By the title I mean both "practice" as in using magick, and "practice" as in doing it at all.
I know lots and lots of folks in the pagan community that are forever reading and absorbing and never doing anything. The most important thing is to actually practice. All the reading is supplementary and should be secondary to your own experience and input. If you practice, when you encounter others' practices, you will know what works for you, and can compare.
I remember a time when I was young and I didn't yet have any label for what I was (or, more correctly, what I most closely identify with). My best friend and I made potions, experimented with Ouija boards, went to cemeteries and old houses, or just out in nature.
Because of my life experiences and old (and haunted) house that I lived in, I was more naturally drawn to experimentation with the dead than nature spirits (I wish I had known about nature spirits back then!!). I've said it before and I will say it again, to the normal American,
talking with spirits sounds crazy and grisly, but I can't tell you how
comforting it is to occasionally catch a laugh from my grandmother after
she passed, to know she is okay and happy... The most interesting thing about my childhood experiences to me though, is that we did all of these things before we knew what Wiccans were, or had any label for what we were doing. We were under the age of 9, and already compiling a book of recipes for various potions. Our ingredients consisted entirely of things we intuited. We did not drink them, but applied externally (although there was no particular reason we never drank them, many consisted of spices from the cupboard).
Back then, even spices from the cupboard were magickal. They really still are, but by the time you are an adult, things have lost some of their mystique. It is important to note that just because we know some of how certain things work, does not negate their magick. Many acts of magick are merely acts of changing our own perception so that we can actually see more of our options, that's okay, it's still magick, and it's not silly to believe it works...
But back on topic:
When I look back on it, I do not feel that I had a choice in my path. I was born a witch. When I was little, things came easy to me. My play was a witch's play. Talking with dead folks, making potions, and imagining other planes of existence, making runes for fun etc.
As time to myself became limited and mundane concerns mounted, intuition began to shut down and I have had to work hard to keep myself magickally active. I have watched others I knew on the Path, leave it, either forgetting what they experienced and caving to peer pressure, or left, disillusioned, as they never experienced enough proof to keep them going. Those that never experienced, did not reach for it as I know it.
Magickal experiences don't just pop out at everyone. You can't expect them to knock you over the head. You have to strive for them, and put yourself in the places where they can manifest.
How can you experience speaking to or seeing a spirit if you are parked in front of the TV or video game, or your i-phone? "Unplugging" and sitting without distraction will be one of the hardest things to teach our youth, let alone ourselves...
Being a part of a coven, circle, or magickal working group of some sort, can be part of that striving to stay magickally active. It can help one stay on track to work with others who are also striving. As I worked with covens, I was sometimes given assignments. Many were reading-related, but my experiences have taught me that practice was more important for working magick. Much of what we read for Paganism or Wicca, helps us to understand how to create and perpetuate the norms in our traditions. Those norms help us to work together more efficiently and are certainly important. I'm not telling you if your High Priestess/Circle Elder says "do this homework" you should ignore them or tell them you'd rather go meditate. I'm just asking you to remember that much of your homework may consist of things like what to say during a circle, and less about how to feel the energies around you. If no one is telling you to learn how to feel those energies, take it upon yourself to practice--it is extremely important.
However, while I still feel that the under-lying energies of magick in Wicca are ancient, I do not believe (nor does anyone else I know) our ancient ancestors would understand or recognize pretty much anything that we do. What we have been handed down has been cobbled together and was largely put together after many of our ancestors were long underground, and our truly ancient traditions forgotten. I like many of our current traditions, don't get me wrong, but I think what is left to us to do, is to rediscover and add them back carefully.
I encourage you to explore your own intuition first. Play with stones or whatever you fancy, and do magick, and then go back and see what the books and covens and traditions have to say. By then, you will know what it is that works for you and you can compare. No one has the time to explore the thousands of options for stones (or trees, or colors etc.) that are out there, which is why it is so beneficial to work with others! Books are sort of the last resort, and it is okay to go there when you have to.
While I hate giving homework, here is an exercise just so you can get an idea of what I am talking about. This is basic shit folks, so don't get bored with it, make your own exercise exciting to you.
I know I can't say this any better than Stuart Davis!
As (Buddhist) musician/artist Stuart Davis says in his song "Deity Freak":
"party like a pop star make a lot of love
detonate the deity keep it feeling freaky
party like a pop star make a lot of love
detonate the deity keep it feeling freaky
deity is freaky
keep it feeling freaky
deity is freaky"
Music video of "Deity Freak"
Stuart pleases me so much!! So witty, so sarcastic, so good at being enlightening, funny and right-on-spot at the same time!
Anyhow here's the exercise...
Practicing intuition with stones:
--Sit down with a variety of stones and close your eyes, pick up each stone one by one, and try to "feel" the energy within it. Is the energy hot or cold? Does it come with a color or an emotion? Carry a the stone in your pocket and pay attention to your energies and
those around you that day. Does it seem to attract certain energies for
you? Write down any intuitions about it, then try looking the stone up in a magickal correspondence book and see what the book says, is it the same or wildly different? Why might that be?