Understanding Witchcraft – What is it?

What is witchcraft? What is it? This post synthesizes this question down into something quick and easy to read to help in understanding witchcraft.
The opinions in the post are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others or of the community as a whole. This is also a repost and edit from an old tumblr post here.


What is Witchcraft?

Dictionary.com defines witchcraft as “the art or practices of a witch; sorcery; magic” and as “magical influence; witchery” (x). I feel that this definition could be expanded upon to be a little more definitive and inclusive.

Witchcraft has had a religious-based history through religions like Wicca and being paired with pagan religions, etc., but can also be secular. It typically relates to the art (craft, practice) of magic, spellwork, witchery, sorcery, etc.

Secular? What is that?

Dictionary.com defines secular as “not pertaining to or connected with religion” (x). This is the definition of secular that I am using in the definition of witchcraft I stated above. Because it is a craft or art, like painting, it can secular but can also be mixed with religion or religious beliefs. Witchcraft, however, is not inherently secular. Two of the most common religions that commonly use witchcraft are Wicca and Paganism. They are so commonly found together (Paganism+Witchcraft), that people tend to use them synonymous, and thus incorrectly. Witchcraft =/= (does not equal) Wicca or Paganism. There are Pagans who do not practice witchcraft, and for the most part, if you are Wiccan you are also practicing witchcraft. You can have witchcraft with or without the lens of religion.

Spellwork, Witchery, Sorcery? What is all of this?

These are common title that people give their practices or that are used instead of “magic.” Just like people paint differently, people practice witchcraft differently and thus give what some call “magic” other names. And that is perfectly okay, as long as the name or practice itself isn’t taken from a closed culture they are not a part of nor have permission to use.
I usually just call what I do: magic, witchcraft, spells, spellwork. For me, these terms are basic and can encompass many of the things I do and people generally have an idea of what they mean.

Can anyone practice witchcraft?

Of course! Because witchcraft is a craft like painting or masonry, anyone can learn and practice witchcraft. Some may have more of a talent for it than others, just like anything else, but anyone can learn and practice.
There are certain traditions that involve initiation and thus not just anyone can join up or claim to be a part of them. There are also closed cultural traditions that are not open to outsiders at all. But anyone can learn or practice general witchcraft.

But isn’t it evil?

Well, witchcraft by nature, is neither good nor bad. It is like a tool for your intentions. When you want to use the tool, you filter your intentions, the tool itself, and possible outcomes through your moral filter. That is why people tend to use morals to decide where draw the line in practice. Due to the diversity of people and their experiences, people tend to be diverse in where they draw their line.

How do I get started?

I recommend reading what is available to you and using your critical thinking skills. Does it confuse witchcraft and Wicca? Does it use racial slurs or involve cultural appropriation? Does it tell you that you can only practice witchcraft their way and that their way is the only legitimate right way to practice? Where does their information come from? Do they cite their sources?

Online blogs by witches can also be a great resource, or they can be a really bad source. Again, I highly recommend using your critical thinking skills. Even if the source is great, think about what it means to you, how it changes your views or doesn’t change your views.

Do research, but don’t forget to practice too!

I started with research then started practicing. It took a few years for me to break the mold I was given and try experimenting with different things. I highly recommend you experiment to find out what works for you. Try a spell one way. Then change it and try it again. How do the effects compare? How do the desired results compare? It is basically like science class all over again, the fun part, but with magic!


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