There are many views, both academic and non-academic, on what is meant by this relatively simply question. For examples I’d direct the reader to the books I list below. (See under recommended reading.)
Tim Ozpagan’s definition: I define witchcraft in terms of my own experience: “Witchcraft is a practical form of mysticism whose method is known as magick.”
Let’s breaking this definition down into the key words.
Witch + Craft: a “witch” is someone who functions either consciously or unconsciously in the psychic realm. A “craft” is a developed skill. The word “craft” derives from Old English via German meaning a strength.
Mysticism: the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible through the intellect, but acquired through a surrender of the self in contemplation and intuition.
Magick: In it’s low form, it is the attempted influence of the world via a psychic force of Will. In it’s higher form, magick is the discovery and fulfillment of True Will, that is the knowledge of personal destiny.
Summary: From these ideas we can say that the practical use of witchcraft for mundane purposes is a skill in influencing destiny. While in it’s spiritual form the practice involves the developed skill in accessing an experience of the mysteries, the metaphysical reality behind the nature of being.
What is Paganism?
It may be easier to look briefly at the traits of Paganism than to try and define it because the term is widely applied with so many variations.
Key to understanding paganism is that it is not a single religion or practice. In examples of modern pagan spitiualities it is frequently used as an umbrella term to express many Mother Nature centered spirituality. Wicca, for example is a pagan spirituality because it’s core values hold that everything in the natural world is sacred.
The introduction of the word “Wicca” back into the modern English language came through the writings and teachings of Gerald Gardner. Following his initiation into a witches coven in the New Forest area of England (1939), Gardner wrote about his spirituality; first through two fictional books and later in two semi-academic books. Gardner makes it abundantly clear in his first non-fiction book, “Witchcraft Today”, that there was no distinction between the term Wicca (Wica) and Witchcraft. Later, those initiated under this form of witchcraft became known as Gardnerian Wiccans.
A distinction in the two terms “Wicca” and “Witchcraft” arises more markedly toward the end of the 1960s, and later in earnest. The distinction has been seen as a white-washing of Witchcraft. Wicca was distinguish as essentially the ‘good’ witches, and all the other ‘Witches’ were suspect.
By the late 1960s Alex Sanders had come into great prominence, teaching a unique fusion of Wicca, Hermetics, and Ceremonial magic. The witchcraft tradition under his tutelage became known as Alexandrian Wicca.
Finally, in more recent times a reclaiming of the term “Witchcraft” has been deeply embraced by many witches who practice a type of natural magic. This is sometimes referred to as Traditional Witchcraft, and many of these witches are at pains to draw a sharp distinction between themselves and the various modern expressions of Wicca.
Fundamentally there is little in the way of real distinguishing ‘spots’ to tell the differences between most modern witches. They share more in common than differences that distinguish them apart. For example, all witches believe in and use magical practices. All witches have an Earth centric spirituality. The differences to be found are more to do with cultural customs. Eg, not all witches practice their craft in special ritual attire, while some work their rituals “skyclad” ie, naked. While there are also some differences in their understanding of how magick works and how they explain the psychic reality this does not prevent them from identifying as witches.
WitchesWorkshop was created to help bring together those interested learning and sharing connection with other witches and the broader pagan communtiy.
WitchesWorkshop has frequently been the first point of contact for many Australian witches and pagans since 1999. In a country as large as Australia, providing an accessible and open online community can be a challenge, but our inclusive approach has made the WitchesWorkshop one of the most interesting and successful online communities for witches and pagans available.
WitchesWorkshop actively helps in the development of the cultural and educational life of Australian witches and pagans by promoting and sponsoring members’ projects. Our Facebook community is moderated and checks are made to make sure new members have a sincere interest in witchcraft and/or paganism.
You can join WitchesWorkshop with confidence that you’ll discover others of link-mind, kindred spirits who are socially inclusive. We value and respect the cultural and gender diversity that members bring to our community.
For many who are venturing into witchcraft for the first time, the WitchesWorkshop communtiy can be helpful way to start with members who are will to share their experiences of the Craft.
Come and join us.
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We are located in the Sydney region, but we have occasionally run workshops in Melbourne and Adelaide. Both Tim Ozpagan and Lisa Babalon have presented at the annual Australian Wiccan Conference. This is annual event that is rotated from to a different state and territory each year.
If you would like to see workshops run in your region and are prepared to help organise a venue and develop a small group to attend then please get in touch. Your first step is to discuss you ideas with Tim Ozpagan.
Reading widely and reading across different subjects is important. The easiest way find good books is by authors who specialise in particular subjects. Here are few examples of great authors to read:
Mythology: Joseph Campbell,
Witchcraft: Stewart Farrar, Phyllis Currott, Timothy Roderick
Psychology: Clarissa Pinkola Estés,
Shamanism: Michael Harner
Archetypes: Genet Paris, James Hillman
Magick: Kenneth Grant, Lon Milo DuQuette
Alchemy: Franz Bardon
Paganism: Ronald Hutton
Pagan Cosmology: Glenys Livingstone
Sacred Ceremony: Jane Meredith
A few specific books:
”Practising the Witch’s Craft: real magic under a southern sky.” Edited by Professor Doug Ezzy. Multiple authors including Tim Ozpagan.
”Dancing the Sacred Wheel: A Journey through the Southern Sabbats” and "Call of the God: An Anthology Exploring the Divine Masculine within Modern Paganism". Editor and author Francis Billinghurst.
“Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to return to your soul” by Jane Meredith.
“PaGaian Cosomology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess religion” by Glenys Livingstone