Witch Basics: Witchcraft FAQs
What a lot of witchy questions you have! So here they are, together with answers from the perspective of a lazy, solitary witch. Welcome to my witchcraft FAQ. Hope you find your answer. If not, get to the bottom of the page and ask. I’m afraid the questions are in no logical order.
Are There Really Such Things as Witches?
Yes. You might be thinking of the Harry Potter variety or, if you’re old enough, Samantha from Bewitched. Witches in real life are just people who practice witchcraft. They might include religious aspects, spell-casting, divination (reading cards, runes, etc.), rituals, herbalism, and all manner of other delicious things.
How Is Witchcraft Practised In the Modern World?
In so many ways that are impossible to describe. A witch might simply describe themselves as a pagan; one who is attuned to nature. Or they might practice ‘high magick’, which is very ritualized and follows certain ‘laws’. In essence, you can take any aspect of life and make it work for you in a witchy way.
Why Am I Attracted to Witchcraft?
This is a question that might be best answered by you doing some digging into your own psyche. Some think it looks cool. Others feel something is missing and witchcraft might supply the missing piece. Often that’s exactly what it does. I suggest you do a little thinking and perhaps write some of those thoughts in a journal. Sometimes, you can’t work out why you are attracted to the craft until you start practicing it.
Are Witches Born or Made?
Both. Many people claim they are from a long line of witches and that’s great. Most of us, however, choose to become witches. Witches are witches because they do witchcraft.
Can Anyone Be a Witch?
Yes, anyone can be a witch. That doesn’t mean that the craft is a suitable path for everyone. For me, personally, a real witch is a person who is generous of spirit and ready to help others. If you’re in it for what you can get out of it, you aren’t a true witch.
Am I Too Young To Be a Witch?
If you have to ask, then you probably are. Witches can be young, of course, but to be competent, you really do need some life experience. Or at least be mature enough to understand that you are right at the beginning of your path. A little humility and the willingness to listen and learn are essential qualities.
Do Witches Perform Real Magic?
Yes, but not in the Harry Potter sense, although candles, incense, and crystals all look pretty cool. Magic tends to happen slowly and in its own good time. Witches learn to trust the process and let go of trying to control how it happens. Often, outcomes become part of life’s next logical step. That might not sound very glamorous, but that’s the way it is.
Are Wicca and Witchcraft the Same Thing?
Not really. Wiccans can be witches, but not all witches are Wiccans. Wicca is simply one tradition of witchcraft. It is more of a religious path in that its followers revere two deities, the Goddess and God. These will have different names and forms in the various traditions. Wicca can sometimes be dogmatic in that there are well-defined structures and rules to follow.
I was part of a Wiccan training coven once, and it was decreed that we had to sew our own robes, spin the wool for our cingulum (a cord worn at the waist and used for various applications such as knotwork spells), then make the blasted thing ourselves. Later we found out that the ‘high priestess’ got her family members to make her stuff. To be truthful, it was this ‘do as I say’ approach that turned me off Wicca. Plus we were informed that our degree initiations had to be performed skyclad. Nope. My witchcraft doesn’t tell me what to do or how to do it. My witchcraft is flexible.
Having ranted a little, I think Wicca can be an excellent place to begin your journey. Having known quite a few Wiccans, I’ve observed that eventually, they find they need something different and leave to become solitaries. Or Druids.
I Tried a Spell and It Didn’t Work - How Do I Fix It?
How do you know it didn’t work? Perhaps it’s still in pre-manifestation? Impatience and lack of trust in the process are magick-dampeners. Next time have a read of this article, How To Begin Witchcraft: Casting Spells first. Understand that the success of the spell depends on how you get into alignment with your desired outcome. You have to feel it into reality. This is why many witches create or follow complex rituals. They are designed to raise consciousness and increase the emotional energy that sets spells alight.
What is a White Witch?
Ugh… there’s no such thing. People use the term ‘white witch’ to sugar-coat their witchcraft or to pretend they are something they are not. Witches are people, and people are never ever purely good or purely evil. Witches come in all flavors (just to thoroughly mix those metaphors); each has an individual perspective. What is good and above reproach to one person, will appear manipulative to another. So when someone tells you they are a white witch, just roll your eyes.
Are Witches Evil Creatures of the Night?
Oh yes. When night falls, I get all evil. No, of course not, we’re human beings with thoughts and emotions just like you.
Why is Witchcraft so Complicated?
It does seem complex when you first become interested. But that’s a good thing because there’s always something to learn, something to become involved in. Yet, you can make it as simple as you like. I am one of those who doesn’t think you need anything else but intention to be a witch. OK, I do have more than 50 tarot decks and a lot of candles. When you start, keep it simple. Create a study path if you like so as not to get overwhelmed. So pick an aspect of witchcraft or Wicca and learn that before moving to the next.
How Do I Tell My Parents I’m a Witch?
That depends on your parents, I’d say. I was well grown-up when I started so didn’t need to tell anyone. I just let my actions speak for me. So, you might decide to dress a little witchy, wear a little silver moon jewelry, and let parents (and other people) draw their own conclusions. If you are young, your parents aren’t going to happily wave you off as you disappear into the nearest woodland at midnight, so don’t expect them to. Adapt your practice to your age. Show that you are sensible and responsible and they are more likely to take you seriously when you ask them to buy you a tarot deck for your birthday.
What Is a Witch’s Source of Power?
Great question, even though I wrote it myself. A witch’s source of power is exactly the same as anyone else’s: it is your emotions. They are like a battery pack of energy. People who are good at getting what they want use them without even thinking about it. Other ancillary power sources are intention and visualization. When you can nail all three and use them appropriately, you will be a powerful witch, for sure.
What Exactly Is This Energy You Keep Talking About?
Back in the day, around the turn of the 20th century, there were a bunch of US and British writers who wrote material called ‘New Thought.’ This material often referenced something that the writers believed was all around us. One author, Wallace Wattles, called it the ‘thinking stuff.’ He believed that it was the energy that everything is made of. Well, it turns out he was pretty close. Quantum physics has taught us that the universe is made of particles. There is no actual delineation between objects, people, or air. Everything is connected. The only thing that defines them is the speed of the particles’ vibration. So the vibrational level of a table is much lower than the vibrational level of air.
Some scientists call this field of energy the Zero Point Field. This is a reference to the fact that even in total ‘empty space’, there is still a trace of energy, meaning there is no empty space out there as far as we know. And some mystics call this ‘universal energy’ and even, ‘God’.
So when witches and other magical practitioners cast their spells, they are attempting to impress their wishes onto this energy field. As are Christians when they pray to God. It’s all the same thing.
Is Witchcraft a Sin?
What is a sin? No-one seems to be able to define it properly. If by sin, you mean ‘bad,’ then witches are just like other people. Some are lovely, some are mean, and some do bad things. I reckon that if you deliberately use witchcraft to harm someone, then that’s bad.
How Do I Get Started?
I have some ideas about how you can start your journey into the craft. If you are young, you might like Teenwitch: How To Learn Witchcraft. If you simply want to incorporate a little magic into your life, perhaps you’d like 50 Ways To Be Witchy Every Day.
Can I Cast Spells Right Away?
I really don’t advise it. You have to know what you are doing, and you have to spend some time thinking about whether a spell is absolutely necessary. Any spell that attempts to manipulate another person is a no-no. Witches must take responsibility for their actions, so undertake some study first. While you're at it, why not create a Personal Code of Ethics? This is a manifesto of your personal boundaries, so you might include honesty, reliability, self-responsibility, and not performing magick that might harm another, either physically, mentally, or psychically.
Is Witchcraft a Religion?
It can be. It’s a personal choice. Some witches enjoy the religious aspects. Others don’t. Those who do tend to worship the God and Goddess. Some call them Father Sky and Mother Earth. Some prefer ancient pantheons like the Roman and Greek Gods. Others are all about the Celtic connection. Really, if you are drawn to these paths, the world’s your oyster. For me, the spiritual side is all about nature. And rock music.
What Is Traditional Witchcraft?
Traditional witchcraft is when the witch follows a path that has been defined by those who have gone before. There are certain guidelines and practices. So it can be anything from Traditional British Witchcraft to Scandinavian, to Voudou (Voodoo). There are too many variations to mention. See the link to 60 Traditions at the end.
Why Do I Have To Use All That Paraphernalia?
You don’t. You need to know that supplying witches is an industry, and some of it is not particularly ethical. Before you rush off to buy loads of crystals, research where they come from and whose labor is used to mine them. My personal preference is to use items that I have around the house. The kitchen is a fertile field of potential witchcraft tools. As is the garden, and any woodland or beach walk.
Why Do Witches Have To Be Close to Nature?
It’s not obligatory, but a genuine witch usually enjoys feeling connected to nature. Standing on a beach during a squall is one example of feeling the power of nature. Sitting with your back against a tree is another. Walking barefoot on grass is another. The Earth is our home, our protector, our provider, so it’s just good manners to acknowledge how much we depend on her.
Isn’t Witchcraft Illegal?
It probably is in some places. Check your local laws.
Should I Tell My Friends?
You have to decide. Know that many people are scared of witchcraft because they don’t know what it’s really about. Also, they might try to hide their ignorance by laughing at you. As mentioned previously, it might be better to have a baby-step strategy in place. So, start by changing what you wear (don’t worry, this is usually a temporary thing - I wear jeans and tops and generally look normal - I hope). So rather than telling them, you are demonstrating where your interests lie.
Do Rituals Have to Be Performed Naked?
Absolutely not. And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Some witches do like to work skyclad, and that is because they feel that they are one with that old energy we talked about earlier. However, the universe doesn’t care two hoots about your clothes or lack of them. Again, never allow anyone to persuade you against your better judgment. By all means, try it in the privacy of your own home to see if there’s any difference.
What is a Coven?
A coven is a group of witches, usually with a leader called a High Priest/ess. They meet at regular times and may work a group ritual. There might also be other things going on like neophyte training, talks, guided visualization, healing, etc. Problems can arise when there are disputes over power-sharing, and it can all get a little political.
Covens can be made up of any number of people. It used to be said that there had to be 13 members but that’s not true.
What Does a High Priestess Do?
A good High Priest/ess is well versed in their path. They are wise, generous with their time, and patient. They practice positive leadership qualities and set an example for the other members. The High Priest/ess conducts rituals and also encourages the other members to step forward and take control at times. In many Wiccan covens, the High Priest/ess is an ordained minister.
One word of advice: avoid a self-proclaimed HP. They are probably unqualified and poor leaders.
What Are Degrees of Initiation?
There are usually three, sometimes four degrees that Wiccans negotiate as they traverse their path. The first is usually conferred after a year and a day of study and participation. The others also mark various stages of progression, and they will be according to the individual coven’s practices. The final degree generally means that the member has attained High Priest/ess status and, if they wish, may hive off to found their own coven. Bear in mind; any good coven will have extremely high standards of attainment. A Third Degree initiate will not only have to know their own tradition inside and out, but they will also be able to demonstrate excellent people and leadership skills.
Why Is the Moon So Important To Witches?
Witches love the moon. As most are female, we have an affinity for this heavenly body that affects our cycles as much as it affects the cycles of our planet. We love her silvery goodness as she changes all the time, yet remains so constant. Who has not gasped at the sight of the beautiful and mysterious crescent moon hanging in the darkening sky like a jewel? Who has not felt their heart expand with love in the glory of the full moon? And felt a rush of energy when the magical light is glimpsed through rolling clouds during a storm? Oh yes, the moon.
How Can I Know if Someone Has Cast a Spell On Me?
Hmm… well, you can’t know for sure unless they tell you. If you feel that there is some negative supernatural force at work in your life, you can take certain steps to neutralize it. It’s best not to perform spells that send the negativity back to its originator just in case you are mistaken. You can be sure that nature has a way of redressing the balance. Instead, you can perform a banishing, a cleansing, and/or a protection ritual. Repeat them until you feel the bad stuff has dissipated.
How Can I Protect Myself When Working Magic?
The best way is to cast a circle before beginning your ritual. Having said that, I rarely do this anymore. Nothing bad has ‘got’ to me over the years. I think the easiest way is not to do magic that could cause harm. If you have love in your heart and intentions, you will be safe from the ‘nasties.’
Why Do Witches Wear a Pentacle?
Not all witches wear a pentacle (a five-pointed star in a circle). But it is pretty, and I am wearing mine right now. The pentagram, the star, represents the four directions/elements presided over by spirit (universal energy). You might not wear it, but it’s lovely to have one. I bought mine in Tintagel, the village where King Arthur is said to have been conceived. Or it might have been down the road at Boscastle where the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is situated. I know we were looking in both places for the perfect one. Mine is delicate and has a moonstone at its center.
Isn’t Witchcraft the Same as Black Magic?
No. Witchcraft can be anything from baking a cake to making a love philtre for your best friend. Black magic is usually malicious and designed to cause harm or misfortune. Remember, if you try anything like this, sooner or later you will reap its rewards… and I don’t mean that in a happy way.
Why Do All Witches Look Like Goths?
Ha ha. They don’t. It’s true that there is a certain sector of witches who are addicted to wearing black, but not all of us do. I am wearing a black t-shirt, but that’s only because it was the closest when I reached into my closet this morning. It's important to know that you can't call yourself a witch unless you own a pair of stripy tights or leggings.
Is Wicca a Cult?
No, although I expect it can look like it from the outside. It’s more of a club than a cult. If you join a Wiccan group or coven and you feel that there are elements of culti-ness about it, don’t go back.
Are All Witches Women?
No. Witches can be of any gender. It’s true that women are more prevalent—that’s probably because so many aspects of witchcraft are aligned with traditional ‘womanly’ activities… but all that is different these days.
Can I Be a Christian Witch?
Yes, there are many Christian witches. Christians are often surprised to discover that the basic tenets of modern witchcraft are aligned with Christian principles.
So Why Does the Bible Say, “Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live”?
There is an awful lot of debate around this topic, but the modern consensus is that the word “mekhashepha” was mistranslated as ‘sorcerer’. When the Greeks got hold of it, the word was translated as “pharmakaea”. See where this is going? Scholars now believe that it was commonly connected to herbalists. And what it originally meant was ‘poisoner’.
By the time the Romans got hold of it, the word, “mekhashepha” was translated as ‘maleficos’. And this translation was used in the infamous witch-destroying manual, Malleus Malificarum, "The Witches’ Hammer.”
Now pause for a moment and think how many innocent lives have been lost over the centuries because of that tiny mistake.
Why Are Rituals Performed at Night in the Woods?
I have to be honest: I’ve never performed a ritual at night in the woods. I might have ventured out into my garden at times, but generally, I do my spells at home. Indoors. I would love to go and perform a late night woodland ritual - I’m adding it to my bucket list.
What’s the Point of Casting a Circle?
There’s no point in a circle. Oh, I’m just wasted here. Circles are essential in witchcraft ritual, though not always necessary. They have several functions: they provide protection, they contain the energy before it’s sent ‘out there,’ and they also offer a framework for the ritual in that the circle is cast before, then closed at the end.
What Do Witches Think of Children?
Aw, we love kids, especially on toast. Witches can be parents, or not, the same as anyone else. Modern day witches tend not to hide their witchiness from their children. I never involved mine in ritual, in the the same way I wouldn’t make them go to church. They will form their own faith, or not when they are adults. I home-schooled my children, and I do feel that my path was part of all that. We did a lot of nature study and, of course, walking in the woods. My middle son has just finished college after completing a high-level qualification in woodland management.
What About Death?
Death is just another stage of life. We’re all headed that way. Witches like to honor those who have gone before. Especially those who lost their lives in the name of the craft. We like to make friends with death; there’s nothing to be afraid of.
So... Got a Question?
In no way do I claim that these answers are THE answers. What’s right for one person is wrong for another. So just because I hold a certain perspective, doesn’t mean it’s the only one. What I suggest is that you keep asking, keep searching and, most importantly, keep an open mind. Witches are curious souls and eventually most work out that being a witch is so individualistic that everyone can develop their own particular style and practice.
For further information about the different kinds of witchcraft traditions, see What Kind of Witch Are You? 60 Witchcraft Traditions.