gaze into the incense smoke and feel yourself connecting into channels of energy much greater than you. (For those who know already that they’re interested in an Eastern-based occult path, sandalwood or cedar wood are great for the novice to work with. Copal is another wonderful incense to work with. Frankincense is among my top favorites.)
Learn a methodology for consecrating water
Learn different methodologies for consecrating water and then commit to the one that you resonate with the most. Consider getting into the habit of collecting rain water around the outside perimeter of your home, or through a windowsill if you live in an urban apartment setting, use coffee filters to filter the rain water, and practice consecration techniques on the rain water. Like crystals and fire, water is a powerful force of energy that can be programmed, which a seasoned practitioner can wield for extraordinary purposes.
Grasp the fundamentals of candle-working
Buy either a solid white pillar candle or a solid black pillar candle, whichever might appeal to you more, light it, and take time to routinely gaze into the flame against a white or blank wall (it’s easier to see the flame’s aura that way) and practice scrying into the flame. Doing so is not just about pyromancy, but it’s about learning to connect with unseen energies around you through fire. Fire gazing also trains you to access deeper nether-regions within yourself and retrieve information from those parts.
FINAL WORDS OF DEPARTURE
Not one but several videos inspired me to chime in. In no particular order:
- “Advice for the New Witch” by Witches of the Moon
- “Advice for New/Young Witches” by Kelly-Ann Maddox
- “Advice for Beginner Witches” by Samantha Valens
- “Advice for New Witches” by Dianna Ravenwood
- “Advice for New Witches” by Pyperh
- “Advice for Beginning” by Cara (cutewitch772) via Pagan Perspective
“Bell Chimes In” is about discourse, or at least that is my hope and intentions for the video series. It’s about me chiming in on a topic oft talked about, and with that, continuing the conversation on the topic. So I hope you’ll join in.