Which Witch is Which?


By Jim Pacifico



Which Witch Is Which ??

The Basics of Modern Witchcraft, Part 1

Witchcraft, also known as Wicca, The Craft, and The Old Religion, is a polytheistic, nature-oriented religion. While it has many different “traditions” (akin to Protestant “denominations”) within it, there are some basic beliefs and principles that are common to almost all Witches.

Witches choose to symbolize the unknowable power of the universe as a dyad of Goddess and God. Since so many observable phenomena, from the magnetic polarity of subatomic particles to mammalian sex, seem to be arranged in complementary pairs, it seems reasonable to use a paired symbolism to represent this power. This is NOT a pairing of “good” and “evil”; rather, it is more like the Taoist yin/yang, where neither half can exist without its complement. So Wicca is “polytheistic”, in that it views deity as having a plural nature.

“Nature-oriented” means that witches believe that the universe around them is holy, in and of itself. To celebrate that holiness, witches attune themselves to the rhythms of nature; the seasons, the tides, the phases of the moon, the cycles of living things. Most witches are acutely interested in ecological concerns. This does not mean that witches are anti-technological. Humans are part of nature, and human nature includes the drive to develop technology. In that sense, a skyscraper is no more “unnatural” than a beaver dam. But, witches are always seeking a balance (the concept of duality again) between human development and the sacredness of the world around us.

Witches do not believe in the Judeo-Christian God. Therefore, they do not believe in “the Devil” either. So witches cannot worship the Devil. Some of the confusion arose because some aspects of the God are depicted as having animal horns or antlers on his head, and the Christian Devil is also horned. Also, Wicca considers human sexuality sacred; in the joyous and loving union of two human beings, we can reenact the cosmic union of Goddess and God that creates all things. Rather than leading to indiscriminate orgies, the notion of sexuality as sacred leads toward a more respectful use of this divine power; one does not share a sacred act with a random stranger! But the Church has often taught that any expression of sexuality is sinful, and sex is but another tool the Devil uses to tempt good Christians into sin. An openly, joyfully sexual God, wearing horns, was seen by the early Church as just another representation of their Devil.

Many witches, but not all, practice magick as part of their religious activities. This magick is usually directed toward constructive ends, such as healing a sick or injured friend, improving an individual’s financial situation, ensuring the safety of a loved one far away, resolving some personal internal struggle, and so on. Witches generally believe in the “Law of Threefold Return”, which means that whatever action you take (whether magickally or on a mundane level) will be taken upon you, but multiplied by three. Therefore, it would be unwise to use magick to “curse” or “hex” a person, because three times the unpleasantness would be visited upon the person casting the “hex”.

The Goddess is Mother Earth, Mother Nature, the Creatrix who gives birth to all things. She provides abundant crops from the fertile earth, and insures the fecundity of herd and flock. She nurtures, heals, and protects all her children; and when their time is finished, she takes them back into her fertile womb until they are transformed and reborn.

She is the Moon Goddess, in her three phases: the waxing crescent new moon, like a maiden still exploring her potential; the round, complete full moon, another vision of the fruitful mother; and the dark, aging old moon, an old crone, close to death but knowing many secrets of wisdom. She is the ocean, the cradle of life, ebbing and swelling with her tides, eternal, yet ever changing and flowing.

The Goddess is known by many names, from many places and times in human history. She is called Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna, Aphrodite, Arianrhod, Kwan Yin, Brigit, Changing Woman, Yemaya, Hera, Pele, Rhiannon, Freya, Grandmother Spider, and many other names. She is all goddesses, and all women.

The God is the Goddess’ partner. He is variously her father, lover, brother, and son. He is the Lord of the Forest, both the hunter and the hunted, who rules over wild animals and untamed nature; he can lead to fear, danger, and death, but also to unbridled ecstasy.

He is the Dying and Revived God, the God of the Grain, who is sacrificed (cut down and harvested), buried (planted), and then, through the power of the Earth, springs up again as his own son to repeat the cycle.

He is the Sun God, whose glorious power energizes all life, coaxing the seeds to sprout and the crops to ripen; the obvious companion to the Moon Goddess, and the embodiment of fire. The cycle of his power marks the seasons of the year, as the cycle of the moon marks the smaller interval. The God is also known by many names. He is called Pan, Odin, Cernunnos, Apollo, Osiris, Marduk, Chango, Indra, Jupiter, Monster Slayer, Dylan, Thor, Shiva, Coyote, Poseidon, Quetzalcoatl, and many other names. He is all gods, and all men.

Which Witch is which?

By definition, most witches are pagans, but not all pagans are witches. Pagans follow The Old Religion, whereas witches also work magick (not to be confused with magic, as in parlor tricks). Some witches belong to covens, others don’t. They are solitaries. However, they may choose to follow a tradition (a particular style of witchcraft, such as Alexandrian, Gardnerian, Egyptian, Celtic, etc.) or mix and match. Then they are eclectics. Some lucky ones belong to a family of witches. They are lineaged witches.

Contrary to popular belief, male witches are still witches, not warlocks. That’s an “oath breaker”, and that’s no good in any religion! Just as a side note: witches do not worship the Devil (sorry, Christian brethrens). The church abused the Celtic Horned God and turned him into an evil manipulator. Sadly, the missionaries weren’t paying attention. We don’t believe in hell, either.

Gods and Goddesses
Witchcraft is a mainly matriarchal religion, meaning there is a strong emphasis on the female spirit. Some witches feel uncomfortable working with a male god, so they choose to call on The Lady only. Many of us acknowledge nature’s duality in all things and enjoy working with The Lord and The Lady. It is up to the individual whether they want to work with an entire pantheon (line of gods and goddesses, such as Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and others), others pick a pair or simply address The Lord and Lady, no names used. If you belong to a trad (tradition), the choice is made for you.

Rules and Regulations
Had you fooled there, didn’t I? No, you can’t just do what you want in witchcraft. In fact, we strongly believe that we actively make our own fate and must take responsibility for our actions. Hence, there are three things every witch ought to adhere to:

The Wiccan Rede
“ An’ it harm none, do what ye will.”

Whatever you work your magick for, be sure not to manipulate or hurt anyone else. This includes people and animals, and—need I say it- Mother Earth! Because the consequences are expressed in The Rule of Three I like to use a little rhyme to make this stick.

“Ever mind the Rule of Three;
what ye weave comes back to thee.”

If you send out positive energy, you’ll get it back threefold. If you work black magick, you may get more than just a slap on the wrist! Finally, we are well aware that not everyone agrees with our point of view. Also, the standard is that a spell works better if you don’t fret over it. This is where you get the

Witches’ Pyramid:
To Know
To Will
To Dare
To Be Silent

Know what you’re doing, apply yourself to your work, don’t be afraid to try something, and keep your mouth shut. Yes, there are four points.

Think of three at the base of the pyramid and one on top. It’s 3-D, baby!

You are learning this because you are interested in Wicca, are at crossroads, contemplating becoming a wiccan or are just plain curious. This is just an introduction to the world of Wicca …Wicca 101. Very well, then. Let us begin at the beginning … a very good place to start, don’t you agree? First, please read the following it is important because Wicca as a living reality:

Thirteen Goals of a Witch

Excerpt from “The Solitary Practitioner” by Scott Cunningham,
Llewellyn 1995

1. Know yourself.
2. Know your Craft (Wicca).
3. Learn.
4. Apply knowledge with wisdom.
5. Achieve balance.
6. Keep your words in good order.
7. Keep your thoughts in good order.
8. Celebrate life!
9. Attune with the cycles of the Earth.
10. Breathe and eat correctly.
11. Exercise the body.
12. Meditate.
13. Honor the Goddess and God


About the Basics

What is it?

Wiccan Traditions

  • Initiation
  • The Altar
  • Altar Tools
  • Set Up
  • Casting a Circle
  • Further Research
  • What is it?

I won’t go into a dissertation at this point and attempt to explain what even the experts can’t, in short … everyone always wants to know: “what is Wicca? What is a wiccan?” Take a deep breath, here. That is a mighty big question and I am not too certain that it can be summarized in a few phrases. Succinctly stated, Wicca is an Earth-based religion, believed to take its origin from megalithic times (the stone age). It is an animistic philosophy, a life-affirming religion, in which the female divinity (The Goddess) is worshipped as well as her male consort, The
God. Both male and female divinities are seen as forming a balance, neither existing without the other. The difference between a pagan, earth-based religion and a non-pagan religion is that pagans acknowledge the female aspect of divinity. A Wiccan or a follower of Wicca is also a pagan … but a pagan does not have to be a Wiccan. Got that? It means that a Druid is a pagan but not a Wiccan. A Wiccan also follows the life-cycles of the Earth, and celebrates these during certain times of the year.

Wicca is also known as The Craft, or Witchcraft (the “W” word!), the Craft of the Wise, and by other euphemisms. I have no trouble with the names only that labels tend to pigeonhole people and I don’t think this is what The Lord and Lady intended for their children. Whenever there is a discussion of the craft, rituals and spells, one thinks of magick. Plainly put, magick is the natural use of the forces and energies of the universe to achieve a desired result. I used the word natural because there is nothing evil, alien or foreign about it. It is an energy that is all around us, and the wisdom of its use is a gift of The Mother. However, there are codes of ethics by which witches live and this energy may not be used for evil purposes, and we will cover that further below.

Most non-Wiccan always ask if magick comes from the devil, or Satan. I always respond that Satan is e non-sequitor in the pagan microcosm since Wiccans end most pagans do not believe in the existence of Satan, or the devil. Once e person begins to study the laws of physics end applies these to magick (cause end effect), the very notion of an “evil” entity ceases to be logical. But I digress.

Many pagan religions are identified with the performance of ritual, also called working magick, working ritual or just plain “the working”. Magick is part of Wicca, and many Wiccans, witches and pagans perform magick. But there are many ceremonial magicians that are not pagan-they are only magicians and do not celebrate the religious ceremonies and festivities. As a Wiccan and pagan, I believe that magick is a gift bestowed by the Goddess; a gift to be used in positive ways in order to bring about harmony and balance in my life. It is not a toy, not used to hurt or control, or to attempt to disrupt the progress or freedom of choice of any soul. To do this is to violate The Rede is the code of ethics by which a Wiccan lives.

The Rede states very clearly that whatever the witch puts out she gets beck threefold. Thus, if the witch puts out a good working, the good manifests itself and returns to her threefold as strong. On the other hand, evil sent out is returned to its source three times as strong. So there is absolutely no incentive for a witch to do evil. Witches call this law The Rule of Three and it is very similar to the Christian Golden Rule. It is also understood that spells affecting the free will of another soul is also absolutely forbidden to witches, although I personally know of witches who will debate this with you.

These spells are and include: love spells, hexing end binding/banishing. Historically, Strege witches believed in hexing, cursing end the evil eye, and Stregherie still teaches this to this day. This is not my way and I do not criticize anyone else …I only point out that in a debate as to whether or not witches are allowed to bind and banish, one must keep in mind that a witch is called upon to protect never to harm, however there are times that binding and banishment may be the only alternative (example: stalkers, predators, rapists, etc.).

It is important to remember that Wicca is a religion. In order to know Wicca you must familiarize yourself with its traditions. Although you can read dozens of books on the subject, it is up to you to decide end proceed from there. No one can “make” you a Wiccan, except yourself end through The Lady’s gracious calling. Don’t rush to buy books on ritual magick, oils and herbs. This will come naturally to you in time, when you are ready. Learn first about the religion called Wicca. What it is and is not. The Lady will show you the way. Open your heart to her, listen to her voice … how? Simple, so simple, really. Wiccans believe that nature is an expression of divinity. Go outside. Look at the heavens, at the stars. Listen to the rustling of the trees. Sit near water, a lake, river or ocean, breath in its sweet scent. Feel the dry heat of her deserts, the heat of the sun as it toasts your skin. Look at the ground. Feel its life-force. See its creatures; each scuttling about its daily routines? Hear calls of the birds? Listen … and she will speak to you. This then is the way of the witch.


Wiccan Traditions

There are many “traditions” in Wicca. Each individual seeks and follows what is right for them. Some are based on ancient ways, handed down from one generation to another. Others are “newer” meaning that although they may have been “incorporated” in more modern times they too are valid and have a lot to offer. The greatest strength Wicca possesses is its individuality.

Alexandrian Wicca
Founded in England during the 1960’s by Alexander Sanders, self proclaimed “King of the Witches.” An offshoot of Gardnerian, Alexandrian covens focus strongly upon training, emphasizing on areas more generally associated with ceremonial magic, such as Qabalah, Angelic Magic and Enochian. The typical Alexandrian coven has a hierarchical structure, and generally meets on weekly, or at least on Full Moons, New Moons and Sabbats. Rituals are usually done skyclad.

Amythystian Wicca
Founded in 1968 by Lady Amethyst. This tradition is rooted in the Order of the Garter, Order of the Royal Oak. It is a traditional group with lots of Hermetic beliefs. Dedicated to preserving old traditions. Teaches by example in daily life, at home and at work, as well as when among our own. Known through work and deeds. Adheres to a strict code of ethics as exemplified by The Rede.

Aquarian Tabernacle Church
This is an American Tradition of Wicca based on English Traditional Wicca. It is devoted to the service of the Wiccan and pagan community. Founded in 1979, the church is based in Washington state, USA, and is a fully tax exempt legal Wiccan church in the USA, Canada and Australia.

British Traditional Wicca
The term “British Traditional” refers to a variety of traditions that originated in the British Isles and which have certain characteristics in common. Worship of The God and Goddess, covens are co-ed, and there is a degree system.

Celtic Wicca
This tradition actually includes a number of individual traditions, which follow the Celtic pantheons and Celtic holidays. Each path is unique and stands alone, or can be combined with another and still be part of the Celtic tradition. It is primarily derived from the ancient pre-Christian Celtic religions of Gaul and the British Isles.

As it is practiced today, most of the Celtic paths are part of the Neo-Pagan revival, focusing on Nature and healing with group and individual rituals that honor the Ancient Shining Ones and the Earth. Most are very eclectic, and hold to the Celtic myths, divinities, magic and rituals. Celtic paths are some of the more popular traditions. Many Celtic traditions are still practiced today in many of the more remote British Isles.

Ceremonial Wicca
Uses a great deal of ceremonial magick in practices mostly derived from the works of Aleister Crowley, who derived much of his work from Albertus Magnus. Rituals have a flavor of Egyptian magick, as will as Qabalistic rituals.

Dianic Wicca
There are two distinct branches of Dianic Wicca: The first Dianic coven in the U.S. was formed in the late 1960’s by Morgan McFarland and Mark Roberts. This branch gives primacy to The Goddess in its theology, but honors the Horned God as her beloved consort. Covens include both women and men. The other branch, Feminist Dianic Witchcraft, focuses exclusively on The Goddess and consists of women only covens. These tend to be loosely structured and non-hierarchical, and simple, creative, experimental ritual. For both branches rituals are eclectic; some are derived from Gardnerian and Fairy traditions, while others have been created anew.

Eclectic Wicca
Refers to groups and individuals not following any one particular Tradition, but incorporating elements of several, according to the training, preferences and experiences of the practitioners. Deities from several pantheons may be invoked, sometimes even in the same ritual, particularly when a working is being created for a specific cause. This is the fastest growing branch of Wicca today.

Fairy Wicca – Fairy Witchcraft
This type of Wicca works with the fey in a fairly traditional Celtic Wicca frame. Fairy Witchcraft, on the other hand, is also a loose association of people who practice fairy magick and work with the fairy realm, but do not use a Wiccan format and are more shamanic in nature.

Gardnerian Wicca
This is a closed initiatory tradition which was founded in England in 19.53 by Gerald Gardener and further developed by Doriin Valynti and others. Gardener was supposedly initiated into a coven of witches in the New Forest region of England in 1939 by a High Priestess named Old Dorothy Cluttirbuck. In 1949 he wrote High Magic’s Aid, a novel about medieval witchcraft in which quite a bit of The Craft as practiced by the coven was used. By 1951 the last of the English laws against witchcraft were repealed and Gardener published Witchcraft Today, which sit forth a version of rituals and traditions of the New Forest coven.

Gardnerian Wicca borrows very heavily from Freemasonry, Tantric Hinduism and a touch of ceremonial magick. Gardnerian covens are always headed by a High Priestess and have three degrees of initiation closely paralleling the Masonic degrees. Worship is centered on The Goddess and The Horned God. Eight seasonal Sabbats are observed, and the Wiccan Rede is the guiding principle.

Hereditary Witch
One able to trace to craft through their family tree and has been taught by relative.

Pow Wow
South central Pennsylvania system of magick. Pow Wow is not a religion, it is based upon a 400 year old elite German magickal system. Pow Wow primarily deals with healing.

Founded by Raymond Buckland in 1973 and based on Saxon traditions and mythology. Covens are led by a High Priest and Priestess and may determine for themselves whether to work robed or skyclad. Rituals are open, and decisions are made democratically.

Shamanic Witchcraft
This term refers to practices associated with those of tribal shamans in traditional pagan cultures throughout the world. A shaman combines the roles of healer, priest(ess), diviner, magician, teacher and spirit guide, utilizing altered states of consciousness to produce and control psychic phenomena and travel to and from the spirit realm. Followers of this path believe that historical witchcraft was the shamanic practice of European pagans; and medieval witches actually functioned more as village shamans than as priests and priestesses of the “Old Religion.” Shamanic witchcraft emphasizes serving the wider community through rituals, herbalism, spellcraft, healings, counseling, rites of passage, handfastings, mystery initiations, etc. The distinguishing element of Shamanic witchcraft is the knowledge and sacramental use of psychotropic plants to effect transitions between worlds. The theory and practice of Shamanic witchcraft has permeated widely though out many other established traditions.

One of any tradition that practices alone. This may also be someone who does not belong to a coven, but occasionally ventures out to attend sabbots, with an open coven.

Stregheria is the form of witchcraft native to Italy; there are several distinct traditions sharing common roots in various parts of Italy. Also called “La Vecchia Religione,” (The Old Religion) Stregheria is a nature-based religion. Its followers worship the forces of nature, personified by gods and goddesses. The witches of La Vecchia Religione are called Streghe (plural), with the title Strega (for a female) and Stregone (for a male). Stregheria is rooted in the folk religion of the Latins (the Romans being one Latin people) and the Etruscans. In the Aridian tradition, taught by Raven Grimassi in Ways of the Strega, the pantheon is different from the urban gods of the Romans, though some of those deities were shared with the Latins and the Etruscans. The most notable is Diana, whose worship was focused at a temple at Lake Nemi in the Alban Hills.

There are also other traditions of Stregheria in Italy, who may worship the urban gods of the Romans. If anyone one thing sets the Streghe apart from other Wiccans is the Rede. Streghe do not follow the rede and believe in hexing, cursing and binding as taught to them by the Aradia, Queen of Witches.

Wiccan Shamanism
Founded by Selena Fox in the 1980’s. It is ecumenical and multicultural in its focus. A combination of Wicca, humanistic psychology and a variety of shamanistic practices from around the world. Emphasis on healing. Uses traditional shamanistic techniques to change consciousness, such as drumming and ecstatic dancing.

Also known as the Nordic tradition. They worship deities such as Odin and Freya. Initiation training lastes one year and one day. After which people are initiated by the High Priestess of the coven to which others belonged. Each coven is made up of thirteen (sometimes more) individuals, headed by the High Priestess and High Priest. They symbolize The Goddess and God. Coven members usually do not publicly discuss spells and rituals as well as initiation ceremonies.

This brings into question your own initiation. There are two camps on this subject: one side believes that one needs to be initiated by the High Priestess and none other; the second school holds that The Goddess chooses her children and no one can initiate into the mysteries better than she. Having been a High Priest in a coven I can say that being a part of a coven is better. So, when you are ready, you will know it. She will call you and make no mistake … Her voice is loud and clear!

Murrough- High Priest Coven of The Cave Bear
By Jim Pacifico