If you're new to Witchcraft or merely curious about craft practices, you'll immediately find several craft traditions open for exploration. If you do a bit of comparing with such traditions, you'll eventually find defining a term like "Traditional Witchcraft" is a thorny process. Like craft practices, the answer seems shrouded in mystery, with the answer changing depending upon the sources you consult. Here's a breakdown of the different views on Traditional Witchcraft and what it means to be a practitioner of the arcane arts in a traditional sense.
Wicca is a system of belief based on much of the writings by Gerald Brousseau Gardner (craftname of Scire). Gardner was a well-traveled, well-read archaeologist and anthropologist who played a significant role in bringing the practice of Wicca into the public eye. He is considered the Forefather of Witchcraft since he started the Gardnerian movement. Much of his work comes from folklore, his experiences in the Order of Cortona: a Rosicrucian group, and the New Forest Coven, of which he claimed to be an initiate. He also drew his understandings about the magickal arts from his background in Freemasonry, his study of ceremonial magick, and the works of Aleister Crowley.
After the last laws in England against practicing Witchcraft were repealed in the early 1950s, Gardner authored the book "Witchcraft Today." A second book soon followed, entitled "The Meaning of Witchcraft." "The Gardnerian Book of Shadows" is another one of his writings that includes information he draws from his time in the New Forest Coven, and his experiences with Crowley, since Gardner found the initial Book of Shadows sorely lacking in accessible material.
Before delving further into the meaning of Traditional Witchcraft, at this point it's important to note that a Witch is a practitioner of magic and someone who may or may not practice the magickal arts within a religious framework. A Witch can be Wiccan but doesn't have to adhere to the principles of Wicca to be a Witch. There are many other traditions outside of Gardnerian Wicca, with some adherents of the latter considering Gardnerian practices as a form of Traditional Witchcraft.
Gardnerian Wicca is just one form of British Traditional Witchcraft, which describes practices originating in England and the New Forest area. When thinking about traditional witchcraft vs Wicca, it's important to keep in mind that traditional Wicca is said to have a lineage that's traceable back to its original British roots. Central Valley Wicca, Blue Star Wicca, Chthonioi Wicca, Algard Wicca, and Alexandrian Wicca are also forms of British Traditional Witchcraft.
Alexander Sanders, often called the "King of Witches," along with Maxine Sanders, his wife, are the founders of the Alexandrian Tradition of Witchcraft. Sander's established the tradition in the 1960s in the United Kingdom. His system is based on what he learned from his studies of Gardnerian practices. Alexandrian Witchcraft also mingles the teachings of the Qabalah and ceremonial magick with Gardnerian practices.
Raymond Buckland (craftname Robat) was a practitioner of Gardnerian Wicca and a writer on both the occult and Wicca. He also plays a large role in Wicca's history after he introduced Wicca to the United States in the early 1960s. He was a high priest in a Gardnerian coven who later created a new tradition, Seax Wica, which focused on Anglo-Saxon pagan practices and symbolism. Some of his writings include Buckland's "Complete Book of Witchcraft,""Wicca for One: The Path of Solitary Witchcraft," and Buckland's“Book of Gypsy Magic: Travelers' Stories, Spells & Healings," among many others.
According to Ethan Doyle White, an archeologist, and established pagan scholar, Traditional Witchcraft embodies any practicing group or individual who does not embrace Gardnerian Wicca. Instead, the group or practitioner has practices stemming from more ancient origins. Under this definition, "Traditional Witchcraft" defines those who adhere to a wide variety of pagan paths, providing the practices and traditions that have roots far older than Wicca.
Michael Howard, a Traditional Witch, suggests that the term "traditional" describes anyone who is not practicing Alexandrian or Gardnerian Witchcraft. Rather, "Traditional" references practices deeply rooted in folk magic, lore, and historical forms of the art. Per such a definition, Traditional Witchcraft references Cochranianism and the Feri Tradition, among others.
Cochranianism is a branch of traditional Witchcraft established in the early 1950s. The founder is Robert Cochrane, who drew his knowledge from family members who taught him the Craft.
Cochrane's approach is a lot like Gardnerian Wicca but focuses on attaining wisdom. Interestingly, Cochrane also argues Witchcraft has nothing to do with Paganism. Meanwhile, the founders of the Feri Tradition is Victor Henry Anderson and Cora Anderson, who established the tradition in the 1960s: The tradition mingles Gnosticism, Tantric practices, and Hoodoo beliefs Qabalah, Vodou, and Faery lore.
Tiktok is an app some modern witches use to share video information about witchcraft practices, traditions, and real-world experiences working with the magickal arts. The online community is mostly eclectic, meaning they don't necessarily focus on a single tradition. Instead, they pull information and beliefs from a variety of magickal traditions and practices. The videos are sixty seconds in length, focusing on offering one another support, healing, and tips. The video method for sharing of information on the arcane arts may seem like the opposite extreme of Traditional Witchcraft. But the practice can indeed be merged into a modernized, syncretic type of practice. Here witches share information about the ancient arts and how to revive the old ways. In doing so, they attempt to work with the most unadulterated forms of the practice as possible.
If you're interested in learning more about Traditional Wiccan practices, consider checking out the work of Thorn Mooney. She's a priestess in the Raleigh-based, Foxfire Coven that consists of a traditional Gardnerian inner and outer court. Mooney's background is rich, influenced by extensive academic and religious studies focusing on evangelical Christianity, American religions, and contemporary Paganism. She is the author of "Traditional Wicca: A Seeker's Guide," published by Llewellyn Worldwide.
by Dayna Winters
When you think of the word “fairy,” it’s no surprise images of tiny, dainty creatures with colorful gossamer wings come immediately to mind. We’re all familiar with the creatures of legend and lore, with some that are kind or benevolent, helping humankind, and other stories that tell of devious fairies who lure people into the fairy realm only to be lost to the world forever. But these are fictitious stories, the tales that captivated us as children, and the types of faeries associated with Celtic Witchcraft and Faery Wicca are far more than mere imaginings.
Faery Wicca is a polytheistic religion and way of life that is just one tradition that fits under the broader term “Celtic Witchcraft.” Other traditions that fall under the main category of Celtic Witchcraft include The Druidic Tradition, the Order of the Bards, Druidic Reconstructionism, Pecti-Wicca, and Caledoni, among others. The difference between the Druids and Druid Reconstructionism is in their focus, with the lattermost group focusing on modern magickal practices. At the same time, the Reconstructionisms seek to revive the ways of old Druidism in the most unadulterated way possible. Pecti-Wicca, with a focus on the practices of the Ancient Picts, is a solitary Wiccan path, while Caledoni has a greater focus on Scottish traditions.
Fae Wicca involves the worship of one or more patron deities from the Ancient Celtic pantheon; these deities are supernatural beings or Fae. Celtic or Faery witches integrate magickal practices with the celebration of Ancient Pagan holidays honoring the seasonal, solar, and lunar cycles, the rhythms of the earth, nature, and the Divine understood through various God/Goddess/Fae aspects. Someone practicing Faery Witchcraft might choose a solitary path or work with the full support of a coven.
Faery Wicca is not just a religion but a practice that shapes and enriches one’s day-to-day existence. The practice is a syncretic form of Witchcraft, weaving together Wiccan beliefs while focusing on working with magickal beings, elementals, and nature spirits. Practices often involve working in nature when possible, with rituals held in the woodlands, forest groves, or near lakes or large bodies of water ( but when this is not possible, the practitioner can bring elements of the natural world into ritual practices and spellwork). Earth-centered worship is central, as is respect for all creatures, big and small. With Wicca being a part of one’s practice and a way of life one aspires to, the practitioner typically adheres to the “Harm None” principle when working with magick performing rituals, or even in day-to-day encounters.
Within a coven framework, there are elder priestesses or priests (Ollamh), and initiates, but one can also achieve such levels of knowledge when pursuing the Fae Wicca Path alone. Please note: If adhering to the Thirteen Principles of Belief, as many Wiccans do, the practitioner acknowledges and understands that the spiritual journey is not about obtaining titles as much as it is about drawing closer to the Divine and growing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
When reading about Faery Wicca and Celtic Witchcraft, the words “faery,” “fairies,” “fae,” and “fay” are in use interchangeably. But there are some important differences in meaning. Just as it is with “magic” versus “magick,” the latter term which Alister Crowley coined to denote the differences between sleight of hand magic and the arcane magickal arts, “faery” represents real spirit beings or deities.
When referencing Spiritual Beings or Celtic and Fae Wicca deities, the appropriate term is “Faery.” “Fairy,” references creatures found among the imaginative pages of fairy tales; yes, there is some crossover here, as the characters in fairy tales can be elves, fairies, goblins, and other beings of lore. The Tuath Dé Danann is one example, where there is much written about them in fairy tales and handed down through oral storytelling traditions. Still, practitioners see the Tuath Dé as otherworldly, immortal beings who interact with the world and humankind.
As children, many of us learn that supernatural beings aren’t real. Our parents teach us to think rationally and to consider the characters in literature as nothing more than a product of the imagination. When speaking of fairy tales, the word “fairy” refers to the otherworldly realm beings as unreal or fictitious. The use “Faery” does the opposite; it allows us to honor supernatural beings by acknowledging their existence and recognizing their influence on humans and the world as very real.
Openings in the earth or bodies of water may serve as entries into the faery realm; deep, dark, caverns hidden in the belly of the Earth Mother, or darkened lakes and whirlpools amid oceanic waters are all said to be entryways into the faerie realm. Crossroads are also a doorway but, so too are the magickal faery circles made of mushrooms, stones, or a patch of earth in the middle of the woods. Those who are clairvoyant, clairsentient, and clairaudient; people who heighten their awareness and believe in supernatural beings have a far easier time accessing the practically inaccessible world of magickal beings.
According to lore and many magickal practices, it is easiest to access the otherworld, whether it’s called the Land of the Fae, the Astral Realm, the Inner Realm, Tir na Nog, or the Shadowlands, during “between times.” Such periods are where time is transitioning from one state to another, such as dawn, dusk, and midnight, which are among the most traditional. Equinoxes, solstices, the New Moon phase, and even Samhain where the old Pagan year transitions into the new, are also ideal times to access the world of Fae and the Spirits.
Much about faeries stems from oral tradition and writings heavily influenced and changed by Christian writers, and the ancient Romans, so some of the stories about the magickal beings is muddled and ambiguous. Through the centuries, storytellers and historians often compare, and association faeries with other magickal creatures like shapeshifters, werewolves, vampires, spirits of the dead, and angels. Some writers go as far as to demonize them. In other writings, the Fae are characterized as heroes, queens, and kings with mysterious powers.
The Tuath Dé or Tuath Dé Danann, meaning “tribe of the Gods” or “the folk of the Goddess Danu,” originates from Irish Mythology where they are the pre-Christian, primary deities of Gaelic Ireland. In Latin, the magickal race is known as the “Plebes Deorum” or “folk of the Gods.” Of this tribe, you’ll find the following Celtic Witchcraft and Faery Witch Deities (among others):
The Dadga: (alias "An Dagda") is a depicted as a Druid, King, and Father Archetype who corresponds with Strength, Valor, Virility, Fertility, and Agriculture. He holds sway over the living, the seasons, weather, and time. His appearance may remind one of The Hermit in the tarot or Father Time himself, as he wears a long cloak with a hood and has a long beard. He carries with him a mace, club, or staff, which can bring or take life as he wills it. Dadga is analogous to the Roman Underworld God, Dīs Pater, and Odin, the Norse God of Magic, Divination, Death, Poetry, and Wisdom.
The Morrigan: (aliases include Morrígu, Mórrígan, Mór-Ríoghain, and Morrígan). The Morrigan is the wife of The Dadga, with a name that means “Phantom Queen” or “Great Queen” and is one of the most well-known of the Celtic deities. She is a Goddess of Fate and Battle, one who foretells one’s destiny, and predicts who will be the victor in war. Sometimes The Morrigan is viewed as a triune, three sisters, called the Morrígna.
Lugh: (alias “Lú,”Lug,“Samildánach,” “meaning skilled in multiple arts,” and “Lámfada,” meaning “of the long arm”) is a savior deity and part of the race of the Tuatha Dé Danann; he is a king, craftsman, and warrior, and is the God of Truth, Oaths, and Kings. The first harvest festival of the year is Lughnasadh, which is named after Lugh. He is analogous to the Welsh hero Lleu Llaw Gyffes, Mercury: the Roman God of Communication, and the pan-Celtic deity Lugus.
Nuadha: (aliases include Nuadu, Nuada, Elcmar, Necht, Nechtan, Airgetlám, or Airgeadlámh, meaning “Silver Hand” or “Silver Arm”) is consort of Boann and the Tuatha Dé Danann’s first king; he earned his epithet after losing his arm in a battle which is replaced by a silver arm and healed via magick. Nuadha is analogous to Nodens, the Gaulish and British God of Fishing and Hunting.
Aengus: (aliases include Óengus or Mac ind Óic) is the son of Boann The Dagda, is the Irish God of Inspiration, Love, and Youth. He is analogous to the Welsh deity, Mabon, whose name means “Great Son.”
Note: The Celtic pantheon is quite diverse, and the Gods and Goddesses mentioned here are but a mere sampling of the various aspects of the Divine.
Gaining familiarity with the oral traditions, lore, and mythology of the ancients is the best way to begin your exploration of Faery Wicca deities and preternatural beings. Picking up a Faerie’s book or two on the subject is like your mental doorway into the world of magickal beings; your familiarity with such spirits will make it easier for you to connect with them during visualizations, meditations, and achieved altered states of awareness. Later, you can use your knowledge to connect with otherworldly spirits via ritual and spellwork.
Morgan Daimler is a priestess of the Daoine Maithe, and a prolific author who writes about the Fae, magickal practices, and Irish myth; many of her books are perfect for the practitioner looking to gain an understanding of the faery witchcraft realm and the beings that reside there. Daimler is among the foremost experts on the subject, with Faery book titles including “The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens,” “Fairycraft: Following the Path of Fairy Witchcraft,” “Fairies: A Guide to Celtic Fair Folk,” and “A New Dictionary of Fairies: A 21st Century Exploration of Celtic and Related Western European Fairies,” among others.