There’s something different about witches, something that draws you to other witches and to witchcraft in general. Something that tells you who is a witch and who isn’t, despite whether they proclaim themselves that or shy away from it. Something deeply felt where you know and sense someone else as your own kind. It’s the unquenchable thirst for more, for connection with others and for connection to what Orion Foxwood calls the Greatest Witch of them All; the Earth. It’s a predisposition to magick, to spirit communication and to psychic experiences and an ability to sense and relate to that quality within another.
Within witchcraft traditions this concept is called “witch blood”, the idea that there’s something different in witches than other people. Others believe in it but have varying ideas of what it is and where it comes from. Is it biological? Is it energetic? Is it hereditary? Is it something that’s activated? Where does it come from? There’s myths of it coming from the angels, the faeries, the Grigori, the Watchers, the Nephilim, the star ancestors or a view that these are all references to the same beings. Is it literal or metaphorical?
As silly as it might sound, I view the three main children from the Harry Potter series as the three archetypes involving natural witches, by blood and by orientation. And sometimes I think witchcraft is an orientation of sorts while I simultaneously believe magick is a skill set. Something you’re born with, whether that be genetic or something on a much deeper orientation that predisposes you to natural magickal talent. First you have Ron, who is a hereditary witch, though he has the je ne sais quoi of witch ability running through his blood, he lacks discipline with his studies and development – his spells are often a hot mess and backfire.
Then you have Harry who is a hereditary witch and wants to develop his power, who is considered a very powerful witch, if not the most powerful. Lastly, you have Hermoine, who is not a hereditary witch but rather a muggle. But there’s something deep inside her that is drawn to witchcraft, that wants to devour all the knowledge she can and who works hard at developing her craft. I would personally argue that she’s the strongest witch of the three and the one who often saves the day. This reminds me of the book Magick Without Tears, where Crowley write “Why should you study and practice Magick? Because you can’t help doing it, and you had better do it well than badly.”
In my opinion the concept of “witch blood” is mytho-poetic and not literal. It has nothing to do with bloodlines or gross notion of eugenics, though some have sadly come to associate it with that. While there may be merit to the idea of “hereditary power”, I don’t think that’s necessarily what is meant by “witch blood”. If it were all about literal bloodlines, where would that bloodline originate anyways? I have seen powerful witches who were naturally drawn to witchcraft since childhood who have no one that they know of in their family that was ever interested in magick. I have known people I would consider powerful witches that would be horrified of that word as they’re practitioners of a monotheistic religion, or none at all.
Some believe witchcraft is purely based on initiations. But who initiated the first witch? Witchcraft and magick are as old as mankind, much older than our evidence of initiatory traditions revolving it. Most of our information of ancient witches seems to suggest that initiations were something that the gods and spirits bestowed upon the witch, not other witches. While I do believe in the power of initiations, I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all.
I was fortunate enough to hear a panel of people whom I deeply respect discuss this topic at Templefest 2015, a several day festival of workshops, lectures and rituals put on by the Temple of Witchcraft every year. I wanted to share the thoughts of these speakers as I found the wisdom very interesting and validating. I have chosen my favorite parts of their talk and edited or paraphrased their words slightly for the purpose of clarity. Christopher Penczak moderated the panel and asked them what the witch blood was and where it came from. He stated in the Cabot tradition it’s very linked to the feary world and faery lore but that other traditions link it to angels or gods. He asked the same questions I pose above. Here are the fascinating and varying replies.
Devin Hunter is a professional witch and the resident House Medium at The Mystic Dream in Walnut Creek, Ca. He holds third-degree initiations in both the Northern Star Tradition of Wicca as well as the Dianic Tradition of Witchcraft (the Cult of Diana) and is the founder of his own tradition, Sacred Fires. His AV Club favorited podcast, The Modern Witch, has helped thousands of people from all over the world discover and develop their magical abilities. Devin is a co-founder of the Black Rose School of Witchcraft, the founder of the Sacred Fires Tradition of Witchcraft and the author of the Witch’s Book of Power and the forthcoming the Witch’s Book of Spirits.
“At one point I believed everyone could do this, I really truly did. Through many years of working with clients as a professional witch I discovered that some people don’t have that little magickal thing that says ‘okay I know how to light this candle, say these words, connect to the universe and give it that punch and let it go out and manifest. For some people, that’s not their thing. I don’t have doctor power. I don’t have doctor blood. If I did I wouldn’t be here, I would hopefully be doing something good for someone else with their health.”
“My traditional background was very Dianic. (not to be confused with the feminist movement, but rather Diana as the central Goddess, the Goddess of Witches) We were taught the concept that Diana is the goddess of faeries but also the goddess of what we called the celestial faeries which are basically like angels and that’s where the Grigori come from. The basic idea was that at one point there was an ancient race, whether they’re angels or faeries, who mixed with us and changed our blood a little bit. Some of those bloodlines passed on and carried through. When the worlds separated, whether the faeries went into the mounds or the angels went into the aethers where we couldn’t see them. What was left remained and it stayed with us. In our tradition it’s believed that if you are a witch and you activate your witch power and you ignite that fire then your job is to be a compass point and torch bearer for everyone else who can’t necessarily do it.”
“We do have [witch blood] and we are special and it’s okay to say that we’re special and that we’re a little weird. One of the things I often say is that Diana is the goddess of the island of misfit toys. She loves you for who you are and she wants you to be successful and if you’re a witch She doesn’t care what you’re doing, she wants you to practice witchcraft and she wants you to learn. We work with Aradia as the spirit teacher, she’s the guide of witches who takes us down our individual paths and teaches us our individual magick.”
“I think there are ways of activating [witch blood], you can get an initiation and that can help activate some part of you that leads to witch power and psychic ability and you can instill it into your bloodline. Where we live there’s a wonderful witch who calls herself a hereditary witch, who learned from her grandmother, who learned it from an adopted aunt, but she considers herself to be hereditary because she learned this family tradition from this adopted aunt who then taught her grandmother who then taught her mother who taught her. So yes, I believe we can install this “software” into the bloodline. I think it can be random too.”
Storm Faerywolf is a teacher, artist, poet, warlock, priest, and initiate of the Feri Tradition of witchcraft. With nearly thirty years of experience practicing the Craft and teaching for more than twenty, Storm has lead open circles, given lectures, and taught both public and private classes in Northern California and across the U.S. He holds the Black Wand of a Master Sorcerer and is the founder of BlueRose, his own school and lineage within the Feri Tradition. He is a founding teacher of Black Rose, an introductory intensive online course in modern traditional witchcraft, the author of Betwixt and Between and The Stars Within the Earth, and one of the owners of The Mystic Dream, a spiritual and magickal marketplace located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“I also used to believe that anybody could do it, and that’s because I had found success myself with it. I think I was probably an insecure kid and I figured well if I can do this then anyone can do this. However, over the years I have found that not everyone can do this, though I do feel more people probably can than think they can. One of the things that I’ve come to believe is that if you have that drive and that interest in witchcraft there’s a potential to have that witch blood awoken. Whether that will awaken in them is yet to be seen though, I do believe that there needs to be a fair amount of work involved to have that potential awakened within them. Some people seem to just be born with it and weird things happen around them and maybe they can’t control it and this is why formal training is a good idea so we don’t have a bunch of sloppy witches all around casting strange spells.”
“In the Feri tradition that I was initiated into one of the pieces of lore, which we approach as a poetic truth rather than a literal truth – which doesn’t make it any less true, states that when you are initiated into the tradition you become a racial descendant of the ‘little people’.”
“Regarding the witch blood or witch fire – if we are drawn to it, if witchcraft is what we eat, breathe and dream about, I think that means that you have that potential within you. That is the witch blood calling to the witch power – calling you on this path. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be a kickass witch necessarily. You have to put work into it and there needs to be a discipline. Especially perhaps for those who are born into it and found natural abilities growing up – its even more important to achieve that discipline and hone your skills.”
“In the Feri tradition, as well as other traditions, witchcraft is akin to a martial art where there’s a deep inner practice. One of the analogies I use in my own teaching is the science experiment many of us do as children in school where you make a compass with the cork, needle, bowl of water and a magnet – and we stroke the needle with the magnet over and over until the needle finally becomes magnetized. I think that we are that needle and the magnet is the practice of witchcraft. We are magnetizing ourselves through our repetition of the work, contacting the spirits and casting spells and disciplined practice. We are attuning ourselves to the witch power and awakening slowly like a blooming rose, which you can’t force open. I think initiations of various types can speed that process up, prompting that rose to bloom of its own accord instead of peeling the bud open which will ruin the flower. I think that is what initiation is all about. There’s no way to gloss over the importance of experience. I could read every book in the world and have all this knowledge and it won’t necessarily translate to the witch power. With those things I could be a great armchair magickian, and I do think there’s a place for that too, but that doesn’t mean that this will make things happen in regards to magick. I think there’s absolutely no substitute for experience.”
Chris Giroux has been studying and practicing magic for over thirty years. An accomplished tarot reader and teacher and Initiated Priest of the Ancestors and the Inner Convocation, he has led workshops on concepts of the Goddess and the Divine Feminine from around the world, Tarot, Runes, the Ifa Religion of West Africa and the Faerie Faith of the Celtic World.
“As I’ve matured I’ve learned how incredibly divisive words are. When Christopher Penczak and I started hanging out, I would ask him if he makes a distinction between witches and Wiccans and we would have these in depth conversations about it – because for me a witch was someone who was born to it. When Christopher first met me, he asked a friend of ours I was a witch and she replied ‘yes, but you don’t want to tell him that’ because it wasn’t until I was in my late 30s that I was comfortable with that word.
For me a witch is a person who takes complete responsibility for their participation in the creation of the world, a person who says ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to take responsibility for this and not pan it off to someone else. It’s not the devil made me do it or the angels helped me do it, it’s I facilitated this change and I’m going to take responsibility for this and hold myself accountable for the process and results whether they be positive or negative.’
I have encountered so many people over the years who would not in a million years call themselves witches, but they’re witches. There are Catholic Witches, Jewish Witches, etc. By my definition of a witch, this person is not relying exclusively on the teachings of their practice or tradition but taking it into the world, participating in the process of it happening, not investing in an outcome, setting an intention and taking responsibility for how it unfolds for themselves.”
Raven Grimassi is a published author of many titles on Witchcraft, Wicca, and Inner Mystery Traditions. He brings over 45 years of personal experience in the practice of ritual, magic, spell-casting, and occult mysticism. Raven is the Co-Directing Elder of the Ash, Birch and Willow Tradition, a system reflecting the commonality of European rooted traditions of Witchcraft. The ABW system is based upon the Thorn Path of Witchery, which is an Old World practice of Witchcraft. Raven began focusing on this system in 2004 when introduced to the inner ways of the Thorn Path. Raven is also the co-Director of the Fellowship of the Pentacle – an umbrella organization for his work through various sources.
“I cut my teeth on teachers who believe that witch blood is a hereditary thing that’s passed on from generation to generation and I believed that for a very long time. I came to look at it in years past as something energetic or spiritual that was passed in our DNA. Whatever bits of matter that was passed on through the generations that there was an occult property that perhaps held some energetic pattern within our DNA that came from people who were the early mystics, witches, druids, or whatever they might have been. This is where I was for a very long time. And I began thinking this was true because as I did research on ancient cultures I found that every little tribe had that weird little guy who talked to spirits and everyone else was a hunter or had a job – but there was always that weird guy who would go out into the woods – who was perhaps that prototype of the mystic or the shaman – a person who was seeing something others didn’t see. So for a while I thought that this is where that came from, within that genetic tribe the occult principle was in that.”
“Then later I came across the idea of faery blood or extraterrestrial or whatever you might want to think about it. That there was a genetic strain introduced. I think all of these things are possible and as I get older I think more things are possible than I did when I was younger, I’m much less dogmatic about things than I used to be.”
“Sometimes isn’t it true that in a circumstance you’ll have someone who’s always been known as passive and not that dynamic and in the background but then a crisis develops, perhaps a fire breaks out in the building, and then suddenly that person is the hero? He just jumps into action and does something no one would expect him to do. Maybe that’s where it comes, that it’s always been there in some way but the access to it was made possible within the moment, in the need, there was an awoken memory in the blood – perhaps an ancestral memory. There’s a quality and perhaps it’s in all of us and the people who can’t and I do believe there’s people who can’t. What I mean by that is not that they never could, but rather because of their head space, the reality of such thing is so far removed in their consciousness.”
“Maybe it is within all of us and it awakens in those moments in our lives, perhaps in those moments of conflict with religious doctrine where we say ‘this doesn’t feel right’ and something else comes along and we say ‘this does feel right’ and perhaps this is zig-zagging us in back to that place where we reawaken something within our blood.”
“I’m not sure honestly but there’s an old saying we had back in the 60’s which is that ‘we know our own’. I’ve met people who weren’t witches by anything you could look at but I’ve felt their blood and the inner knowing was there and I looked at them and I thought ‘I know that blood’. I’ve also had the reverse where people were insisting they were witches and I thought ‘I don’t see it’, not from a judgmental point of view but I didn’t feel it, I don’t see the blood, I don’t feel the resonance where I say, ‘yes this is one of us’.”
“I do know it’s there and I don’t know what awakens it but I think having it is an expansive thing, a stepping outside of ‘yes, I can feel the witch blood within me’ but this is coming from many places. This is coming from the trees saying it and the rocks saying it and the ancestors saying it, not just yourself saying ‘oh yes, I’m a witch’. It’s an acknowledgment of everything around you where you say ‘yes, this is my path’.”
Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi is a 3rd degree initiate of a Celtic Traditionalist system of Wicca, and is a 3rd degree initiate of Italian Witchcraft (the Arician Tradition). She is a legally ordained clergy of Witchcraft. Stephanie has studied, taught, and used the magical arts as tools of transformation throughout her lifetime. She is also a professional Tarot reader, astrologer, and a teacher of Old World Witchcraft House of Grimassi (formerly through the Fellowship of the Pentacle). Stephanie is the co-author and co-creator of the divination and teaching systems The Well Worn Path Oracle kit (2005) and The Hidden Path Oracle Kit, (2007). She currently lives in New England with her husband (author Raven Grimassi) and divides her time between operating Raven’s Loft cyber store, teaching workshops, managing the House of Grimassi project, and developing the Ash, Birch & Willow training system of Old World witchcraft.
“Many people do come to this path looking for power or acceptance and that they think that is really what it is all about without realizing there’s so much more depth to it. I’ve found in our experience that The Ways have a way of cleansing themselves. These people tend to fall to the wayside because they don’t do the work. They don’t really understand the intent and intensity of what this is really all about.”
“We do all come from different traditions but we all sort of hold a similar core truth – it’s about doing the work, it’s about your own spiritual evolution, your magickal evolution. I do think that at my age now, that this is very much about spirituality and not about doing the magick anymore. The magick has moved into my living. I think everyone does have a successful spiritual evolution with this because you are doing what you have to do, because you’re doing the work and if you’re doing the work you’re going to keep moving the direction you want to go, you’re going to have the manifestations you want and the reality that is true to your vision. But we do know each other when we see each other.”
Robbi Packard is an Eclectic High Priestess of Witchcraft with over 20 years walking her path. She currently teaches a variety of workshops through the Robin’s Nest in Bellingham MA and is an active member of the Temple of Witchcraft and Fellowship of the Pentacle. A wife, mother, business woman, ordained minister, intuitive and artist. Robbi’s passion for the development of Community is a driving force behind her spiritual work.
“I don’t think everyone can do this and I don’t think it’s in everyone’s blood. But I do think for those of us whom it is in our blood that there’s a point on our Earth Walk when it begins to hum and we feel that vibration. Sometimes it happens in childhood, sometimes in our teenage years, sometimes when we’re older. I found for myself at a young age that ‘finding God’ was very important, and as a kid I felt that hum and that vibration but didn’t know what it was, because I had no exposure at all to witchcraft. None.”
“Through my teenage year I would experiment with things, but again having no connection whatsoever to witchcraft, no books accessible, no internet and no one to call. It was really about listening to what was called inside and listening to the earth and the plants and the rocks and the trees and the birds. It took time to develop that.”
“You recognize your own kind. So when I was in my late teens and early twenties and I began driving there was one bookstore in San Diego where you could find anything at all on the occult called ‘The Controversial Bookstore’ which is still there. And I would ask myself, ‘why am I being drawn here? Why am I being drawn to this type of bookstore? No one else in my family is, because I am the freak in my family. But it was that knowing. I had this man one time come up to me in this metaphysical bookstore and I was buying this cassette on Dianic meditations and some crystals – because this is what I was being drawn to – and this man looks at me and says ‘You know, I believe in a Goddess’ and I thought ‘This guy’s creepy and he’s hitting on me.’ But he said something about recognizing that energy within me and at the time I had no idea what he was talking about at all as once again I had no exposure to witchcraft.”
“It wasn’t until a few years after that when I was dating this man at this time, and everything in my house all revolved around witchcraft in some way, shape or form, in the sense that I had a chalice, I had a cauldron, I had crystals, I had herbs and flowers. But it was just what I felt and was pulled to get on the inside because it made me feel content and happy and connected and it felt right. This man said ‘I’m going to take you someplace’ and he took me to my first pagan festival. The cool thing about it was that the hum and vibration I felt as a child, when I was gathering rocks and making a circle and sitting in them or climbing under the bushes and saying ‘I’m going to go play with my friends’ – but finally I realized that wow, there are people like me and there’s a name for it!”
“It’s all about listening to that call and as you’re exposed to it and as you have that opportunity to come into contact with others who are of the same blood, it amplifies and gets louder. You then have the opportunity to listen to it or ignore it. Do you tap into it or fight against the flow of it? I find when I’m not doing my practice because I’m letting my mundane life take over everything, things to hell in a hand basket. I’m way too stressed out and things are too crazy.”
“I find that at this point in my life that I don’t have to do all the spells and rituals but that I’m at this point in my learning over all this time where I can meditate and be in that space of ritual just by being that space. It’s time to slow down in the learning and not rush through that learning and allowing that voice in our blood to guide us a bit more and to get a little bit louder and to be comfortable with the fact that it’s taking you down a path you weren’t planning. Because that’s happened a couple of times. It’s not a straight path. Christopher Penczak has said many times that the witch’s path is a very crooked path and sometimes it even doubles back on itself. So you may think you’re going in one direct and end up somewhere else and there’s beauty in that if you choose to listen. A lot of people need to stop talking and listen more.”
Christopher Penczak is a Witch, teacher, writer and healing practitioner. His practice draws upon the foundation of both modern and traditional Witchcraft blended with the wisdom of mystical traditions from across the globe as a practitioner and teacher of shamanism, tarot, Reiki healing, herbalism, astrology and Qabalah. He is the founder of the Temple of Witchcraft tradition and system of magickal training based upon the material of his books and classes. He is an ordained minister primarily serving the New Hampshire and Massachusetts pagan and metaphysical communities through public rituals, private counsel and teaching, though he travels extensively teaching throughout the United States.
“There’s something that I took away from Raven Grimassi at a Pantheacon, and we weren’t necessarily talking about witch blood but ancestry and the ancestors and he made a really clear point about how everyone can go far back enough and find pagan ancestors, so everyone has that potential.”
“When we talk about witch blood sometimes people do take it as divisive as Chris Giroux said and the question of whether witch blood is hereditary or not, people say ‘are you saying you’re better than me?’ and I don’t hear anyone here saying that. I think Devin brought up a great point with doctor blood or that calling for that. I think we’re all called to do something unique.”
“But with this form of spirituality, I go back to Laurie Cabot who talked a lot about how everyone could meditate but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to be a witch, which is why she taught the science of witchcraft because anyone could understand the technology of meditation, trance and be more intuitive but that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to put on a rope. It didn’t mean everyone was going to pass into circle and that everyone wasn’t going to be doing that type of magick. She really kind of taught that everyone can have a magickal life but not necessarily be witches – but that whatever your path is, you can deepen it.”