The Ordains: Part 17 – Practice Only What You Know
This is the seventeenth entry in a series on a set of Pagan guidelines known as the Ordains. The Ordains, as we know them today, can be found in the works of Gerald Gardener. Maiden’s Circle uses a simplified version that has been edited and altered to reflect our core beliefs.
“Never practice a magickal system that you don’t fully understand.”
The idea that one should practice a particular type of magick only if they fully understand it exists for a good reason. The nature of magick is such that dabbling can prove dangerous. If you practice something you don’t quite understand—for example hoodoo, curses, or advanced spellwork—but you don’t really know where the symbols or words you’re using originate, whether they’re in your language or translated, then you’re at a disadvantage.
Using any particular magickal system with no study of or background in that system means you won’t be as prepared as you could be if something were to go wrong. If you’re performing an Egyptian money spell and the spell requires calling to Montu (the god of grain) or Renenet (a goddess of fortune), but you possess no knowledge of those deities, they’re not likely to respond to you and so your work is bound to be less effective.
It’s wise to spend some time learning about the elements of your magickal practice. That said, I don’t believe you must be an expert in any magickal system to practice it. This law might naturally rub some people the wrong way. Some people see this and feel they’re being told not to practice any magick at all unless they’ve perfected it.
That’s not the case.
I believe this tenet to be admonishing the act of “dabbling,” which is when a witch finds some new spell or practice and immediately decides that they’re going to do it. However, they’ve done no research, they understand nothing about the history of the practice, and they’re not interested in being taught how to work that system. On the surface, this law is for them.
For the rest of us, we understand that, like every one of these Ordains, there are nuances. Many of us, upon seeing something like this, would ask how we’re supposed to learn a magickal system without practicing it. Magick is something you do, it’s something you create. Magick is an action. So, it seems impossible to learn a magickal system thoroughly enough without actively participating in said system.
In this case I believe it’s important to build a working foundation before one dives into true magick work. This means spending time doing your research and listening to people who have been there before or been in the practice longer. I’ve seen a lot of newer practitioners dismiss the wisdom of those who came before us and it’s disheartening. Older generations hold a wealth of knowledge, and those practicing for decades can offer invaluable guidance.
So many new Pagans, especially Wiccans, seem disinterested in building a firm knowledge base before jumping into Magick. And that’s where they falter.
These are the people you see in witchy groups crying because their money spell seems to have backfired. When asked what the spell consisted of or where they got it, they’ll tell you it came from some questionable website or that they used elements or tools which had nothing to do with growing finances. They make it pretty clear they did little research and just searched a spell, lit a few candles, said a few words, and expected a fortune.
At Maiden’s Circle, we stress the importance of having all the knowledge you need before you ever step into magickal work. At the very least, we expect our Seekers to understand what magick is and how it works in general before doing spell craft. The Covenpath course gives Seekers a wealth of historic, deeply researched information before offering lessons on working witchcraft. (Though, we’ve got a lot in that department, too!) While you don’t need to be an expert, it’s necessary to “know” your craft.
What’s your opinion? Is it better to learn as much as possible before practicing witchcraft, or should witches just jump right in and do it? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Lady Morgana Brighid HP MCCA
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