synonyms: sorcery, black magic, white magic, magic, witching, witchery, wizardry; spells, incantations.
I have to say I take exception to the rather archaic concept in the definition above specifically the descriptor, especially black magic. Most of the definitions I found with a simple dictionary search were equally as faulty.
Yes, some witches practice black magic, not all, and not even the majority. So why the inference that all witchcraft has a menacing element?
The persecution of witches (mostly women, but men too) is a time honored tradition of suppressing power. Not magkical power mind you, but that which resists the ruling powers of the prevailing institution. One very effective method to thwart opposition is to cast aspersions that create fear, and also promise repercussion for offenses. It plays out as convincing the masses that a witch is to be feared and reviled. It is a vehicle to prosecute and punish accused witches, up to and including death.
The rest of the definition, the casting of spells and use of invocation is accurate enough, if not amusing. By that definition, I was a witch sitting in the pew of the Roman Catholic Cathedral attached to the church school that I attended for 9 years—because if chanting litanies to the saints doesn’t fit the description of a spell, and calling forth the body and blood of a religious icon, a man who died over 2,000 years ago isn’t invocation of a spirit, then I guess I don’t know what is.
The largest misconception about witchcraft today is that is a religion.
~ Mad Goddess
Here is where I’m going to go off the rails because the further out of the broom closet I come, the more this is becoming my pet peeve. The largest misconception about witchcraft today is that it is religion. Some witches do intertwine their personal spiritual faith belief with their practice of the craft and in that way it fits the frame of religious practice.
The saying often goes, all Wiccan’s are witches but not all witches are Wiccan. It serves its purpose, but there are a few glitches even in that.
- Wiccans are not the only witches who incorporate spiritual faith belief into their practice.
- It is possible to practice Wicca without ever incorporating spell work, an essential component of witchcraft.
- I know I can do spell work and invocations without a trace of religious trappings, or for that matter, belief in a supreme being; the only belief required is that in the properties of natural and physical laws, the properties of energy and the affect of motive and intention.
- Finally, witchcraft can be practiced by those who follow a religious faith. Their faith may or may not approve, but otherwise, the two are not exclusive.
The least assumptive definition I found was, “The use of magic to help or harm people.”
Uhg. There is so much wrong with even that statement, some of which could be remedied by just dropping the last word. Yes, witchery (not necessarily magick) can and is used for both help and harm, depending on the practitioner—but help or harm can be directed to all things energetically connected by the web of life.
Witchcraft is the study and use of natural and physical law, for
the purpose of applying focused intent and personal will to a
specific purpose, and to manifest a desired outcome.
~ Mad Goddess
If any of those dictionary scholars were asking me (and they aren’t) this is what I’d tell them: Witchcraft is the study and use of natural and physical law, for the purpose of applying focused intent and personal will to a specific purpose, and to manifest a desired outcome.
A witch has a deep and abiding relationship with nature and the natural world, including an understanding that simply because many parts of the natural world are unseen to us it doesn’t mean we cannot enlist the aid of those properties and powers. In other words the belief that if E=mc², ( all physical matter consists of energy) that energy can be tapped into and used.
Many witches practice with a deity or deities, but even this does not a religion make. The major religions of the world call for belief in and worship of an all knowing supreme being (or beings) responsible for the creation and/or oversight of life as we know it, with the power to reward and punish our deeds. Witchcraft requires no such thing.
The practice of modern witchcraft, or neo paganism, primarily arises out of the desire to eschew the dogma and doctrine of organized religions, yet in many cases veers right back into those codes of behavior. Old habits and beliefs are hard to break; for those who were raised with prescribed religious practice it can be difficult to leave that aspect behind. Thus witchcraft and spiritual practice have become so enmeshed it can be difficult to tease one out from the other.
Working with the energetic qualities of archetypes and deities, gods, goddesses, prophets, saints or spirits, as opposed to worshipping or venerating and or submitting to the same, separates witchcraft from religious practice.
A witch might call on the energy of a particular animal to inspire its qualities, for example an Owl’s powers of observation. Indigenous American spirituality would describe it as calling on the animal’s medicine. Likewise, one could call on the energy or medicine of the ocean, the mountains, the sun, moon or stars, rocks and trees—as well as deities, spirits or human forms no longer of this realm; even archetypes and symbols have associated energy.
If witchcraft requires any faith belief, it’s the belief that all things have an energy that can be combined with our own to achieve a goal or manifest a desired result. Or, at the least the belief that we hold within our aspect the energy of all living things, each to be called forth as needed.
If either of those possibilities sounds a little crazy to you, consider how these concepts have permeated our culture:
- He is the salt of the earth
- She is an angel of mercy
- I’m sly like a fox
- WWJD – What would Jesus Do? What would your mother think? What would your father tell you?
All of these and many more are the calling forth of energy to our purpose. Of course, that alone does not make a witch. No more than my husband is a Catholic priest because he can still recite the entire mass in Latin (altar boy for three years). Nor I am Madonna because I can sing all of her songs. Yes that Madonna, not The Madonna—it’s okay for witches to have a sense of humor too.
You are not a witch until you know you are a witch. To Know is the first of the Four Pillars of Witchcraft*:
- To Know
- To Will
- To Dare
- To Keep Silent
The meaning of the first might seem obvious—you have to know witchy things to be a witch. But this pillar also commands the witch to know thyself above all else. It is essential to know not only what witchcraft is, but why you choose to be a witch.
Whew! It sounds like simple witchcraft is anything but simple.
Think of it this way—it’s like playing the piano. You learn to read music, practice the scales, develop and ear for the the sharps and flats, you have to know how to play all the notes and chords. Where you take it from there determines whether you’ll become a virtuoso or play chopsticks the rest of your life.
There is nothing wrong with playing simple tunes the rest of your life, just as there is no failure in making simple witchery the entirety of your practice. It’s not necessary to have a working knowledge of the uses for every herb in the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. You can do everything you need to do with herbs that are easily grown in your region or purchased (fresh or dried) at your grocery store.
Likewise, you don’t have to have one of every crystal and gem in your collection. A clear quartz crystal can be charged for any purpose. For that matter, a stone natural to your region holds scads of magick to be used.
Truth be told, you don’t even need that much. I’ll cover this in more detail in my next post—Everything You Need to Know About The Four Pillars of Witchcraft. Suffice it to say, the only thing you need to practice witchcraft is yourself and your intent. The rest is accoutrement.
My idea for simple witchery is to develop a practice easily incorporated into daily life, your daily life, because consistent practice is the key to effective practice.
Simple witchery is knowing that lighting a candle and invoking sacred space, is as effective as calling a circle and holding formal ritual. That drawing a magical symbol on a small stone to carry in your pocket, is just as effective (maybe more so), than a pricey, magical bracelet or amulet. That isn’t to say it’s okay to be a lazy witch (never putting much effort into your practice) or that you shouldn’t make fair exchange for the things you desire (it’s okay to buy the bracelet, purchased from the metaphysical shop).
Remember this; you will get as much out of your practice as you put into it—no more and no less.
Blessed Be and Journey Well
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