“Where do I start if I want to practice witchcraft/magic?” I get that question all the time, especially over on tumblr.
My first questions to them are as follow:
- What are you looking for?
- What are you interested in?
- Are you looking for a religion?
- Are you looking for a path to follow?
- Are you looking for guidance?
- Are you looking to affect the world around you?
- What do you believe?
- Do you want to work with others or in a group?
- Do you want to make up things yourself or would you prefer to follow someone else’s lead?
- How much academic studying do you want to do?
- Are you looking for something with historical precedent or something more modern?
The last question is especially important. Knowing, or at least exploring, how the world works and how you believe the world works is incredibly important to to establishing UPG – unverified personal gnosis. Now UPG is commonly misused within the community. Most people take it as UPE – unverified personal experience. The mistake is easy to make but the difference is incredibly important: gnosis refers to something that is a foundation belief, something critical to your worldview. An example would be the knowledge that your deity is masculine rather than feminine. I use knowledge because UPG is often a knowledge, absolute faith. You KNOW that the UPG is true. It is the very basis of your world-view. It’s canon to you. UPE is you have this experience that you’re certain is real and happened but it’s not essential to you. 
Now that’s a lot of technical jargon that boils down to this: you don’t have to know what it is that you believe but you almost certainly believe something and you need to be willing to explore that.
Now I believe in magic. I KNOW it to be real. I’ve seen it work, I’ve used it. I’ts part of the heart of my UPG. What magic is, precisely, is an entirely different topic I won’t get into, primarily because we don’t know. My answer is different than others and their answer is different too. Various paths define it somewhat differently. 
All of the above isn’t the point and most certainly isn’t exactly what you’re here for. You’re here for a how to of where to start and what “rules” there are for it. And here they are:
“Rules” or the stuff you need to know about before you begin:
- Practicing magic or witchcraft is a personal choice.
- There are NO qualifying markers to decide who is an isn’t a witch or who is or isn’t practicing magic. If you define your practice as such, then it is. Similarly, do NOT label someone a title such as witch unless they identify as one. It’s rude at least and deeply offensive at worst. 
- You have NO right to information. You have NO right to appropriate from native cultures or religions, especially if those cultures or religions have requested otherwise.
- Cultural appropriation is a thing and you should know about it. 
- Sexism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, racism, agism, predators, pedophiles, rapists, crepes, criminals, and sex offenders absolutely DOES exist in the community. They exist in ALL communities. Ignoring the issues because you want to promote a good image is negligent at best and criminal at worst.
- Critical thinking is absolutely critical. So is critical reading. For many practices and paths, research and proper research is important and even necessary. Don’t trust everything you read and question everything. [5, 6, 7]
- There is no Pope of witchcraft or magic. There are NO rules. There is no ONE deity or pantheon “we” must follow.
- The Rede and Karma does not work the way you probably think it does. And they are not universal but specific to traditional Wiccan and Hinduism, respectively.
- Wicca does not equal witchcraft and witchcraft does not equal Wicca. Witchcraft is an art, science, and technical skill of a witch while Wicca is a religion. One necessitates a religious foundation and and the other is entirely secular from it. Witchcraft can be added to most, if not all, religious practices. Witchcraft and magic are not nature-religions. They can be incorporated into a nature religion, however.
- Books on history, superstitions, folklore, mythology, and anthropology are often keystones to many researchers. Those people who write those accessible 101 books? Those topics are the ones they gleam their information from.
- Many practitioners takes years to develop their practice, some even take decades. Others can develop their practice in a few months. Progress as fast as you need to.
- Remember while you may have a divine, known UPG truth of the world, it is RELATIVE. Your truth is not my truth and thus you don’t get to force your beliefs on others.
That’s the basic information you’ll want to know before you begin. This is the basis of how we generate conversation and how to start separating the bullshit from the good stuff.
Now, got that covered? Here’s what you need to do to start practicing witchcraft or magic:
- Ask questions. Even if you have a stupid sounding one, ask it. Ask it to different people. Ask it of yourself.
- Read everything. Well, not everything but go ahead and read topics that interest you and articles that are in opposition of what you believe. It can at least let you know what other people are talking about and at most will inspire you to new things.
- Explore. Do you like the ocean? Ask sea witches what they do and read fisherman’s superstitions. Like cooking? Explore kitchen magic. You don’t need to focus on one thing. Witchcraft can very much be defined into separate categories like sea witchery or kitchen magic but it doesn’t have to be (and, likewise, you can absolutely just focus on one aspect and ignore everything else.)
- If you want rules, restrictions, or a specific THING to follow, try a define tradition such as Wicca or another religion.
- You can absolutely make up your own path. I’ve been doing it for close to twenty years.
- Be afraid to make mistakes. Misspeaking a word in a spell will 99.9999999999% of the time result is absolutely no changes from the original intent.
- Gods, spirits, guides, and people lie. They can be malicious. They can hurt you. And they can do it just for the fun of it. Don’t trust anyone just because they say they have your best interest at heart. They almost certainly have a game plan. Also, you don’t need them to practice witchcraft or magic and you can worship deities without magic or writchcraft.
- Don’t buy things in one go. Witch kits are often useful but I’ve seen far too many practitioners going into stores with lists of things and you end up not needing half of it. Start small and cheap and pick up things as you go. In addition to being gentler on the wallet, each new piece added to you practice will mean that much more to you. You don’t need an altar or a work space or tools, but many find them useful or important to their practice.
- Find a teacher. There are absolutely people out there that teach witchcraft or magic. i’m one of them. Most often they require payment of some kind or another in return for their time. This isn’t an option for everyone and sometimes not one you’ll want. I, for example, never wanted a teacher. I wanted to learn and hone my craft myself.
- Find a coven, community, or group. This, again, might not be for everyone but it could be for some. You can learn things from one another and can always leave if you don’t like it.
- Go ahead and jump right in. You don’t have to be serious business about it all right now. Just try your hand at it and see what happens.
Yeah, yeah, but that’s not STUFF. That’s not spells and shit. There’s no magic there.
Here’s the magic how to:
- Starting with a protection spell is probably the safest way to start… but money spells are the way to go to prove it works. Do both and enjoy the outcome!
- Energy manipulation is an easy way to learn a lot about what people talk about with energy.
- Offerings of water, clear alcohol like vodka, incense, bread, or honey are good for a basic offering to any deity or spirit.
That’s it? Yeah, that’s it. If you want to do spells, just jump the hell in. There’s more background information to be known than anything else.
Other things you really should read that will help (besides my resources)
- How to start learning magic: http://thiscrookedcrown.tumblr.com/post/74938259213/hi-how-would-one-go-about-becoming-engaged-in-magic-i
- What tools should you consider or use when starting out? http://thiscrookedcrown.tumblr.com/post/85734610852/so-a-general-question-what-should-a-beginning
Now, as mentioned in a previous post, I am working on getting up online classes for witchcraft. It’s a slow process as I’m a rather spontaneous teacher that prefers to adapt to a singular student rather than a unknown group but it’s still happening. Also, beginners can always ask me question here or on any media form I’m in.
- What does UPG mean? http://thiscrookedcrown.tumblr.com/post/56115685958/what-does-upg-mean-ive-never-heard-the-term-except-on
- Rambling on This Crooked Crown’s personal belief on what magic is: http://thiscrookedcrown.tumblr.com/post/67771760381/what-would-you-say-makes-spells-work-youve-said-its
- Scroll down to read my breakdown of this post: http://thiscrookedcrown.tumblr.com/post/26522396392/deep-within-your-belly-come-all-witches-be-one
- Rant on Cultural Appropriation: http://thiscrookedcrown.tumblr.com/post/18294572929/a-pseudo-rant-on-appropriation-in-paganism-and-research (check the notes).
- On critical thinking and reading: http://thiscrookedcrown.tumblr.com/post/39901394182/okay-this-may-sound-really-really-dumb-but-how-do
- Hellboundwitch’s how to read a fucking book: http://blog.hellboundwitch.com/post/27502384651/how-to-read-a-fucking-book-i-cant-teach-you-how-to
- Spiritscraft’s how to read a 101 pagan book: http://spiritscraft.tumblr.com/post/27508266438/how-to-read-a-101-pagan-wicca-witchcraft-book