The Basics of Contemporary Witchcraft - Craft Week


By Zachary Ehren

Photo courtesy of Kam Abbott

The concept of a witch has many preconceived notions to what exactly witchcraft entails. Whether you picture a green lady riding a broom with a gang of flying monkeys, four teenage girls casting spells to improve their looks or curse their enemies, or Hermione studying ancient texts at Hogwarts, your idea of what exactly constitutes a witch is probably not very accurate. Of course, this isn’t your fault. There has been over 600 years of persecution against the practice of witchcraft with misguided beliefs towards them marching alongside every step of the way.

The concept of magic and using it to utilize the powers of a higher source dates back further than any of the most fundamentally practiced religions today. It was used as a practice to heal the sick, assist in providing food during shortages, and so on. These wise healers — predominantly women – were known as witches and would summon the power of the gods to cast spells or mix potions. The Romans embedded this practice so heavily into their culture that they governed some practice of magic into their law.

This practice went on for centuries and it wasn’t until the 1400s that witchcraft became a religious faux pas. There a several factors that lead to this — one of which being the rise of Christianity whose followers believed that witches worshiped the devil. The epidemics, such as the Black Plague, were also ravaging most of the modern world at the time and witches became a scapegoat, as people believed they were behind the creation of the widespread disease.

The centuries that followed included the witch trials and persecution and torture of people all throughout the world who were suspected of conducting witchcraft. However, it was continually practiced behind closed doors and still exists today. The ancient form of spirituality has grown to include several different forms of practice — from African witchcraft to Appalachian Folk Magic to Pennsylvania Dutch hexcraft — all of which have different traditions and interpret the forces of the world in different ways. Today, the most common type of witch is the Wicca.

Dating only back to the 1940s, Wicca is a contemporary form of Paganism created by Gerald Gardner. He defined witchcraft as a “positive and life-affirming religion” []and focuses on worshiping the Earth and the natural forces of the world around us.

The general practices of Wiccans vary from each member, but can involve ancient traditions such as divination, which involves seeing events into the future, and herblore, which utilizes the medicinal properties of combining herbs as a form of holistic healing. The use of magick is also heavily utilized to gain a deeper connection with their deities. Now, some further clarification is needed before the inner-editor in you thinks there was a typo in the previous sentence.

It is common among Wiccans to spell the word “magick” as opposed to “magic” to separate their practice from a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat. While the latter word is linked to an illusion for entertainment, the former is a form of energy that allows those practicing to make a change in their personal environment.

The basic idea of magick has its roots in science. Everything on Earth resonates by a natural frequency. The molecules in everything around us move at specific frequencies that take up the space they inhabit. This concept was proven by the Tacoma Narrows Bridge incident in 1940.

Seven months after being built, the bridge began to sway back and forth so heavily, it appeared as thiough it was made of rubber and eventually collapsed. This occurred because the natural frequencies of the bridge and wind that passed through it ended up matching, which created waves, thus causing the swaying.

Wiccans refer to this same concept when they summon magick. The belief is that both of their physical bodies and spirits resonate at different energy frequencies. Through different rituals, they can sync the body and spirit to function at the same rate, creating the same force of energy that can make a bridge fall while putting them on the same plain as their deities.

Are you thinking that this is a way to develop a closer connection with the devil? Think not because this is another common misconception of witchcraft. Wiccans do not believe in the devil. The gods and goddesses that are worshiped can vary and the aspect of the deity that will be followed can be chosen based on personal beliefs.

To clarify, the main celestial being is known as the All. This is a female spirit that existed in solitary before any of the cosmos came to be. She then created a twin who became the male counterpart and soon became intertwined so that they were no longer two separate beings. The original female entity is known as the Lady and the male is the Lord. Together, the All went on to create the universe along with Earth and human beings. Wiccans can freely chose to worship the Lord, the Lady, or the whole package.

The energy created through magick might seem suspiciously like creating a curse to cause harm to other people, but Wiccans use this practice solely for changes in their personal life. This is supported by one of their mantras that state, “if it does no harm, do your own will.” If a witch loses their way and decides to use magick to create harm to others, the Wiccan belief is that it will circle-back to them three-fold – meaning the harmer will have a fate three-times worse than those they were trying to curse.

It would be inaccurate to say that every single person that practices witchcraft does not worship Satan, believes they can ride a broom, or sends curses to their enemies, but every religion includes individuals who do not follow the instructions. If people are worshiping a higher being and trying to understand their universe on a spiritual level, there will always be extremists that misinterpret the dogma they are following. Just as there are misguided Christians that protest funerals, there are witches that do not properly follow the Wiccan traditions.

The extremists and centuries of misunderstanding have made the topic of witchcraft taboo in many social circles, but the practice is one of the oldest traditions in mankind. A little bit of light on the subject will show that there is nothing to fear in followers of Wicca. So, if you ever run across a person that tells you they are a witch, do not feel the need to hide and find shelter to avoid the wrath of their magical powers. You will be safe… and so will be your little dog too.