The following blog is designed for those younger magickians who are just setting out on their first spiritual journey. It covers some often overlooked social aspects of the occult lifestyle, as well as identifying a few of the mental stumbling blocks that can get in the way as well. It is based on almost two decades of hard won experience dwelling within both the Pagan and chaos communities, so while your mileage will undoubtedly vary at least some of these points should apply to you too.
There is no need to wear a label
For some reason those who are involved with the occult seem to be expected to equate their entire spiritual being with the school of sorcery that they practice. Said tribalism can be highly detrimental, and those who hope to find a prebuilt community awaiting them by virtue of shared interests tend to become disillusioned relatively quickly upon realising that it does not always exist. This was by far the biggest issue that I experienced when seeking to define my ow n path, and as such I strongly advocate moving away from living through labels and just being generally magickal instead.
There is no need to practice in secret
While it can be advantageous to keep your weird under a blanket, especially in overtly religious areas, there is also a solid case for just being open about what you do too. I have made vibrant, lasting friendships by simply mentioning my Neopagan roots and been pleasantly surprised at just how many others are walking a similar path, albeit in the shadows. Remember, modern paranormal media has created an environment where personal ghost stories are an acceptable topic for workplace conversation now, so exploit it to push the envelope towards more interesting areas when you can.
There is no need to search for a mentor
As with all things serendipitous, your teacher will appear when he or she is supposed to. Or not, as the case may be, and that is fine too. For those who are adept at conducting their own research there are a wealth of resources available to assist you in becoming a proactive member of the magickal community, as well as a path to personalised empowerment. It is also worth being wary of supposed gurus that seek large down payments to receive their wisdom. While these people need to eat like everyone else, they also rarely offer anything that you cannot learn yourself for free.
There is no need to find a group
For some, the occult is a joint enterprise. Covens, ceremonial groups, all of these are available for those who wish to take advantage of them. But magickal socialisation is no longer exclusively limited to the initiatory structure and mock masonic orders. The internet has opened up alternative channels of conversation on these topics, freeing the aspiring magus to solicit for advice without signing up for a belief system or dogma as well. Solo occultism is viewed in some circles as a watered down offshoot, but the self reliance and resourcefulness that it teaches is invaluable.
There is no need to view magick as a battle
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I began dabbling in the occult was developing an exaggerated sense of my own importance to the universe. This, in turn, pushed me into situations where I was constantly butting heads with other magickians, and I lost out on some potentially profitable working relationships as a result. A certain self reliance and surety comes with declaring yourself to be a sovereign entity, but repeated arguments quickly suck all the fun out of your spiritual endeavours. When in doubt, part company amicably, but part company all the same.
There is no need to stick with one system
As I have previously alluded to, there is no single path to enlightenment and no need to accept the dogma of others either. Borrowing heavily from the chaos current, postmodern occultism offers the practitioner the leeway to find the right tool for any particular job, even if it belongs within the sphere of another discipline entirely. You can even trick yourself into viewing your journey in to the weird as something akin to a role playing game, wherein the character switches classes to redistribute skill points on the fly as the need arises and gains much needed fluidity by doing so.
There is no need to choose the left or right hand path
There has been much written on the subject of ethics within the occult world. To hex or not to hex, that is the question it seems, and entire bookcases could be filled to overflowing with different takes on the supposedly definitive answer. Yet there is no reason why you need to make a blanket decision about your ultimate polarity. If magick is only a tool, then it follows that it has no moral compass of its own. There is a great deal of personal responsibility in viewing the occult is such a way, and realising that the ultimate decision to hurt or heal is always up to you.
There is no need to be perfect
Mistakes will be made. You will spill coffee on your magickal diary, and leave your ritual knife at the campsite after a Neopagan gathering at least once in your esoteric career. No one is perfect, and anyone in your life who would demand such high standards of either you or your occult practice is likely far from flawless themselves. Being hard on yourself for your failings is not the same as learning from them, and indeed little growth can really be achieved without honest introspection. And your working spell book need not be pristine, as a well worn mess is preferable to a rarely used work of art in any case.
There is no need to jump right in
While there is very little within the realm of the occult sciences that can cause even the clumsiest of neophytes much harm, at least at first, by far the biggest danger comes from self doubt. There is no correct age to declare yourself a magickian, nor does a witch need to be young and virginal to succeed in her task either. Reading, researching and holding back until you are confident enough can sometimes be the best course of action in the long run. Spellwork is a marathon, not a sprint, and there are definitely benefits to starting out as an armchair occultist if you have the luxury of time.
And there we have it Gravehounds, nine things to think about when just starting out on your personal exploration of the liminal. I have often wondered if the bloody and bruised path that got me here would have been far easier had I chanced upon a list such as this when I was first practising almost twenty years ago. But in truth I know that I would have just cockily disregarded such advice anyway, and you are all free to do the same if you wish.