Witchcraft and the Wild World of Magic “How-To’s”

Can witchcraft be learned by anyone, or only the initiated? Dive into popular magic “How-To” books, from conjuring to necromancy. A world of esoterica awaits!

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In the age of the internet, practically any knowledge your heart desires lies at your fingertips. In an instant, anyone can quench whatever curiosity is itching at their skull. While the greatest danger of curiosity is typically false information, the second lies in the nature of said curiosity. For anyone interested in learning magic, for instance, online resources are extensive. No longer does an amateur need a master of the craft to teach them all there is to know. No magic academy or dusty heirloom is required to break into the realm of witchcraft these days.

I myself am a normie who is completely ignorant to the world of occultism. So I’ve done the only reasonable thing and scoured popular book sites in search of the best manuals for learning magic. These books were chosen based on a combination of rating and popularity, from different major subsects of the arcana. Is this modern method practical for learning the craft? Or are these esoteric teachings better left in the hands of tradition?

Voodoo – Folk Magic

An illustration of a face covered in tattoos and glowing red.

It is important to clarify that Voodoo (or Vodou) and Hoodoo do not classify as witchcraft. This fact is readily apparent upon even a quick glance at this form of magic beyond its representation in pop culture. It’s any noob’s first lesson upon diving into A Beginner’s Guide to Voodoo. Issendai Bechau gently leads the reader into the history behind Voodoo as it is known in America. There’s a simplified explanation of its origins in Haiti, as well as how Afro-American practices blended with other Southern folk magics.

With context in mind, the actual rituals and beliefs of vodouisants- Voodoo practitioners- are far less frightening to the amateur reader. For example, while dolls- called “fetishes”- can be used to pass negative energy onto an enemy, they are typically used for passing good energy onto loved ones.

The first couple of chapters define the ebb and flow of energy as the core of Voodoo beliefs. The mingling of Judeo-Christian influences and the Haitian gods creates a hybrid spirituality that values prosperity and reverence. Ever in play are the forces of light and darkness, neither of which necessarily correlates to “good” and “bad.” Voodoo’s direct ties to religious expression explains why communities who practice it are annoyed by its portrayal solely as a force for evil.

Is It Doable?

Not really, no. This book provides extensive descriptions on how to set up different Voodoo rituals and where to procure the necessary items. The author does however strongly recommend that the reader ask a professional vodouisant for guidance before trying anything big, specifically when dealing with dark energy. There’s a major social element here, a system of castes and houses. The amateur should definitely explore what’s around them before trying to mess with spirits they don’t understand.

Conjure – Root Magic

An illustration of a rooster surrounded by roots and bones.

Hoodoo is well known as a sibling of Voodoo. But the normie who assumes the two concepts are basically the same would be dead wrong. Where Voodoo is a culture in itself, a state of living and a daily practice that requires societal awareness, Hoodoo doesn’t have to be. Hoodoo is a practical and personal dance with the spirits. Though it derives very much from Christian belief, it is not tied to any one religion. 

Both Voodoo and Hoodoo are based around intricate rituals with very, very specific components. Hair, fingernails, teeth, or any other piece of a person’s body is vital in a blessing or curse ritual. Various spirit candles, sometimes with special ingredients but definitely of a certain color, change depending on the nature of the ritual. Oils are also hugely important, made from a wide variety of natural substances. But religious artifacts are up to the practitioner’s personal values.

Here the “root worker” is not communing with the gods, but rather using what’s already there to his advantage. Old Style Conjure by Starr Casas is an easy-to-understand introduction to Hoodoo practice and how its cultural origins among African-American slaves shaped its core values. The book begins with a string of common questions and simple answers for the amateur eager to get a grasp on the subject. Necessary ingredients, a root worker’s common tools, and methods for honoring the ancestors are all laid out here.

A table covered in various hoodoo tools, like dolls and herbs.

Is It Doable?

Yes! The Hoodoo Spellbook, a guide to Hoodoo structured very much like your conventional cookbook, prefaces everything by encouraging practitioners to utilize the internet for their needs. Ingredients, spell books, and even educational courses in the practice are available. There’s no need to integrate oneself within the hierarchy as with Voodoo, nor is there any specific equipment or special location required for practice. Author Mirella Williamson emphasizes Hoodoo’s nature as an experience utilized by all manner of people.

Wicca- Green Witchcraft

Wicca, or green magic, is a rapidly evolving sect of witchcraft derived from the spirits of the Earth. Scott Cunningham is a prominent figure in the Wiccan community for his many books detailing all aspects of Wicca practice. His book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is one of the first you’ll come across when searching anywhere for how to get started with the craft.

The image of a woman sitting in a garden over a black background.

Of course, the practice of Wiccas – or else, “witches” – which is a unisex term for practitioners here- takes its roots from ancient pagan religion. While strict adherence to the religion isn’t required to practice, the core beliefs of the ancients have been preserved. A desire to form a personal relationship with gods and goddesses that govern nature is of the greatest importance here. 

The Wicca Ritual

Wiccan rituals of dancing, singing, and meditation are meant to alter the senses in an effort to become closer to the gods of nature. Ancient shamans took hallucinogenic substances to achieve this state, and even starved or hurt themselves. But at the core of Wiccan belief is to do as you will, as long as you do no harm; this applies to the self, as well. Inner peace reflects outer peace, a Wicca’s constant openness to receiving wisdom from the Earth. The rituals, which usually consist of incense, offerings, and chanting at a shrine, are meant to strengthen that connection.

A colorful illustration of a woman performing a wicca ritual in a garden.

For spells and rituals, “Personal” power and “Earth” power are combined to invoke “Divine” power, put simply. Plants, minerals, crystals, and even magnets are used to call upon the gods for healing and fortune. Ritual items for Wiccas have been cemented through folklore and pop culture as quintessentially witchy. Wiccas use magic brooms made with birch twigs and willow binding to purify the ritual site. Cauldrons, symbols of femininity and immortality, are used for scrying as well as brewing. In line with their code to “do no harm”, Wiccas absolutely do not perform rituals for passing negative energy. Curses, hexes, and reversal spells are a big no-no for these witches.

Is It Doable?

Yes, but mentorship is recommended. Wicca’s accessibility and pro-Earth mindset have made it increasingly popular of late. Its increased popularity has modernized some of its conventions; traditionally, only through initiation into a coven could this craft be learned. Group rituals and rites are a key aspect of Wicca practice. But Cunningham acknowledges that with the internet, Wicca practices are not quite so cut and dry, especially from a religious standpoint. Of greatest importance is one’s personal relationship with the gods and goddesses of nature.

Necromancy- Black Witchcraft

The title of the book on necromancy along with a list of the author's attributes.

When it comes to necromancy, Goetic theurgy, angel magic, and demonology are just the tip of the iceberg. But for a newbie whose head already hurts from the sheer plethora of information, The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts is a decent place to start. Author L.W. de Laurence has written extensively on a number of world religions and even had his own company for supplying occult goods by mail order.

While necromantic rituals are utilized for what is called “White” and “Black” magics, those two terms don’t necessarily coincide with good and evil. Necromancy rather seems like an umbrella term for rituals conjuring a heavenly or infernal entity. The purpose for doing so has the greatest bearing on how this interaction will play out. Spirits are invoked for their specific abilities. Some enlighten the conjurer in mystic truth, while others provide good luck and wealth. De Laurence goes into extensive detail about the nature of each spirit’s gifts, as well as the symbols and prayers associated with each.

A magic symbol over a red leather background.

Necromancy, as it’s referred to in the Heptameron, a centuries-old grimoire translated by Joseph H. Peterson, doesn’t typically involve deceased people. Usually, the rites surround conjuring primordial spirits and demons through appeals to God and the Angels, as opposed to worship of the Devil. Angelology and Demonology, their correspondence with nature, the stars, and the forces in between, go back to the early days of Christianity. Considering its origins and how prominent magic was until the Enlightenment, writings on necromancy are seemingly endless.

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The Necromantic Ritual

Peterson’s translated Lucidarium lists the many tools one needs for a ritual, including a sword engraved with resin from a dragon’s-blood tree. There’s also holy water, pure white vestments, incense, and amulets engraved with angelic symbols for protection. Needless to say, many of these instruments would be quite difficult to procure, even in the age of the internet. Knowledge of astrology is required to set up these rituals, for depending on the spirit or demon being conjured, the solar and lunar cycles are critically important.

There’s also a seat beside the necromancer meant to be the throne for the spirit. It’s said that the spirit will be visible to the human eye upon success, or else manipulate the weather to show its presence.

A drawing of two men in a cemetery performing a ritual. A corpse stands before them.
Illustration from The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts

Is It Doable?

My advice: attempt with extreme care. Though what we’ve discussed today falls primarily in Judeo-Christian belief, necromancy has roots in all manner of ancient cultures. The pervasive rhetoric throughout is one of arrogance. There’s a desire here to seek knowledge and power beyond humanity’s understanding.

Your own spiritual beliefs should be taken into account before considering your reason for attempting necromancy. Also, the learning curve just seems like a huge pain. Not only must you learn all the terms and iconography, but you must also acquire many specific objects and religious artifacts. To move forward, guidance from a professional practitioner seems vital.

A table covered in candles, books, and magic items.

Carry On My Wayward Witches

I must emphasize yet again that I am by no means a professional in any one of these fields, merely a curious pedestrian window shopping through the arcane. As such, none of what I’ve parroted from these fine books should be taken as gospel. Personal exploration is encouraged for those who are interested. And for any one of these practices, what seems most important is community.

With the internet, you can not only find any of these works with a simple click. You can also find experienced practitioners whose guidance is even more valuable. This amateur has learned from her journey down the rabbit hole that connection is key in any manner of witchcraft.