iii. Definitions pt2

The ways of the witch are extremely varied. There are the cunning folk and wise woman type, pagan witches, new-age witches, crafters, various traditional forms, hedge witches, and the witch of root and shadow.

I include here the ways of the witch of root and shadow. You can find the various ways of the brujo in the brujeria section. Although charms of both varieties will be in this section. I tend to make clear to which type I refer.

Below is a very brief outline of what I mean by the different terms I use for witches.

Cunning folk, wise woman, folk mages

This type of witch is the local healer or magical practitioner. They do a combination of; spells, create talismans, cure the evil eye, offer magical protection, use herbs to heal and in magical ways.

Many cunning folk and wise women don’t class themselves as witches, while others do.

Pagan witches

This is the most common type of witch. They could do any of the above or not. They are pagan in that they align themselves to pagan styles of faith and perceptions about the earth. They also believe in gods and work with them, honour them or worship them.

Cunning folk, etc, can also have faith in gods or a god, but it isn’t integral to their crafts or who they are.

Pagan witches usually include a belief in land spirits, nature spirits, faerie, many gods, sacred space, altars, seasonal festivals.

Wiccans fall into this category.

Often, it’s impossible to distinguish between a person who calls themselves pagan or one that calls themselves a witch, as the latter is basically doing and believing everything that pagans can do and believe in. For me, these types are basically pagan or crafters. It is here that arises such a confusion about what witchery means, as so many take the label when simply ‘pagan’ will do.

New-age witches

These are very similar to pagan witches but what sets them apart is a predominance towards ‘love and light’ perceptions.

Other concepts include: meditation, karma, ‘thou shalt not harm’, general mixing of Eastern and Western philosophies, Mother Goddess.


They might follow seasonal festivals and believe in and do various things similar to pagan witches.

What sets them apart is that a crafter is a witch who focuses mostly on spellcraft, folk magic, etc. They rarely spend time outdoors tuning into the land or working with the local nature spirits.

This type can move further into occultic practices, and that’s where I tend to view them as sorcerers.

Traditional forms

These are based around a family or regional set of ways. Usually pagan-orientated.

Hedge witch

Can be either pagan or not. Might use magic/spellcraft or not.

What sets them apart is that they almost always work outside any set systems and don’t focus on spellcraft. Their focus is riding the hedge – crossing the realms with the use of plants.

Witches that cross the realms without the aid of plants are not hedge witches. Meditation is not of the hedge witch.

Witch of root and shadow

Similar to hedge witch but includes specific perceptions of reality. Spellcraft might be used but is not part of the path.

Emphasis is on nature and the witch working as partners or allies. Spending time outdoors is integral. Lack of set rules or any ‘system’. For full description, see definition of witch.

This type of witch has closer links with shamans and seidr workers than with pagan witches.

As you can see, there is significant overlap. Magical practices are one of those things that many dabble in (I use ‘dabble’ as in it’s not the central focus of the path). But for some its integral, whilst for others its their gods or their perceptions of reality that set them apart. Most of the confusion and idea that there could be strong overlap stems from the modern age when people began taking labels for themselves that were inaccurate. Now the labels are accepted but they are almost irrelevant.

From witchvox article:
Crafters and Natural Witches
Posted: January 7th. 2007

Or… Why I hesitate to call myself a witch.

The distinction I am about to make is my own, albeit shared by many others like me. It by no means claims to be the sole definition nor is it an attempt to create division (division is already there and it isn’t a dirty word) . I write this article for the same reason I write anything online at all: to reach out to those that are like me and need to hear it to find inner peace.

Trying to share worldviews is one of the most difficult things people can attempt. We can debate, argue and discuss beliefs; this is easy enough. But to truly understand another person, we need to shift to their perspective on life – and most of us cannot do this. If you are a natural or trained empath, you know exactly to what I’m referring.

I mention this because many people get riled up at other people’s definitions and beliefs when it is connected to witches. I have discovered that it is perfectly acceptable to distinguish between shamans and practitioners of shamanism – one is a person devoted to serving the ‘tribe’, the other is a person using the techniques and living the practices. Neither is more devoted to their path than the other, but most practitioners that are not entirely devoted to the life would not disrespect shamanism by taking on the label ‘shaman’. Similarly, Druids today openly admit they are living a reconstruction of that ancient path.

However, get into distinctions about ‘witches’ and you quickly find yourself in some ridiculous conversations. I have read all sorts of articles about the etymology of wicca/wicce, about an old religion renewed, about modern inventions, and so on.

Although I have a deep interest in etymology, I find it entirely irrelevant to most of these issues. You could take on a word used 3000 years ago; it doesn’t make you that thing. What matters is socially or culturally defined meaning.

So with this perspective, I totally accept anyone who wishes to call him/herself a witch.

Words are not static creatures, they are dynamic; we push and mould them until they fit what we understand. We can debate until we’re blue in the face that ‘gay’ originally meant happy, but it has absolutely nothing to do with how we use it today.

If ‘witch’ now means a person of a nature-based religion, who worships a goddess and god, and who does magic, then I have no problem with that. In fact, there are as many definitions as there are witches. It does mean though that I hesitate to call myself a witch, as with so many definitions, we have in my opinion, unfortunately rendered the word virtually meaningless.

My concern is that many of those of the current forms of witch paths deny the existence or possibility that there is another meaning at all. And this is where I enter into my worldview. If you are a true spiritual seeker, you will now take my hand, close your eyes, and come on a realm walk with me into my mind.

My experience is of a life where witches are in the dark corners; they are silent and walk in line with the shadows. They are not political, they don’t wish to be accepted, have rights, or fight environmental issues. Those find them that both fear and respect them. They don’t worship any god or goddess. They don’t do magic.

They don’t what?

Yes, I hear you.

Allow me to share with you the distinction. In my world, there are two main types of witches, and yes, both call themselves witches, but one only for convenience and usually by outsiders rather than themselves.

The two are Crafters and shadow walkers.

A Crafter practices what is known world wide as witchcraft. Witchcraft (and identical cultural variants, such as brujaria) is a term that was actually used by non-witches/crafters to talk about what they thought witches did. Witches have no problem with a certain amount of incorrect information.

Look at your history, and you will discover that from very ancient times, being a witch was being an evildoer. Witches were more an idea than any actual person. Yes, that’s right, evil witches are not a Christian invention, however inconvenient that is for a handful of modern pagans.

The ancients despised them long before Christianity was a twinkle in a Jew’s eye. Ancient pagans killed witches. People have always had to explain bad luck and misfortune, the concept of the witch filled the purpose of a scapegoat.

Social history is never linear; many complex circumstances eventually produced people that actually did do witchcraft.

Witchcraft is actually a set of crafts, plural. But it all revolves around magic – poppets or dolls, spells, charms, talismans and amulets, protection, banishings, and much more.

This is known as folk magic – used by cunning folk, wise women, and crafters.

In some parts of the world, I have seen this merge with the pagan religion or with pagan concepts and worldviews. This has produced religious Crafters all over the world, including British Witchcraft, Stregoneria and Stregheria, and even in my own Brujaria. I refer to them as pagan-witches. There are Crafters in my family, both religious and not.

Every witch cultural variant I have come across has the two, and more, styles – Crafters and shadow walkers.

Pagan-witches, or religious Crafters, often do rituals; they believe in gods or some form of being that usually is worthy of worship or reverence. Their style of witch path is a religion to them because it is inextricable from their beliefs of divinity.

Another form of religious Crafter that I first discovered about 4 years ago call themselves Wiccan. This is a highly diverse group, but they tend to be united by certain worldviews. Their flavor of ‘witch’ is religious and leaning towards the ceremonial and alchemical side, often in conjunction with folk magic. That is, they believe the world is made up of four elements and perform simple to elaborate rituals for/with their gods, while simultaneously using the practices of the wise folk, such as herb knowledge.

The above are by necessity basic explanations, only serving as guides to compare with the rest.

Ok, so what is the other, this shadow walker, I mention?

This is the witch of my understanding: the shadow walker, the root worker, the feather walker, the dream seer, the web weaver…..This ‘witch’ cannot choose the path; the belief is that the path chooses the person. Just as some are born natural artists or musicians, so are some born witches.

This witch finds magic (use of the will to create change) contrary to her worldview, while she still uses healing methods and similar practices. She is bestowed with a role that is both an honor and a burden. She sees no deity that requires her worship, devotion or reverence. She is an equal walker on this realm and all realms with the spirits of nature and the ancestral spirits.

She breathes in one breath with nature. Drawing a circle around her is contrary to her purpose and perspective of the realms. Reality is not male/female, light/dark – it is neither two nor four. There are no four corners, but a spiraling reality of all spirits. She is wild and has no use for formal ritual. She does not write down her thoughts or use symbols – she is as nature, free of social constructs.

She is gatekeeper, key mistress. She is neither above anything or anyone nor below anything or anyone; there is no hierarchy in the realms and certainly none on earth. There is no coven, no priest/ess; there is only Family or solitary existence.

She does not meditate, is not psychic or prophetess. She is not politically active. She cannot survive well in urban society – neither in common jobs, roles or living conditions. Just like the shaman, she must separate from social norms to fully realize who and what she is.

It isn’t that you cannot be a witch in suburbia – you are what you are. It’s that if you live in such ways, you will feel suffocated, disconnected, exposed, not at peace. The old stories of the witch at the edge of the village tell of a truth – she must separate.

Also, we don’t charge for what we do, ever. However, we work with the flow of nature, and nature is in constant balance and exchange. We believe that if one takes, one must give back. This is accepted in whatever method the person can manage, whether it is coins (money), food, livestock, labor, or knowledge. We don’t request it; the spiritually sound person knows to give.

We have no tools of any special meaning. We don’t have sabbats or esbats or any designated observance on particular days or times – these are human constructs, nature has no special days. Some of us take special note of solstices/equinoxes for feather walking or other workings. We acknowledge the particularly deep power of the moon on the flows in nature: sap, tides and blood.

Ethics are tied to people, not the path. We have no creeds or guidelines. We understand responsibility in accepting consequences – sometimes even a painful price is worth it. We have no concept of karma.

To the shadow walker, Fate is everything. Those that adhere to the great concept of wyrd should understand this.

As you can see, understanding this in its full scope requires a great shift in consciousness and in worldviews, an intellectual or mental empathy.

Finally, all witches sacrifice for their role. Although sacrifice is not the appropriate word, as how we view it is that we exchange with nature. This might mean no life partner, no children, ostracism, or anything out of the social norm. Obviously not an easy path.

Although the belief is that you are born as a witch, it is possible to choose to live the ways, to an extent. For those that have come to me over the years, unsatisfied with other flavors of being witch, the ways of the shadow walker offer an alternative, and it is to these people, as well as to the natural ‘witches’, that I reach out to with my words.

My family rarely uses the word witch; there is no name for who and what we are, but ‘witch’ is the easiest and closest match. Until you discover that there are now even more definitions available.

Whatever witch you are, no matter if we are entirely different in our beliefs and worldviews, I recognize our shared sisterhood through the label. But I do wonder, just how appropriate or socially meaningful is the word ‘witch’ today?


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