I'm going to try to address a few common "beginner" questions with this blog, but forgive me if I ramble or something. Friday morning I was trying to wake my husband up for work, and because he had scooted to my side of the bed and I was trying to climb over him, I lost my balance and started to fall and he basically punched me in the ribs while trying to catch me, so I'm a little groggy from laying down all day and being in pain lol.
What is a Pagan?
The simple answer to this is basically anyone who does not follow an Abrahamic religion (Christianity, Judaism, or Islam), but that's a little narrow for some. I've known some people who practice Hinduism that consider themselves Pagan, but I've also known some who don't and find the term offensive, even. There are also those who prefer to be called Heathen instead of Pagan because of their specific path. You can read more about that here. I'm not an expert on the subject by any means, but this link was provided to me by someone who does consider herself a Heathen and we have found it informative and useful. There are too many "branches" or "denominations" of Paganism to really go into them in depth in this one post, and honestly I only know a few, so I won't go into that. The original definition or meaning of the word "Pagan" was "country dweller" and referred too those who lived in the country, off the land, back when the Christians were trying to take over. They were the Goddess worshippers who either refused to convert, or were very slow to convert. They parcticed the "old ways" which incorporated magick to improve their lives, the earth, etc. They were the "nature people." One reason the term "Pagan" has been adopted to describe or classify religions such as Wicca is because most of us believe in honoring the Earth, not forgetting the Goddess and using positive magick, etc., and many believe in living as natural a life as possible. Hence, "neo-Paganism." (If you don't know, "neo" means "new.")
When can I start practicing Witchcraft & casting spells?
Well, there is no simple answer to this. First I suggest that you look within yourself and figure out if you're on this path solely because of the Magickal aspect. If the answer is "yes," this may not be the right thing for you. Being a Witch is a way of life. It's a way of doing things that incorporates magick into your daily life, even when you don't necessarily realize it. When you reach a point in your studies where you aren't nervous, you have control over your energy and can "manipulate" the energy around you (like when casting a Circle, and that sort of thing) and you don't have to look up how to write andd spell in a book, or use a spell from a book, then you might be ready. Start small, don't overdo it. Take your time when writing it and performing your first spells and don't freak out if you misspeak or something. You need to learn to laugh at yourself. I'm not saying that you shouldn't take things seriously, but don't take everything TOO seriously because you'll lose your connection to what you're doing. You have to be emotionally involved in whatever you do.
Do you worship the devil?
No, Pagans don't worship the devil. We don't even believe in the devil, that's a Christian concept. We (at least mostly seem to) believe in a balance between good and bad, light and dark, etc., and accept that all things (including people and deities) contain both.
How do spells work? Do they really work?
Spells work the same way prayer can. You need to be emotionally invested in it, know how to use energy for your purpose, and do things in the physical world as well. For example, if you do a spell to help you with financial problems, you should be checking for a new job/better job, figuring out a budget and ways to cut back on spending/bills, etc. In my experience, yes spells do work if you put forth the effort.
Where should I begin?
I suggest any books you can get your hands on that are geared towards beginners and include history. The Internet is also a great resource. Learn the history first, though. I have a blog or two on recommended reading, as well as videos on my YouTube channel, and there are tons of others out there with similar things posted.
How do I start a Book of Shadows and what goes in one?
You can start your BOS whenever you want to, but it should be meaningful for you. When you're first beginning, I recommend not buying an expensive, fancy, bound book. A 3-ring binder works very nicely. I suggest sheet protectors as well, to keep the pages from tearing, getting wax or something on them, etc. You may also find it helpful to keep a notebook for taking notes and making plans from the things that you read, which you can later organize and transfer to your BOS. Some suggestions for sections in a BOS: Your beliefs about deities, life and death, "rules," Sabbat lore, Esbat information, correspondences for herbs, stones, colors, days of the week, moon phases, etc., books and your take on them, deity information, spells, rituals, tools, how you do things (like cast a Circle, set up your altar, etc.), and divination. And index is also useful. You can keep things like records of rituals and spells in your BOS. I tend to keep mine in my BOM (Book of Mirrors), though.