This seems like an appropriate thread for my questions & observations, definitely from a beginner's perspective. Full disclosure: I have only been researching Wicca for a short period of time, but have given myself lots of time to ruminate about my take on what I've read.
One of the things I've done as I've gone along is looked at Wicca as 'just another religion' -- by this, I mean having a basic tenet of Belief In A Higher Power/Being, and by this meaning no disrespect. While it's interesting to learn about new subjects, this seems to be one of those things where there's a difference between 'knowing about something' and ' holding beliefs and taking deliberate actions to occupy parts of your day.' Making this a part of your life, if one accepts that as a tenet. In that regard, I see a sameness between Wicca and any other given religion -- one can know about it, or one can make it a central part of one's life (and any degree in-between). I've mentioned it elsewhere, but here I'll restate: I've never held enough belief in any religion or higher power to a degree such that I made its practices a significant part of my life.
So, it'd be fair to say I'm coming at this with only the most casual interest and no feeling of excited enthusiasm...yet. At this point in time, I don't see my level of interest changing, but that's a judgement on me and not Wicca. I do hold respect for it as a valid system of belief.
I'm struggling a bit to understand the spells aspect. Christianity (with which I'm most familiar) has rituals and practices encouraged and/or dictated (prayer, confession, the sacrament, church/Mass attendance, etc.). I think spells fall roughly into the same category: purifying sacred spaces or oneself, honoring the beings one holds belief in, healing -- I have to admit I'm too ignorant to understand their purpose, but we are talking about a wide variety of intents. Of course, I do know enough to roll my eyes at Hollywood or books of fiction.
Having said that, one can grab a 'book of spells' and play around gleefully, but without belief, eventually one may become tired of the 'playacting.' I have one friend who did drop the practices because she came to see no real purpose anymore.
So, what am I asking here? Am I asking ANYthing? I think so, but I might already have my own answer. This is it, baldly: what are spells for? I suspect there must be some belief underpinning them, and they have many different purposes, but WHY would a practicing Wiccan (need to) perform them?