Thursday, September 15, 2011

Defining the Witch

A friend and I are what I would term "traditional witches". That is, we draw our practices and spiritual beliefs from folklore and pre-Gardner witchcraft. (I distinguish this from, say, Cochrane's craft, which is not what one would term "pre-Gardner", and like Wicca has much in the way of Ceremonial influences.)

We find that in books on the occult and modern witchcraft, what we do is often ignored. Witchcraft becomes narrowed down to Wicca-flavoured variations, without acknowledgement of more traditional forms of witchcraft. This is partly because there are few of us, partly because what we do isn't very specific. There can be massive variations from witch to witch, and in particular between a traditional witch and a Wicca-flavoured witch. We don't fall within a particular definition, nor is witchcraft inherently religious, nor is it a form of Paganism. We're not trying to criticise these paths, just the narrowing of "witch" in this way, and the lack of variation in many books on the subject. A book on witchcraft is likely to be about a particular form thereof - which is good, but still leaves a gap when it comes to discussing witchcraft in a more general sense.

What we would like is a book about witchcraft as a whole. Not one that uses "witchcraft" to refer to just one path, or even just one religion. Not one, either, that over-generalises across all paths and lumps them into one, to suggest that all witches are Pagans or even theists. We'd like to see a book that discusses many different forms of witchcraft in a proper way.

We aren't sure this book exists. So, we're keen to write one. This will take time, and it will take a great deal of research also. If nothing else, "witchcraft" is an incredibly difficult thing to define. What distinguishes witchcraft from other forms of magical practice, like Ceremonialism? What counts, and what is distinct? Is it proper to call, say, Hoodoo witchcraft? Is one a witch by virtue of practising witchcraft, or is there some moment when you become a witch, or truly realise what it means to be one?

As a part of this, we are very interested in what the witchcraft community at large has to say. If you have answers to these questions, either specifically or more or less covered in a blog post or forum post you've written previously, please let us know by posting or putting a link to it in the comments, or by sending me an email.

How do you personally define "witchcraft"?
What beliefs do you think all witches share?
What practices do you think all witches share?
How does one know when or if one is a witch? Does practising witchcraft make one a witch automatically, or is it something you become?
What was the first time you really felt like a witch?
What specific practices, in their own right, do you consider to be witchcraft?
What topics or issues do you wish were covered in more books on witchcraft? If you were designing your perfect book on witchcraft, what would you want to see included?

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