What is Witchcraft?
Witchcraft is the study and wisdom of the Witch, much the way that Magic is the study and wisdom of the Magus. It is a way of knowing, the forces of nature, the nature of being human, the humanity of love. Witchcraft is a way of being a Witch. Today, Witchcraft is one tradition within Paganism.
What is a Witch?
Depending on whom you ask, this question may take on different answers. This short answer will not tell all, and some Witches will even disagree with it.
A Witch is a Pagan or a neo-Pagan minister, sharing in an age-old Shamanic tradition. What really makes a Witch, and not another similar tradition is a willingness to declare, "I am a Witch!" The person will have given this declaration freely and sincerely, even if given in private. She or he spoke to the people for the Gods, to the Gods for the people, brought the children into the world, and led them away again. She was mother, father, and at times God to her or his people.
In modern times, a Witch is one who practices a Culture of Faith, largely drawing on the lessons garnered by that ancient Shaman. Modern Witchcraft has become an amalgamation, a melting pot or salad bowl, of religions, ancient and fresh.
So, What Is a Witch?
By a very conservative etymological _expression, we might say the original meaning of the word that later became Witch was one who bent things to his or her will, one who could turn aside evil or good. These are ideas often used to refer to people performing Magic and divination, and call themselves a Witch.
In legend we say that the Witch has for his or her fortunes:
The ability to bring success in wholesome love;
The ability to bless or curse with power friends or enemies;
The ability to cure and cause diseases;
The ability to make those who seem ugly beautiful;
The ability to change the debased into the more refined, the worthless into something worthy;
The ability to find treasures hidden in ancient places;
The ability to converse with spirts, especially of the honored ancestors and lost souls (necromancy);
The ability to arbitrate between humanity and the gods;
The ability to tame wild beasts and thoughts;
The ability to understand the voice of the wind;
The ability to see omens and read the weather;
The ability to divine with cards, stones, numbers and other means;
The ability to know the secrets of the hand (palmistry), face, body, and mind;
The ability to read the stars, planets, and luminaries.
Is a Witch a Woman?
Dianic Wicca expresses their spirituality directly through their bodies. They do not include men or even trans-gendered (post operative) Women in their covenants. This is solely because their very bodies become the vessel of the Goddess. They believe that only a life of experience can prepare them for such a service. On the other hand we have some groups oriented solely for Male energies. Some of these include effeminate or other Trans-gendered men to help manage the feminine energies of the Goddess. The only restrictions to becoming a Witch that I know of are the need for reverence and focus.
What is a Warlock?
For the most part, a male who is a Witch is a male who is a Witch. Many male Witches disfavor the term Warlock because of its Old English meaning of Oath Breaker. In southeastern Europe, a Warlock was a Warlord who personally used Magic in his War craft. Many Satanists will call any male who is very adept in the use of Magic a Warlock, and call the Female a Witch. Labels are, many times, context sensitive. They also carry the risk of limiting thought.
Is Wicca a Form of Witchcraft?
No.-- Well, sort of. Wicca is an eclectic, neo-Pagan, modern movement, developed mostly by the efforts of Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner. It borrows heavily from many movements and traditions. Wicca is a smorgasbord of philosophies, deriving mostly from Pagan sources, dressed up with garments from Thelema and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Wicca is a gateway. Like many great cultures of faith, Wicca is a worthy pursuit in its own rights. It serves as a cultural decompression chamber. It has just enough familiarity to "Popular" traditions of Christianity to avoid any fear while the new Pagan becomes comfortable with new ways of thinking, talking, and communicating with nature.
It tends to keep the occultnick$ secure with its appeal to elitism and its press toward a group mentality. This attitude, however, is medium-rare and limited to small groups, some of which are not Wiccan at all eccept in name. We may appreciate Wicca as a religious culture in its own right. I would like to note that there are Wiccans who are Witches and some who are not. There are many Witches who are not Wiccans.
Who Can Become a Witch?
The Witch does not really become one per se. One day, a person hears the word, Witch and is somehow fascinated by it. A question or two, and suddenly that person remembers a truth as though it was always there. With that epiphany the person is never quite the same. If Society has raised this person in a family of Witches, then the change is small, and sweet. If not, however, the change can be devastating, shattering a gestalt. This person will begin to look for new answers, new worlds, boldly go where they might never have gone before. Many will step upon the traditions of Theosophy, Buddhism, or Wicca, and find themselves in a cultural "decompression chamber." They may even find another word beside Witch that suits them better.
The Witch is in constant pursuit for answers, many too elusive to be so obvious at first. In their quest, their thirst for that answer, they may stumble upon the heavier disciplines of Pern Buddhism, Satanism, or Witchcraft. There, they find themselves at home, but never so comfortable that they settle down and stagnate. Or, they may return to Christianity with a new, more Christian perspective than they walked away with. The journey is yours. Live it!
The only restrictions to becoming a Witch (or the practitioner of any Culture of Faith) that I know of are the need for reverence and focus. No one really becomes a Witch. They just discover that they have certain talents, and hear the label Witch, and marry the two together. Conversely, while a Witch may drop the Label, the talents will continue with them as they contribute to another avenue of _expression.
Do You Have Gurus, Leaders, Priests, or Masters?
In any social group, there are children whom we must teach, and elders who must teach.
Within Paganism, we have some who are just discovering their awareness, learning new languages, finding new talents they have always had nagging at them from the days they were born. In time, they can learn through trial, error, and periodic epiphanies, just how to use their talents and master the world. Some discover that they have a talent for helping others learn these things. These become teachers of a few at a time.
A priesthood would serve to administer a structured rite and organization. Paganism is generally unstructured. Those with a talent for theater and organization may direct some social gatherings, rites associated with them, and rites of passage. However, rites are not spectator events. So, if we gather into groups, they tend to be rather small.
We expect each Witch to be their own priest. To be able to bend the forces of nature to one?s will, one must have a strong will. So a Witch will take responsibility for any relationship they will have with God, to whatever they apply that label.