Read spiritual sources critically
This article originally appeared in our June edition of Witch, What?, a newsletter for witches of all experience levels which you can pick up in person at our stores or receive for free with an online order. It includes information like that month's full moon, any Wheel of the Year holidays coming up, what is in bloom that month, and helpful articles like this one! These articles will not appear on our blog until the following month, so if you want to get them right away, make sure to drop by our booth at the 400 Market!
This month, I want to give you all some basic tips for reading critically. We had to exercise that skill just recently: We’re going to start stocking some new books at our booth, in addition to the used books that we currently stock. As new books will be sold at full price, we want to be reasonably sure there is good information in them.
Two examples of books we rejected are a pendulum guide that suggested using a pendulum to detect if meat had gone bad and a general “how to witch” book that said “If feminine and masculine are too much of a binary for you, you can use the terms [a] or [b] instead!” The problem with this being that “binary” means an option between two things. While we are pretty sure that the author was referring to gender, this indicated she was not well researched on her own topics.
When you read critically, you’re letting yourself be aware of things that might not make sense. When you think about what you’re reading, as you read it, you’ll catch things like this. My favourite methodology for critical reading is SQ3R: Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review.
Surveying is just glancing over the text so that you have a broad idea of what it covers. You may have glanced over this newsletter before taking a moment to read it! You probably checked what some of the titles were, maybe the first sentence or two. Surveying is that simple!
Questioning is also pretty simple - you should have a question or two in mind as you read. Something as simple as “what do I already know about this” or “how can I apply this knowledge to my practice” are great questions to keep in mind as you read.
Reading, I trust you’ve got down pat, as you’re doing it now.
Recall is just a technique where, as you read, you take breaks to go over what you’ve read so far, to make sure it's sticking in the memory and that you understand the key points.
Review is going over what you’ve read once you’re done. Did you answer your question? You can go back and reread parts if you are unclear on a part, or don’t understand something.
This technique is a great way to study and learn and a great way to catch when the writer has logical inconsistencies, poor arguments, or is just not making sense. Being mindful while you learn not only helps you learn better, it means you are paying attention to what you’re learning.