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Witchcraft

witch·craft [wich-kraft, -krahft] Show IPA
noun
1.
the art or practices of a witch; sorcery; magic.
2.
magical influence; witchery.
Origin:
before 950; Middle English wicchecraft, Old English wiccecræft.

According to Dictionary.com, that is the definition of witchcraft. It may be one definition, but it is not the only one. Every witch has his or her opinions on what it means. 
Let us begin.

In witchcraft, we use tools as a focus for our energy. They are desperately needed when you first start out, as it helps you slip into the mindset, but they need not be required well along down your path of the wise. Here are some basics. You don't have to have them all or even buy them. Making them is a labor of love and inbibes it with your personal energy signature. 

Pentacle or Paten

The Pentalce or Paten disc is an altar consecration tool with a sigil or magickal symbol engraved or inscribed upon it. The most common symbol of the disc is the pentagram inscribed in a circle, commonly called a pentacle, although some other symbols may be used such as the triquetra. The disc is symbolic of the element of earth. It is typically used to represent the element of Earth during evocation, as a symbol which blesses items, as well as magically energizing that which is placed upon it.

Sword and knife
A sword or a ritual knife, commonly known as an athame, is often used in Wiccan ritual. In Gardnerian Wicca these are associated with the element of fire and in Golden Dawn influenced traditions with air.

The athame is traditionally black-handled, usually inscribed (sometimes in the Theban alphabet). It is used to direct energy for the casting of magic circles, controlling of spirits and other ritual purposes. Gerald Gardner described it as "the true Witch's weapon" in the Bricket Wood Book of Shadows something which he has been criticised by Frederic Lamond believing there should be no "weapons" in Wicca. In some traditions, it is never under any circumstances used to draw blood, becoming tainted and requiring destruction if it does.[citation needed]

The term "athame" in its modern spelling first appears in Wicca, but it originates from words found in two historical copies of the Key of Solomon. The version currently held in the Biblioteque de l'Arsenal, Paris, uses the term "arthame" to describe a black handled knife. This was adopted by C.J.S Thompson in his 1927 book The Mysteries and Secrets of Magic and by Grillot de Givry, in his 1931 book Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy. The historian Ronald Hutton theorised that Gardner got it either directly or indirectly from one of these sources, although with a modified spelling.

Wand

In Gardnerian Wicca, the wand is symbolic for the element of Air, though in some traditions it instead symbolises Fire. It can be made from any material, including wood, metal and rock, and Wiccan wands are sometimes set with gemstones or crystals.

In his Book of Shadows, Gerald Gardner stated that the wand is "used to summon certain spirits with whom it would not be meet to use the athame". Frederic Lamond states that this referred to elemental spirits, who were traditionally believed to be scared of iron and steel.

Chalice]

The chalice, or goblet, is symbolic for the element of Water. Many Wiccans do not consider it to be a tool, but instead to be a symbol of the Goddess, particularly her womb.The chalice bears many similarities with the Holy Grail, except for its symbolism used in witchcraft. Rather than being the blood of Christ, it is symbolic of the Goddess' womb. The chalice is often used to hold wine, water, milk, juice and other ritual drinks.


Boline

The boline is a white handled knife, sometimes with a curved blade, like that of a crescent moon. It is used for more practical uses than the athame, for instance for harvesting and cutting herbs, inscribing candles with symbols or sigils, or cutting ritual cords. Unlike the athame, the boline is used in the physical process of magical works (such as ritual cutting); the boline serves for the physical plane what the athame serves for work in the spiritual/astral planes.

Censer and Incense[

The censer is used to dispense incense.

Scourge

The scourge is used in Gardnerian Wicca to flagellate members of the coven, primarily in initiation rites. Frederic Lamond said that whilst Gardner never told his Bricket Wood coven which element this was associated with, he believed that as an "instrument for exercising power over others" then it should be Fire. The scourge stands in contrast to "the Kiss" in Gardnerian and other forms of Wicca. These being representatives of the "gifts of the Goddess," the scourge standing for sacrifice and suffering one is willing to endure to learn, the kiss being the blessings of abundance in all life's aspects.

Stang]The stang is a staff with two prongs on the top of it, though in some cases these are made out of antlers. It was one of the main ritual items used by the Clan of Tubal Cain which was run by the witch Robert Cochrane, and it was he who introduced this tool into Wicca.
Cingulum
In many traditions of Wicca, the colour of a person's cingulum indicates what rank of initiation they are; in several Australian covens for instance, green denotes a novice, white denotes an initiate of the first degree, blue for the second, and a plaited red, white and blue for the third, with the High Priest wearing a gold cingulum (symbolising the sun), and the High Priestess wearing silver (symbolising the moon).

In the various forms of British Traditional Wicca, cords, known as cingulum, or singulum (which literally translates as "girdle" or "belt"), are worn about the waist by adherents. These are often given to a Wiccan upon their initiation, and worn at each subsequent ritual. Traditionally they are nine feet in length (nine being three times three, the magical number), and are used to measure the circumference of the magic circle so that it can be set up correctly.

Wiccan High Priest Raymond Buckland said that the cingulum should not be worn, but kept especially for spellcraft.

Besom

The besom, or broom, is often associated with witches and witchcraft. In Wicca, it is used in handfasting ceremonies, when a couple jump over it. It is also used to ritually "sweep" the magic circle clean from undesirable energies, but is mainly used to consecrate and clean an area of negative energies.

Cauldron

A cauldron is often associated with Witches and Witchcraft in western culture. In Wicca, it is sometimes used to represent the womb of the Goddess, like the chalice. It is often used for making brews (such as oils), incense-burning, and can be used to hold large, wide pillar candles, depending on how small it is. If filled with water, a cauldron can be used for scrying. It plays a large role in Celtic magick, taking after Cerridwen's cauldron. Cerridwen was a Celtic goddess who possessed a cauldron that had a brew that took a year and a day to construct.

A selection of jewellery used in Wiccan ritual - most are depicting thepentagram.
Jewellery

In various traditions of Wicca, jewellery depicting pentacles and other relevant symbols are sometimes worn, both in ritual, and as an everyday piece of jewellery.

Doreen Valiente, the Gardnerian High Priestess, claimed that when she was initiated into the craft by Gerald Gardner, she was naked, but accidentally left her necklace on, only to be told that it was traditional for witches to wear such things.

Spear

In the tradition of Seax-Wica, the spear is used as a ritual tool as it is symbolic of the god Woden, who, in that tradition, is viewed as an emanation of God in place of the Horned God. According to Norse mythology, the god Odin, who is the Norse equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon Woden, carried the spearGungnir.


Principles of Witchcraft and Wiccan Beliefs:

In seeking to be inclusive, we do not wish to open ourselves to the destruction of our group by those on self-serving power trips, or to philosophies and practices contradictory to those principles. In seeking to exclude those whose ways are contradictory to ours, we do not want to deny participation with us to any who are sincerely interested in our knowledge and beliefs, regardless of race, color, sex, age, national or cultural origins, or sexual preference.

1. We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarter.

2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.

3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary, it is sometimes called supernatural, but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all.

4. We conceive of the Creative Power in the universe as manifesting through polarity -- as masculine and feminine -- and that this same Creative Power lies in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive to the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship.

5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc. -- and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.

6. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.

7. We see religion, magick and wisdom in living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it -- a world view and philosophy of life which we identify as Witchcraft -- the Wiccan Way.

8. Calling oneself "Witch" does not make a Witch -- but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with Nature.

9. We believe in the affirmation and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness giving meaning to the Universe we know and our personal role within it.

10. Our only animosity towards Christianity, or towards any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be "the only way" and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.

11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and our future.

12. We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity known as "Satan" or "the Devil", as defined by the Christian traditions. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial to another.

13. We believe that we should seek within Nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.


The Elements

Many people feel attracted to a particular element, often corresponding to their zodiac sign. Life is a balance of all the elements, but an individual goes through life striving to attain the balance of the elements within him or herself. Having an equal balance of the elements in oneself is one spiritual goal with the aim of attaining spiritual perfection.

Earth
Matter, foundation, manifestation, money, incorporating, employment, touch, empathy, understanding, fertility, prosperity, and business. Represents stability and physical endurance.

Air
Thought, knowledge, mental activity, study, speech, intellect, ideas, communication, hearing, travel, messages, eloquence, freedom, discovery, revealing hidden things, and secrets. Represents intelligence and the arts.

Fire
Energy, light, vitality, health, passion, destination, purification, and sight. Represents courage and daring.

Water
Feelings, happiness, pleasure, love, children, friendship, marriage, home, taste, dreams, sleep, healing, the physic and, the sub-conscious. Represents emotions and intuition.

Spirit:
Represents the All, Deity, and the blending of the elements.

Most people have one main element that they relate to the most. For example, someone may relate closely to fire, but she will also enjoy aspects of water, earth, and air. Everyone has a little of each element in them, but no one is made up evenly of the elements. That would mean you are perfect, and nobody's perfect. Therefore, you probably have an attraction to a particular element. Some people will automatically know their element, meanwhile others will have to carefully think about it.

How can you find your element? Usually, your zodiac symbol and element will match. However, this may not always be the case. If you think yours is different, simply ask yourself which you feel most in-tune with. If that doesn't help, think of four things you enjoy doing and see how they relate to the elements. If that doesn't work, think of four things, one pertaining to each element. Perhaps, swimming, for water, or building and watching a campfire, for fire. Then ask yourself, which do you most enjoy? Getting out into nature to meditate on the elements can be particularly useful for finding your element.

The Zodiac divided by Element:
Fire = Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius
Earth = Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Air = Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Water = Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces


Paganism and Magick do not always go Hand-In-Hand

Modern Pagans have become synonymous with magickal practitioners. However, the two are hardly one and the same. Many Pagans practice no magick at all whereas others cannot imagine life without it. Does magick make an individual a Pagan? Is a path considered Pagan if it does not include witchcraft? For those out there who have pondered these questions or who hold outdated misconceptions of modern Pagans, this hub briefly presents where the confusion began and provides examples of Pagan and magickal paths that may be outside your previous understanding of the words.

Where the Confusion Began

The first modern Pagan path to become widely presented to the public was Wicca. This path is a religious one with a central God and Goddess, reverence for nature, and the use of witchcraft. Magickal practice is central to the Wiccan path. To be Wiccan and not be a witch contradicts the basics of Wicca. As the most well-known of modern Pagan faiths, Wicca has become synonymous with Paganism. Thus all Pagan paths are considered magickal faiths by those who are misinformed.

As the term "paganism" is often used as an umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of faiths, paths, and lifestyles, there is no single, strict definition for the term. The term "neo-Pagan," or new Pagan, was coined to differentiate between those paths that are indigenous and have a long, uninterrupted history from those that are new, compilations of, or reconstructions of old paths. As a result, not all who are viewed as Pagans call themselves as such and those within the Pagan community may disagree with the use of the label by other groups. With this loose nature of the term in modern use, it is no wonder the average individual has a hard time discerning the differences.