Witchcraft 101 - An Introduction
The study and practice of witchcraft vary in many different ways; between cultures, countries, and even individuals. Ask three witches, and you’ll get four answers.
Modern witchcraft is an extremely personal practice, and there really is no wrong way to be a witch. That being said, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about witches and witchcraft that just won’t seem to die. In this introduction to our series on witchcraft, we will be addressing why these myths are wrong, and what the truth is behind them, as well as offering some recommended reading for beginners and seasoned practitioners alike.
This series aims to give a basic cover on various aspects of witchcraft for any of those who should like to use it, whether you are a baby witch searching for some advice to start with, a seasoned practitioner looking for a refresher, or if you’re simply curious about this whole witch thing people keep going on about. These articles will not be comprehensive by any means, they are there to simply serve as a rudimentary induction to some of the broader concepts within witchcraft.
With all that said and done, let’s get stuck in!
Myth #1: Witches are evil and worship Satan.
This is a myth that has deep historical roots. Despite a long history of persecution for their Devil devotion, beginning around the Middle Ages, many witches don’t even believe in Satan, let alone worship him. Satan is a Christian construct, and while some witches are Christian, many Pagan, Wiccan, and Secular witches have nothing whatsoever to do with the entity.
This stereotype of witches as Satan worshippers persists in the public imagination, as well as in popular culture. In fact, a lot of iconography from witchcraft has been appropriated into this Hollywood idea of Satanism. For example, the pentagram is a representation of the elements (air, earth, water, fire and spirit) and a symbol of balance and protection, but is often turned upside down and made to represent something far more sinister.
Witches are not “the Devil’s Handmaidens”, many don’t even believe in hell, and there’s nothing satanic in witchcraft whatsoever.
Myth #2: All Witches are female.
Whether female, male, or any form of non-binary, you can be a witch. While it is true there’s a history of women being associated primarily with witchcraft, this is in part because of the history of women being silenced and using witchcraft to tap into their own power and subvert the system, and in part due to women being accused of witchcraft far more than men during periods of witch trials. Magick is genderless. It’s your actions and intentions that make you a witch, not your gender identity.
The idea that non-female practitioners should have a different name, such as warlock or wizard (Thanks for that one, J.K.) remains fairly controversial, it’s often suggested or assumed by outsiders of the community, and feels like a half-hearted attempt to gender-ize witchcraft and make it more palatable to an audience used to gender distinctions. Warlock, for example, stems partly from its root in Old English, meaning ‘oathbreaker’ or ‘deceiver’, and often in popular culture has negative connotations.
Ultimately, though, anyone practicing witchcraft may call themselves a witch. Whether they do or not is entirely up to them.
Myth #3: Certain types of Magick are evil (i.e. Black and White Magick).
Magick can be used selfishly or selflessly, as with all things. There is nothing about magick in of itself that is inherently evil or inherently good. It is nothing more than a tool, how it is used is entirely up to the individual. The terms ‘black magick’ and ‘white magick’ are extremely outdated, inaccurate, and have some rather concerning connotations. To begin with, they are notorious for having racist undertones, not just in the name. Rituals and practices that are labeled as ‘black magick’, and therefore mistakenly classified as bad or evil, are often from traditions such as Hoodoo.
Myth #4: You can’t really be a witch, it’s all just make-believe.
Being a witch is simply being aware of your own power, and putting that power into action. Magick is mundane, for the most part. Spells consist of setting intentions and performing a ritual, be that lighting a candle, meditation, stirring your tea clockwise, etc. Writing out gratitude lists, or repeating a mantra can be a spell. The vast majority of us aren’t expecting to be able to grab a broom and fly off, we simply believe the world is filled with energy, and through rituals and intentions, we can harness that energy.
Myth #5: All Witches are Religious.
While some witches are indeed religious, some followers of Wicca, some Pagan worshipping an ancient God or Gods, some even Christian (yes, there are Christian witches) there are many more who don’t believe in any kind of Diety. Practicing magick doesn’t depend on belief or worship, which is one of the reasons witches are such a diverse group. The idea that all witches are religious feeds into another prominent myth:
Witchcraft and Wicca are the same thing.
Myth #5.2: Witchcraft and Wicca are the same thing.
Wicca is based on ancient beliefs, witchcraft itself is an ancient practice. Wicca is a relatively new religion, it combines surviving folk traditions with more modern elements, and is loosely based in Western European pagan rites and rituals, as well as holding aspects of nature-based spirituality. While the majority of Wiccans certainly practice witchcraft, many witches do not practice Wicca.
Now we’ve done some myth-busting; here’s a short list of books that are great for anyone starting out in the craft. Some of the following books are research based, some are manuals, some are more practical, and I’ve tried to keep the list as secular as possible, should you want to branch out into Wicca or Paganism, that’s great, but a good base knowledge is always useful!
Psychic Witch by Mat Auryn
The Green Witch by Arin Murphy Hiscock
The Witch’s Book of Self Care by Arin Murphy Hiscock
The House Witch by Arin Murphy Hiscock
Weave the Liminal by Laura Tempest Zakroff
Gay Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak
Six Ways by Aidan Wachter
Weaving Fate by Aidan Wachter
A Modern Guide to Witchcraft by Skye Alexander
Herbal Magick by Gerina Dunwich
The Book of Spells by Michael Johnstone
Year of the Witch by Temperance Alden
Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen
Honoring your Ancestors by Mallorie Vaudoise
Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall
The Crystal Bible by Judy Hall Cunningham’s
Encyclopedia of Magickal Herbs by Scott Cunningham
Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Henry Cornelius Agrippa
A Course of Instruction of Magic Theory & Practice by Franz Bardon
Remember any advice in any books you read or in anything you read from our articles, should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Any advice you read is just that: advice. Your own intuition is what’s most important when practicing witchcraft. Also, of course, you don’t have to read every single one of these books, just have a look and see which one’s call to you.
So, welcome, and we hope you’ll continue to join us on this dive into the weird and wonderful world of the witch!