Every day online, people are being bombarded with misinformation. From the Westboro Baptist Church to Fox News to ex-gay reparative therapy success stories like Michelle Bachman’s husband, the world is full of people who will lie to you because they desperately want to believe in the bullshit they’re spouting. It’s just a part of human nature, and it’s something that we, as witches, need to remain aware of. Sometimes people say untrue things to your face, and don’t even know that they are lying.
Take a five year old who tells you that Santa is coming to his house on Christmas to drop off gifts. It’s adorable. It’s cute. It’s something his parents told him on purpose. It’s not his fault that he believes it, because he’s five years old. Well, that’s the same as when people say “I’m Wiccan, but I don’t practice witchcraft. You can be Wiccan and not a witch.” It’s funny, it might even be cute in its obvious naivety, and it’s usually touted by total n00bs who are pretty ignorant about witchcraft and Wicca, but anyone with a functional brain can see that it’s patently false. The real question here is, “Why would anyone want to be Wiccan, but not a witch?” It’s like saying that you’re Christian, but not a member of an Abrahamic religion. Christian, but not monotheistic (zip it for five seconds you fabulous Mormon anomalies; we’re trying to make a point).
The simple truth is that Wicca is a type of witchcraft. The old adage is true: Not every witch is a Wiccan. Wicca is just one type of witchcraft. You can certainly practice other types of witchcraft, from Tubal Cain to Sabbatic Craft to… Sorry, we don’t really know of any other kinds because we’re ego-centric Wiccanate privilegers and well, we don’t need to know about any other kinds (love you, Feri peeps. Keep up that noble activist shit for the rest of us!) So while not every witch is a Wiccan, every single last Wiccan on this planet is, in fact, a witch. Or they’re full of shit about being a Wiccan.
All of this discussion relies on one thing, and that lynchpin to this neurologically-delayed internet argument is unsurprisingly the one thing the witchcraft community on the interwebz likes to argue about the most: definitions. The definition of witchcraft that one uses will dictate what falls into that category, and what does not. Noting this simple truth, we concede that if your definition of witchcraft requires the sacrifice of one fluffy bunny per sabbat, and you simply don’t adhere to that rule, then according to your own guidelines, you can be a Wiccan without practicing witchcraft, and we want to sign up for this fabulous new type of the Arte magical. But let’s be real, the mistake that people are making online when championing this mentally disabled theory is in thinking that the only definition of witchcraft is casting a spell. And when I say casting a spell, I mean only in the most rudimentary, Hollywood type version of the phrase (i.e. DO MAGICK THINGS TO MAKE SHIT HAPPEN IRL OMG RULE OF THREE REDEREDEREDE!!!11one)
This can be best explained as the simplest of all assumed thaumaturgical (if it’s not a word, it is now, says us) endeavors:
- Light one green candle on a Thursday with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice on it
- Cast spell
But anyone with a brain will easily recognize two things: the spell and its ingredients above is way beyond the knowledge of most people claiming to be Wiccan but not witches, and that witchcraft encompasses so very much more than this. Typically within Wicca, many practitioners will not practice magic on the Sabbats, because you’re supposed to celebrate a holiday as your main endeavor. They can, but they tend not to unless it’s needed. That shit is usually best left to the full moon esbat or other astrologically ideal time. Does this mean that a Wiccan sabbat rite in which no “MAKE THIS HAPPEN RIGHT MEOW” magic is practiced is not technically witchcraft? Hardly.
Let’s get down to definitions. What is the definition of witchcraft? In a world where Merriam Webster’s dictionary has decided to abdicate rational thinking in favor of a Kim Kardashian universe app and declared that literally also now means figuratively because enough idiots pumpkin spice latte-drinking white girls were using it incorrectly, how can any word have meaning at all? Definitions have always changed over time to reflect evolving languages and populations, but nowadays it’s a struggle to hold on to any meaning when it comes to witchcraft. So what is essential to witchcraft? What is, in academic religious studies terms, its sin qua non? Well, let’s explore a few definitions of witchcraft, but not the OED’s because apparently you need to pay for that shit now. Fuck.
- the use of sorcery or magic (duh)
- communication with the devil or with a familiar (by this, they mean spirits)
- an irresistible influence or fascination (come on, you know you own at least ONE Silver Ravenwolf book.)
In the Bible (according to Dictionary.com)
(1 Sam. 15:23; 2 Kings 9:22; 2 Chr. 33:6; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4; Gal. 5:20). In the popular sense of the word no mention is made either of witches or of witchcraft in Scripture. The”witch of En-dor” (1Sam.28) was a necromancer, i.e., one who feigned to hold converse with the dead. The damsel with “a spirit of divination” (Acts16:16) was possessed by an evil spirit, or, as the words are literally rendered,”having a spirit,a pithon.”The reference is to the heathen god Apollo,who was regarded as the god of prophecy.[sic]
From this, we get the idea that the word witchcraft, as it has been used over time, encompasses the presence of and communication/interaction (either directly or simply through communication) with spirits, specifically referring to spiritual beings or entities other than the Judeo-Christian God. So we see here that witchcraft is both the casting of spells and conversing with spirits, and the definitions of spirits abound.
So let’s pretend, for just a moment, that a self-proclaimed Wiccan who adamantly insists that she is not a witch, is practicing a Wiccan ritual devoid of any spellcraft as she knows it. Will there be, unbeknownst to our poor damsel, any incognito witchcraft in that rite? No, because all of the witchcraft in a Wiccan rite is as fucking obvious as daylight to anyone who can see; she’s just an idiot.
Typical Wiccan ritual consists of:
- Cleansing and purifying the space and the practitioners. This alone is witchcraft. Smudging/saging (thanks, Native American cultural appropriation), incensing, creating holy water and asperging self and space, all are acts of spiritual cleansing, which, when not done in the name of the Abrahamic God, constitutes an act of witchcraft. Witches have historically performed cleansings on themselves and others to rid them and their space of unwanted and undue or evil influences. Wiccans do this, regularly, and any Wiccan who doesn’t is obviously not practicing Wicca correctly. This is witchcraft sign #1.
- Casting a circle. This is a big one. A circle is an act of magick. The witch is literally projecting energy to make manifest a spiritual/energetic boundary that creates a separation between two worlds, removing a space and creating it anew as betwixt and between, a place in which to work magick and communicate with spirits and the Gods. This is most assuredly an act of witchcraft by every definition.
- Calling/invoking/evoking the Quarters or Guardians or Watchtowers or elements. This one is so obvious that it should need no explanation, but since there are people in this world ignorant enough to think that Wicca is not witchcraft, perhaps it bears pointing out. What you are summoning, stirring, calling up and otherwise evoking, invoking or trying to grab the attention of, are spirits. They go by many names. The Guardians of the Quarters. The Watchers. The Grigori. The Airts. The Mighty Ones. The Dread Lords of the Outer Spaces. Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Madonna, and Elvis. Whatever. You are literally and figuratively calling out to spirits in an act of obvious and overt witchcraft by any and all definitions of the term held since its inception.
- Performing rites to the Gods. This usually involves speaking with the Gods or communing with the Gods, who are technically spiritual beings. This is also witchcraft as per the above definition adhered to within the English-speaking world.
- Cakes and Wine/Cakes and Ale/Cookies or Crackers and Apple Juice/Purple Drank and whatever’s handy. (Don’t forget to use the Crown Royal bag to store your tarot cards after it’s gone.) This is further communion with the Gods intended to internalize some part of Them or Their blessings similarly to Christians cannibalizing their dead God in order to grow closer to Him. Obvious witchcraft here, because it involves pagan deities.
- Doing everything in reverse. See above for why this was all witchcraft the first time around and use deductive reasoning for why it’s all probably still witchcraft the second time around.
Just because you’re not practicing one aspect of witchcraft doesn’t mean you’re not practicing another.
Just because your circle/rite/ritual did not involve casting a spell for prosperity, health, love, revenge, or to keep your mom from coming into your room because she’s such a nosy bitch in her own house and gods you can’t wait to move out, does not mean that your Wiccan ritual was otherwise devoid of witchcraft. If you took all of the witchcraft out of a Wiccan circle, you’d have a Buddhist meditation on nothingness, because you’d have yourself and nothing left. Maybe some incense.
It is perhaps important to note that the word Wica was originally used in modern English to refer to the practitioner, and not the religion. The witch was one of the Wica, and he/she was practicing a religion that had no name, that was most times referred to as The Old Religion, or, more often, witchcraft or the Craft. As British members of the Wica began to receive attention from the press, the media wanted a name for their religion, so the name of the priesthood was applied to the actual religion, but the Wica know from whence it came and how it is to be properly used and that the Old Religion is witchcraft.
We hope that this polite public service announcement has helped to clarify why all of Wicca is witchcraft and why all Wiccans are witches. So the next time you see someone online claiming to be a Wiccan but not a witch, feel free to drop the url to this article in the comments section and tag them in it. Every witch needs a good clue-by-four to the head early on in his/her Craft, and we’re happy to supply the lumber from the Tree of Knowledge. Oh wait, that *is* Christian. Oops.
As an addendum to this magico-religio diatribe, we’d like to leave you with the entry for the word Wicca in the Online Etymology Dictionary, to make a very simple point:
Wicca (n.) – An Old English masc. noun meaning “male witch…” see witch.
Wicca is the old English word for witch. You may now pick your jaw up off of the ground.
P.S. We’d love to hear our new favorite YouTube witch Thorn’s take on all of this. We bet it will be pithy, hilarious, and to the point. Check out all of her videos, you’ll love them as much as we do.
P.P.S. As usual, she delivered. Check it out.