Jason Walton just published on the same topic. (or will shortly)
What follows is a top of the head list of things that can be classified as newbie pitfalls of magick. This list is was combined with the inexperienced in mind. I am sure some of my more experienced readers remember making some of these mistakes as well. You cannot enter the realms of magick afraid of making mistakes. You must enter the path vowing to learn from them.
The same is true for danger. Yes, magick can be dangerous. As Jason Miller put it, driving a car is also dangerous. That should not stop you from getting yourself where you need to go. Just as you could learn to drive a car on your own you can learn magick on your own. In both cases, a teacher is probably better.
The difference is that with magick more than one teacher is ideal. If anyone ever tells you that you are only permitted to learn from them or their group, run. Run far and run fast. These people are usually insecure egomaniacs that do not have the experience, wisdom and skills to teach. If they did, they would not be afraid of you thinking for yourself. They would encourage it! There is likely some exceptions in some teaching situations but when you hear this be very careful.
Often when people have their first brush with the astral it feels to them like they have discovered something the rest of the world does not know. They wallow in a sense of otherness. Quickly, there are only two groups of people, the ‘muggles’ and the ‘in-tune’. The latter have a deeper understanding. This can turn into a sense of being better than muggles faster than you can imagine. If someone is in this stage, they don’t know diddly. The only person that hasn’t figured this out is the person that feels this way. If this is you, all your friends and acquaintances know more than you do. Yes, I fell for this one.
Magick is a freeing experience. It rejects the idea that other people’s moral dictates apply. You have to figure those out for yourself. Especially for Pagans, this leads to the idea of sexual freedom. While I have no problem with doing whomever you want whenever you want to, this sort of freedom can be acted upon too quickly. It may be true that you can do half the people in your social circle and suffer no social consequences. It may also be true that your current state of manifestation cannot handle that sort of input (pun intended). It can eat at your sense of self in very negative ways.
For new Pagans, I have a piece of advice based on the two items above. Keep your mouth shut and your pants on. If you really do know more than everyone (you don’t), there will be time to communicate your earth-shattering wisdom. If you really can handle ten partners a month, you will be able to handle it a year from now. Take small steps. Know thyself. Doing that will leave you in better shape. I promise.
The most dangerous part of magick is that it works. People either recognize the responsibility and own the necessary humility immediately or some time passes before they figure it out, if at all. There is nothing more dangerous than someone that thinks he can fix the world. These people will try to do spells that impact their entire apartment complex, bring ‘love’ to their friends, and teach ‘that bastard’ a lesson. These people are not mages. They are jerks. The level of arrogance required to do this stuff after a successful spell or two is off the charts. Yes, I have been arrogant but not that arrogant.
Love spells. Just don’t. The first rule about love spells is not to do them. The second rule is about love spells is not to do them. I know that technically those are the same thing but I feel that rule is so important that it needed to be said twice.* The term ‘unmitigated disaster’ can be applied to almost all newbie love spells. For those where that cannot be said mitigated disaster works just fine. Yes, I am sure there is an example of success out there. I have never seen it. I fell for this one and was quite fortunate to get away with being able to label it ‘difficult’.
The only thing worse than doing a general love spell is trying to make someone specific fall in love with you. As Cunningham says in The Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, the best that you can achieve with this is infatuation or, a white hot flame of attraction. Otherwise, you get a person of very confused emotions. The target may feel that she ‘loves’ you but just doesn’t love you at the same time. She may not even like you. The target may feel a pull to see the caster or have sex but are repulsed at the same time. The target basically undergoes emotional torture. You can also get a person that becomes obsessed with you. BAD IDEA.
I was the target of one of these once. The spell backfired. I fell head of over heals for someone else and the spell caster had to watch. Imagine thinking you are in love with someone and having to watch them fall all over someone else. To say that I was out of control would be an understatement. The same could be said about my partner for a while. She pulled out of it faster than I did. After all, she was not the target of the spell and the original caster did some magick to calm her down. Casting against your own magick is ALWAYS a bad idea.
The price the caster paid was having to watch that relationship as the price of admission for her entire social circle and her only in person access to magickal teaching. I am sure that it sucked. Just as Cunningham warned, the relationship flamed out quickly. It left me devastated for a while but lead directly to my Vision of Perfection. The would be mage was ejected from my life.
This is one of the few cases, perhaps the only, where someone became quite angry with me when I literally did nothing to deserve it. It was either be angry at me or face up to her own foolishness. Most newbies are incapable of the latter.
That leads right into the next one. Self-Justification. This is a problem for everyone but particularly for magickal practitioners. Power corrupts. The way to avoid that corruption is to be ruthlessly introspective and take responsibility for your errors. If you are not capable of saying, “I am sorry. I did X and I was wrong,” you are unlikely to escape the problems of those that justify any action they take. Woe to you and your friends.
Newbies get a taste of magickal success and think they can teach. Donald Michael Kraig often warned people to avoid IROBs, I read one book. These people will not only rob you of an education. They will put all kinds of things into your head that you will have to unlearn later. Unlearning is very hard to do. Challenge people on their experience and education. Challenge yourself. Do what you can to avoid falling into the hands of an IROB. Do everything you can to avoid being one.
Another problem is a lack of balance. Some newbies read about magick but are afraid to do it and still identify as magicians, witches, etc. Most people fall on that end of the spectrum. They never really learn because they never give themselves an opportunity. They often sound good when talking about magick. Others, like myself, dive in and have to be restrained a bit. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher that was able to guide me through this with balance. I did a lot of magick but if I went too far, he reigned me in. A good teacher is of great value here but they are very hard to find.
I am sure this list should be longer. Maybe I will add to it in a “Part II”. Though, I am still working on a Part II of the darkness post.
*Yes, Wolf. If you are still reading this blog, I give you full credit for that line. It remains one of your best.