About Witchcraft




Witchcraft Is a Worldview

A worldview is the sum total of one's view of the nature of reality. Everyone has a worldview even if only a few reflect on their own. One's worldview encompasses one's views of how reality is composed, how it works, and how we as humans fit in or relate to our universe. It can entail one's views about the purpose of life and the origin and destiny of us all.

Naturalism. Starting at the broadest level and working down, it is fair to say that the worldview of witchcraft is naturalism. Naturalism is the view that there is no transcendent reality such as God that can intervene in the natural world. Naturalism maintains that all of reality is interrelated and operates according to "laws." Other expressions of naturalism would include materialism, which sees all of reality as being made up of matter that operates according to material laws.

Witchcraft, though an expression of naturalism, is not materialism. Witches recognize that reality extends beyond the realm of the material. This is sometimes confusing. A worldview can be naturalistic even if it accepts the reality of an immaterial realm; indeed, even acknowledging the existence of gods and goddesses does not preclude a worldview from being naturalistic. What stands in stark contrast to naturalism is a worldview that says that the natural realm (whether material, immaterial, or both) is the creation of a transcendent God. This is supernaturalism.

Occultism. Sharpening the focus, not only can we say that witchcraft is a worldview of naturalism, it is also a worldview of occultism. The term occult is from the Latin occultus meaning "hidden," or "secret." The category covers a wide range of beliefs and practices that are characterized by two main points that are often thought to be "hidden" from the average person. First, the occult maintains that there is force or energy into which one can tap or with which one can negotiate to do one's own bidding. The familiar term spell is applied to the technique of harnessing and focusing this power. The late witchcraft practitioner Scott Cunningham explains, "The spell is…simply a ritual in which various tools are purposefully used, the goal is fully stated (in words, pictures or within the mind), and energy is moved to bring about the needed result."[v] Exactly what is the nature of this force or energy, according to the occultist, and what is the best way to work with it is what makes some of the main differences between the major occult groups such as shamanism, witchcraft, Satanism, New Age, and others.

Second, the occult maintains that human beings are divine. The practice of the occult arts is thus an endeavor to actualize one's own divinity. As witchcraft practitioner Margot Adler claims, "A spiritual path that is not stagnant ultimately leads one to the understanding of one's own divine nature. Thou art Goddess. Thou are God. Divinity is imminent in all Nature. It is as much within you as without."[vi]

Humanism. Witchcraft sees itself as a celebration of all life. This celebration involves the denial that there is anything wrong with the human race. The practicing witch Starhawk rejoices that "we can open new eyes and see that there is nothing to be saved from, no struggle of life against the universe, no God outside the world to be feared and obeyed"[vii]. Pagan Elder Donald Frew of the Covenant of the Goddess explains, "How can we achieve salvation, then? We're not even trying to. We don't understand what there is to be saved from. The idea of salvation presupposes a fall of some kind, a fundamental flaw in Creation as it exists today. Witches look at the world [around] us and see wonder, we see mystery."[viii]



Witchcraft Is a Practice

Notice that the term practice is often used with the term witchcraft. What this tells us is that, for many, witchcraft is as much what someone does as it is what someone believes. While it is certainly true that what one does is invariably a product of what one believes, for witchcraft the emphasis is on what the practice can do to enhance one's own well-being as well as the well-being of others. Witches do not simply adhere to a list of dogmas; indeed, in many ways witches like to think that they eschew dogmas. As Adler describes it, "If you go far enough back, all our ancestors practiced religions that had neither creeds nor dogmas, neither prophets nor holy books. These religions were based on the celebrations of the seasonal cycles of nature. They were based on what people did, as opposed to what people believed. It is these polytheistic religions of imminence that are being revived and re-created by Neo-Pagans today."[ix]

A look through witchcraft material at the local bookstore will reveal that much of it deals with various rituals and activities that can be perfected in order to manipulate and utilize this cosmic or psychic force to do one's bidding. One will find chapters on the various items of clothing to wear (robes; jewelry; horned helmet, when one is not working naked, or "skyclad"); the tools to use (candles, herbs, tarot cards, talismans, fetishes); and rituals to perform (spells, incantations, chanting, music, dancing)—all of which enables the practitioner to become open to these forces (where they exist outside) or to conjure up these forces (where they originate from within). One will learn how to interpret dreams, meditate, have out-of-body experiences, speak with the dead, heal, and read auras. One can seek to develop one's own powers within the context of other witches (in a coven) or alone (in solitary practice). There are no obligations to follow any previously prescribed method. If what others have done before works, that is fine. If one sees the need to change the ritual or tools to get better results, then that is fine as well. All of these activities are designed to do two things: to enhance the well-being of one's self or those around him or her and to actualize one's own divinity.