What is a Witch?

Many people do not understand what a witch is and have the wrong impression about the kind of lifestyle a witch actually lives. They believe that witches are the product of the devil and that they practice Satanism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Witches have certain beliefs that vary depending on the type of witchcraft they believe in. Most witches believe in the existence of a god and goddess that together make up the Godhead. The god and goddess represent parts of the earth. For example, the god represents elements of hunting and protection, whereas the goddess represents the fertility of the earth. Other witches believe in the deities represented in African folk magic, or in the ancient Celtic, Greek or Roman cultures.

What Witches believe in

Witches believe strongly in the powers of nature as well as in the four basic earth elements, such as fire, earth, air and water. They use these elements as part of their spell work and throughout their spiritual lifestyle. The practice of witchcraft involves the casting of spells, performing of rituals, the charging of talismans and the charging of amulets. Both talismans and amulets are used for protection and are made for a person who needs them by charging them during a ritual.

The Work Witches Do

Witches have as their creed the belief that they should not harm anyone as part of their practice. Unlike the Christian notion of witches, they do not hex people in a negative way. There is only a minority of practitioners that actually perform curses or hexes and most of them do not even consider themselves “witches”. True practitioners use the powers of nature and the universe for improving and maintaining health, love, self-improvement, protection, luck, money and to banish someone. Spells can be written down in a Book of Shadows or they can be memorized.

Spells that witches cast often have a part that is spoken, a part that involves the setting up of materials and a part that involves a ritual or doing something with the materials. The spells are sometimes done within a magic circle that is cast before the spell is cast. The entire practice is very serious and the intent is to have something take place by intent.

A Look At History

Historically speaking, people did not know what a witch really is. When you look at the history of witchcraft, witches were persecuted for being witches or just for having practices that were deemed not Christian. The Christians of the Middle Ages and of pre-colonial America believed that witches were the product of the devil and they were hung, burned or drowned as punishment (or as proof of their witchcraft connections). This gradually improved and now witchcraft is basically accepted as another type of religion or way of life.

There are many answers to the question, “What is a witch?” There are Wiccans, who follow the Wiccan path, there is traditional witchcraft, which has its own belief system and which believes strongly in the importance of traditions and ancestors, who are honored in their tradition. There is also Egyptian witchcraft, which believes strongly in the importance of the elements of the earth.

All witches believe strongly in the sun, earth, moon and stars as being important elements of their religion. The phases of the moon are important and spells are done during certain phases of the moon. Also important are the solstices and the equinoxes. Some traditions of witchcraft honor eight holidays, four of which come from the solstices and equinoxes.

In conclusion, a witch is a person who practices magic and can either belong to a coven or work as a solitary witch. The coven supports each other and sometimes does rituals together. The coven shares the same set of beliefs and trades spells with one another. They can be healers or practitioners who help people to find love, fortune, luck or protection, among many other things.

The important part: They are not evil and they are not associated with satan or the devil!

Types of Witches

In Select Cases of Conscience touching Witches and Witchcraft (1646) John Gaul defines witches as:

  • The diviner, gypsy, or fortunetelling witch.
  • The astrologian, star-gazing, planetary, procrastinating witch.
  • The chanting, canting, or calculating witch, who works by signs and numbers.
  • The veneficial or poisoning witch.
  • The exorcist or conjuring witch.
  • The gastronomic witch.
  • The magical, speculative, sciential, or arted witch.
  • The necromancer.

A witch must be a hagged old woman, living in a little rotten cottage,
under a hill, by a woodside, and must be frequently spinning at the
door; she must have a black cat, two or three broomsticks, an imp or
two, and two or three diabolical teats to suckle her imps.

Round About Our Coal Fire by W. H. Davenport Adams (circa 1700’s.)

From An Apology for Lollard Doctrines by John Wycliffe

  • Arioler – soothsayer
  • Augerer – diviner
  • Enchantress
  • Haruspex – prognosticator by entrails
  • Phytoness – diviner
  • Sortileger – fortuneteller
  • Aeromancer – Foretelling upcoming events by air.
  • Geomancer – by figures and lines
  • Hydromancer – by water
  • Pyromancer – by fire

In Quæstio de Strigis (c. 1476) Jordanes de Bergamo categorizes a witch as:

  • Bacularia – from riding on a broomstick
  • Gascinatrix – from the evil eye
  • Herberia – from her baneful herbs
  • Maliarda – from the evil eye or mala she works
  • Pixidaria – from her box of magic ointments

In Tractat von Bekanntnuß der Zauberer vnnd Hexen (1589) Peter Binsfeld gave these names for witches:

  • Femina saga – wise woman
  • Lamia – bloodsucking night monster
  • Incantor – worker of charms
  • Magus – wise man
  • Maleficus – worker of evil against man and beast
  • Sortiariae mulier – a woman who prophesies by lots
  • Strix – nocturnal bird
  • Veneficia – poisoner
  • Vir sortilegi – magician.

In his untitled and much banned book (c. 1400) Johannes Pott gave these German words for witches:

  • Hexen (Witches)
  • Töchter des Donners (Daughters of the Thunder)
  • Unholdinnen (immoral Demon or Spirit)
  • Gabelreiterinnen (Riders on Pitchforks)
  • Wettermacherinnen (Weather maker)
  • Zauberinnen (Sorceress)
  • Truten (female turkeys)
  • Wickhersen (Witches)
  • Wicken  (to foretell).

Defined in The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology by Rossell Hope Robbins (1959)

The Kinds of Witches

William West describes the Kinds of Witches in Simboleography (London, 1594) as followed:

Magicians

Magicians be those which by uttering of certain superstitious words
conceived, adventure to attempt things above the course of nature, by
bringing forth dead men’s ghosts, as they falsely pretend, in showing
things either secret or in places far off, and in showing them in any
shape or likeness.

Soothsaying wizards

….divine and foretell things to come, and raise
up evil spirits by certain superstitious and conceived forms of words.
And unto such words as be demanded of them, do answer by voice, or else
set before their eyes in glasses, crystal stones or rings, the pictures
or images of things sought for.

Divinators

The professors of the art of divination which be puffed up with
prophesying spirits. And can manifest who hath stolen things and tell
where things lost or stolen be.

Jugglers

Jugglers and flighty curers of diseases, which for the curing of all
sicknesses and sores of man and beast, use either certain superstitious
words or writings called charms or spells hanged about the neck or some
other part of the body.

Enchanters and Charmers

Enchanters and charmers, through certain words pronounced and characters
or images, herbs or other things applied, think they can do what they
list, the devil so deceiveth them, or in very deed dispatcheth those
things which the enchanters would have done. From these somewhat differ
witches or hags, and augurers or soothsayers by birds, diviners by
seeing the entrails of beasts sacrificed.

Witches

A witch or a hag is she which being [d]eluded by a league made with the
devil through his persuasion, inspiration and juggling, thinketh she can
design what manner of evil things soever, either by thought or
imprecation, as to shake the air with lightnings and thunder, to cause
hail and tempests, to remove green corn or trees to another place, to be
carried of her familiar (which hath taken upon him the deceitful shape
of a goat, swine, or calf, etc.) into some mountain far distant, in a
wonderful short space of time, and sometimes to fly upon a staff or
fork, or some other instrument, and to spend all the night after with
her sweetheart, in playing, sporting, banqueting, dancing, dalliance,
and divers other devilish lusts and lewd disports, and to show a
thousand such monstrous mockeries.

Where Do Witches Come From?

Witches have been bewitching us since time immemorial. Who are they? What are they? What do they do? These are the questions that most of us have always wanted answers to. And as much as we know about witches; it would be more or less some evil and gory magicians casting black magic on people. People have passed on their own versions and theories to us down the ages, and we have simply believed what ever was handed down to us. Now it is time we get our facts straight.

Witches and Wicca

Witches, most generally, is the term given to those who follow the religion of Wicca. Just like practitioners of Christian religion are called Christians, practitioners of Hinduism are called Hindus and so on. Witches are anything but evil; in fact they are strong nature lovers who worship Mother Earth and all its divine beings. Wicca is a neo pagan religion which worships Nature and sees all of its creations as sacred and divine and works towards protecting and nurturing it. They believe in their own God and Goddess and have their own sanctimonious rituals and ceremonies, just like any other religion. Wiccan’s rituals comprise of several spells, which are nothing but rituals and prayers, unlike otherwise believed, and “casting a spell” is merely a phrase that refers to evoking the divine power to ask for its help.

 

Yes, witches do perform magic, but they are strictly bound by the Wiccan rules, which are better known as the Wiccan Rede. This code of witchcraft conduct bars the witches from casting spells to control, manipulate or dominate any individual. They strongly believe in the concept of retribution i.e. they believe that if they do anything bad, they would soon experience its repercussions, threefold the impact, and the same goes for the good actions too.

We must know, that Wicca is a very positive religion and the wiccans or the witches perform only beneficial magic. Contrary to popular beliefs, black magic is not a part of the Wiccan tradition, which thus, proves that witches do not practice black magic. The evil image of a witch has been believed to have been built by those who followed the church customs and were against the Wiccan’s nature-oriented beliefs. Since then, witches have been severely persecuted, tormented and negatively charged with false but dangerous allegations. And witch hunting, a gruesome practice, eventually came into being. And this misconstrued image of the witches has been passed down through the ages and is believed in even today. We see their distorted image in various films, cartoons and fairytales, and that has been drilled into our heads ever since.

There are witches existing even today, but, they don’t look, feel or dress any different from you and me, but due to the negative beliefs, most witches practice in secrecy. Anybody can become a witch, unless of course you hold and believe in their beliefs of nature and its spiritual powers. You have to love nature and treat all of its creations with utmost respect and care. Witches believe and understand a simple fact that nature is the ultimate divine power, and that we are nothing but a mere fragment of its many wonderful and divine creations. Man cannot control nature since we are just a small part of it, and we are not the center of the universe as wrongly believed. It is this understanding and acceptance that differentiates witches from us. If you also share the same understanding and strongly believe in the Wiccan beliefs, then you too can tread on the path to becoming a witch.

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