‘ve heard many people trying to say what Traditional Witchcraft is and isn’t in the past few years. Most people think it’s a tradition like Wicca, but it is really an umbrella under which many witchcraft traditions flourish. Traditional Witchcraft has attracted many newcomers in the past five years as it is currently the “in thing” to rebel against Wicca and seek something that isn’t “fake”. This is a ridiculous mindset as the components that make up Wicca are by no means fake and many are just as ancient as the beliefs and practices of reconstructionists and Traditional Witches. Just because Wicca wasn’t your cup of tea, doesn’t mean Traditional Witchcraft will be either, it is not a refuge to run to, but an extensive and demanding path to follow. Now that I’ve added that disclaimer here is a brief introduction to Traditional Witchcraft:
Traditional Witchcraft in modern culture has come to mean any witchcraft or lore or practices associated with Robert Cochrane, Joe Wilson, Evan John Jones, Andrew Chumbley, Mike Howard, Nigel Jackson, and Robin Artisson. When people interested in the craft first start researching Traditional Witchcraft, it is the works and legacies of these people they discover. What they do not know is that Traditional Witchcraft is much bigger than any one tradition. It is an umbrella term much like “Pagan” or “Reconstructionist” to classify all the hundreds of traditions and practices that fall within its shelter. Traditional Witchcraft, when not referring to specific traditions (1734, Clan of Tubal Cain, Cultus Sabbati, Anderson’s Feri, ), is an umbrella term for varying traditions of witchcraft – some are cultural-based (i.e. spaecrafte, seidr, brujeria, streghoneria); some are practice-based (i.e. hedgewitchery, green witchery, kitchen witchery) and can be found in other forms of witchcraft; lastly, others are personal traditions unique to the individual. Traditional Witchcraft isn’t just what witchcraft “may” have been like centuries to millennia ago, but what it “was” like in cases with surviving documentation, oral lore, and practices.
Most Traditional Witchcraft practitioner’s paths are of European origin, but not all. Core similarities would be working and communing with spirits, working with elements from nature, ancestor worship, a certain level of animism, and an overall use of folk magic (low magic) as opposed to high magic, but some traditions do use higher magics. Overall I would say Traditional Witchcraft is mainly a path of individuals, families, and very small groups. For me personally what sets Traditional Witchcraft apart is that the practitioners base their practices in the old lores – chants, incantations, ballads, superstitions, collections of oral lore, documented witchcraft practices and rituals… Whereas many Traditional Witches see Wiccans and Neopagans as practicing ceremonial-based lore as well as modern-based lore and practices – not necessarily fakelore, but rituals and beliefs stemming from modern day. Much of what we practice is from the Middle Ages and later, but many Traditional Witches do incorporate older traditions and beliefs into their craft. So if you hear any Traditional Witches or groups claiming ancestry back thousands of years or of descending from a continuing line of witches for hundreds of years, don’t believe it.
Overall, the essence of Traditional Witchcraft is taking things further in your path – advanced study, practice, and experiences. Trying to find the sources, the history, and the how and why for everything we witches believe and do. Most Traditional Witches I know don’t read pagan books – we read anthropological, archaeological, history, and religion texts – then like me, they may supplement this knowledge with folklore and practicing what they’ve learned in their daily lives. As a Traditional Witch I try to incorporate my craft and beliefs into every part of my life and everything I do no matter how seemingly mundane. There is a long history of magic to be found in any daily act – and I think the curious Traditional Witch knows this best.