Those who truly walk the path of the Witch do so with reverence and respect, knowing it is a spiritual path to be lived every second of every day. Real witches do not regard Witchcraft as a “hobby” or something one does for fun on the weekends. Witches are witches each and every moment, whether at home, at work, in the restaurant or standing in line at the supermarket. It is not something you turn off and turn on whenever you feel like it. Witchcraft is a living path that is lived through those who follow it. It is not merely something you do, it is what you are.
In this article, I will address many things that witches believe and practice, and address several misconceptions about Witchcraft. It is a many-faceted path and I will surely not be able to cover everything, but I do want to share some things that I feel are important. For some this may be “beginner” material, but there are many new people sensing the call to the Old Ways and I write for them. I have no doubt that some will read this article and will continue to believe witches are evil and satanic, because this is what they have been conditioned to believe by popular opinion, the church and mainstream media. However, what one sees, hears and reads from the mainstream media is not always truth.
Everything I share here is verifiable, one need only do further research on one’s own to see the real truth. Education is a good thing. Learn about Witchcraft from those who practice it and not from those who do not.
The Truth about Witchcraft
Witchcraft has nothing to do with Satanism. Witches do not believe in Satan or any all-evil Satan/Devil figure. Witches do not summon demons to their bidding, and Satan is not part of the Witchcraft belief system. Satan belongs to Christianity and is part of the Christian belief system. Contrary to what some may say, Satanists are not Witches. Satanists are Satanists. There are no “Satanic Witches”, though some may argue this point. Fundamentalist Christian groups link Witchcraft to Satan because Witches do not follow Jesus Christ or the Christian God, and many Christian groups view anything not exclusively Christian as “Satanic”. A recent new trend is “Christian Wicca”, which opens another big can of worms and I have strong views about, but that is for another article.
Witches do use magic and cast spells. Witches work with elemental energies (Earth, Air, Fire and Water), the planets, symbols, herbs and plants, oils, crystals, cauldrons and a host of other tools to manifest change in the world. Witches typically cast a circle in which to do their work. This circle acts as an energetic boundary to keep out harmful energies and contain the energy raised within it. There is nothing “evil” about a witch’s circle. It is merely a container for energy and a protective boundary. The spell releases an intention into the universe so it can attract the energy it needs to manifest, which usually happens through a series of seemingly unrelated “coincidences”. Spells can be cast in a myriad of ways, and the practice of magic and spellcasting takes some time to learn. In real Witchcraft, spells and magic do not happen the way we see them in movies or on TV, with special effects, explosions and things moving through the air. That would sure make things a lot easier! Spells take time, and there is rarely an instantaneous visible manifestation. Witches cast spells for healing, prosperity, protection and many other things, but never for harm.
Witches do use wands. The witch’s wand does not work the same way we see in movies like Harry Potter. The wand is used to direct energy, to cast a circle or to be a tool for healing. Most wands are made of wood, and traditional witches prefer to make their own. You can also find wands made of various crystals, resin or metal, however, wooden wands are the preferred choice. I have a wooden wand that I use for circle-casting and is always on my altar, a selenite wand that I use in my Reiki practice, and another wood wand that I take along when I’m traveling. I have different wands for different purposes.
The primary role of the Witch is to be a channel for Healing. It is no coincidence that many witches work in the human services field, as nurses, doctors, counselors, herbalists, teachers, etc. Many are skilled in alternative healing therapies. Some offer services with Crystal Therapy, Reiki, Aromatherapy, Massage, Homeopathy, Herbalism, Energy Healing, Flower Essences, Singing Bowls, Shamanic Healing and many other types of alternative therapy. Many witches have unconventional healing gifts that they discovered unexpectedly and are unique to them, special gifts they did not learn in a class or from a book. As witches, we are called to be healers. One of the old words for ‘Witch’ is “Pharmakeute”, a word that links the witch with herbal healing wisdom.
Witches are devoted to a lifetime of study. Witches have a thirst for knowledge and magical wisdom, and have devoted themselves to the study of magic, magical lore, history, mythology, healing, herbs and plants, divination and other similar topics. They do not view study as a chore or “because my teacher asked me to”. Witches understand the importance of setting aside time on a regular basis to read, learn and practice! The best students are self-motivated and do not need to be hand-held.
Witches are at one with Nature. Witches work with the energies of each season, the phases of the Moon and the powers of Nature. They spend a great deal of time outdoors, among the trees and plants, or finding other ways to connect with Nature. Hiking, planting a garden, nature walks, birdwatching, planting trees, visiting a zoo, caring for animals, cleaning up litter at a park…these are all ways to form a closer bond with Nature. Donate to the Arbor Foundation or other environmentalist groups like Friends of the Earth.
Witches are advocates. As witches we are called to speak out in defense of human rights, equal rights, civil rights, animal rights and environmental issues. We stand against discrimination, bigotry and harassment. Many witches belong to activist and civil rights organizations. I personally am a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, Harry Potter Alliance, Freedom to Marry, Friends of the Earth, the Arbor Foundation and the Trevor Project.
Witches understand the importance of education. Years of social programming, popular culture, mainstream media and religious fundamentalism have given many an incorrect picure of who witches are. It is important that we educate our communities about Witchcraft and Wicca so that we can help replace the false image of the stereotypical witch with a correct and accurate picture, one that portrays the witch as healer and wise one. Let us also recognize when we should not waste our breath sharing our views with someone who refuses to listen objectively and has already decided we’re going to “burn in Hell”. There are times to share and there are times to walk away from those who are filled with hate and have closed their minds.
Witches do not proselytize. We do not try to convert others to Witchcraft, and there will be no Wiccan missionaries showing up at your door with pamphlets to read. People come to Witchcraft on their own free will, and many find they have been drawn to it since childhood. We do not consider Witchcraft to be the only valid spiritual path that all others must follow. We respect that there are many different spiritual paths, and each person must find the one that is right for them.
Witches serve the community. Whether by providing guidance and counsel with divination practices such as tarot or rune readings, offering healing services such as Reiki or Crystal Therapy, teaching classes, conducting hand-fasting ceremonies, rituals and gatherings, fundraising, raising awareness for important social and enviromental issues, collecting food and clothing for those in need, making magical tools such as candles and oils, and offering other magical services, witches have a duty to use their gifts in service to the community.
You could be living next door to a Witch. Witches come from every socio-economic background and can be both male or female. Male witches are also called ‘Witch’. “Warlock” is not a word that is used often since it has many negative connotations, and I know some are trying to reclaim the word as a positive thing, but I still prefer “Witch”. You may encounter witches every day without realizing it. A witch could be your employer, doctor, lawyer, teacher, postman, neighborhood police officer, coach, delivery driver, the guy who makes your lattes at the coffee shop, that nice old lady you always see in her garden or even a close relative. Not all witches are “out of the broom closet” and not all witches dress all in black every single day.
Witches work closely with the spirit world. Witches walk “between the worlds” of the seen and the unseen realms, and form relationships with spirit guides, animal totems, gods and goddesses of ancient lore, and interact with them on a regular basis. Witches utilize techniques of altered consciousness such as meditation, trance, dancing, singing, chanting, herbalism and incense to awaken the subtle senses, in order to communicate with guides from “the other side”.
The Pentacle is a symbol of Witchcraft. The five-pointed star in a circle is not a “satanic” symbol and has nothing to do with Satanism. The five points are the five elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit, and also represent Man, the Microcosm. The circle represesnts the Universe, the Macrocosm. Witches wear the upright pentacle (the point at the top). The upright pentacle is a representation of man’s connection to Universal Wisdom, and the descent of Spirit into Matter. The upside-down pentacle represent Matter (Man) taking dominion over Spirit. It is unfortunate that some Satanist groups have adopted the upside-down pentacle as a Satanic symbol,which has caused a great deal of damage to the reputation of the Witch. It is because of this that many believe Witches are satan-worhippers, and this is not the case. As stated above, witches do not believe in Satan. Some witches will wear a triquetra or a triskele instead of a pentacle, as these Celtic symbols, while less “in-your-face” than a pentacle, still have a connection to Witchcraft.
The word Witch means “Wise One”. The original use of the word Witch is derived from an Old English word that translates as “Wise One” or “Wise Good People”. Another word for Witch is Pharmakis which identifies the Witch as someone with a strong knowledge of herbs and plants, linking the Witch to healing.
There are different kinds of Witches. Within Witchcraft, there are different traditions and different ways to practice. There are Celtic Witches, Egyptian Witches, Italian Witches, Shamanic Witches, Druid Witches and an entire plethora of Witches whose practice is informed by specific culture or tradition. Some witches are “Eclectic”, drawing on symbolism and practices from several different cultures or pantheons. There are witches who do not identify as Wiccan, and practice a form of European/British Witchcraft (called The Old Ways or The Old Religion) that is believed to pre-date modern Wicca by hundreds of years.
Not all pagans are Witches. There are many earth-based and nature-based paths, Witchcraft/Wicca is only one. Followers of these paths may use magic from time to time, and honor the changing seasons and moon phases, but they may not necessarily call themselves witches. For some, the word “Pagan” is less threatening than “Witch” and they do not feel comfortable using the “W” word.
The role of the Witch carries great responsibility. Witches are role-models, teachers, counselors, healers, priestess, priest and wear many other hats. A Witch is a Witch every minute of every day, no matter where we are. Let us not take for granted our responsibility to ourselves, our gods and guides, and to the community.