The Abundance of Misinformation
When it comes to spiritwork and magic, there is a lot of misinformation. Misinformation on both spiritwork and magic abounds in both published books and online platforms. It takes experienced spiritworkers and magic workers to discern what is good and bad information within books, which is really unfortunate for those starting down spiritworking and magical paths.
Spiritwork and magic both adhere to certain rules, just like the physical world adheres to certain rules. The fact that many authors and online influencers promote methods of spiritwork and magic that often ignore the rules of the spirit world and magical workings is problematic on many levels and has a range of harmful effects.
At the least harmful level, ignoring those rules leads to a failure to connect to spirit or prevents magic from working altogether. In situations where some rules are followed but others ignored, there may be limited results that then unfortunately encourage the practitioner to continue using methods that leave holes that spirits may eventually notice and take advantage of. At the most harmful level, it is possible for someone to do spiritwork or magic using techniques that draw the attention of malignant spirits or work in ways other than those intended by the practitioner.
There is danger in assuming that any/every approach to spiritwork and magic will work perfectly. Even chaos magicians use a system that adheres to certain rules, and the two fundamental rules of magic applies to all magicians. The laws of sympathetic magic – that of contagion and similarity – are in operation at all levels of magic.
The law of contagion, simply expressed, is “once connected, always connected,” while the law of similarity is “the image equals the object.” Taken together, these are the unbreakable laws of magic; they are as unyielding as the physical reality of gravity. At a deeper level, these two laws of magic explain why magical correspondences are vital to magical workings.
It is easy for a beginner to pick up a book or go to a website that discusses magical correspondences and assume that the author knows what they are talking about – we live in a world that privileges the written word and there is an unspoken assumption that books with bad information won’t be published. The reality is that misinformation abounds both in published books and on online platforms within all spheres of life, magical and mundane.
That is why discernment is such a critical tool to develop, and to develop discernment requires a commitment to critical analysis. With my background as a historian, I can say with confidence that there are even published history books that are factually inaccurate and misleading. Assessing books for accuracy requires a commitment to fact-checking information across several sources, and it can be a time-consuming process.
The same is true when it comes to fact-checking information found in books about spiritwork and magic. There are tons of books on spiritwork that ignore the importance of developing relationships with spirits, which is critical in spiritwork. There are a handful of books on spiritwork that are incredibly well-researched and accurate, but finding them can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
The same is true for work on magic. It is well-known by experienced practitioners that books published by Llewellyn are hit-and-miss, with the majority of books being huge misses. There are authors like Silver Ravenwolf who still have huge following, even though any experienced practitioner worth their weight will tell you that none of her magical techniques make much sense.
Just like there are authors like Ravenwolf whose works are full of inaccuracies, there are online platforms that cause misinformation to circulate. There are people who use TikTok as a platform whose magical teachings confuse basic correspondences, and confusing those correspondences is a blatant disregard of the two fundamental rules of sympathetic magic.
As an example, there are many TikTok performers who suggest adding salt to any type of bottle spell, regardless of the intention behind the spell. This is an example of a harmless type of misinformation because the worst thing that adding salt to a spell is going to do is neutralize the spell. Salt is a purifying and protective substance – there is documentation for this that goes back centuries, and it is a well-known fact in the larger magical community.
Adding salt to protection or purification spells makes sense. Adding salt to spells for love or attracting wealth does not. Salt purifies and protects. It does not attract. To use it in a spell that has attraction as its core purpose makes no logical sense. Magic is unfailingly logical, and the correspondences of the components used in any spell or ritual is incredibly important.
While certain types of magicians, particularly chaos magicians, are able to develop their own systems of magic replete with their own correspondences, they do so most adeptly by learning the traditional systems and adapting what works for them into their own approaches. Chaos magicians operate on a “use what works, discard what doesn’t,” basis, and I have met only a handful of truly capable chaos magicians. Those few always operate within systems that acknowledge and use the two fundamental laws of sympathetic magic.
A lot of people on online platforms, especially TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter, are beginners attempting to teach other beginners. That is why so much of the information on those platforms tends to be misinformation. Most experienced practitioners will not teach through social media platforms. Some magical and spiritworking information is inherently dangerous, and online platforms do not allow experienced practitioners to determine who views/uses their teachings.
The misuse of magic and the abuse of spirits are difficult problems that circulate within the magical community at large, and few experienced practitioners are going to engage in any action that may potentially increase those problems.
I have seen these problems both online and in-person. I have read stories about people working with spirits who do so in abusive and exploitative ways. I have seen people form relationships with malignant spirits out of ignorance and pay a heavy price for their mistakes. Spirits have their own agency; they are capable of being both benign and malignant. Even benign spirits can turn malignant if they are abused or exploited. Attempting to coerce or control spirits can easily backfire. Approaching spirits carelessly, especially gods, can lead to deadly phenomena.
The spirit world is diverse, full of a plethora of beings. Many are benign but many are malignant. There are certain spirits that all traditions and religions have agreed are malignant towards humans, such as the succubi, incubi, and nightmare spirits. Some spirits are assumed to be malignant but may not be depending on the tradition followed. The entities considered to be demonic and malignant by Abrahamic religions may be benign spirits to those who work in the Goetic or demonaltry traditions. How spirits are approached and whether they act in a benign or malignant manner often depends on a specific tradition’s approach to those spirits. Traditions create spiritual patterns that echo throughout generations; rituals tap into collective remembering.
That is why so many experienced practitioners tell newcomers to find a magical or spiritual tradition and steep themselves in it for at least a year. Learn the patterns, the rituals, the approaches taken by one specific tradition. Magical approaches differ depending on the tradition. Ceremonial magicians do rituals differently than Druids who do rituals differently than Wiccans who do rituals differently than Conjure workers. Each system is complete in itself, and mixing/matching magical techniques is not something that can be done with ease.
Perhaps the most pressing issue caused by the proliferation of misinformation is the growing impression newcomers seem to have that magic and spiritwork is easy, when that is far from the truth. The people who are strongest in magic and spiritwork draw their strength from the years – usually in terms of decades – of experience they have working in their respective fields.
While I work closely with spirits today, that did not happen overnight. I did not wake up one day and decide to become a spiritworker and have everything immediately go well. I spent the first decade of my magical journey wishing I could communicate with spirits because I couldn’t easily connect with them. I had to reshape my entire way of thinking about the world, let go of patterns of monotheistic thought shaped by the environment I grew up in, and learn to sit and listen with intent. It took a decade of work for me to even get started on my path as a spiritworker, despite being raised in a tradition that acknowledged the existence and prevalence of spirits.
Spirit work is not easy. Neither is magic. Magic is willpower made manifest. A person must learn to understand themselves and their own will to create strong magic. They must also make the commitment to learn magic at a serious level and dedicate themselves to the process.
Unfortunately, social media platforms have beginners posing as experts and spreading misinformation about magic, and the younger generations are so used to getting information through social media that they rarely stop to question the validity of the information they are receiving.
It isn’t easy to find experienced teachers, since the majority of us only teach in person for reasons I’ve already explained, so many people have to become self-taught practitioners. That is possible to do, but taking that path requires more dedication because it requires more experimentation and more guesswork than learning from someone directly entails.
There are good resources out there, but most of them aren’t going to be found on social media. Some of the best resources may be hidden in local or university libraries. Often, popular books contain the least accurate information (though that is not always true). There are certain authors that can be trusted and others that can be ignored. It takes dedication to discernment and critical analysis to determine which books are good resources and which ones aren’t, and learning to do that is in and of itself a way to create a solid foundation for discernment in both magic and spiritwork.