This was originally posted on my Patheos Pagan blog back in 2018 - I thought it would be interesting to re-post it five years later to see how relevant it still is...
The question ‘what is witchcraft’ was raised recently and in the context of ‘what is witchcraft modern NOW‘?
When I first started my journey into all things witchy (about a gazillion years ago) there weren’t many study/learning options available to me. I like a structure to learning and the only thing around when I started was Wicca, which suited me at the time. Since then my pathway has veered off completely and if I had to give myself a label now it would be Kitchen/Hedge Witch.
Along the way I have dipped into all sorts of areas such as Druidry, Shamanic practices and hoodoo. Although with hoodoo I realised that I was already working with a lot of the elements under the guise of traditional folk magic.
I like to study, I love to learn, and I delve into all sorts of pathways and traditions, learning what I can and taking the bits from each one that work for me. A sort of ‘spiritual pick and mix’.
My official line
My ‘official’ description of witchcraft, the one I give when someone asks me what a witch is would be something along the lines of:
Witchcraft is a magical practice but can also be a religion, a way of life. A witch is what you are, who you are and what you do. It is a truly beautiful and rewarding way of living your life. Witchcraft is Earth based, meaning that it is based upon reverence for nature, respect of animals, and a respect of our environment and those in it. It is a chosen path filled with self-discovery, learning, and growth as those who claim the title of witch will grow in knowledge and experiences for a lifetime and possibly more.
Witchcraft is a generic term used to describe its many extensions and sub-categories. There are no hard rules with witchcraft, you can tailor it to your personal beliefs, traditions and rituals.
Witches can be both male and female. Witchcraft is generally but not always, a polytheistic religion, this means there is more than one figurehead, a Goddess of whom has many names and a God whom also goes by many names. I think of deity as many facets to a diamond. Witches often all know and live with the God and the Goddess (again – not always). They are both entities of the great All. Each witch carries a part of the God and Goddess within them. We respect them, work with them, live with them. However, to each of us the God and Goddess may be perceived differently.
The true explanation of deity is within each witch’s own heart. We reflect them with our daily intent and deed.
I say ‘generally’ because not all witches work with the gods and goddesses, it is a very personal journey. Some may choose to just work purely with the ‘spirit of nature’ others may choose to work only with one patron deity, some may choose to just work with the goddess, or the sky, the sun and the earth. At the end of the day it is your journey and your personal choice, there is no right or wrong.
Some witches are members of a coven, in which there will be a High Priestess and/or High Priest. The other members will be witches of varying degrees of initiation. There are also a great number of solitary witches.
There are many, many traditions within the witchcraft umbrella – Wiccans, Dianic, Kitchen Witchery, Green Witchery, Hedge Witchery, Alexandrian, Eclectic, Faery, Gardnerian and Seax to name but a few.
Witches practice magic, especially magic involving herbs, stones, colours, the elements and the energy of nature. Magic is the use of a witch’s will and energy to manipulate and alter the probability of things around them. The only tool necessary to create magic is a strong will and focused intention, however, many witches will use a variety of tools as they feel need for to create their desired effect.
Now, that all sounds a bit text book and grown up, but it works if the person asking has no idea what a witch is.
In reality it is far more messy and complicated and I always adhere to the premise that you must do ‘what works for you’.
Things do seem to have changed considerably over the last few years, there does appear to be a wave of ‘new age’ pathways and what I respectfully term ‘womb warriors’. My own term and I really do use it respectfully, as each must follow their own path without judgement. But I use it cover those that believe the power in witchcraft comes solely from within the womb – which does, in my own personal view, cut out a lot of the witchcraft population! A lot of their ideas and practices seem very far removed from what I would class as witchcraft, but a good proportion of them do seem to use the term ‘witch’ or ‘witchcraft’ for what they do. Does that make it right or wrong? I don’t think it is up to me to say, although some of it does make me a little uncomfortable as it doesn’t always seem to reflect positively on the ideas and traditions of the majority of witches.
Maybe I am just getting old? Do we have the situation whereby I am the parent that thinks all music listened to by teenagers is awful? (I do…actually…but that’s another story). Each generation thinking their old way of doing things is better than the new fangled ideas? I am not sure.
Whatever way you look at it, witchcraft is here to stay in whichever form or forms. It was around before I was born and will still be around for generations long after I am pushing up the daisies.
I will continue to walk my pathway to the best of my ability, learning daily as I go.
What I do know is that it is a wonderful way of life and I have been made a better person for following it. I also know that I will continue to make it my own and be guided by my intuition…if it feels right do it, it if works for you, do it…if it feels even a little bit hinky – don’t!