What is Witchcraft?

The term Witchcraft literally means the craft of the wise. In its original usage, witchcraft was practiced by those persons, usually female, who had knowledge of herbal lore, the law, psychology and physiology. They were the healers, advocates, counselors, midwives of the village, and respect was given to them for their knowledge.

Witchcraft is the art of magick, the art of energy manipulation, the art of altered states of consciousness. A Witch is anyone who practices magick, and it is not dependent upon any one particular faith or path. This is not a religion in and of itself. Witchcraft may be practiced in many different forms, and admittedly, not all of them are positive. Being a witch means that you have a strong spiritual power within, and, as with any form of power, it can be abused.

Witches practice magick.....that is magic with a "k" at its end. Why the "k"? To distinguish itself from the form of magic that a stage magician would perform. Witches do not perform feats of trickery to fool and entertain.

The term witch is usually used by a female, however, a male may also be referred to as a witch, or use the term "wizard". The term "warlock" should never be used, as this is a Scottish word meaning "oath breaker". It was used upon those that were themselves a witch, whether solitary or in a coven, but turned against their own, and sided with the persecutors of witches.

The calendar year and holidays are marked differently by witches, as they follow The Wheel of the Year which contains eight main times of celebration, known as Sabbats. While the Sabbats are a time of celebration, Esbats are a time of magickal workings.

The Burning Times

Most victims of the burning times seem to have been a diverse group, who did not share a common factor. Many were:

  • Midwives
  • Native healers
  • Single women who lived alone, and/or who owned property
  • People against whom neighbors had a grudge
  • Practitioners of ancient Pagan rituals
  • Innocent individuals who were accused by other victims, often under torture
  • People who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • However, trial records often represent the distorted beliefs of the judges rather than reality. The widespread use of torture, particularly in Roman Catholic countries, made testimony totally unreliable. Additional facts of the Burning Times:

  • The total number of victims was probably between 50,000 and 100,000 -- not 9 million as many believe.
  • Although alleged witches were burned alive or hung over a five century interval -- from the 14th to the 18th century -- the vast majority were tried from 1550 to 1650.
  • Some of the victims worshiped Pagan deities, and thus could be considered to be indirectly linked to today's Neopagans. However most apparently did not.
  • Some of the victims were midwives and native healers; however most were not.
  • Most of the victims were tried executed by local, community courts, not by the Church.
  • A substantial minority of victims -- about 25% -- were male.
  • Many countries in Europe largely escaped the burning times: Ireland executed only four "Witches;" Russia only ten. The craze affected mostly Switzerland, Germany and France.
  • Eastern Orthodox countries had few Witch trials. In parts of the Orthodox East, at least, witch hunts such as those experienced in other parts of Europe were unknown...."The Orthodox Church is strongly critical of sorcerers (among whom it includes palmists, fortune tellers and astrologers), but has not generally seen the remedy in accusations, trials and secular penalties, but rather in confession and repentance, and exorcism if necessary.
  • Most of the deaths seem to have taken place in Western Europe in the times and areas where Protestant - Roman Catholic conflict -- and thus social turmoil -- was at its maximum.

  • Tools of the Craft

    Athame - Never used as a weapon. Represents the male god. It is used for many different reasons. It can be used to inscribe words onto candles, cut herbs for spellwork, symbolic of The Great Rite, directing energy and circle casting.

    Broom or "Besom" - Used for cleansing ritual areas, hence the term "making a clean sweep". In handfasting rituals, couples often jump over the broom if they want children. (If you don't want children, DON'T JUMP! The combination of the "brush" and the handle are a very powerful fertility symbol.) Many Witches have a broom, bristle side up, by their door to protect the home from unwanted outside energies. Witches do not ride brooms, if the gods had wanted them to ride brooms, they would not have invented first class.

    Crystal Ball - Used for divintion. The crystal ball has been used for many centuries for divintion.

    Candles - Candles have so many different uses, a few of them would be the following: Spellwork, deity symbols ex:gold and silver, aromatheraphy, scrying.

    Boline - White handled knife, with a sickle shaped blade, normally used for herb cuttings.

    Chalice - Represents the female goddess. The chalice may be used on an altar to represent water elements, it can also be used to drink wine or juice during ceremonies, and it is also symbolic of The Great Rite.

    Book of Shadows - A journal which holds a witch's writings, spells, rituals and notes.

    Charms - (Amulets & Talisman) Can be used for energy purposes. They are usually charged for a specific purpose.

    Pentagram and Pentacle - Though both words are used interchangeably (therefore, incorrectly), they are defined differently. An upright pentagram is a five pointed star with one point aligned upwards. An inverted pentagram is a five pointed star with two points aligned upwards. An upright pentacle is an upright pentagram surrounded by a circle. An inverted pentacle is an inverted pentagram surrounded by a circle. Essentially, the five points relate to either: earth, air, fire, water and spirit, or north, east, south, west and spirit. The inverted pentagram symbolizes the pagan god, or represents our shadow side. But, unfortunately, this symbol was taken on by Satanism, giving it a negative connotation.

    Runes - A set of symbols that are used both in divintion and magickal workings.

    Scrying Mirror - Used in divintion to see visual pictures or mental pictures.

    Tarot Cards - Used in divintion. Past, Present and future events can be forseen through the use of The Tarot.

    Wand - Used in magickal and psychic workings . Usually used to project some form of magick. Can be used in place of the athame when drawing upon energy.

    Incense - Used to represent the element of air. Incense can also be used in daily devotionals to the deities as an offering of thanks.

    Cauldron -Like the censor, it can be used for incense. It is also used in the mixing of herbs for healing, or spell workings. The Cauldron is a symbol of the Goddess because, like the womb of the Goddess, the cauldron is used for creating. It is a symbol of fertility and is associated with the Element of Water.


  • The Craft - A Witch's Book of Shadows by Dorothy Morrison
  • Witchcraft: Theory and Practice by Ly de Angeles
  • Grimoire for the Green Witch: A Complete Book of Shadows by Ann Moura
  • Solitary Witch by Silver RavenWolf
  • All books by Christopher Penczak; though he personally leans towards Wicca, his information can be applied to most

  • Lady's Altar and Pagan/Metaphysical Library

    Lady's Altar-closeup

    Kaber's Altar