The craft practiced by those who may be recognized as a “witch” is an evolving methodology. Webster’s Dictionary defines “craft” within this context as “a special skill, art or dexterity…an occupation requiring special skill…members of a skilled trade.” An exploration of what it means to be a witch and the special skills involved may help bring into focus what witchcraft truly is, what it has been, and what it may become.
The study of witchcraft is relevant to many because according to recent surveys, Wicca, the religion that embraces witchcraft, is the fastest‐growing spiritual movement among certain age groups in the English speaking world. We read in People Of The Earth, during an interview with Oberon Zell‐Ravenheart, “Well, the growth is exponential, and this explosion of growth will continue. As it does, we will have larger numbers of people…We have to find ways of dealing with that, because we will be getting more people all the time.” Though not all Wiccans are witches and not all witches are Wiccan, there is enough correlation to link the two for purposes of general study.
Non magick‐using people generally consider magick to be “not real.” Cultural conditioning enforces this belief in the adult population with a “get real” or “grow up” response to those fairytale ages in children. Other non-magick‐working people believe magick to be supernatural or paranormal. However, witches work from a context within which magick is natural, normal, and is in fact often necessary to successful healthy living.
Witchcraft is Paganism’s active arm: that is, it is the active response to a belief system in which humans coexist seamlessly with Nature. Nature includes that which can be seen, as well as that which is unseen. The worldwide historical exceptions to this view are modern religious expressions which are non‐animist, non-pantheistic, and largely monotheistic religions existing within major sects today.
Charlene Spretnak says in Lost Goddess Of Early Greece (1978), “When compared to the religions of the Goddess in Europe and elsewhere, the Judeo‐Christian tradition was born yesterday. In fact, the very notion of supreme deity being male, i.e., ultimate power, is a relatively recent invention. Zeus first appeared around 2,500B.C. and Abraham, the first patriarch of the Old Testament, is dated by Biblical scholars at 1800 B.C.; in contrast, some of the Goddess statues are dated at 25,000 B.C.”
Witchcraft is an evolving human construct whose modern manifestation provides form and foundation for what is thought by some to be a vibrant, viable, psycho‐religious worldview. For those who consider themselves a “witch,” a cultural identity is oftentimes formed through research and active participation in the contemporary “craft.” Witchcraft today is practiced by diverse people in a pan‐global context that has a wide footprint with many differences, and yet it has even more fundamental similarities.
Witchcraft is the technology employed by a pan‐global minority population to accomplish the skill‐set unique to them; that skill‐set being magick, or “The Craft.” Witchcraft is believed to be a natural reaction to life, and also believed to be a survival technique developed by humans as consciousness distinguished itself in social evolution. Witchcraft is also believed to be the external expression of humanity’s psychic connection to that which can be perceived as the Universe. It is an organic, cooperative relationship with the Universe carried on at deliberately heightened states of awareness and sensitivity.
The creation of magick is not unique to witches, but the populations of magick‐using people are so small in ratio to non‐magick‐using people that a detailed discussion of the difference between magickal people is fit for further study elsewhere.
The use of the terms “witchcraft” and “witch” as definitive identifiers has evolved. The power to name an aspect of life has long been recognized as the fundamental step in acquiring power over that aspect, for as it is stated in The Witch Book (2002), “To know the most secret name of a god is to have power over that deity… certain names are believed to have intrinsic power…” Therefore, those in control of defining “witchcraft” have controlled the basic role of human relationship to those named. The use of the “K” at the end of the culturally accepted word “magic” is an example of reclaiming the definitive power process for magick‐using people. Popularized by Alistair Crowley, the “K” is used to distinguish the work of the magick‐users from that of the stage magician or illusionist.
The definitive term, “witchcraft,” is now in the hands of those who identify themselves with it. In this respect, the actual practice of modern witches is what defines them; therefore witchcraft becomes a uniquely discernible phenomenon to be considered in the context of varying skill sets and an emerging identity. In this way, it continues to evolve with a distinct form and face within a greater community of nature‐based peoples.
As The Craft is practiced by modern people in an age of eclecticism, its boundaries have become wider with shades of gray that can overlap extensively with other contemporary holistic practices. Also, as a non‐dogmatic worldview, witchcraft often coexists in belief and practice with other religious, scientific, occult, spiritual, fantastical or agnostic views that the practitioner might hold.