I have had an impressive amount of coffee this morning, and I am trying to burn off some excess energy so I can work on a project without my eye twitching. So I thought I would try to channel some of that energy in to a post
I know there are a lot of new/curious/interested people who read TW, who don't have accounts. I know I lurked on TW for about two years I think before I made my account. (P.S., guys: making an account is really great. Give it a try, talking to these folks is a lot more fun than just reading what they have to say!) Anyway, since I am hardly in a position to speak to the experienced, I wanted to share my thoughts about record-keeping with folks like myself who are still in the beginning stages of their Path.
Here is my point of view: Record keeping is a vital aspect of witchcraft, especially for people who are starting on a traditional path. The rest of this giant post is going to try and explain my position.
The thing about witchcraft is that for many of us, it lacks the physical input we usually need to make decisions. Did I leave my bedroom door open? I just have to glance over my shoulder and I can tell you yes or no. Did I leave a doorway in my mind open? That may take a bit more work. That will especially take more work if I am not adept at "feeling" these kinds of things. Magic is often subtle, and sometimes you can't feel the water rising until you are almost drowning. Sometimes it isn't enough to say, "well I don't think anything is happening, so everything must be fine." Sometimes you don't realize you left a door open, or a spell unattended, until the undertow rips you off your feet and sucks you under. In hindsight it may seem obvious, but by then it will be too late. There has to be a way for us to keep track of all the taps we've turned on so we don't get flooded.
That way is positively mundane; you need to write down what you do.
As a side-note, it doesn't matter if you think you have power or not. It doesn't matter if you believe your spell can't possibly have that kind of effect. To be fair, if you are a beginner, you are not experienced enough to make those kinds of judgment calls. Nor does it matter if you are just messing around, or you aren't sure you want to be a witch. You need to keep track of your business.
I have learned a few lessons about magic in my recent adventures, and here are two important ones:
- Every detail matters
- By the time something happens, you will probably have forgotten what you did to cause it
Magic, being the fair mistress that she is, takes you at your word. When you say something, it is done. Your spell does not have a mind of it's own. It does not say, "well, Wexler told us to do A, but I think she intended for us to do B, so we'd better do B instead." This means that it is possible for you to think you are casting a spell for one thing, when in reality you are casting for another thing altogether. When your spell starts doing freaky stuff and you have no idea why, you need to be able to have a copy of the original spell so you can go back and say, "wow, the wording of this could actually make us drift apart for our greater happiness, not come closer together." If you don't have those notes to figure out exactly what the heck you actually set in to motion, you are going to be confused and upset in a bad way.
Keeping notes is especially important for us beginners, because it is how we learn. Suppose you are doing a spell to help your boss see the error of his ways, are you going to say "hit him with understanding like a bolt of lightening," or, "grace him with understanding like the dawning of the sun"? This stuff is metaphor, but it has real effect. Do you want to blast out someone's mind with an LSD-level epiphany, or do you want to gently grow the idea on them until it rises beautifully in to their conscious mind? If your boss starts freaking out and behaving really oddly, you are going to have to remember exactly what you put in his mind, and exactly how it was delivered. If it looks like your boss is having a psychotic break and going in to a tailspin, you may have walloped him just a little too hard. To fix that, you will need to know what happened in your original spell. And if you don't have your notes, you will have just stalled your learning process. "Why is my boss acting out? What did I do wrong?" You will never be able to figure that out unless you remember what happened. If you have your notes it is infinitely easier to say, "he's probably acting oddly because I just cleaved his mind in half, I should avoid doing that in the future."
If you have your original notes, it is also much easier to send clean-up spells after your original working to help reduce collateral damage. Now that we know why your boss is losing his mind, we can send gentle spells after him to reduce the damage we did and help bring his sanity back. If you know why you and your friend are drifting apart, you can work to end that spell and create a new one that will actually bring you together. If you do not understand what you originally did to mess things up, all you can do is blindly guess what the issue is and pile more and more magic on top, which may just make things worse. (If you didn't know your original spell was forcing you and your friend apart, for example, you may think you didn't cast it strongly enough and cast the same spell again with more power, assuming that will fix things.)
Now the tricky thing about magic is that it isn't always instantaneous. Like leaving the water tap on, sometimes it takes a while to see the effects of what you have done. Suppose I cast a money spell, and a month later I see fabulous returns. Well, excellent - I'd love to cast that spell again... if I could remember what it was. Or say I am trying to perfect a spell that makes people tell me the truth. I cast a different version on four people I know. And one of them works! Great, now, which version was that again? Was it the one where I said 'Let ye speak no untruth to me' [I don't actually cast spells with Olde English wording, but ye rhymes with me, okay] or the one where I said 'Speak no untruth to me; when you see me your heart is filled only with honesty'? By the time my magical truth serum starts working, I may have forgotten. Experiment ruined.
Lastly, I have noticed a pattern in my own life, where I do something and then I'm amazed that it actually had an effect. I can "feel" things a little better now, but before I would do something and not "feel" it, then assume it was a dud. Two weeks later when shit got crazy, I would have no idea what happened... until I looked back and said, "oh, duh, that was me." If you do stuff involving magic or your power, whether or not you think it 'took', make a note of it. The most incidental things can become pivotal down the road.
All that being said, how can you keep good and accurate notes? What do you need to write down? I think that as beginners, we need to write down more than the experienced. Specifically I would say, if you journal, do it often even when it seems like nothing is going on. Be brutally honest with yourself, and don't avoid writing things down because you don't want to admit what you have just done, what you really think, or what you have seen. Don't get bogged down with fancy inks and expensive journals when a fifty cent composition book and a ten cent Bic pen from Wal-Mart will do. When it comes to spellwork, being very detailed and specific may really help you out a lot, especially when you can look back and see where your strengths and abilities lay.
[A random note: If you buy bound paper journals, get one where the pages lay flat when the book is opened. I bought a cute paperback journal a while ago, but it doesn't lay flat and it is a pain in the ass to write in, because to keep it open you have to constantly hold one side down. Never again.]
Some people will agree or disagree with my opinions here. They are not fact, just my thoughts stemming from my experiences. I hope this post did not come off as too teachy or preachy, I know I kind of have a problem with that.
Some people don't need to take a lot of notes. The more experience we get, likely the less we will need to keep track of. I think sooner or later, people begin to develop a sense for what is important and what is not. Until then I think it is best to err on the side of caution.
They call it the Crooked Path for a reason. Keeping notes is like creating a map for yourself, so when you get lost you can find your way home. No matter how you get around to it, I think it is a very good idea to keep a record of where you have been and what you are doing.
Finally, do not underestimate the effects of a single spell. As they say, every gun is loaded; every action a witch takes has power. Don't get it in your head that the dabbling you do now will have little or no consequence. People are taught to respect the power of guns before they learn how to shoot. Respect your own power before you cast spells. Whether or not you can see or feel it, you will send invisible bullets flying. So make note of which direction you fire the damn gun.