To my experience, traditional witchcraft, unfortunately, is extremely misconceived. This could potentially be because there simply aren’t any books on what actually traditional witchcraft is. You may think that this is a big claim to make, but actually, it is not, given that there is an extensive publication of books on witchcraft that focus on either Wiccan practices or are extensively ‘new-age’ ways (which is not bad, by the way).
I have read quite a few books about witchcraft, and then some that claimed to be traditional witchcraft books, but they seemed to me to be anything but that. How do I know? Very simple. Most of the information out there claim that the practitioner needs to follow the path in a certain way. Thankfully for someone like me, who hates dogmas and rules, this is not the case with true traditional witchcraft.
In fact, traditional witchcraft is a path that has no rules or a “do this and do it this way” kind of attitude whatsoever but is rather a method that has been followed by every traditional witch that has ever existed. The beauty of this path is that it still allows a big amount of eclecticism to be infused by the practitioner. It is free of rules and dogmas. It is merely a method of working that each individual traditional witch can apply to their practice, finding a way to relate to our ancestors.
What is Traditional Witchcraft?
Before I go on about what traditional witchcraft is not, I would rather begin with what it is, as that is a lot simpler.
In simple terms, traditional witchcraft incorporates what is available for the practitioner. It is as simple as that.
Think how a cunning man or woman would act if they lived in the 17th century in a small town. No transport was as available as it is today and internet to order your favourite supplies were non-existent, which means they turned to what they had. The herbs that could grow in the area but also in the climate they lived in, the closest crossroads to them, sources of water they had available, graveyards and so on and so forth.
All of the above were part of the traditional witch’s practice, as well as incorporating folklore and culture.
The beauty of it is that no witch practised (and still practices) the same – and this still applies to traditional witches today. Consider a scenario of three witches, one who lives in the UK, another who lives in Greece, and another in Brazil, all three come from a different culture, they grew up with different folklore (if any at all), they have different herbs available to them and possibly not the same source of natural water they can use (one could have a river available, where another would have the sea) and generally live in very different environments. But that still makes each of them a traditional witch, because they have one thing in common. They work with what they have and they light up their magic, because all they need is their intent to do so.
Thankfully, nowadays, we have the internet and we can purchase herbs and ingredients that wouldn’t normally grow in the area we live in, and that is a great plus. This doesn’t mean that as a traditional witch you should stop buying that St. John’s wort because it can’t be found in the woods behind your home, it means you will incorporate what you have available (pay a trip at the crossroads or the graveyard, for example) along with what you can get your hands on. It also means if you are missing an ingredient, you can probably use one that from your kitchen cabinet of spices, or none at all, even. Adaptation is the key word here.
What it isn’t…
It isn’t rules…
There are literally NO rules in traditional witchcraft. You apply what morals are right for you and you go from there. No one can tell you what is right and what is wrong. This is your practice and you do what feels right to you.
There are certainly no redes or dogmas. You believe whatever you believe and you work with that.
(And magic is certainly not spelt with a ‘k’…. or a ‘j’)
It isn’t tools…
The practitioner of traditional witchcraft is not asked to purchase unnecessary tools that cost a fortune, and it certainly is not about aesthetics. You don’t need a cauldron, because back then, a cauldron was a day-to-day cooking appliance, you can use a cooking pan instead. No need for a wand because it is a more down to earth, operative practice rather than ritualistic, no need for athame or a chalice or whatever. A snuffler maybe, if you choose to snuffle your candles – not that we consider blowing them to be wrong – or any other tools that will be convenient to you and your practice, but certainly aesthetics play little or no role in traditional witchcraft. It does make it or break it.
Many books on traditional witchcraft will mention that you need a stang, an athame, a rope or whatever else. That is incorrect. You don’t need any of these, because simply, traditional witchcraft is not ritualistic. And you needn’t postpone your practice until you ‘find the right stang that calls to you’.
It isn’t witchy clothes…
Breaking news… Witches look like regular people. In traditional witchcraft, our clothes don’t make for who we are and what we practice, it’s simply part of our day-to-day lives. Purchasing clothes for the sake of looking witchy, to me doesn’t make sense, because the witchy look comes from Hollywood misconceptions. A witch can wear jeans and a top. Simple as that.
It isn’t gods…
You don’t have to believe in an arsenal of deities that belong in every pantheon that ever existed. You can carry any religion that fits best for you because (traditional) witchcraft isn’t a religion, it’s a practice.
It isn’t moon phases…
Ok, let’s face it. The moon is gorgeous and yes it leaks of energy, however, a traditional witch doesn’t wait for the right moon phase. Nor the right time of the day on that matter. A traditional witch will do what he/she wants to do and whenever he/she wants to do it.
It isn’t casting circles or compasses…
You simply get your ingredients, you put them on your workstation and you start working. It’s all about getting down and dirty. If you need to go and piss on your target’s front door, would you start casting a circle or a compass before doing that? Or at the crossroads when you’re disposing your spell’s remnants? Answer: NO. It’s all about getting it done, and a circle/compass is simply unnecessary in traditional witchcraft.
Think of it this way, the purpose of casting a circle is to concentrate your space to perform a ritual, however, traditional witchcraft is neither a religion nor a ritualistic path to require a circle/compass.
It isn’t initiations…
I have mentioned this before and will mention it again, I haven’t been initiated to witchcraft and I never felt the need to do it. If we all waiting to be initiated to practice there would be like, 5 witches out there. This is your practice and if you want to start practising now, in an hour or tomorrow, you can do it and no one should tell you to do otherwise. You are no less of a witch if you are not initiated. Your magic is still there and alive – in your heart.
Traditional witchcraft is getting down and dirty, getting the job done, and sometimes you need to get out there and drop that powder where your target will step on. It’s about where you live and where you come from, and what you have available at hand. It can simply be a method that can fit to your own practices and needs. It’s a tradition, but it’s also eclecticism. Because it is all down to you how you will practice it. It is a responsibility and a legacy.