Before you bust out the herbs, the grimoires, or the crystals, there is one skill that you absolutely need to master before you begin practicing witchcraft. Without this skill, you are essentially setting yourself up for confusion, failure, or possibly even something worse.
That skill is discernment.
What is Discernment?
Discernment is defined by Dictionary.com as “the ability to judge well.” Discernment is the skill that you use to to decide if you’re actually cursed or if you’re just experiencing a string of random bad luck. It is the skill you use to decide if the spirit you’ve contacted is actually an all-powerful god or if they’re just a trickster hoping to mess with you. It is, essentially, the skill you use to determine if your supernatural experiences are genuine or not.
When a beginner first embarks on their Witchcraft journey, it can be easy to see omens everywhere or see anything that’s slightly out of the ordinary as something otherworldly. It’s totally normal to go through a “frenzy” period where everything seems to be magical, even if it isn’t, until you learn how to evaluate a situation or experience.
Discernment is a bit like a muscle; the more you approach each potentially-magical situation with a critical eye, the easier it’ll be to see what’s real and what’s just a coincidence, a trick, or a trick of the mind.
And, conversely, without discernment you may not be able to identify actual phenomena and end up ignoring important signs.
How Do You Practice Discernment?
To determine if an experience is genuine or otherwise, the following questions can be helpful in breaking down a situation so you can judge it on a deeper level without being overwhelmed. Once you build your skills of discernment, you likely won’t have to go through each of these steps in depth, but when you’re just starting, you may find it helpful to ask yourself these questions.
☆ Does it seem too good to be true?
If a spirit approaches you offering unimaginable power if you make a deal with them, that’s a bit of a red flag. While deals with spirits can and do occur, it would be extremely unlikely that a spirit would offer that much power to a person without an existing relationship and without asking for something equally valuable in return.
☆ Do your experiences seem to mimic or copy what you see or read online (or offline)?
Sometimes when we first step into the community, we can see so many other people talking about their amazing spiritual experiences. You might read someone experienced numerous omens or signs. After that, you may notice your own “omens.” Sometimes, once an idea is put in your head, you may be primed to see something similar in your own life. If you find that all of your experiences occur after reading about something similar happening to someone else, your mind may be playing tricks on you.
☆ Do you notice any patterns in the phenomena?
Genuine supernatural phenomena such as omens or the signs of a curse appear in patterns or alongside other synchronicities. Of course, a pattern doesn’t always indicate that something spiritual is occurring, but repeating phenomena is worth investigating.
For example, if you notice that every time you leave an elaborate offering for a specific god, you see a rabbit in your yard, that could be significant sign that the offering was well-received and should be investigated further to confirm it. If the rabbit is a sacred animal to that deity, it could make the sign even more significant. However, that sign would seem less significant if see rabbits every single day with no connection to giving offerings or performing any devotional activities because they happen to burrow nearby.
☆ Can an experience be explained away with mundane means?
Say you suddenly catch the flu. Days after that, you accidentally drop your favorite crystal and break it. Is that a sign of a curse or just coincidence? Chances are, unless you’ve recently upset a witch, it’s probably just a coincidence. If you have the flu, you may be more prone to clumsiness, so dropping your crystal could just have been an unfortunate accident that can be explained away through mundane means.
Similarly, if you live in an older home, it is common to hear creaking or other noises at night. Exhaust all mundane explanations before assuming that it must be something supernatural.
☆ Can you confirm the experience through divination?
Divination is one of the best skills you can have in your toolkit. Sometimes, it can be difficult to discern something ambiguous without it, so learning at least one system of divination will make your life a lot easier. If you think you’re seeing omens, feeling like you might be cursed, or might have a spirit buzzing around your house, divination can help clarify things.
There is a bit of a “danger” when using divination, however. Our minds our primed for confirmation bias, so we may ignore readings that go against what we might expect or interpret readings in ways that favor our point of view. As long as you are conscious of this, you can at least actively work against it. And if you feel that you can’t silence your own internal bias, having a trusted diviner perform a reading for you may also be helpful.
Take your time when building your skills of discernment. No Witch is born with the ability to immediately sense energies and detect genuine phenomena. However, if you approach each new experience with a sense of skepticism, you’ll eventually begin to notice “tells” which reveal the validity of an experience.
While it can be exciting to learn that all things magical and mystical exist, real life magic isn’t like the movies. Discernment is what helps us determine fact from fiction.
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