“Any idiot can put up a website.”
― Patricia Briggs
Nearly everyone uses a computer. It has become so commonplace as to melt into our society with little notice. Most people also have internet access everywhere they go thanks to smart phones and wireless services. This represents a huge storehouse of information for Solitary Practitioners (and really anyone interested in all things witchy).
Finding Correct Information on Magick
Now instead of standing in a bookstore for hours trying to find just the right tome for your spiritual studies, Google comes to the rescue. A few clicks of your magic mouse and you have reviews and samples at your command. You might also use the internet in hopes of finding a Wiccan teacher, like-minded groups, and products that can fill your home with good vibrations. The problem for most of us is that there is too much information from which to choose.
Let’s say a curious seeker plugs in a search like “learning Wicca online.” They get a deluge of listings. A recent exploration for the question “What is Paganism” yields over 27,000,000 in 39 seconds. Talk about daunting! So let’s talk about the basic weeding out process helping you sort through the dross.
Fame, Titles, and Power: It’s Not All It Seems to Be When It Comes to Magick
Ranking isn’t Everything: Just like at the store where price isn’t always indicative of quality, search engine ranking is not a perfect measure of a site’s quality. Search engines use a plethora of factors (as many as 200) in determining rank. These factors include the age of the site, how relevant it is to the question or search, social demands/trends and prevalent competition in the field. Additionally, a search engine may rank different pages within a site at other levels than the main page. This can be frustrating. Sometimes you just have to peek at several of the results until you find one that seems reasonable and trustworthy.
Claims to Fame: Speaking of trust, just because someone claims on their blog that their great-great-auntie was a Hedge Witch or a High Priestess does not make it so. Truthfully, the number of people who can honestly prove ancestral lineage in magic are very few. These types of claims are a huge red flag. It doesn’t matter if they sell a product, offer service or have classes, put that site in the ten-foot-pole-department.
Amazing Power and Prosperity: Take a look around you. Do you see many Pagans or Witches wielding a magic wand and getting results like the Good Fairy? As moms everywhere say with a knowing gleam in their eyes, “if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.” That aphorism proves out even more substantially when people can hide behind a computer screen. Yes, magic works. We do believe in metaphysical powers and psychic talent. We also have a strong regard for the artists crafting our jewelry, paintings, door signs, and knickknacks. However common sense comes into play. If you’re looking at a ring and the description reads, “powerful entity within” look somewhere else.
Title Tempests: Someone claims to be a High Priest, for example. How, exactly did they get that title? Don’t be afraid to ask. No matter the answer, look closely at the information provided on the site. Is it sketchy? Does it feel like you’ve read the same thing before? Does the “expert” make the process seem facile? Learning magic takes an investment of time and attention. You don’t just read a book and become enlightened (don’t we wish!).
You want an ethical spiritual teacher. Most of the true wise Witches out there don’t need titles and rarely use them outside of a covenstead. So if this Priest says he’s a Garnerian Wiccan, for example, you should be able to find someone that can verify his story. Don’t get this recommendation from Mr. Magic. Try getting independent corroboration if possible.
Pay to Play: It is one thing to offer fee-based services like professional readings and consultations. It’s another thing altogether to require a $19.95 first class fee, with other classes charged incrementally. Look closely at fee-oriented sites. Who runs them? Where doe the money go? What is the bang for your Buck? In terms of magical spells, there are practitioners (and I use that word loosely) who will happily create and cast a spell for you if the price is right. This is highly unethical, and something frowned upon in the community at large.
Credible Magickal Information
Spelling it Wrong: Websites with spelling errors, bad grammar, and horrid sentence structure usually can’t be trusted. Look to the professionalism of the website design and structure as an indication of the quality of the material you are getting. When in doubt, compare the information you gather with other quality resources as a means of back up.
Kiss my Ring: Everything they put on the screen is 100% true. Every spell, every ritual comes with guarantees for success, fame, and fortune. Oh, and did we mention being able to become part of the inner circle? Someone who tells you to follow his or her instructions exactly doesn’t know a whit about real magic. This website is simply a slimy ego fest. If it’s a group, be ready for drama with a capital D.
Social Media Mayhem: Inevitably, no matter where you surf, you will run into various disputes between groups or individuals. These Witch Wars get pretty ugly. Unless you have an opinion, you really want known or have clarifying information, just move along (unless you really want your blood pressure going up).
Now, some of these “discussions” give information about a teacher or a source of goods. That’s great for networking but take care. Everyone has an opinion, and the one you’re reading is probably lopsided. Check a few other sources before you make a determination whether or not to do business there.
The Magical Research Meccas: Two of your best research sources have the extensions “edu” (colleges and other post-secondary educational institutions and “org” (organization, many of which are non -profit). Use these when you want solid research on a specific metaphysical topic. You won’t be disappointed.
Critical Eye When Researching Magick
If you use these basic guidelines for finding teachers, products or trustworthy information, you should be able to steer clear of most of the “gotcha” groups. It doesn’t hurt to network either. If you know people already using online courses or meet-ups, get their input. Word of mouth (um keyboard?) is still very valuable.
The biggest advantage of using a computer for magical information is flexibility. You can be anywhere in the world and still have access to your mentor or favorite research sites. The internet is 24-7 (all things willing), so it really appeals to the magical idea of “out of space; out of time.”
With the advent of programs like Skype and hardware such as webcams, you can actually have “live” face-to-cyber-face experiences. People can hook up on video chats and hold full rituals together (provided they adjust for different time zones). For people with travel limitations, this approach not only offers a solution but great blessings.
Practice Safe Surfing!