What is Traditional Witchcraft
First of all I should say this. Traditional Witchcraft is NOT Wicca, and is NOT Eclectic Witchcraft. If your looking for a site on those two branches of Witchcraft then you've come to the wrong place. I will cover them briefly at points in this document though, so as to allow you to see the differences.
Witchcraft is a belief system. Some people will try to tell you that Witchcraft is a magical system only. It is not. We use magic, but I will explain that more later.
The Pagan religions mostly date back to the Paleolithic period, (some are relatively newhowever,) about 40,000 years ago. They are earth based religions evolved from the religions of our ancestors. They certainly aren't the same as they were a thousand or five thousand years ago, but then no religion on this wonderful world of ours is. These beliefs didn’t even have a name back then either. All religions change and they all evolve. Some split off in to separate branches. Christianity is an excellent example of this, with Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc, etc. Traditional Witchcraft differs greatly between covens. Even between those that might only be a few miles down the road. Traditional Witchcraft is however a religion that has almost died out due to the predations of other religions, and the secrecy of its members. So really, we can't truly claim it’s the oldest religion. But then again neither should any other religion make that claim, as they all constantly evolve. So let’s just agree that its a religion and/or belief that’s been around a while
Witchcraft is a generic name given to one branch of the ancient pagan religions group. A group of religions that were practiced in many forms, by many people. The term pagan actually means "One who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, especially a worshiper of a polytheistic religion". But then again according to the another dictionary it means "One without religion, or who worships false gods." Not something that’s going to worry us though, as it’s just a word. Back to the Pagans though. A point that should be noted is that the Pagan's across Europe had varying belief's and rituals which differed not only over time but from Clan to Clan and village to village, so what I have noted here on these pages are basic primer details. Traditional Witchcraft as it is practiced by most Traditional Witches today is of British origin, (where the Pagan revival began half a century ago,) although other European origins exist, and may vary in technique and rituals. Most Witches will add a little of their local environment and cultural background and customs to it making it unique to them.
With regards to our European ancestors beliefs we do know a few things about them and their view of life. The native people of Europe believed in spirits and/or gods, usually associated with the Earth, Sun, and Moon, and these spirits and/or gods led lives that followed the sun's annual journey. The Sun and the moon, and tha changing of the seasons was of great importance to all people as they worked their year around the agricultural year. This is why Samhain is the Pagan New Year as the agricultural year ended with the harvest having been taken in, and the new seeds for the new crop having been planted. Witchcraft is the modern interpretation of the name given to the pagan religion by Christianity. It is also from Christianity that the vast majority of our knowledge of the Pagan/Witch way of life and beliefs come from, (most notably clerical and inquisition records.) Roman records that pre-date Christianities formation also details the Pagan religions. The Roman’s own religion was a Pagan religion before Emperor Constantine brought Christianity to Rome. Other sources include some archeological digs across Europe, and from Family Tradition’s who have maintained an oral history of these ancient religions
Traditional Witchcraft Coven's do not have the Degree's of initiation that Wicca has. Traditional Witchcraft normally just has a leader of a Coven who is chosen for their knowledge, experience and a willingness to lead. Christianity adopted many of the rituals and customs of the Pagan's, Druids and Witches, Yule becoming Christmas, Oester become Easter, and so on until all of the pagan religions festivals where incorporated into the Christian tradition, as Christianity suppressed the native religions of the lands it occupied. Some may think this strange, however this is quite normal for any religion attempting to conquer another. The conquering religion will incorporate some of the beliefs, festivals or deities of the conquered religion, brandishing the rest as evil. This is no different from thousands of years ago as it is compared today where this still takes place in such locations as Tibet, (China's suppression of the native religion,) and Africa, (many countries, tribes and beliefs.)
Traditional Witches do not follow any religious book, nor do they believe in any singular deity. The vast majority of Witches do not believe in any deities at all, and believe in a singular all powerful force known as nature. This is mostly due to the evolution of the religion over time, I have met Trad Witches who have believed in deities, and those who haven't, the choice really is yours.
Personally I recognise no deities as they are simply mother and father figures created by our ancestors. Basically put, it is humanities nature to look to their parents for answers. The same holds true in their beliefs in creation. Zeus for example is described as the father of the gods in Greek mythology. This type of parental figure placement is common in early humanity.
When most people think of nature they think of tree's and animals, they don't think of every single natural and manufactured thing on this planet, and the rest of our solar system, galaxy and universe as well. Nature encompasses all of these things and we generally see but a small part of it. Traditional Witches generally do not worship any entities, although they do recognise the existence of other entities, (commonly referred to as spirits.) Trad Witches believe in the equality of all beings in the Universe, seeing them all as different and separate but still equal. Traditional Witches revere and respect Nature, however they do not worship it or its representatives.
Traditional Witches call on no deities, (except those that accept deities,) but may call on spirits. Trad Witches may occasionally call on the elements as well, however a large majority of Trad Witches do not as the belief of 4 elements is originally a Greek belief and not western European in origin where Witchcraft originates from. (I don't call on the elements.) When performing magic a Trad Witch will concentrate on their own power, or they may call on assistance from a spirit in the spirit world. Trad Witches see the spirit world and physical world as being linked but separate. We can not see the spirit world and the spirit world is unable to touch the physical world. The only time when the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest is on the night of Samhain.
Some people have expressed difficulty understanding the concept of nature and the spirit world. So for the Star Wars fans, think of it like the Force. It surrounds us, it is part of us. It is everywhere and we are a part of it in a way that we can not separate from, even in death. Feeling claustrophobic yet ?? ;)
After-life / Reincarnation
When we die we Witches travel to the plane of existence called the spirit world. This is where we rest before continuing our journey. When we continue our journey we may be born into a new life, reincarnation being commonly believed in by many Witches. However another alternative is that we meld with nature becoming one with it, commonly becoming a land spirit, one reason why we always show respect for the spirits as they are the spirits of those that have passed before us. In the vast majority of cases however spirits will remain as themselves within the spirit world sometimes interacting, (or trying to,) with the living. Not all spirits are nice though. I have personally had to exorcise, (LOL totally spelt this wrong before. I put exercise. Somehow I don't recall running the spirit round the block a couple of times,) a troublesome spirit from my former home who refused to leave, and had to be forcibly removed by me.)
I have physically seen two spirits. One being the spirit of a Nun in a graveyard in southern England, another in my parents house. I have been physically pushed out of a graveyard, (same one as noted above,) by a spirit that took offence to myself and the party that was with me, being there. I have sensed the presence of spirits in my bedroom as a child, which was confirmed by the sibling I shared the room with. My last encounter with a spirit was with my Nain, (Welsh for Grandmother,) who visited me the night she died. I could sense her presence and could sense her telling me that she was fine now, she was happy she was with my Taid, (Welsh for Grandfather,) and I shouldn’t be upset. She seemed to be like she was before senile dementia had turned her in to a shell of the wonderful woman she was, and unable to barely recognize or speak to her own children and grandchildren.
On the troublesome spirit however, a few details more. It was an invasive spirit who would stand at the end of my and my other half’s bed. He was male, in his 50’s, and lecherous, yet he would not stay if the light was left on. Whilst I could sense him and get a rough impression of him, my other half was able to tell me precisely what he was saying, exactly how he looked, and more. (When your father is a part time spirit healer, and your paternal grandmother was the head of the Spiritualist Council of Argentina when she was alive, you tend to have a bit more ability than the average person when it comes to dealing with spirits.) This continued for several nights until I became so tired of it I decided to exorcise the spirit. I forcibly pushed him out of the house in a relatively short but mentally exhausting ritual. Then locked ward’s to the walls, doors, and windows of the house to stop him getting back in. (Something I’ve done as soon as I’ve moved in to every house since…..hence my Nain having to contact me when I was in the back garden getting some air after getting the bad news.) The spirit waited outside the house for three nights. I could feel his presence as a boiling raging ball of hate hovering over my left shoulder as if screaming in to my left ear every-time I went outside the front door for a cigarette. (You'll be glad to know I've given up smoking now.) On the third night I calmly told him that he had been locked out and would never get back in so he might as well bugger off. The fourth night.......he was gone. He got the message !!
With regards to exorcisms I advise that you not attempt to do them either alone, or without expert guidance. They are relatively simple to perform, but require knowledge of how to do them properly
Fate / Karma
Many people believe in Karma, including Wiccans, however this is not a part of Witchcraft, as the concept of Karma is a Hindu/Buddhist concept and not one of western europe. What Traditional Witches do believe in is fate. We all have a fate, what that is however we may not know until it happens, or perhaps we may be born with knowledge of what this is. Our fate is one of the many mysteries that unfolds as we grow older.
Traditional Witches generally observe the sabbats as these days correspond to solstices and equinoxes, but do not relate them to a specific mythology, such as can be seen in other pagan religions. In Traditional Witchcraft it is the seasonal changes themselves that are honoured, not the lives of any Gods or Goddesses that other religions associate with them. Traditional Witches observe Moon phases and other natural phenomena also. The full moon being of significant importance. The Esbats (full moons) being more important than the Sabbats even.
In Traditional Witchcraft all life, all nature, all space is considered to be sacred. A point should be made that whilst all Trad Witches would love to be able to perform magic and rituals in woodland glades, or on the top of hills this is simply not practical. As we believe that everything is sacred it is perfectly acceptable to do magic or ritual in your living room or bedroom as opposed to a woodland glade. It may not feel as disney-esque but its perfectly acceptable.
If you choose not to observe the sabbats and esbats that is perfectly acceptable as well, but try to remember that every day is special. Personally I only observe the following festivals:
Samhain - Summers End
Yule - Winter Festival
Beltane - Start of Summer
Oester - Spring Festival
Magic is central to Traditional Witchcraft, whereas many Eclectic Witches, Wiccan’s or Pagans do not practice any magic at all. ALL Traditional Witches do, although not in the same ritualistic way that a Wiccan would. It could be a simple spell cast whilst cooking to improve the taste of food, to a Earth healing spell done in the sanctuary of a private garden. All religions use magic, as it may be defined as any attempt to affect the outcome of a given situation by supernatural means (though in Traditional Witchcraft these means are seen as natural). Prayer, for example, is a form of magic, however the majority of the religions of the world deny this as being magic. Magic is essentially Traditional Witchcrafts prayer.
When practiced, the magic of Traditional Witchcraft is very practical. Herbal healing, for example, is a traditional practice. Also, the magic of Traditional Witchcraft may include hexes and curses without a specific rule to prevent such acts, (see Hexes & Curses section,) though their use is only in the most extreme of cases.
When casting spells and performing rituals a Traditional Witch will keep everything simple and practical, ignoring the type of ritual that Wiccan’s or other High Magic users would do. If a Traditional Witch doesn't have the right herbs or stones they won't worry, they'll just carry on regardless. In many cases they will never use any additional spell ingredients other than their mind and willpower, (commonly a single candle to aid concentration.) Traditional Witches follow a folk magic system rather than the High Magic system that Wicca employs. Many people believe that Witchcraft itself is a magical system however that is an incorrect belief. Witchcraft is a religion, (although I dislike to refer to it as such, preferring to refer to it as a belief system, and only using the word religion for more formally organized belief systems,) yet it employs a magical system. The magic of a Traditional Witch is simple, practical, and powerful
Grimoire/Book Of Shadows
Wiccans and Eclectic Witches have what they refer to as a Book of Shadows, a book that they are required to create themselves creating their notes, spells, and anything else they feel like. Traditional Witches also have something similar to this which we call a Grimoire. A point to note however is that these BoS's and Grimoires are recent things. This causes a lot of confusion amongst many people who believe that their ancient ancestors would have had a Book of Shadows or Grimoire containing everything to do with their religion. This simply isn't true as many people several hundred years and further back were illiterate, and to have any written evidence of their beliefs come lead to their death if it was found. Today we have Grimoires for ease of reference. With our everyday lives there is a lot to remember and having our spells, reference details, and everything else written in a Grimoire is easier for us, and in these more enlightened times we aren't going to be burnt at a stake or hung for being found with such a book. (At least we hope not =)
Rites of passage
Traditional Witchcraft Covens have very few rites of passage if any at all. Rituals may be performed at specific stages of a person's life, and are most definately performed to celebrate the changing of the year. Rites of passage in Traditional Witchcraft unlike those of Wicca vary greatly from Coven to Coven and Solitary to Solitary depending entirely upon the individual or groups preferences, and their cultural history. Most solitary Traditional Witchs chose to ignore many rites of passage that other religious groups would follow and pick and choose what they do and don't follow. Freedom to do so is one of the rights of being a Witch.
Ethics & Morality
Traditional Witchcraft has neither Wiccan Rede nor Threefold Law. Both of these were included into Wicca by Gerald Gardner to ensure a defined form of moral code, and originate from eastern idea's. Trad Witches are required to depend entirely upon their own personal responsibility and honor and ask themselves everytime whether something is moral or ethical. We Trad Witches don't believe in any good or evil force. Although we do believe that people can be good or evil there is no specific good or evil force such as the Devil in Chrisitianity. The intent of someones actions are what concern us most. Humans have the ability to make decisions and act on them, and they may choose and act with good or evil intentions. Traditional Witchcraft does not set out laws as to what actions and intentions are evil, but followers of this path take responsibility for their own actions. Witchcraft teaches that you should follow your heart and take responsibility for your actions.
Curses & Hexes
People commonly see Witches as the casters of curse and hexes. Whereas Wicca for an example is strictly opposed to Hexes and Curses, there are no such restrictions within Traditional Witchcraft. However, (and this is why this section is after the Ethics section,) if the thought arises of casting a hex or curse we must ask ourselves is it ethical. Any Witch will tell you that in the defence of loved ones and family the answer is yes. If however it relates to cursing someone who cut you up on the motorway then the answer is no.
A Witch' State of Mind
Witch's are naturally sceptical by nature, possessing an open but critical mind. Being open-minded is a good thing but not when it makes you susceptable to believing everything that you are told. It may sound like a strange thing to say with regard to a religion but take a scientific approach and gather as much information, (facts,) as possible on the subject before you form opinions and decisions. Witches strive for wisdom and balance. You will need to be courteous, understanding and diplomatic. Sometimes you will be silent and simply listen, and at other times you will offer advice or comfort. Don't try to show off your talents and draw attention to yourself as it is unbecoming. It is also important to realize that all paths lead to the same source, so respect all paths, even if you don't agree with them. Stand up for your beliefs, but don't belittle others for their views. Always try to be confident and respect your body mentally and physically, for it is your temple. Your mind and will are powerful tools, and with a healthy body, can bring about incredible change, and really, this is all you need to "do" magic.
Attitude to Sex
Unlike some other religions Witches see sex as sacred and special. It is not something to be shunned into a dark closet as dirty and evil, but enjoyed and revered as a blessing. Wiccan's believe that the act of sex/love-making is a gift from the Goddess. Traditional Witches see it as a gift and/or blessing from nature. Many Witches use the inherent power of sex to power spells, which is one reason why Tantric Sex is widely practised by Witch couples. The magical aspects of tantric sex can be harnessed by a couple working together to greatly enhance a particular spell they are casting. On safety note however if you find a coven and they say that you must have sex with the coven leader or members they are talking rubbish. Certain Pagan rituals centuries ago may have involved such things for certain rites but none do today. Never allow yourself to be pressured in to sex.
The Pentagram is the symbol of Witches, and many other Pagan's. It is used mainly for Protection, Healing and Magic. The Pentagram itself signifies the basic elements and spirit. From top going clockwise (deosil) they are spirit, earth, (north,) air, (east,) fire, (south) and water, (west.) It is like all symbol’s though, it’s power comes from us and our belief in it.
Traditions of Witchcraft
There are many different traditions of Witchcraft, and peoples views and beliefs can differ greatly from Traditional Witch, to Wiccan, to Eclectic. Where a Traditional Witch acknowledges no Deities, but simply believes in the male and female spiritual and sexual polarities of nature. A Wiccan incorporates the Kabbalah and Eastern practices into their tradition of Witchcraft worshipping the male and female of nature as a God and Goddess. An Eclectic Witch however chooses a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses to represent the different area's of nature and desire to worship.
Even within these three main traditions of Witchcraft there are subheading traditions, such as Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian Wicca, Dianic Wicca, etc, etc. Eclectic Witchcraft differs based on the pantheon of deities used, be they Norse, Roman, Greek, or ancient Pagan.
However they all share the same core belief, and that is that nature is sacred, and as children of nature we should learn to live within nature, and care for it as much as we are humanly possible.
The Number 13
Many people believe that the number 13 is unlucky, and especially if the 13th day of the month falls on a friday. This friday the 13th is reputed to have its origins in the arrest of the Knights Templar on October 12th and their trials and tortures on the 13th, (a friday) which were said to be so awful that the surviving Knights said that the day itself (friday 13th) was evil. 13 has had notiriety as unlucky in superstitions such as 13 people sitting at dinner. The first to rise will be the first to die.
As Witches though we know that no number in itself can be unlucky, nor any particular day. If anything the number 13 is lucky as it is the number of full moons during the year, and reverred by many Witches as a very lucky number. Something to remember the next time someone looks worried that friday the 13th is coming up soon.
If I become a Witch do I get to make up a craftname for myself ?? Simple answer NO !! Craftnames have absolutely nothing to do with Traditional Witchcraft, and are a Wiccan invention. Now you might ask "But isn't EchoWitch a craftname?" And the answer there again would be NO. The name EchoWitch is merely an internet pseudonym to try and maintain some level of anonymity on the web.
Some of you may want to have a craftname anyway but Traditional Witchcraft doesn't have them, and from some of the craftnames I've seen they come across as very pretentious with everyone naming themselves after Deities, and calling themselves Lord this or Lady that. Even some Wiccans, Pagans and Druids I know feel that the idea of a craftname is daft. Nature knows who you are, not by any name but by your presence within nature. Names mean nothing to nature.
Ultimately feel free to believe or disbelieve in what ever you feel comfortable with above. I for one have contemplated a lot over the last year and seen many of the falsehoods in the worlds religions, and have chosen to simplify my path in life. I have faith in nature, as an intrinsic part of it I should do. We all should. It is neither kind nor cruel, it simply is. I have experienced the spirit world directly so I know that there is existence after death, and fully expect to come back again and live life over and over, because this world is just too much fun not to be a direct part of. :)