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7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2007 - 2:08AM #1
Innerpoint
Posts: 1,070
Originally posted by CreakyHedgewitch, here on 10/19/2003:

It has been suggested that a thread comparable to the Learn about Paganism (101) might be useful here in the Witchcraft section. So, this is a thread for Witches who are members in this Forum to define and describe the wide spectrum of what is called Witchcraft.

THERE IS NO UNIVERSAL AND ONE TRUE DEFINITION OF WHAT WITCHCRAFT MEANS.

No one definition is universal and applicable to all whom self-identify as Witches. Most certainly not to those who are called Witches but who may not self-identify as such. No two Witches will give you the same definition of what Witchcraft is though those in shared Traditions may use the same agreed upon definition for such in describing this.

What follows is my perspective after being first a Dianic Witch and then a Vocational Witch for nearly twenty years. No one perspective on Witchcraft can encompass all the usage's of this term and what it means to people. So take my posts on this subject as a starting point and consider any other opinions posted here just as carefully.

What is the difference between Wicca and Witchcraft.
Witchcraft is a term that has many different meanings, both historically and globally. Historical uses of this term have been documented as negative and based on localized and also for the most part Christian superstitions. The term has also been projected across what is a wide spectrum of differing indigenous practices that have retained this name in some cases right to this day.

In the 1950's, Gerald Gardner in Britain created a new definition of Witchcraft from many sources such as Freemasonry, British folklore and fictional myths not just about paganism but also about ancient Celtic practices. He created what he called originally The Religion of Witchcraft. Gardner claimed it was a revival of an ancient practice based (as research has now shown) on a body of myths and legends that had grown up from the 16th century onward in Europe and Britain from works of fiction and speculations from folklore writers such as Sir James Frazer. However, there has been no substantiated evidence to prove that what he defined as Witchcraft existed before his creation despite his claims. Eventually the term Wicca came to be applied to this Religion rather than Witchcraft and although it is much rarer today, there are still Wiccans who consider the two terms synonymous. Most Wiccans however no longer do. The definition Gardner created for Witchcraft that differs from the historical definitions that preceded it forms the basis of the majority of what we call Witchcraft today. Other than indigenous practices whose definitions may include similarities to what Gardner included in his definition or not.

As mentioned, many but not all Wiccans today see Witchcraft as a personal wisdom-walk or practice aligned to being a Wiccan (a Religion). As well, there are many Traditions of Witchcraft evolved since the 1950's that do not consider themselves to be part of Wicca though the root of their various definitions do link back to Gardner's creation. One broad spectrum is Dianic Paganism or Dianicism, Feminist Witchcraft or Women's Spirituality. Anyone interested in this (which is where I belong) is welcome to another thread I began on this subject:Dianic Witchcraft.

There are two types of Traditions of non-Wiccan Witchcraft that need mention here as they both continue to use the same historical myths as Gardner did. These are Traditional Witchcraft and Family Traditional Witchcraft.

Traditional Witchcraft comes in many types as it is typically aligned to a particular ethnic or cultural theme. While others may define it differently, my definition for Traditional Witchcraft is a practice based the use of nature spirits and Elementals but not deities, an emphasis on what is called nature-oriented or green magick and on manipulation of the natural world for various purposes. Unfortunately, they almost always seem to base their historical claims on the same fictional myths that were still being promoted during the decades following Gardner. This includes the Burning Times (not about Paganism or Witchcraft as defined today), the imagery of the pastoral Pagan 'village witch or wisewoman or wiseman' and Witchcraft being an ancient religion or the 'Old Religion'. When evidence is presented for these claims, it has been my observation that they or their teachers have combined Gardner's modern definition for Witchcraft, practices that existed or exist throughout many types of wisdom-walks and ethnic folklore and customs with the fictional myths and legends from the Paganism Movement. All to infer the existence of an intact ethnic tradition passed down through successive generations. This does not make a less valid wisdom walk in principle but basing such on unsubstantiated claims does weaken their overall structures.

Family Traditional Witchcraft comes from much the same sources. What is important to remember is that magic or magick, divination, herblore, psychic skills and such are not copyrighted to any belief system or religion and thus their use or suspected use is not sufficient to label something witchcraft. Usually what has happened is that a modern person using Gardner's definition (which includes these practices) has taken family legends or historical events (an ancestor that was recorded as being psychic or used some form of divination or practiced folklore healing etc) and projected backwards the label of Witch onto that ancestor. In some cases, these ancestors were actually accused of witchcraft by Christians but again, one must keep such incidents in their proper historical context and remember that witchcraft has many definitions including those used historically by Christianity. Now there are some forms of modern Witchcraft that have been passed down from parent to child or even grandchildren these days and they do qualify as Family Traditional Witchcraft. But anything before the 1950's should be considered unsubstantiated at best.

Likewise, I do not believe that anyone can be 'born' a Witch. This belief which is promoted by certain authors is usually based just on having some form of psychic abilities. Sometimes it is based on nothing more than being very nature-oriented or having different beliefs (spirits, fairies etc) Every human being has the potential for psychic abilities - this is normal and natural. The awareness of such, the development and use of such abilities have existed throughout many types of wisdom walks and have never been copyrighted to Witchcraft - any form of witchcraft. Nor is being nature-oriented copyrighted to Paganism or Witchcraft but rather can exist in any belief system, religion or wisdom walk. The same can be said for being sensitive to things such as spirits, ghosts, fairies or any other belief in other types of beings. One can choose to become a Witch but one is not 'born' a Witch. One can have psychic abilities etc as a child or adolescent but that doesn't make the claim of 'I've been a Witch all my life' valid.

Across the broader spectrum of what is called Witchcraft today and what is often called Pagan ([COLOR="Red"]there is no one definition of this term either. Paganism has had my meanings and depending on how you are defining it, various belief systems, religions or principles will either fit or not[/COLOR]) , Witchcraft can be considered and practiced as a religion, a tradition, a spiritual path, a wisdom walk or a vocational craft depending on how it is defined. As wisdom-walk is my definition, let me define it a bit further. Throughout human history, in all cultures and religions and belief systems, there have been paths designed to obtain wisdom. How that wisdom is defined and how that path is defined is always contextual to the historical period, the culture and the individual's beliefs. Witchcraft is just one of the modern names (since Gardner's definition was created) to be given to certain types of wisdom walks. Regardless of surface similarities, it is not an appropriate name for any of the many wisdom walks outside of a certain spectrum in Britain, North America, Australia and Europe (mainly) unless such individuals self-identify as such. Nor is it appropriate for ancient practices that on the surface seem similar, as these should be considered contextually. A wisdom walk that is not overtly contextual to a specific religion or belief system such as some non-Wiccan forms of Witchcraft today can be aligned to any religion or belief system.

While starting out as the Religion of Witchcraft, Wicca remains today a structured religion with a non-negotiable core, a sacred calendar, tenets and spiritual principles, mythologies and life passage rituals. It has many Traditions that define unique practices of the core and structure that have been taught and passed down though to no more than three generations as yet.

Witchcraft also has many Traditions as they are usually called but many are autonomous and the diversity of definitions plus the prevalence of solitary practitioners means that each Witch is responsible for how he or she defines their 'Craft.

THERE IS NO ONE DEFINITION OF WHAT THE 'CRAFT IS COMPRISED OF.

Continued...
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7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2007 - 2:12AM #2
Innerpoint
Posts: 1,070
The 'Craft, a term properly used with the Gardnarian definition of Witchcraft (directly or influenced by) does not have one specific definition of what constitutes its nuts and bolts. There are 'traditional' practices that are included but often these are defined contextually, usually by the Witch in question from what they know about, can access, think is relevant or important. Thus the 'Craft can include any number of practices, not just or even magic at all by the way though this is a common association.

It might be helpful to post some examples of what the nuts and bolts of the 'Craft can consist of. These are only examples however and should be regarded as such.

Generally Found Overall Characteristics
Witchcraft is usually perceived as a life-long, life-transforming dedication of self to a path or a wisdom walk that is being defined contextually by the individual. This can include Solitary practice or becoming part of an established Tradition. Depending on how Witchcraft is perceived, what one dedicates oneself to will differ.

This choice to become a Witch should only be undertaken as an adult choice as should any life-altering and life-long commitment. Children while they enact the outward forms of participation do not yet have the life experience to make this kind of a commitment in a meaningful and positive way. Adolescents while they can mentally understand much of what is taught also are in the midst of discovering who they are as people and need to have that firm foundation of self-knowledge from which to make this life-altering decision. On the rare occasion, one finds an adolescent who is sufficiently mature and self-aware to make such a choice earlier but most tend to believe they are ready long before they are. If maturity is lacking, just being of adult age is not sufficient either. Becoming a Witch transforms your life on many levels and as such should always be undertaken seriously.

At the very minimum, a year's study of what Witchcraft means and preferably longer. I recommend three years. If one is really serious about a life-long practice, this is not too long a period to invest in preparation.

Taking on the Honorific of Witch which signifies Becoming a Witch can be done through the tradition of a group structure (being Named a Witch) or individually (Self-Named one self as a Witch). If a Solitary at some future point is accepted into a group, the Naming may need to be redone to be recognized within the context of the group.

"Sacred Vocation"
If one regards Witchcraft religiously as a Sacred Vocation then this creates certain boundaries to the wisdom walk being undertaken. One's Dedication will be to the appropriate Deities for example and there will be a religious framework, a structure for guidance in many areas. For me, Witchcraft as a Sacred Vocation consists of Learning, Service and Dedication. Learning as in continual study and ethical practice of the 'Craft (as defined) within the framework of a Religion. Service to one's community, however such is defined in one’s life. Dedication not only to the appropriate Deities but also to living the most positive and productive life on all levels that one can visualize and being a living example of what a Witch is (even if undisclosed). One must take full responsibility for one's self and actions and this includes defining what both wisdom and what the walk involves as a Witch.

Learning involves life long studies across a wide spectrum of subjects from science to archeology and anything and everything that interests one as an individual. This should include the history of Witchcraft, Paganism and Wicca (even if one isn't Wiccan), hopefully based on historical research not myths. One cannot study that history however without also studying the myths and where they came from. The history of one’s Religion and Tradition (if more specific), a through understanding of the core of one's religion and the evolving structure, the sacred calendar, laws, principles, etc. This needs to be combined with the experiential knowledge that comes from actually participating in the religion, its rituals and rites as the sacred calendar progresses.

Religiously, Service invokes the mastering and use of Disciplines that enable one to fully participate in those rituals and rites of passage such as visualization, energy work along with experience with participating in, creating and eventually conducting rituals. There is also self-discipline regarding living one's ethics and following the spiritual principles and laws of one's religion as well as observing the sacred calendar. Group etiquette and responsible participation in shared work is another part of Service (self-responsibility). Service to one's community can also be manifested through individual disciplines such as healing work and teaching. How one defines one's community or where one chooses to serve and how will determine what is appropriate and what is not.

Dedication involves all of the above, the ongoing commitment to walk the path that has been chosen to the best of one's ability. A Witch is also a human being however and that means that there will be times when it is harder to live up to those commitments and when one fails to meet other peoples expectations or even one's own. This is normal. Trying one's best as much as possible is what is asked for, not some kind of inhuman perfection.

"Vocational or non-Religious"
This type of Witchcraft can be aligned to a Religion, a personal spiritual belief system or the 'Craft can simply be considered as if it was a craft, much as the medieval guilds were. In any case, Witchcraft is almost always a personal practice not shared though there are exceptions to that. I define this kind of Witchcraft as Knowledge, Disciplines and Skills or rather the act of acquiring and using Knowledge, developing and using Disciplines and mastering and using Skills. There is a purpose, which is to “become wise” and like any other area of purposeful skill, it can thus be considered a craft. Not a hobby as we think of crafts today but rather like the medieval guilds where one learned the knowledge, disciplines and skills to achieve the purpose of the guild such as weaving, baking or trading.

Under Knowledge I would put life long studies in whatever areas one is drawn to as well as the same understanding of history (Paganism, Witchcraft, Wicca etc) as mentioned above. Preparation for some knowledge of all appropriate Disciplines and more detailed preparation for any Discipline that one will be using. Another often underrated source of Knowledge is the first hand experiences one has in all aspects of one's life including transformational events as are all the people who enter our lives as everyone can be a teacher without realizing it.

What one chooses to focus on as Disciplines will determine what services one can offer as a Witch. While I don't include Service as one of the three characteristics of this type of Witchcraft, I see it as implicit in the purpose of "becoming wise". Wisdom without purposeful use of that wisdom stagnates: it does not nourish. Self-Development is implicit in the personal attainment of wisdom but Service to others provides the means to manifest this wisdom into one's life as a Witch.

Disciplines in Witchcrafting should include what I call Wholeness of Health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) Visualization, Focusing, Mediation, Shielding and Dream-work. (not everyone will include all of these as a 'should' however) It can include Energy Work, Chakras, Auras and when needed or if needed, Magick. Where Service is concerned, I would list some form of the practice of Psychic Skills for Self-awareness and/or Healing work in whatever area one has Heightened Awareness. This is traditionally through the use of a Divination tool such as Tarot or Astrology but not limited to such. There is also a Discipline to recording one’s journals or Books and organizing one’s studies whether one is self-taught or not.

Skills are what a Witch develops through practice and experience and what enables them to put their Knowledge to useful purposes and their Disciplines to practical use. I usually list Self-Awareness on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels as a critical Skill along with the abilities to use Visualization, Focus, Mediation, Shielding and intuitively interpret one's Dreams. As you can see, the Skills mirror the Disciplines here. Skill with Energy work, Chakras, Auras and if used, Magick developed from study, practice and use, often for healing purposes. Skill in whatever Discipline of Psychic/Heightened Awareness, Healing or Divination techniques also enable one to use these Disciplines. Organization is another Skill as is Handcrafting if considered appropriate.

I usually advise those studying Witchcraft to be familiar with such things as traditional correspondences that are used in various Disciplines from ritual work to magick. One should not use a correspondence or a system of such however unless it is meaningful but familiarity with those in more common use is valuable when speaking with or working with other Witches.

continued...
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7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2007 - 2:20AM #3
Innerpoint
Posts: 1,070
Some of the things I consider useful whether starting out or at any point when re-evaluating one's journey along a wisdom walk termed Witchcraft is to always keep a current working definition of what that means to you. This should change and grow as you as you do over time and a working definition does not necessarily need to reflect anyone else’s definition, especially if you are practicing as a Solitary Witch. For group work if you decide to seek this at any point and can find a group that is aligned sufficiently to what you believe and practice, you will then need to work within the group's shared agreed-upon working definition while participating as a member of that group. The shared upon working definition can therefore be separate from your own personal practice, aligned to it or the same, depending on the context involved.

I also consider it very important to remind oneself that Witchcraft is not just a noun but also a verb. Witchcrafting means practicing. Practicing means actually translating what knowledge you have learned into something that is manifested into your life. Your working definition, therefore, needs to be that which you can actually practice just as a shared working definition needs to be something that a group can actually practice together. Reading about the subject is not practicing Witchcraft for instance. Nor is having or using a psychic ability or using a divination tool or herblore unless you also self-identify as a Witch. If you choose to become a Witch and include these as part of your practice, then practicing such is practicing Witchcraft.

As a practice or even as a Religion, Witchcraft has the same type of progressive learning as any other belief system or practice does. I use the analogy of the house. You can't put the roof on until you have walls to hold this up and you can't put the walls up until you have a foundation to build them from. If you don't know what the foundation should look like or how to build it, you can't build the house. Your Learning or Knowledge functions as the foundation and shapes what the foundations of this house will look like for you. Service/Disciplines are your walls that rise from the foundation. Build them strong and they can hold up the roof, which are your Dedication and your Skills.

The why you practice Witchcraft is as important as what or how. One of the foundations of modern Witchcraft is ethical practice. There are however traditions of Witchcraft that exist outside of this (spectrum) foundation and others whose ethical codes differ from what another Witch might agree with. So defining his or her own ethical code, adopting or aligning an established ‘Crafting code of ethics is something that every Witch needs to have.

Finally, I think it is important to remember that no one including other Witches is obliged to recognize you or anyone else calling themselves such as another Witch. Given that there is no one universal definition of what Witchcraft means, this can be a tricky call to make but to be self-responsible, one needs to one's common sense or judgment. I usually reserve this for obviously unethical behavior or if someone is making false claims about what a specific form of Witchcraft involves or what he or she can do personally as or because they are a Witch. Unless your opinion is important to the other person, not recognizing someone else as a Witch or as a member of a specific Tradition of Witchcraft simply limits your own interaction but doesn't prevent him or her from calling themselves a Witch or making any claims as such.

Now I invited those here to contribute from their perspectives. If such disagrees with what I have posted, that is fine. I would only hope that such a disagreement would be detailed enough so that those here can understand more fully the rich diversity of what is called Witchcraft.

No one Witch or one Witchcraft Tradition can define for every Witch what being a Witch or practicing Witchcraft should be. That is why every Witch must ultimately decide for herself or himself what being a Witch means.
C.H.
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7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2007 - 8:52AM #4
Sacrificialgoddess
Posts: 9,496
Thanks for reposting this, IP!  Where is CH, anyway?  I have barely seen her on the new boards.  :(   Has anyone heard from her?  I am concerned.
Dark Energy. It can be found in the observable Universe. Found in ratios of 75% more than any other substance. Dark Energy. It can be found in religious extremists, in cheerleaders. To come to the conclusion that Dark signifies mean and malevolent would define 75% of the Universe as an evil force. Alternatively, to think that some cheerleaders don't have razors in their snatch is to be foolishly unarmed.

-- Tori Amos
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7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2007 - 10:25AM #5
Innerpoint
Posts: 1,070
[QUOTE=sacrificialgoddess;21540]Thanks for reposting this, IP!  Where is CH, anyway?  I have barely seen her on the new boards.  :(   Has anyone heard from her?  I am concerned.[/QUOTE]

No need for concern... she's at one of her peak busy times, again.  Between work and classes, she stays hopping - and that's straight from the Witch's mouth. ;)
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7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2007 - 11:45AM #6
Sacrificialgoddess
Posts: 9,496
Thanks, IP!  Good to know she's okay.
Dark Energy. It can be found in the observable Universe. Found in ratios of 75% more than any other substance. Dark Energy. It can be found in religious extremists, in cheerleaders. To come to the conclusion that Dark signifies mean and malevolent would define 75% of the Universe as an evil force. Alternatively, to think that some cheerleaders don't have razors in their snatch is to be foolishly unarmed.

-- Tori Amos
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5 years ago  ::  Jul 11, 2009 - 12:42AM #7
Delita
Posts: 70

Hello guys, formerly christ 7........ away christians, away!!!!! Now I'm pagan, and like the devil, what a change.... just starting off... kinda. with magic that is. Any tips, what all can i do? 

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5 years ago  ::  Jul 14, 2009 - 7:52AM #8
CreakyHedgewitch
Posts: 1,244

 


Figure out why you want to do magic in the first place.


C.H.

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
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4 years ago  ::  Apr 12, 2011 - 7:10PM #9
Nonchristianheaven
Posts: 147

So do Witches all have the same dogma? Or are they like churches and just make up their own ideas?


I have a history with Salem, so I am curious.

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4 years ago  ::  May 20, 2011 - 9:31PM #10
Sacrificialgoddess
Posts: 9,496
Witchcraft means different things to different people.
Dark Energy. It can be found in the observable Universe. Found in ratios of 75% more than any other substance. Dark Energy. It can be found in religious extremists, in cheerleaders. To come to the conclusion that Dark signifies mean and malevolent would define 75% of the Universe as an evil force. Alternatively, to think that some cheerleaders don't have razors in their snatch is to be foolishly unarmed.

-- Tori Amos
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