Witch Tips: Research Guide for Pagans

Something I have noticed as a trend on social media websites is people asking for specific information about spells or Wicca that is fairly easy to look up yourself.  I get that people have to have a jumping off point, which I feel like most Pagans, Wiccans, and witches are happy to provide (myself included!).  I also understand that people new to the religion or witchcraft might be apprehensive to start researching.  But until a few days ago I never considered that maybe people are not familiar with doing independent research.  It’s not a thing about education level or intelligence, but rather a skill that anyone can acquire.  For a Pagan, Wiccan, or witch, the ability to find accurate information or something that jives well with personal paths is a key component to building a solid spiritual base.  So here are my guidelines for doing independent research.  I am going to use the witch’s bottle as an example topic to present my methodology.

  • Books First: I cannot stress this enough.  With very few exceptions (check the back for a work cited to be sure), these contain the best research and a rich collection of information.  If you don’t have access to books on Pagan or Wiccan topics, try Google Books.  Using my example of the witch’s bottle, I used books that I know have spell indexes: Earth MagicEveryday Magic, etc.  I find a couple of examples and take note of some commonalities: pointy objects (pins, needles, rusty nails, etc), fluids (red wine, vinegar, blood, etc), and salt.  Some also say adding herbs and sparkly objects can be helpful, especially with general protection bottles.
  • Move On to the “Scholar-Web:” Before moving on to the general Internet, look at websites like JSTOR and Google Scholar for academic articles on the subject.  Again, the materials will be well sourced and researched.  The problem with this step is a lot of academic journals have a cut off access date (i.e. you need money to access the most recent scholarship).  One way to get around this is to check your library to see if they have a subscription (students, you have one through your school).  However a lot of great research on Paganism and the occult was done before the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, so it’s free!  Again using my example, I found articles on the history of the witch’s bottle and its place in folk magic.
  • Use Sites with High Accountability: Okay what do I mean by accountability?  This can be achieved in two ways: physically being able to see the person (i.e. Youtube) and the ability for discussion (i.e. WordPress, Tumblr (to some extent.  The inability to comment all of the time bothers me), etc.).  Again using my example of the witch’s bottle, I watched TipToeChick and CharmingPixieFlora’s videos on the subject and noted some ingredients and uses.
  • At This Point, Ask Any Lingering Questions: You can turn to Facebook or Tumble friends for this one. Since you already have a knowledge base on your topic, you can smell bullshit a mile away.  I didn’t really have any questions at the end of my witch’s bottle research, but I have a couple of friends I could have reached out to for advice.

© Ariadne Woods


Witch Tips: Researches and Checking Sources

At the end of my undergraduate career I have been reflecting on how important finding information is in all of the aspects of my life.  In my Pagan life, research skills have helped me deepen my spirituality and have sorted the fact from the fiction.  Information is powerful and essential to learning or creating a vibrant tradition.

  • Works Cited Matter: If an article or book has a suggesting reading and a citation page, you can trace the author’s preparation and research.  This transparency is key.
  • So Do Names, Sort Of: Leaders in the Pagan community who have published books tend to be experts, although should not necessarily be taken for face value.  In general if the work is a collaboration (married couples/romantic partners can break this rule though), written by experts in a particular tradition (i.e. Starhawk writing about Reclaiming), or is a scholarly work (example: Drawing Down the Moon), you’re good.
  • The Internet Can Lie: While the Information Age is a fabulous, wonderful thing, anyone can post information and call it fact.  If you do not have access to books, look on websites such as the Witches’ Voice.
  • Take Notes:  So you can review what you’re read.
  • Go With Your Gut:  Sometime personal untested gnosis seeps into articles.  If you see a weird piece of information, double check it.

© Ariadne Woods