- The Religion
- Witchcraft is a spiritual practice, a way of life, a belief
system and a religion. Witchcraft is the religion that sets the
foundation of belief. The denominations of Witchcraft are called
Traditions. They further define and implement the foundation
of beliefs into their own perspectives of practice. Defining
their own creed, troth or rede of faith to provide guidance and
principles for that tradition.
- Witchcraft comes in many forms or Traditions. Many are based
on historical evidence, others from archeological and anthropological
discoveries. Some are passed down through cultural practices.
But many are based on oral traditions passed down through families,
communities or cultures. Perhaps this passing down of information
is where the word "Tradition" comes from as it relates
to sects of Witchcraft. There are many Traditions within the
religion of Witchcraft. One of the more commonly known today
is Wicca which has become one of the most popular traditions
in America. It needs to be understood that Wicca is not the religion,
but rather one of many denominations of the religion.
- Think of it this way:
- The tradition is to Witchcraft what a denomination is to
- That is to say: Wicca is to Witchcraft what Baptist is to
- You can read more about this historical perspective in the
Is Witchcraft A Religion article.
- The Creation of a Tradition
- There are many different types of Traditions. Just as in
the familiar Christian faith, you'll find Catholics, Baptists,
Methodist and so on. Each denomination is Christian at it's base,
but the implementation of the doctrine and practices might be
slightly different. Similarly there are variations in traditions
and practices within Witchcraft.
- A tradition can be established in various ways. The most
common comes from Hiving. All covens, clans and groups establish
their own set practices based on their chosen tradition. As the
coven grows and initiates new Priests/Priestess, these individuals
often break off from the original coven and establish their own
coven groups. This is called Hiving. A hive might be a closely
related coven to the original coven, it can be an expansion of
ideas and practices, or it can implement an alternative practice
of the original coven.
- A good example of this is Gerald Gardner's tradition of Wicca.
In 1939 he became involved with the Fellowship of Crotona, an
occult group of Co-Masons, a Masonic Theosophist Annie Besant.
The members claimed to be hereditary Witches who practiced a
Craft passed down to them through the centuries of family training.
In 1946, Gardner was introduced to Aleister Crowley. Crowley
made Gardner an honorary member of the Ordo Temli Orientis (OTO),
a magikal order at one time under Crowley's leadership. Reportedly
learning a large amount of magikal practices from Crowley.
- Based on these earlier coven training and his own historical
research, Gardner developed specific rituals, learning criteria
and initiation tests for his new denomination of the Craft. In
1953 he initiated Doreen Valiente into his coven. The two collaborated
on writing ritual and non-ritual material, a body of work which
continues to stand as the authority for what became known as
the Gardnerian tradition of Witchcraft or what many know today
- Most covens and their eventual traditions are formed in this
same way. A teacher often reads, researches and grows beyond
their teacher. They expand their knowledge along with their understandings
of spirit, nature and beliefs. Being exposed to other religions
and other people can also provide for alternative views and beliefs.
A well educated teacher/initiated Priest/Priestess will take
this knowledge and add it to their practices for their new coven.
In doing so, they can establish a new Tradition of Witchcraft.
- The Traditions of Witchcraft
- All traditions of Witchcraft are based on the ancient craft
traditions in one form or another. Often they have been influenced
by regional customs and existing spiritual beliefs. As the human
existence evolves, so does the human belief and understanding
of their place in the Universe. Remaining the same with the exact
same beliefs and practices will do a disservice over time.
- This is one of the greatest characteristics of Witchcraft.
As humans evolve and grow, so does our religion. We do not ignore
the advances of sciences, we examine new understandings and contemplate
how they add to, confirm or provide alternative views of current
beliefs. Traditions are therefore the result of a successful
melding of ancient Pagan traditions, Cultural histories and legends,
Metaphysical concepts and experiences and modern advancements
- There are three major categories of Witchcraft traditions.
- Classical Witchcraft
- Early Nordic which included the Germanic languages, Dutch,
Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish peoples.
- Gothic Witchcraft
- Celtic, Anglo-Saxon which includes Druid, Irish, Scottish,
and English, as well as, many of the French, and Italian cultures.
- Neo-Pagan Witchcraft
- Modern sects which have primarily been influenced by the
melding of all previous traditions through evolution and expansion
of those historical denominations.
- The following is a small sampling of many different traditions.
This by no means is a complete list.
- Classical Craft
- Encompasses many traditional rituals with a basis of Egyptian
magik and often follow the ceremonies outlined in the ancient
- A tradition begun in Italy around 1353. Often associated
with it's founder, a woman called Aradia.
- The Teutons have been recognized as one of the earliest and
formal practioners of the craft. Their ways of practicing the
Craft are also known as Nordic.
- Many people add Romani (which is a Germanic Gypsy practice)
to this list. Others argue this gypsy traditions is based more
in the tradition of Gypsy con artists than spirituality. It's
an argument that is not easily discussed or resolved.
- Gothic Craft
- Of Scottish traditions, this sect is also known as Hecatine.
It continues to encompass many of the festivals and celebrations
of the Scots.
- A mix of Celtic/Druidic pantheon energy. This sect focuses
heavily on the elements, nature and the Ancient
Ones. With a great knowledge of healing and the magikal qualities
of nature, including plants, animals and stones, this tradition
is most commonly linked to in the Neo-Pagan sects. Aided by the
little people, gnomes and fairies, Celtic magik is full of fun,
mirth and mythology.
- A combination of Celtic and Native American traditions, specifically
Cherokee. Focused primarily on Celtic origins. Formed in the
Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the Carolinas and southwestern
Virginia, it's a tradition born from intercultural exchanges
and marriages between these two cultures.
- Deborean Wicca
- An American eclectic tradition which attempts to reconstruct
Wicca as it was before 'The Burning Times' or the European witch
- A very famous husband and wife team from England, Janet and
Stewart Farrar compiled and researched many of the ancient and
modern sects to pull the best parts of all into one. Many of
today's modern sects are in one way or another based on these
studies and compiled materials.
- Based on family traditions passed on generation to generation,
(does not included Channeling). Also called "Family Trades",
it is up for debate how far back on the family tree one must
go to meet the conditions of this sect. The traditions can be
passed on to blood relatives or adopted offspring which have
been raised within the family ceremonies and rituals. The beliefs
are typically Celtic in nature, but include a smattering of many
of the current and ancient structures, as well as, many home
- Also of Scottish tradition, this sect focuses heavily on
all aspects of nature. It is a solitary form of Craft.
- Neo-Pagan Craft
- Founded in the 1960s by Alex
Sanders in England, this sect is loosely based on the Gardenarian
beliefs. Sanders built his sect in England and called himself
"King" of the Coven.
- British Traditional
- A mix of Celtic and Gardenarian rituals it is the most famous
organization in the International Red Garters society. This sect
is based on the Farrar studies of Wicca and is exceptionally
structured in belief and ritual. A witch becomes part of the
Coven through a training, education and degree process.
- Also called "the Feminist" movement of the craft,
this sect focuses on the Goddess aspect of Witchcraft. It was
first brought to major attention in 1921 by Margaret Murray and
includes aspects of many Classical and Gothic traditions.
- This is a label for the "everything else" in Witchcraft.
It does not follow any particular tradition, ritual or ceremonial
practices. Rather practioners focus on what "feels"
best and most comfortable to them. Study and practice is than
based on information gathered from books, or other practicing
- Faeri/ Faery Wicca
- This tradition places an emphasis on the Fae (gnomes, elves,
faeries, sprites, etc.), their lore, and their relation to the
natural world. Many associate this tradition with an ancient
fairy race called the Tuatha De Danaan, the mythological precursors
to the Celtic people. It is often, but not always, associated
with the Faery tradition founded by author Kisma Stepanich.
- Feri Wicca
- Not to be confused with Faeri Wicca. Feri Wicca is based
on Victor Anderson's (1917-2001) was developed in the late 1950's
and early 1960's. It is an ecstatic, rather than a fertility,
tradition stemming from the teachings of Cora and Victor Anderson
. Strong emphasis is placed on sensual experience and awareness,
including sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual
- Gardnerian Wicca / Wicca
- Named after it's founder Gerald Gardner in England during
the 1950s. Gardner wanted to ensure that the Old Religion not
become extinct by all the new found knowledge and inter-mixing
of beliefs. He took his cause to the media at great personal
risk to bring his cause and information to a new younger audience
in order to bring growth and life to the ancient traditions.
- Based on the Saxon beliefs, this sect is very closely related
to the Gardnerian traditions. Without breaking his oath, founder
Raymond Buckland wanted to pull the ancient rituals into modern
language and acceptable ceremonies. In 1973 his dream became
a reality with the organization of Seax-Wicca, bringing Witchcraft
into the public as a very positive force.
- Additional Reading
Witchcraft A Religion?
Creation of Modern Witchcraft
- An Evolution
of WitchCraft (Timeline)
Witch is Which? - Labels & Titles
Source: 1, c3,
- Created: 10.02.1996 Updated: