Beginners Magic: A Guide

Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2009 by N. F. Robinson in Labels: , ,

(Correspondence with the fabulous Miss Twist, whose magical site you can find here, in regards to magic and mysticism and things.)

Magic, then.

New, are you? Don't know Crowley from Carroll? Couldn't tell me the difference between a pentagram and a pentacle, but too afraid to ask? Unsure as to whether or not 'demons' and 'gods' are just simple words for complex psychological processes, or exactly what you think they mean? What's a grimoire?

You just don't know, do you?

Well, guess what. We don't want you here. Fuck off. Go take of football or a community art class or something simple. If you don't already know, we're most certainly not going to tell you, so just give up and piss right off.


That is, in a nutshell, the typical reaction most occult communities have to novice magicians. It is a threatening and elitist environment where the youth of new ideas is shunned, not nurtured. Advanced magicians, you'd think, are much too important for silly things like teaching and giving advice. They had to learn from dusty old books and word of mouth, so why shouldn't everyone else?

This, in reality, is the first initiation. Figure out where to start practicing magic, and how to do it without burning your fingers off. Books can be good, but how many actually teach proper - by my lofty standards, anyway - magic? Not a lot. A handful. There are thousands of '101 White Witch Spells for Fortune, Success and Happiness' out there, but that's not what you need. You don't need one hundred and one spells. You need to learn how to craft your own, how to project them into the world, how to succeed as a magician and an occultist.

Most books, then, are out. But not all of them. A few extremely good ones have been published, and luckily enough these are relatively easy to get a hold of. For general background information on various occult practices, allow me to suggest Richard Cavendish's superb (if limited, it was written before the occult revival of the sixties) The Black Arts. If you're interested in the simple core mechanics of magic, take Peter Carroll's Liber Null and Psychonaut. For an easy introduction into Chaos Magic, you can't beat Phil Hine's Condensed Chaos, though if you want to go for a more ceremonial bent I can't recommend Donald Kraig's Modern Magick highly enough.

That's four books. Pretty easy, right? Not a lot. And you don't have to buy all of them, or any of them, if you don't want. Online, Grant Morrison's great introduction to sorcery, Pop! Magic, can be viewed freely. Phile Hine also has the free Oven-ready Chaos available for download.

(Don't bother trying to study any of Crowley's work. A lot of what he did was good, but more of it was crap, and he wrote in an amazingly obtuse fashion. The only one I can honestly recommend to a novice is Magick Without Tears, which I would recommend reading. You can study Crowley when you master the basics.)

Fuck everyone else. Help is good, yes, and you can't beat a good online community's shared wisdom. The problem is.. most occult communities out there are shit. If you really, really want to have a stab out of it, Liminal Nation
is the only place I'd honestly suggest to go and have a look at. There are others, I suppose, but it's really not worth the strife. That cliche, in the Conan movies and whatnot, that sorcerers are power-mad beings? It's true in a lot of cases. Most magicians will either want to fuck you or fuck with you, and neither will do you much good. As your studies advance in magic, you'll find like-minded people to work with.

Paths? Traditions? Styles? Oh, there are plenty. I'm a practitioner of Chaos Magick, which essentially means that I choose to drop and keep as I see fit the traditional trappings of sorcery, adding my own when I need to. Chaos Magick is more of a meta-tradition that places emphasis on exploring and messing around with the other traditions. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. There are others: Thelemic, Crowley's complex and religious-orientated magical system, for one; Pagan, another religious-focused one which really depends on what deity you worship (I don't know enough about this aspect of the craft to comment further, sorry); Enochian, which is scary and complex and batshit crazy with maths and things. There are lots of choices. I deal mostly with Ceremonial stuff - demon-summoning, elemental manipulation, etc. - and it's a little scary but a deeply rewarding path.

Right. Now onto the stuff you should be doing in addition to following the guidelines of those texts. Firstly, it's vital that you master a banishing technique. Most people would suggest you'd try and master the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP), as it's been the standard for a hundred years, but it's a very complicated one to begin with. It also suffers from the fact that it's heavily Judaic-Christian, and if you're not a Jew or a Christian you probably won't appreciate the imagery as much as you could. I'd suggest the Gnostic Pentagram Ritual (GPR), which uses simple imagery and a generic mantra set. not tied to any faith. I personally use the GPR on a daily basis. The purpose of a banishing is so that you can cleanse yourself, earth yourself, and ward yourself from all the nasty stuff magic attracts.

Pagans and Wiccans have different ways of banishing things, but I'm not entirely sure what exactly those ways are, and so I'm not going to comment on them. Hell, I'm not even sure who to direct you to for advice in this matter, but the one person that springs to mind is the lovely Charlie Twist. She's very knowledgeable and good with beginners, so if you're leaning towards a more pagan-y wiccan-y style, send her a message on her magic blog here.

Okay. Do the banishing as often as you can. You'll start to remember it quickly. Don't worry if you're horrible to begin with - everyone is. After that, you're going to want to pick up a random system of divination. You want it random so that you can learn how to meta-divine - how to divine with anything, spoons or bottle caps or whatever - and I'd suggest picking up the Tarot for this purpose. Go with the Rider-Waite deck, or with anything based in the Golden Dawn system (78 cards, 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana, coins/cups/wands/swords, most decks are based in the GD system), simply because the symbolism found within these decks becomes more relevant the more you study the occult. You might want to check out the I Ching or the Runes as well.

Divine for your friends and family. Read as many times as you can. You'll start to get a solid feel for your system, and you'll find that you're having some amazing successes. Remember, though: divination isn't fortune-telling. It doesn't really concern itself about the future; it deals with the present, with projected futures and remembered pasts. It will tell you more about yourself and your surroundings then you ever guessed at, but it's difficult to coax a Tarot deck into giving you the numbers for next week's lottery.

Work with divination and banishing for a small while and then give sigils a shot. Sigils are powerful symbols which capture the will and send it flying into the universe. Sigils are many a magician's first 'real' magical work; the first time they truly feel like they're affecting the universe with their will. There is a great guide for making sigils in the Pop! Magic guide above, as well as in Liber Null and Oven-Ready Chaos. There is a good guide here, too. Practice sigils often. You'll be amazed at your results; nothing will prove to you more that magic is real and that it truly works.

Once you've begun to understand divination, sigils and banishing, you should be well on your way to becoming a full-fledged practicing magician. If you picked up any of those books, they'll tell you where to go on from here; the websites, too, will. The only further advice that I will give you is, if you haven't already, take up a creative art; writing is good, and so is painting and drawing. Music, too, if you're composing. Creativity is the true essence of magic; freedom of thought is the vital force behind both.

Keep a magical diary. Many magicians will stress the importance of this. Record when and what you do, magically; record your moods and your readings; record your feelings of deja vu and synchronicity; record your dreams and desires. Draw sigils. Write in it daily.

Don't be scared to play around with magic. A general rule of thumb: when you're good enough to seriously endanger yourself using magic, you'll be good enough to stop it. You will, however, almost undoubtedly unclog all of the psychic shit that's been hiding in your brain, and you'll suffer more astral grazes than you'd care to admit. Don't worry about it. It's all part of the fun. It's like anything; people get hurt skateboarding all the time, right?

Practice magic as often as you can.

Good luck. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to send me an email at

- Nathaniel Robinson / Frater Victatio