In this post I hope to give a basic overview on Traditional Witchcraft, what it is, important figures, brief points on its history and 'mythology' - I am aware there is a post here that is already about what Traditional Witchcraft is, and I hope to expand a little bit more on that front.
Briefly, what is Traditional Witchcraft?
Traditional Witchcraft is a massive umbrella, it's so large it is hard to keep track of which area/belief/tradition you're talking about unless you specific mention a region and or tradition. The vast majority of Traditional Witchcraft practices originate in Europe - but not all of them, some have been influenced by European settlers, but at the same time according to the Cornish Witch, Gemma Gary - 'Traditional Witchcraft is Regional Witchcraft' what she is saying here essentially is that Tradtional Witchcraft is based on the region you're working in - it's superstitions, ideas, ways of dealing with 'supernatural occurences' - for example the practices within Cornwall are different but similar to the practices you'd find in London or Sussex - and can be completely different from what you could find in Colorado, California or even Australia and New Zealand
Another Traditional Witch I spoke to discribed it like this 'There are thousands of Traditional Witchcraft practices out there, there is a different tradition every square mile' none of these traditions are wrong because they aren't the same - they are right because that is what those people believe and work with on a daily basis.
Traditional Witchcraft is mostly an Operative magical practice a.k.a 'Get it done' - it is a Craft or Skill, a physical interaction to cause/promote change within the natural world - this description does not exclude Ritualistic Magic for some traditions embrace ritual work. But at the end of the day, it is Folklore based, passed down from practitioner to practitioner, researched/learnt like any skill or guided by the Spirits.
The Traditional Witch, Sarah Anne Lawless has created an impressive list that shows what a Traditional Witch generally practices and believes in - these are as she calls them - Core Influences.
- Ecstatic Ritual
- Operative Magic
- Possession/ Hag Riding
- Shape-Shifting (Spiritual Shape-shifting - becoming other)
- Soul-Flight (Spirit Travel etc)
- Altered States
- Ancestor Worship
- Familiar Spirits
- Personal Responsiblity
- The Multifaceted Soul
Figures of Importance
Within every practice there are people who are famous for their reputation, famous because of mythologies, famous writers etc within Traditional Witchcraft - there are a very large variety and almost collection of important figures that have helped grow the practice and kept it alive in modern day - whilst I will not mention all of them, I will list these figures - both People and Spirits that have been seen as important to the Traditional Crafting ways.
- Robert Cochrane (Real Name Roy Bowers) an English Witch who had a tradition of his own, Clan of Tubal Cain - unfortunately most of his work has been destroyed after his death - knew the witch Doreen Valiente who was a member of his Coven for a short while
- Doreen Valiente - an incredibly famous Tradtional Sussex Witch who was introduced to Gerald Gardner by Cecil Williamson, together Doreen and Gardner helped repeal the Witchcraft Law in 1951 as well as created the Religion of Wicca, she eventually left Wicca and joined up with Cochrane.
- Victor Anderson - created the Feri Tradition with his wife Cora.
- Sybil Leek - seen by many as a Wiccan - she originally practiced with the Horsa Coven in New Forest, a well known Astrologer and her book The Complete Art of Witchcraft.
- Paul Husson - An English Author, particularly famous for his work Mastering Witchcraft, a Luciferian practitioner who is loved by many Traditional Witches to this day.
- Michael Howard - an author who wrote many books on the subject of Witchcraft/esoteric practices and the editor of the Cauldron Magazine, he practiced Luciferian Witchcraft and has been cited by many authors over the years.
- Cecil Williamson - a English Witch, was once a friend of Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente, was said to have had a large list of Witch correspondences across the British Isles - the founder of the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle.
Over the centuries there have been many spirits attributed to Tradtional Witchcraft - almost can be seen as Gods, and then other spirits such as Faeries, Demons etc (Moving into the lines of Familiars, Fetches etc) due to the expansiveness of Traditional Witchcraft - I will be speaking specifically about two spirits and two groups of Spirits that have been found in Traditional Craft for centuries.
To be fair to the other traditions within Traditional Craft, not all of them follow the spirits listed bellow - some of them are completely secular, others are more involved with one or the other - remember 'There are thousands of Traditional Witchcraft practices out there, there is a different tradition every square mile'
The Devil/The Old Goat - to be honest, this particular spirit is incredibly ambiguous - because according to the Courts/Inqusitiors they saw the Devil where there was only a Wild Spirit, but according to some Traditions - this spirit is the Devil - the keeper of the Black Fire and Father to the Witches. I only use the title 'The Devil' because that title is one of the only ones that crosses across a lot of Traditions. Luciferian Witchcraft reveres him as the Devil himself - as Lucifer the fallen angel, the bringer of light and aspect of freedom. (Luciferian Craft is Witchcraft that takes literally from the Folklore, the Testimonies and other collected information - Luciferian Witchcraft is incredibly popular currently within Traditional Witchcraft)
He is what you could loosely say as the 'Male Aspect' and within some Gatherings or Covens he is the King of the Faeries, Lord of the Wild Wood - the Initiator, the Seducer and the figure head.
- The Queen of the Faeries/Lady of the Moon/Queen of Elphame - another spirit that is incredibly ambiguous, in some traditions she is the Consort to the Devil, in others she is the real power behind the craft - in some there is only her. She is can be called Titania from the play Midsummer Nights Dream as much as the Devil can be called Oberon. To some this may sound incredibly similar to Wicca, but I will cover that later. She also holds the fire of Witchcraft and is an initiator, the seducer etc. But in most traditions that I have read about, she is attributed as the True power behind the Devils throne in the Forest.
- The Faeries - also called Wild Spirits by some, within a lot of Traditional Crafting - particularly in the UK, they are the spirits of the land - the trouble makers but also the ones who can bring you great prosperity if you're kind but firm - they dance at the Queens court.
- Demons - Within many Witch Trials, there is always talk of demons - Familiars to some can be seen as minor Demons wanting to aid someone to get what they want. But loosely this is just another ambiguous category of spirits within the Craft - the dance with the King and Queen at Court, the revel and do as they desire.
Of the four above, they are so ambiguous because they don't turn up in every Tradition or belief, in rural communities some people still believe in having to appease the Faeries and warding away Demons etc and can be called as part of the Fairy Faith.
Again I would like to reinforce that these Four are ambiguous and specific to specific Traditions within Traditional Witchcraft - just because you may meet a Traditional Witch - it does not mean they will believe in or work with the Devil, The Faery Queen, Familiars, Demons, Faeries etc
Witchcraft, Wicca and Christianity.
Now a lot of this I know to some will sound incredibly similar to Wicca - that is because Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca are in essence, siblings - to speak simply, Wicca was born from the already existing beliefs surrounding Witchcraft within the UK - founded by Gerald Gardner and eventually built to what it is known today - a lot of 'Traditional Witches' out there will claim Wicca as fake, 'not real Witchcraft' or 'washing away old practices' - to be frank, Wicca is part of the Traditional Witchcraft family in it's own right because of it's founders Heritage as a Witch, and where the practice was grown from.
However, Wicca is separate from Traditional Witchcraft because Wicca is a Religion, Witchcraft is not.
Where does Christianity fit into all of this? When Christianity spread through Europe it melded with the already existing beliefs within each Country/Region - for some people to escape persecution, they hid their beliefs within Christianity - and Christianity helped grow some of the already existing magical practices - a lot of Witches back centuries ago practiced a 'Dual Faith' they were both pracicing the roots of their Ancestors - but at the same time believing in the Christian God and working their personal beliefs with the Christian beliefs. 'But the Christians killed the Witches!' to be more specific, it was the populace that used certain beliefs to kill off people they were having a disagreement with.
Traditions within Tradtional Craft
Due to Traditional Witchcraft being such an umbrella term, there is a few terms which encompass a large variety of Traditions, I will explain each briefly.
- Culture Based - based on particular cultures/beliefs i.e Icelandic, Scottish, English, Stregharia (Italian), Brujeria etc
- Practice Based - Hedge Witchery, Charmer, Pellar, Wort Worker etc
- Grimoire Based - practice based on various Grimoires such as the Sworn Book of Honorius, Ars Goetia, The Munich Handbook, The Devils Plantation etc
- Hereditary - passed down through generations - famous Witches that were known for this was the Device Family from Pendle Hill, Tasmin Blights family and various others.
- Modern Traditional Witchcraft - Author based and personalities, people sharing similar ideas, practices, beliefs etc.
At the end of the day, Traditional Witchcraft is an ambiguous umbrella term for thousands of varying but similar practices found mostly in Europe, anyone can be a Traditional Witch however it is not suited for everyone.
I hope this post has been helpful in describing what Traditional Witchcraft is, if you have any questions or comments feel free to add them and I will try and answer them to the best of my abilities - if you want to post them in mail, that is fine as well.
Sarah Anne Lawless' blog -http://sarahannelawless.com/
Mrshadowbwoy - youtuber -https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt8MmsBe5rnpgpKojeNjAWw
Traditional Witchcraft - Orginal SoM post -http://www.spellsofmagic.com/read_post.html?post=683497
On the Black Chair - youtube channel dedicated to interviewing various authors on Traditional Witchcraft -https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxtilGl0K38dyHhlR0rFohg
Sancista Brujo Luis - youtuber -https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCakUvflW5-Vk9iXPkWStyGw
Wicked Enchantment, History of the Pendle Witches and their Magic - Joyce Froome.
Popular Magic, Cunning-Folk in English History - Owne Davies
Traditional Witchcraft, a Cornish Book of Ways - Gemma Gary
The Black Toad - Gemma Gary
The Devils Dozen, Thirten Craftrights of the Old One - Gemma Gary
Liber Nox - Michael Howard
A Discover of the Impostures of Witches and Astrologers - John Brinley
Cecil Williamsons Book of Witchcraft, A Grimoire of the Witchcraft Museum of Boscastle - Steve Patterson
Treading the Mill - Nigel G Pearson
The Devils Plantation - Nigel G Pearson
Witches, A Century of Murder - A Documentary Found on Netflix
To Fly by Midnight, the Craft of the Hedge Witch - Edited by Veronica Cummer
A Witch's Natural History - Giles Watson