By Cat Gina Cole
What is Witchcraft?
That is a question that continues to be hotly debated on social media. There is a lot of “Who gets to decide that and why?” type of questions that come with it. The answer also depends on culture, pantheon, and personal beliefs. So, you may be asking why attempt to answer such a question? Well, as a teacher, and practicing Witch for over 50 years, I am in about 40-50 “witch” groups on social media and I see many looking for direction and firm answers, so I will attempt to provide some clarity.
Witchcraft has basics that identify it as Witchcraft and is generally defined as something that uses magic, spells, and psychic skills to work with or manipulate energy to a desired goal. A practitioner of Witchcraft may invoke an element, a God or Goddess, or create a ceremony or ritual that is magical. Witchcraft is the practice of what many outside of Witchcraft believe to be supernatural skills and abilities, such as the casting of spells and the performance of Magic.
My family tradition defines Witchcraft as one that uses Magic and Psychism to work with any and all energy, spirit, and deity. In our tradition, a Witch is also an herbalist and healer that employs all wise craft.
Conversely, a Witch can be any denomination they please. They are only limited by the beliefs they choose to practice. This means a Christian witch only practices within the confines of those beliefs and a Pagan Witch or Buddhist Witch only practice within the confines of their belief set.
WICCA (Greek derivative for wise one)
Wicca is often defined as contemporary witchcraft and is legally recognized as a religion. I do not think there is one finite definition for Wicca. The identifiers of Wicca I give here are a conglomeration of definitions. However, it is frequently characterized by the worship of deities called gods and goddesses. It contains the belief in the superiority of the mother goddess, who represents nature, emphasizes harmony with nature, and tries to appeal to this harmony.
Wicca uses ceremonies, rituals, amulets, and more. There is a belief in life after physical death known as the life, death, and rebirth cycle. The harm none and rule of three-fold are part of their precepts. They practice reverence for the earth, the wheel of the year, and planetary consciousness within their system of magical practices and Wicca is a religion to most of its practitioners. Some, but not all, of what Wiccans practice are also identifiers that make Witchcraft, Witchcraft.
Paganism is a big umbrella that covers a wide variety of beliefs. Just like the umbrella of Christianity covers being Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, and more, being a Pagan does not mean one is a Witch.
Pagans love nature and this planet and are typically animists. Many feel at one with the Earth and are very in tune with the cycles of the seasons. They often find joy in the small things such as a bird singing or a honeybee as they commune and connect with the Earth and all it offers and they may or may not practice Magic or Witchcraft.
Summarily, not all Pagans are Witches, not all Wiccans are Witches, not all Witches are pagan, and not all Witches are Wiccan, but all Witches practice Magic. Practicing Magic is one of those things that identify Witchcraft as Witchcraft.
Neo-Paganism is an eclectic modern movement that began in the ’60s that is primarily concerned with revived and reconstructed pre-Christian nature and indigenous religions and mystery traditions. It draws its base from a wide spectrum of people who may or may not be Wiccan. Many Neo-Pagans are interested in the occult revival, environmentalism, mythology, spiritual awareness, and comparative religions.
So, what is Magic? Magic is the application of the will or manipulation of natural but unseen forces like energy, the spirit of something, deity, and other spirits, the elements, and more, to affect change using means not understood by science.
Magic is the ability to effect change in accordance with one’s will by invoking things outside of the five physical senses. Such changes are accomplished through ritual, spells, energy work, and more, in which cosmic powers, deities, or other non-physical beings or the forces of nature are invoked.
Magic is using one’s higher state of consciousness and will. To do this we utilize psychic skills that use the energy emanating from our body and from things outside ourselves to manipulate and interact with other energy patterns according to our will. Most of us call this manifesting. Manifesting is an identifying part of magic but not the sum total of Magic.
One identifier of magic that makes Magic, Magic is the belief that Magic is both real and possible. This involves the idea that the physical world is only part of all reality. Another is the belief that humans have more than just five senses; there are psychic senses. It is by means of these psychic capacities that the realms beyond and the physical realms are often connected. It is believed that these psychic senses are innate in us all and can be reawakened.
Another identifier of Magic is that thoughts are a tool to be used. Thoughts are real and have power. This is a fundamental of Magic because the mind is the power of Magic. To have great strength of will and focus is most important for a person doing magic. It is believed that magic will be powerful or feeble in proportion to the energy, willpower, and focus used by the practitioner. Magic is what we do with what we sense. Spells are Magical and used in Witchcraft, but you could not do them without being able to tap the energy and vibration connected to them. Magic happens for three reasons, what you think, say, and do.
Many psychic skills are used in Witchcraft, Magic, and Paganism. Some folks have the ability to sense energy or deity and other things happening around them like emotions. They feel it and know it is there. This is often referred to as intuition. We all vibrate and emanate energy. People and the earth are vibrational energetic entities. To feel the vibrations around us and be able to use it, absorb it, or send it is a psychic skill. Psychism itself is the ongoing study and practice of all things psychic.
As demonstrated by the 140 entries under psychism in the psychic dictionary and the many vague definitions from our dictionaries one can see that there are many labels one can throw at psychism. Psychism is the study and practice combined, not a single psychic act. Typically, I do not appreciate labels but they have their uses.
Especially as one begins to find oneself dealing with a psychic skill and looking at psychism, in general, it is helpful to have those labels to give one an idea or word to launch further education from and find out what others have experienced or written.
I realize these descriptions of Magic, Witchcraft, Paganism, and Psychism are brief at best, but perhaps the brevity of such vast topics will assist in some clarity.
Many Blessings to all.
Cat Gina Cole is a Herditary Witch and author of Psychic Skills for Magic and Witchcraft (Llewellyn, 2022). She is the founder of The Coven of the Rising Phoenix and Staff Coordinator for “Green Egg Magazine.” You can reach her at www.catginacole.com.