Wicca and Modern Witchcraft in a Nutshell

Wicca and Modern Witchcraft in a Nutshell

In Magickby Chris A. Parker2 Comments

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Wicca is a very personalized belief and one which varies from person to person.  Wicca is associated with witchcraft but is usually considered to be beneficial or positive witchcraft. In Wicca, there isn’t a single right answer.  The person searching for an appropriate path should practice the witchcraft that feels most correct to them. The practice of Wicca is as denominational as Christianity is. There are several major forms of Wicca, and the searcher may require a while to find the one which is the best fit for them personally.

The Celtic pantheon or circle of gods is one of the major branches of Wicca.  The searcher may choose to join with these groups, while another may choose to join with the Stregheria rituals.  Similar to the Celtic pantheon is that of the Druids.  Another Wicca major tradition is that of Asatru.  The Gardnerian Wiccans follow the teachings of Gardner.  An Eclectic Wiccan includes components from many different groups and makes them uniquely their own.

Those Wiccans who are searching for the right branch of witchcraft can be searching for many months and perhaps it will take years. 

Don’t be concerned if you are unable to find a good fit in a short time. Eventually, you will hope to find one which feels more personal to you than the other paths.  This is the one which will guide you into a better understanding, not only of yourself but above all of the steps which you are about to follow.

In Wicca, there is no “one right answer”. It is more about how you feel. If you prefer a Book of Shadows with lined paper, then that’s great, but don’t be hard on yourself if you’re doing something a little differently than some other Wiccans you might know. If you prefer a wand over an athame, that’s perfectly fine too. Everyone is different. The path of the Wiccan is a personal path. That is one of the many wonders of Wicca.

Witches

At the same time as it is a tradition going back into the mists of history, witchcraft is changing constantly because it is a reflection of those who practice it.  There is no central holy book or one rule book to provide guidance to those who are witches.  Witchcraft is a balanced spirituality which develops both communications with the whole of nature and prayerful oneness with the gods.  A witch can always find room to develop and lessons to be learned.  Witchcraft is a constant searching for fresh insight and deepening personal practices of witchcraft. 

Most witches believe that daily observation is important to deepen spirituality.  The goal is not to inform but to transform, daily observation helps to ground one in the presence of the interconnected and vibrant universe. Daily celebrations of Nature’s cycle will lead to a better understanding of one’s place in the big picture. 

Often, witches will start and end the day with a greeting to each element and direction and to the gods.  Those who prefer ceremonial observations may recite the Lesser Banishing Ritual. Gardnerian Wiccans may choose to proclaim the Charge of the Goddess.

Witchcraft today is made up of many traditions.  Witches believe that the practice of their craft is just one of many paths and including the use of myth, symbolism, and ritual in the daily celebration helps to understand the composition of the magickal universe. Studying about other paths such as Islam, Santeria or Hinduism at a level that will allow one to experience the benefits of the other path will add richness and emphasis to your own walk. Another experience may work better for you than does witchcraft.

Witches
Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

Witchcraft and Occult Practices

For hundreds of years, society has viewed witchcraft and occult practices as dark and sinister territory. Magickal practices and those who use them are considered to be associated with the negative connotations of life. 

Those who practice witchcraft are considered to have a large collection of supernatural abilities such as levitation, clairvoyance, and telekinesis. or those whose essence comes from dusty and shadowy tomes of written mysteries.  However, it should be noted that witches are also students of nature and claim nature as a teacher and educator.

Nature exists as the essence of everything that is outside human changes and interference.  It’s not just the earth below and the blue sky overhead; it is all that is in between and yet more.  Each being or entity that is part of this network of change is a unique existence of naked power which contains within itself a spiritual connection which binds all things together. The tree is bound to the sea which is bound to a field, which is bound to a river.  Each of these entities and places expresses the quality which is inherently magical and imbues everything with a natural glow.  Witches use witchcraft to become one with and be empowered by nature.

In essence, witchcraft can be defined as the ability to reach a goal or grasp onto a wish by artful channeling and manipulation of vital energy.   The source of the vital energy can be almost any part of the natural landscape which provides inspiration, such as the moon, the sun, or the oak tree. 

Both witches and those who oppose them have a pattern of connecting witchcraft with various elemental forces of nature.  Many of the ancient tribes and clans recognized encounters with wild animals in their totems.  This is particularly noted in the native American tribes and in the clans of the Celts.  

A witch focuses efforts toward a delicate connection with all natural surroundings and can become attuned to various levels of knowledge which is a part of the natural kingdom. The ancient confidence in multiple spirits and the movement of these spirits between bodies is the basis of Animism which is the ancestor of the spirituality of the shamans which was prevalent in the prehistoric peoples.  This ensuing world view probably forms the basis of the science and art commonly called witchcraft.

 Any dedicated gardener will assure you that talking to your plants or singing to them will help them to grow more quickly and with greater strength.  Speaking to plants is based in Animism and the desire to return to that connection with nature.  Witchcraft recognizes that the core of Nature is that all life is connected and each person and creature is a part of the connection.  This is true of each action taken and the pattern we fulfill.

The witch is one who recognizes that energy is without ending or beginning.  This belief is fundamental to the practice of witchcraft.  Energy can be channeled but cannot be created or destroyed forever.

Witchcraft over the History

Witchcraft of one kind or another has been known in many if not most societies for thousands of years.  Over the ages of history, witches have also been known as healers, gods, teachers, historians, priests and priestesses, and shamans.  Other people such as Paracelsus the Swiss physician, Virgil, the Roman poet and Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher were believed, sometimes correctly to be witches.  In Western culture, the debilitating fear of witches can be traced to the beginnings of persecution in the 1400s when they were first persecuted in Europe.

Witches and those who practice witchcraft have historically been considered people who make magic.  People who change or influence events through superstitious beliefs and practices, nature, and folklore are known as witches. 

In Europe, although many of the ancient pagan religions which included those with practices including magic spells and other practices were strong, Christianity became the dominant religion. The Christian church, believing that magic practices along with no worship of God as seen by the Jewish and Christians, associated the practices of witchcraft and by extension witches with the devil. For over 300 years, even the mere suspicion of witchcraft was enough to result in torture, brutality, and execution of hundreds of thousands of people. In most cases, as seen in the 17th-century witch trials which occurred in Salem Massachusetts the evidence was faked, obtained through torture and often false.

Often, older women who were widowed or unmarried and lived alone or which only small animals as pets were targeted for the accusation of witchcraft.  These women sometimes owned desirable land which was taken from them.  Other times they were criticized for their use of plants and herbal remedies along with traditions from folklore in order to heal.  Finally, the women often were poor and so made easy targets to the attackers.

Today, witchcraft exists in many cultures and societies.  There was no systematic effort to eradicate witchcraft in Tibet, Thailand, Brazil, India or other countries where it is still respected and practiced.  In Africa, witch doctors are numerous who ask ancestors for assistance, heal those who are ill, foretell what will occur in the future and cast spells.

In Tibet, a ritual dance by the Buddhist monks portrays an evil spirit from times which predate Buddhist beliefs includes a Tibetan Buddhist priest.  The dance is an attempt to drive out evil. 

The shamans of Sri Lanka treat maladies by the restoration of energy balance within the body.

The magical art of feng-shui was developed by ancient Chinese cultures and has become most popular in the West, particularly in America.

The best known and most widely practiced type of witchcraft in the West, particularly in the United States is Wicca. It is believed that there are somewhere between four hundred thousand and three million practitioners of witchcraft in the United States. Adherents to Wicca, the most common form of witchcraft call themselves Wiccans or witches.  There is an active battle going on right now for acceptance and tolerance for their beliefs.  It is believed that Wicca is the religion which is growing most rapidly in the country.

In addition, other popular magical beliefs which may be closely tied together including New Ageism and astrology, aromatherapy are enjoying a strong revival, as are herbalism and alternative medicine.

Wicca and Modern Witchcraft
Image by RD LH from Pixabay

Types of Witchcraft   

Witchcraft is practiced by four different types of witches in popular Western viewpoints. 

  • The satanic witch was tormented as a worshiper of the devil during the Spanish Inquisitions and also during the witch hunts in this country.  Evangelical Christians still categorize satanic cults in widespread distribution as being endemic to this country.
  • The second type of witch is the tribal witch.  This is the type of witch from the American Indian, Pacific Islander, and African Caribbean religions.  The tribal witch is the scapegoat of the benevolent healer and shaman. In South Africa and Java both.
  • The hideous hags in fairy tales such as The Wizard of Oz and Hansel and Gretal are the third type of those who practice witchcraft.
  • The final kind of witches and witchcraft is the neo-pagan, which includes those who are known as Wiccans. Wiccans trace their roots to pre-Christian history and to the Druidism of the Celts.  There is no connection with Satanic witchcraft, in fact, Wiccans don’t believe in Satan or the Judeo-Christian God, but in a female goddess of all natural things.

Wiccans believe in spirit communication, psychokinesis and other psychic ability such as clairvoyance.  Feminists grab hold of the tenets of Wicca in order to emphasize self-empowerment, female spiritual leaders and matriarchal deity.

Hollywood and other media forms have embraced the rich lore of Wicca and of connected witchcraft in a number of magazine works, films, and books.  Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, the ABC sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Charmed on WB Network. Book sales both fiction and nonfiction dealing with the subject of witchcraft have soared.

Witchcraft and Magick

In order to successfully practice witchcraft and to bend the force of magick effectively, the witch must draw a sacred breath.  This is to remove the mind from its distractions where thoughts are tossed about like leaves on the wind with no anchor.  The clouds of stress burden even further so that there is no relief sensed or even hoped for. In order to overcome these fogs and mists, one must focus on the breath of fresh air which is the reconnection with the accessible elements of nature.  This fresh air is taken in by the body, providing fuel to the lungs, the heartbeat to continue and the energizing of the entire body.  Particularly in the morning, this breath activates and directs the essential four elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire and begins the magick. (Ιf you want to read more about. Try these articles, “Magick – Definition and Etymology” and “The Four Elements Throughout Mystic Tradition”.)

The witchcraft magick directed by the witch in the center of a circle focuses and conducts energy that is the basis of life and youthfulness itself.  Nature doesn’t need to be begged only returned to health and vitality after the patriarchal institutions of the human race who have ravaged the Earth Mother Gaia in the quest for dividing the material and the spiritual, the sacred from the profane. 

This separation from the Mother is the cause of distress, confusion and searching for answers.  Witchcraft magick recognizes the return to the Earth rather than expecting salvation to come from the heavens. As Gaia is more devastated, she grows less patient, but at the same time welcomes the art of witchcraft from those faithful who refuse to be absorbed into the maelstrom of superiority, conservatism, globalism, and consumerism.

Witchcraft magick is frequently castigated because it is proud and self-possessed in its refusal to be forced into molds.  The witches recognize a world order that is soul-based, not mind-based.  The free spirits that dance upon the wind, roam the plains freely and wander in the forest glades with only the light from the moon. 

Witches ask only that from Mother Earth, Gaia which she has freely offered. She gives wisdom, happiness, wealth and health to all those who ask.  The essence of witchcraft is the spirit of wholeness with nothing added.  This essence is within everything as well as being everything.  Its presence is a powerful answer to how we originated in omniscient consciousness which is all-encompassing.

Life is both contractions and expansions, of the push and pulls between concurrence and synchronicity.  Although recognizing that subtle interplay of the forces that direct all, one can only recognize that once the cards are dealt, the casting of the runes complete, the spell determined and the powers called, the heart of the matter is in the relationship with the vital energy flow known as magick. To remain focused on the energy flow contained in the squeezing and releasing is the duty of the witch.  It is the directing and control of this elemental flow which provides a hint as to the nature of the witch and the nature of the witchcraft which is practiced.

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Comments

  1. You have a mistake in your description of neopagan and Wiccan witches. While there are exceptions such as Dianic, most traditions believe in universal polarity — light and dark, hot and cold, wet and dry, etc. So they believe in the male-female balance as seen in a male god and a female goddess.

    1. Author

      Thank you for the suggestion, I’ll correct it as soon as possible.

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