Many people who are new to Paganism, and especially those finding Wicca, seem to think there are set in stone rules about how to practice magick and what tools should be used. This simply isn’t true.
I fell into this trap myself way back in 1996 when I was first learning about Paganism. Like many people both then and now, my first experience with Paganism was Wicca, as it is one of the most prevalent forms, and is talked about more than other Pagan paths. Wicca, I learned, was very much about rules, and about there being a right and wrong way to do things.
I actually went through the year-and-a-day initiation under a Wiccan teacher. I learned all the terms, the rules, and the way things were supposed to be done. I discovered rather quickly though that the heavy ritualization and all the rules really didn’t really work for me. By the time I got done with all the pomp and circumstance, I was drained of energy and often forgot what my goal had been. Because of this I started looking into other forms of Paganism.
As I did more and more reading, I found that Wicca was only one Pagan path, and that many paths did not involve all the heavy ritualization, and didn’t require all the props. I felt liberated, I was discovering that as a general Pagan, I could do and use whatever I wanted. Things like athames and chalices went the way of the Dodo in my workings, as did casting a circle and calling the quarters.
Unfortunately, many people don’t look around for this kind of information, and are overwhelmed and put off by the perceived need for all the ritual activity and the plethora of oils, herbs and other tools Wicca requires. Just today I was looking at a thread in a forum with a new Pagan asking if ritual oils were really needed, since they are so expensive. Many replies from non-Wiccans were posted, letting this woman know that oils were optional, ans she should only use what she feels is important to her magickal workings.
For my personal magickal workings, I’m a minimalist. Sometimes I use herbs or candles, sometimes incense, and that’s about it. Sometimes I use an item like a coin or a nut to focus my energy, especially if I want to be able to carry it with me. Some people use a lot more, including an athame, bessom, offering plate and even ritual clothing. Those things are all optional. Magic should be specific to the practitioner, and you should only use the items and actions that feel right to you.
Unless you are trying to become initiated into a particular Pagan path, such as Wicca or Gardnerian, you will not have to follow any particular rules when using magick. If you are part of a specific tradition, you should follow their requirements. Otherwise, you’re free to do what you please to make your work as powerful as it can be. Use oils if you want, don’t use herbs, cast a circle or not, the choice is completely yours.
The most powerful magick is worked by those whose faith is the center of their work, and the ingredients and tools are just additions for personal focus. You should learn about as many tools and ingredients as you can, and about various rituals and spells, then adapt to create something that works for you. Never feel that you are limited to the traditions of others, or that any part of a written spell or ritual is law that must be followed.