If there is one thing as timeless as Witchcraft, it’s the stereotypes that come along with it. One thing that I have found perpetually hilarious and simultaneously heinous are the caricatures of both Wiccans and Traditional Witches. On one end of the spectrum you have the concept of the fluffy-bunny, love-and-light, crystal humping Wiccan and on the other you have the dark and spooky, Troy Book toting, Black Phillip boffing Trad Witch.
Of course, there is a bit of truth in each stereotype, but by their nature they are oversimplifications of a much broader and more complex group. Stereotypes, or mental schemas, are ways in which our brains make sense of the world. By creating generalizations, we bypass the need to sort out the complexities of each individual person, place, thing, and idea. There are benefits in this, mostly in that it saves us time and energy. But there are just as many, if not more, costs to making these snap judgments.
As a practitioner of Traditional Witchcraft, I’m often faced with uncomfortable situations in which I’m prone to say something like, “I’m not a regular Trad Witch, I’m a cool Trad Witch.” As if I have to justify that I’m not like the stereotype many people carry in their minds. This reminds me of a blog post written by Thorn Mooney in which she mentioned similar sentiments about facing stereotypes about Wiccans. In order to sort through these generalizations, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most common attributes I find associated with Traditional Witchcraft.
You get a hex, and you get a hex!
If there is one thing that Traditional Witches love it’s a good hex! Without that pesky Wiccan Rede or Threefold Law, it’s a regular free-for-all with hexes being flung about for even the slightest infraction.
I find that the practice of hexing is incredibly hackneyed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for hexing when the situation calls for it, but it’s definitely not all it’s cracked up to be. Just because there isn’t an adherence to the Wiccan Rede/Law of Three (which not all Wiccans follow BTW), doesn’t mean that Traditional Witches are without ethics or morals. Any seasoned Trad Witch understands that every action has a positive and negative reaction, which effects all involved. Therefore, it would behoove the Witch to seek all other possible solutions before turning to the Blasting Rod. Just like talking to Becky about your feelings may have a more effective/productive outcome than throat-punching her for making fun of your sick new Baphomet tattoo.
Put a Skull on It!
You know what they say, the bigger the skull the more authentic the Witchcraft! Extra points if it’s a real human skull but if not, that polyresin replica will do just fine for the Instagram pics!
Okay, I’ll admit it, I love collecting skulls and bones! I’m guilty AF in this category but I think there is a good reason behind it. Skulls are a common ritual tool used by many cultures and spiritual traditions, including Witchcraft. They are powerful vessels which connect us to our ancestors, animal allies, and various other spirits. Additionally, bones can be useful ingredients in spells such as those for protection and connecting with the dead. Perhaps it can be a bit over the top and dramatic at times, especially those black and white Instagram photos. But hey, we all collect thing, whether it’s skulls, books, or ex-boyfriends.
1 cup Blood and 2 cups Piss
Forget the crystals and candles, the real magical spells call for blood, piss, and other bodily fluids mixed together with aconite and rusty nails in a vintage mason jar. Shake six hundred and sixty-six times and then bury it next the grave on an unbaptized infant.
Traditional Witchcraft is frequently associated with spells that require poisonous or otherwise noxious ingredients. The above example is a bit dramatic but each of those ingredients has an important magical use. Yet, the clever Trad Witch takes inspiration from old folk charms and adjusts it to fit their modern needs. You don’t need to bleed all over that candle, nor do you need to rub belladonna juice into your retinas. There are billions of magical options out there, and they don’t all require you to risk your physical well-being. Do I use blood and piss in my spells? Yes, on occasion but I’m also not likely to flash it all over social- media. Like a passive-aggressive Facebook status, some things are better left unsaid (or posted for that matter).
Forget Donald Trump and Mike Pence, if there is a public enemy it’s those insufferable Wiccans. What with their watering down of real Witchcraft and what not. If you mistakenly refer to me as a Wiccan I will
unfriend hex you because clearly what I’m doing is totes not Wicca.
Not all Trad Witches feel this way, including myself. The feud (for lack of better terms) between Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft is nothing new, it’s been going on for decades. A lot of issues arise from misinformation and stereotypes formed by both sides (remember those costs I mentioned earlier?). It’s also based largely on the folly of trying to claim authenticity from without rather than within (i.e. attacking different spiritual traditions to try and validate your own). A well-informed Trad Witch understands the history of Witchcraft, knowing the importance that Wicca has played and how both paths have a lot more in common than initially thought. Additionally, they are grounded enough to understand authenticity doesn’t inherently come from things like age or unbroken lineages. It’s not the size, it’s how you use it…or something like that.
Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s flying ointment
“Hey girl, see you at the Sabbath tonight? I just have to slather myself in toxic plant juice and I’ll be right there. I just made a new blend of Monkshood and Foxglove flower I’ve been dying to try. Do you think I should take my broom or the goat?”
With the growing popularity of Traditional Witchcraft, interest in flying ointment has also increased. If you want to be a part of the cool Witch club you better get some! I’ve written about it in the past, and while some of my opinions have changed, they have largely stayed the same. In truth, I’m a fan of flying ointment and poison plants. However, a responsible Trad Witch approaches these practices with caution and respect. They also have a realistic understanding of what flying ointment is and what it is not, it’s simply one possible key for the vehicle that is Spirit-Flight. And in all honesty, it’s often a lot sexier in theory than in practice like threesomes or parkour.
*Please note that of the sexy poison plants, monkshood and foxglove are both absolute no-no’s when it comes to flying ointment.
Gemma Gary or it didn’t happen
There is no bible in Trad Craft except maybe A Cornish Book of Ways. Plus, if you aren’t following Gemma Gary word for word or consistently ripping off her artwork, are you even a Trad Witch? Get your shit together Carrol.
This has nothing to do with Gary as a Witch or an author, in fact I am quite fond of her work. Okay, it’s also not so much of a stereotype than it is a commentary on behavior I’ve observed myself. A Cornish Book of Ways is a great source of inspiration (which is what I feel like it was meant to be, versus a textbook to follow verbatim), but it’s not the only resource of use to Trad Witches. The cunning and well-rounded Trad Witch pulls from many sources to inform their Craft. This can obviously include Gary’s works (and the rest of the books published by Troy Books, which really are excellent!), but also includes texts on folklore, mythology, and history. This
should can also include *gasp* books about Wicca!
These are just some of the stereotypes ascribed to Traditional Witchcraft, I’m sure you could probably come up with even more if you put your mind to it.
You may have noticed that each stereotype discussed was two-sided. This is because, as mentioned earlier, most stereotypes have a tiny kernel of truth within them. Which means that there are people who think and behave in accordance to these generalizations. This doesn’t make them right or fair, but it does mean that they do have some grounding in reality. Every group of people, regardless of their label, has their outliers, those who are the basis of the caricatures created. And while it can be tempting to poke fun at these clichés, it’s important to recognize that they don’t intrinsically reflect every member of that group. It can really suck for those who get automatically lumped in with the other because another’s lack of ability to hold complexities and differences.
Next time you encounter someone, whether they be Wiccan or a Traditional Witch, allow them to share their story without your preconceived notions getting in the way. You may be surprised at what you learn!