The Truth About Hereditary Witches

The Truth About Hereditary Witches September 25, 2018

The other day, I saw someone’s twitter handle. ‘Fourth generation hereditary witch.’ Bullcrap, I thought.

hereditary witchcraft pagan real truth
Wikimedia Commons

We’d all like to think we’re special, and to some degree, we are. I never believe in lying about anything, but there are so many hereditary witches these days who have such high degrees and long lineages. I know these people are probably young witches who feel the call of the witch, and I don’t want to dissuade them from the calling, but it’s important to be honest.

When it comes to hereditary witches, it’s all about how you define who/what a witch is. There are two basic options.

1. A Witch Is Someone Who Self-Identifies as a Witch

If we define a witch as ‘someone who self-identifies as a witch,’ few of us would actually be hereditary witches. There’s nothing wrong with this honest assessment. If the issue were black and white, this would be the deciding factor, and would eliminate many ‘hereditary witches.’


I do acknowledge that it’s possible that there are third and fourth generation witches out there, with all generations identifying as witches. Many of the witches I grew up with have kids and even grandkids (though they’re young still, too young to use Twitter).

I applaud anyone whose parents and any further generations own the title of witch. And if I’m honest, I’m a little jealous, too. But how far back does the witch lineage really go? It’d be hard for most people to come up with an unbroken self-identified witchcraft lineage longer than two or three generations.

Which brings me to the next option of how to define a witch.

2. All ‘Witchy’ People Are Witches, Whether They Identify As Such or Not

The trouble with most ‘fourth generation hereditary witches’ is when we get into the gray area, or what I call ‘the Stevie Nicks area.’ Stevie Nicks is a signer from the 1970’s-1980’s who has witch chic down unlike any other, has a song called Rhiannon, who says she experiences psychic phenomena, and even plays a witch character on a popular television show. Despite all that, she doesn’t call herself a witch.

‘Witch’ was considered a bad word back in the day, and even today, some people refuse to use it. It’s important to look back at our ancestors and the era they lived in. Your ancestors may have survived the McCarthy times in America (1947-late 1950s), when many people’s lives were ruined for even appearing to have any leftist thoughts. There are stories of people being taken away in the middle of the night and never being heard from again. It was a very hard time, when freedom simply wasn’t truly free.

Many people couldn’t explore witchcraft or anything spiritual due to the very oppressive regime and also a limitation of information. The fear of ‘being the other’ probably never went away, and so, conforming was the norm.

With our ancestors’ lack of self-identification as witches, uncomfortable questions arise. How much of a hereditary witch is anyone without the self-acknowledgment?

We could call our ancestors ‘honorary witches,’ but I don’t know if they’d like that. Maybe we could just trust Stevie Nicks and our ancestors to make their own decisions about who and what they are.

Then again, maybe witchcraft is ancient part of all of us, and it’s waking up! Maybe we’re all hereditary witches, and our powers have been mostly dormant for decades, and they’re all coming out now!

Persephone, by RahLuna. Creative Commons 3.0

I’m being silly, but I have a point. Being descended from people who were ‘witchy’ or had some witchy abilities is a huge possibility for most people. There are so many kinds of witchy and otherworldly powers in the world. If even just 10% of people in the world have these otherworldly powers, it’s likely that everyone descended from at least one magical person.

But what do we call that, if they didn’t identify as witches?

In the end, I think self-identification and honesty wins.  We can have different opinions on magic and witchcraft, but calling one’s self a witch, or not, is pretty basic.

Perhaps instead of using ‘hereditary witch,’ we could use ‘a witch with spiritual ancestors,’ or ‘a witch with psychic ancestors,’ or, my absolute favorite, and what I happen to be, ‘a third generation witchy person.’


 ~ Align with Starlight Witch ~

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About Astrea
Astrea is a polytheistic pagan witch, fire dancer, new ager, and writer of fiction. Check out her social media accounts to see all her blog posts and extra special witchy / artsy / personal content. You can read more about the author here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Shawn Herles

    Given how far our ancestries go back, everyone alive today will have numerous people in their family lines that had some “spooky spooky” gifts or propensities, in some cases possibly even actual witches. And in some cases they might have been practising Christians who had healing gifts or saw Mary or other saints and conversed with them, and I find it sad that some Pagans and Witches won’t look for that aspect of their history. But none of that makes anyone special or more witchy. Authenticity comes from what you do in the here and now, not your ancestors.

  • roberto quintas

    Just to mention: there was a time when people appointed who was the witch.

  • Adie |

    I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand the point of saying we’re “whatever-generation hereditary witches” in general. I can’t think of any other religious group who does this. None of my Christian friends feel the need to point out there they’re nth-generation Christians.

    I wonder if the reason people do this is because of the assumptions that come with openly identifying as a witch. If someone identifies with a Christian path, it’s just assumed that their family is also Christian. Same with Jewish paths, Muslim paths, etc… even though it’s totally possible to convert to those paths. Whereas, especially for young women, if you openly identify as a witch people immediately assume that you’re rebelling against your family’s Christian values, or at the very least your beliefs run counter to those of your family. I wonder if maybe people are becoming so much more vocal about being “hereditary witches” (I will say, this is something I’ve only started seeing relatively recently) as a way to preemptively shut that assumption down and adding a bit of social validity to their paths. Basically a way to say, “No, I’m not trying to rebel against my family, because my family shares my beliefs.”

    Should they be worried about their beliefs being deemed “valid” by outsiders? No, probably not. But, I can also understand the frustration that comes with people assuming you’re doing something solely for rebellion’s sake.

    On that line, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that people who say they’re “fourth generation hereditary witches” are obviously lying. Even if it was dangerous in the early-mid 1900’s (and earlier) to be open about their practice doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t still identify as witches in secret. And just because it’s been multiple generations doesn’t necessarily mean that those beliefs couldn’t still have been passed down–if families can pass down recipes, why not spells and rituals? I don’t know that person’s life, who am I to decide they couldn’t possibly be telling the truth?

  • Miriam Mahesa

    I quite agree that it depends on more with what you do. This does not mean that there are not times that I do not get annoyed. I have had someone tell me as a Wiccan that they were practising unvarnished and not their understanding of Celtic witchcraft based upon reconstrution. I could have made a fuss since members of my family were executed as witches. Both my grandmother and grandaunt nominally went to church but that wasn’t what was going on at home. I once had a very long lunch with a cultural anthropologogist about families like mine – people did do their best to hang on but like the Moros in Spain knowledge got lost too. Would that make me a hereditary witch? I guess so. I am proud of family who withstood persecution but the heriditary thing does not necessarily make for being a good person. I can think of two who use their gifts to take advantage of others. I can think of two who put their lives literally on the line to help others. As one of my cousins put it when we were chatting about this whole more than witchy than thou virtue signalling “Magic is something that calls to you if it’s meant to be. Otherwise it’s just a crusade.”

  • Jessy Vickery

    I think apart of the hereditary thing is the healers. Bloodstoppers and Fire talkers… things passed down in the mountains.. they weren’t self identifying, but they were magic.

  • Jenifer Lee Cappello

    Muggles, half-bloods, muggleborns, purebloods, Death Eaters. We go down a slippery slope of ‘hereditary’ witches being ‘more of a witch than you’. I just returned to witchcraft after ten years and all the new lingo (Baby witch??) and changes in the culture has got me all splinched. Uuuuuuuuuhhh.

  • Liza

    Considering Wicca is a new term as far as history is concerned, I believe anyone who has family considered witch, shaman, pagan, whichever word they identify with should claim it and proudly in this present time where we may feel free to. Coming from whatever place in history and managing to pass the family gifts, traditions, lore down thru the generations, even a few, should be honored. If that’s using “hereditary”, so be it.