101: Who’s Who of Witchcraft

So, since I’m using what I was taught, as well as the lessons I was given, as the basis for these posts, I’m going to go over some major terms you’re going to see a lot in these posts.

Pagan

Anyone who lives in harmony with the cycles of nature.  Also, in Christianity, anyone who isn’t of the flock, is considered a Pagan or a Heathen in many circles. Witches tend to specifically define pagans as people of nature.

As a side note, the lessons we learned from did not consider Hindus or Buddhist as pagan. Of course, others disagree. From what I have read some consider themselves pagan and others don’t. So I leave that debate up to others, because honestly, that’s not my point here (and frankly I could care less as long as everyone is happy on their own path).

Witch

A male or female who follows a nature oriented religion.  One can be a pagan and not be a witch though. There are pagan religions that do not practice magick. For example Taoist do not practice magick even though they fall under the blanket term of pagan in most circles.

The Old Religion

This is another term for Witchcraft. It refers to the age and history of the craft.  Many families who have practiced for generations consider themselves a part of the old religion.

I consider myself to be a part of the best of both worlds. I did learn some from my grandmother, who was not a witch, but who told me stories of the superstitions and magick our ancestors (and certain family members practiced). I also learned from my Mentor whose mother taught her. On the other hand, I do value many of the new ways as well. Modern witchcraft is where I started my journey.

Wicca

This is the modern reinvention of the religion.  It incorporates many different Western ideas such as the Eastern disciplines and Native American culture.  Many old craft witches consider Wiccans to be “Fluffy bunnies” or “foo-foo”.  This is due to the fact that many Wiccan sources focus too much on love and light without recognizing the darker (not evil) aspects of the craft. Wiccans tend to consider themselves the modern evolution of the craft.

I’ve known people on both ends of the spectrum. Personally, I tend to say that MOST Wiccan groups are a little too love and light, but not all of them. Once again, just as in Christianity, these definitions are never as simple as we would like to make them, nor does everyone agree.

Magick

Magick with a “k” is different from magic.  Magic is the art of illusion, parlor tricks, sleight of hand, and what not.  Magick is an art or even a science to itself.  It is the focusing of your own will to manipulate one’s immediate reality.

Here’s where I’m going to make a really important note.  Magick is a neutral force. It is neither good or evil.  It is a real pet peeve of mine to hear people say they practice white or black magick. To drive this point home let me quite Chapter 1 of the Wicca 101 lesson that my own mentor provided in class.

“Magick is a neutral force, like electricity; how it’s used depends on the user. Look at it this way: think of a chair. If I say to you, “You look tired; have a seat.” Does that make it a “good” or “white chair? Or if I pick up that same chair and beat you with it, is it then an “evil” or “black” chair? The chair, like electricity, or magick, is neutral. It’s how it’s used [by the individual] that counts.”

Coven

A coven is like a family or a church group. It is generally a small group of like-minded, dedicated witches.  This group or family mutually supports one another and promotes growth among the members of the group.  They are generally led by someone who identifies themselves as a High Priest or Priestess and in most cases there is an established hierarchy, which can be either formal or informal depending on the groups path or paths. It is important to note that not all covens contain members who follow the exact same path, even if they are like-minded.

Grove

A grove is where I learned. Think of a grove as a minor coven. Often they are teaching or study groups, though they can also be a group for gathering witches and pagans of many different paths. A grove may not have a Priest or Priestess and the members do not have to be dedicated witches.

Here’s an example: Lady G, my former mentor, taught classes to those in the community who wished to learn. We only had to pay for materials for the class (and she sold them to us at the wholesale price, at no profit).  In addition, she also held open community circles. This would be similar to a nondenominational church.

Tradition 

These are the closest things to denominations in Witchcraft.  Just as Christianity has Catholics and Lutherans, Witchcraft has Craft Traditions. In a tradition there is an established system of worship and practice. Some are stricter than others. Gardinarian and the feminist Dianic traditions are examples of this.

Sabbat

These are the eight basic holidays.  They are rituals celebrating the changing seasons of the year and the sacrifices of the God and Goddess to the world.  They are about the basic cycles of life that exist all around us.

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