I'm going to give my 2 cents worth on this topic. I think my opinion will be in the minority, but it is nonetheless the result of all my years of practice.
We all have our own gifts which we likely used before we "did a magick spell". If your natural gifts didn't cause harm, then why would beginning to practice witchcraft have anything to do with having to watch out for what you've done in a spell. You are still capitalizing on your gifts.
Not all gifts awaken at the same time or at birth. How would you know if anyone's natural gifts caused harm or not? That's a broad generalization and not entirely accurate.
The whole "dark side" is such a fabricated ruse invented by the fearful.
I call bullshit on that. I've walked on the Dark Side and occasionally go there to play. I think that most everyone goes Dark Side for a while. There are things that you can only learn there. Not everyone comes back from it. I don't fear it. There have been times I've reveled in it.
Some people fail to realize that bad things happen to people as a result of the universe just doing it's thing. Some bad thing that happens (after you have done a spell as a newbie) isn't the result of any oops you may have done in casting your spell. Magick coming back to you in a harmful way is called karma. And you know what karma is? It is from a completely different cultural belief system that has nothing to do with witches - unless you are an oriental witch.
Magic coming back to you in a bad way can also be a result of poor spellcrafting - especially when it's in direct relation to whatever spell was cast. The amount of collateral damage that a witch is willing to live with will depend upon said witch's personal moral code and experience.
I wouldn't walk down the street and hit a random person in the face just the same as I wouldn't cast a spell against some random person who I don't know, have never seen, who has absolutely relevance in my life. Electricity in your wall outlet is neither good nor bad, it just is. And if you want to use that energy to hurt someone irrelevant than that is your choice.
The old wise ones are going to tell you a few things.
My Grandmother was an Old, Wise One. You shouldn't be speaking for her either. Honestly, I find that sentence irritates the shit out of me. Who are you to speak for an entire group of people that you are not a part of? Do you have any idea that the Old, Wise Ones would tell different things to different people based on where they were on their path? That what one may have said to you is not what they would have said to another? The next paragraph where you give the advice of the Old Ones isn't what I was taught.
Firstly that a witch doesn't randomly do bad things to people who are irrelevant,
This is going to depend entirely upon each individual witch and their own scruples and moral code. For the most part, waste not want not, fits well here. Why waste energy on someone/thing that's completely irrelevant? Sometimes they do - it's called target practice.
Secondly to take responsibility for your actions while conducting the arts. Man up/Woman up or get out of the cauldron (pun intended). If you think you've been bewitched, then witch them back.
This really should be 2 and 3. I agree with taking responsibility for ones actions - whether they be mundane or magical.
The latter is bad advice. If you think you've been bewitched - do your research. Why would someone be after you? Think long and hard if it's in retaliation to something your actually done. You know - that personal responsibility thing. I never suggest going off half cocked when one thinks they're being attacked. That's just a really bad battle plan.
And thirdly if you cause harm in an unintended way then it wasn't you who did it, it was either a witch against you, or it was just life - or a local person who needs a pitchfork in the neck. jk on the last one!
What a wonderful cop-out that is. According to this I could do a piss poor spell, suck at accuracy and when it doesn't work as planned I can blame it on Life. Please.
Anyway... a newbie isn't tapping into instant power they didn't have before, and your mind already knows what you are casting whether your mouth says the right words or not.
Again - these should be 2 separate points.
Really? Are you absolutely sure about that in every single situation? Damn! You must See far and wide.
It happens. Specific inherent gifts can wake up, doors within oneself can open and BAM! you have a new set of abilities and have to figure out how to use them.
Your intention, if not backed by your wording, can wreck havoc. I've helped people clean up the messes they've made because of sloppy spellcasting. I had to clean up my own when I first started casting.