Witchcraft today is highly individualistic, with practitioners choosing or creating their own unique paths based on their beliefs, interests, and experiences. Essentially, witchcraft is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of magical and spiritual practices. Before it was called witchcraft, it was just the way we lived. After it was criminalised, many different paths emerged in secret, hidden behind family walls, built within covert societies, practiced under the cover of darkness. And each path has developed over time.
Traditional witchcraft pre-dates Christianity and the paths it encompasses have deep respect for history and traditional ways of doing things. Traditional witchcraft practitioners work closely with ancestors and land spirits, and generally believe in three worlds: the upper world, the middle world, and the underworld. The best known paths of traditional witchcraft are:
Some individuals are born into families with a history of magical practices, creating a tradition of hereditary witchcraft. These practices are often passed down through generations, encompassing a family’s unique rituals, charms, and beliefs.
Also known as familial or family witchcraft, the knowledge, traditions, and magical practices associated with witchcraft are gifted from one family member to another, often from parent to child, grandparent to grandchild, or within a close-knit community of practitioners. Hereditary witches will often pass information verbally or have a family grimoire. They integrate their practices into daily life – just like teaching kids the food groups or how to use manners, familial witchcraft is passed on like magical life lessons.
Here are just a few examples:
Stregheria: Stregheria, or Italian witchcraft or La Vecchia Religione (The Old Religion), honors a pantheon of Italian deities and spirits. It is deeply rooted in Italian folklore and incorporates practices like spellcasting, divination, and ancestral veneration.
Hoodoo: Hoodoo, an African American folk magic tradition, blends elements of African spirituality, Native American herbalism, and European folk magic. It is known for its use of herbs, charms, and rootwork to achieve various goals, from healing to protection.
Brujería: Brujería, found in Latin American cultures, is a syncretic blend of indigenous, African, and European traditions. It involves practices like herbalism, spellwork, and spirit communication. Indigenous and African influences are evident in its rituals and deities.
Of course, there are many more than this! But now let’s look at modern witchcraft traditions:
While there is a magical mystery in the secrecy of traditional witchcraft, during the 20th century more accessible paths emerged – and they are just as potent.
Wicca: Wicca, founded by Gerald Gardner in the mid-20th century, emphasises the worship of the God and Goddess, is big on rituals, and our connection with nature. It includes various branches, such as Gardnerian (the OGs) and Alexandrian Wicca. Wicca is a diverse and stradition, and beliefs and practices can vary widely among practitioners and traditions. Despite this diversity, the core principles of nature reverence, duality, and ethical conduct are common threads that unite the Wiccan community.
Discordianism: You may have heard of a Chaos witch – this is where the core principles of that path come from. Founded in the 70s, Discordianism has a psychological approach to magic and is known for its anarchic approach to spirituality and its rejection of dogma and order. It centers around the worship of Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, discord, and strife. Eris is often invoked as a symbol of unpredictability and the randomness of existence. Basically, a Chaos witch has one belief: belief is a choice and you’re allowed to change your mind. In fact, the motto is ‘nothing is true and everything is permitted.’
Thelemic Witchcraft: Thelema, Greek for intention, stemmed from the mind of Aleister Crowley. It’s based on the belief in the True Will of each individual and the idea that individuals should strive to discover and fulfill their unique purpose in life. Thelemic witchcraft emphasises personal transformation and self-discovery. Practitioners are encouraged to explore their inner selves, discover their True Will, and align their actions with this divine purpose. Thelema is influenced by Kabbalistic symbolism and concepts, and this influence is often present in Thelemic witchcraft.
Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are many more modern witchcraft traditions that formed in the 20th century. But we hope this gives you an idea of how different each path is, and what it is that connects them (hint: it’s not a deity!).
Types of Modern Witches
Various types of modern witches practice diverse forms of witchcraft, including:
Hedge Witches: Those who work between the physical and spiritual realms.
A hedge witch specialises in working with the liminal or “hedge” spaces between the physical and spiritual realms. This term is often used to describe witches who are skilled in astral projection, journeying, divination, and spirit work. Hedge witches are known for their ability to navigate and mediate between different realms of existence.
Kitchen Witches: Focused on infusing magic into cooking and daily life.
A kitchen witch specialises in infusing magic into their cooking and daily life, often working with herbs, spices, and household items as magical tools. Kitchen witches view the act of preparing and sharing food as a sacred and magical practice. They believe that intention and energy can be imbued into the meals they create, making food not only nourishing for the body but also for the spirit.
Green Witches: Deeply connected to nature and herbalism.
A green witch has a deep and abiding connection to nature, plants, and the natural world. Green witches are often referred to as “earth witches” or “herbal witches” due to their focus on herbalism, plant magic, and the use of natural elements in their craft. They work in harmony with the rhythms and cycles of nature, harnessing the energy and wisdom of the earth in their magical and healing practices.
Crystal Witches: Use crystals and gemstones in their spells and rituals.
A crystal witch focuses primarily on working with crystals and gemstones in their magical and spiritual practices. Crystal witches have a deep connection to the mineral kingdom and believe in the energetic and metaphysical properties of crystals. They harness the unique energies and vibrations of crystals to enhance their spells, rituals, and personal well-being.
Shadow Workers: Explore and work with their shadow selves.
A shadow worker is someone who engages in the practice of exploring, confronting, and integrating their “shadow self.” The concept of the shadow self comes from Jungian psychology and represents the aspects of our personality that are hidden from conscious awareness. These aspects often include our fears, insecurities, suppressed emotions, and unresolved issues. Integrating our shadows with the parts of us that are in the light (or our conscious selves) creates harmony and balance – ultimately leading to a fulfilling and wholesome life.
Lunar Witches: Align their magic with the phases of the moon.
A lunar witch focuses their magical and spiritual practices on the moon and its various phases. The moon has long held significance in many cultures and spiritual traditions, and lunar witches harness this energy in their spellwork and rituals.
Eclectic Witches: Draw from multiple traditions, creating a personalised path.
An eclectic witch draws upon a wide range of magical and spiritual traditions, beliefs, and practices. Eclectic witches do not adhere strictly to any single tradition or path but instead combine elements from various sources to create their own unique approach to witchcraft. This eclecticism allows them to customise their practice to suit their individual beliefs, preferences, and goals.
Sea Witches: These witches have a strong affinity for the ocean and its energies.
A sea witch’s magical and spiritual practices are centered around the ocean, the beach, and the energies associated with bodies of water, particularly the sea. Sea witches are often drawn to the mystical and powerful nature of the sea, and they work with its symbolism and energies in their spells, rituals, and spiritual work.
Folk Witches: Folk witches draw inspiration from the folklore and traditions of their cultural heritage.
A folk witch draws inspiration from the folk traditions, customs, and beliefs of a specific region or culture. Folk witches often incorporate elements of their cultural heritage, local folklore, and traditional practices into their witchcraft. This type of witchcraft places a strong emphasis on working with the rhythms of nature, local spirits, and the wisdom passed down through generations.
Cosmic Witches: Base magic on the positions and movements of celestial bodies, particularly the planets and stars.
A cosmic witch focuses on the cosmos, celestial bodies, and the energies of the universe in their magical and spiritual work. Cosmic witches often draw inspiration from astrology, astronomy, and the study of the stars, planets, and celestial events. Their practice is centered around the belief that the movements and positions of celestial bodies can influence human life and magic.
So what does tie it all together? Despite the diversity among witchcraft traditions, they share common threads. These include:
- The use of herbs, both for healing and magical purposes.
- Divination methods like tarot cards, runes, and scrying.
- Ritual magic, often involving spellcasting and circle casting.
- A strong emphasis on individualism and personal exploration.
- Adaptability and innovation, allowing practitioners to evolve their craft.
Witchcraft, in all its forms, remains a dynamic and evolving spiritual practice that continues to draw on its ancient roots while embracing modern influences. You can be drawn down more than one path – the key is to keep growing, learning, and following your intuition.
You don’t know what you don’t know.