Types of Witches

Woman practicing candle magic
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There are many different types of witches in the world today, and they're as varied as the people who practice their beliefs. For most witches, witchcraft is seen as a skill set, and it's not always necessarily a religion—this means that the practice of witchcraft is accessible to people of any spiritual background. Let's look at some of the types of witches you might encounter, and what makes each uniquely different.

Did You Know?

  • Today's witches may choose to practice in covens or groups, or they may decide they prefer to practice as a solitary.
  • Many of today's witchcraft traditions have historical roots, but they're almost all different from the type of witchcraft that your ancestors might have practiced.

Traditional or Folk Witch

A traditional witch typically practices the folk magic of his or her ancestors or of the people in the nearby geographic area. Often, they take a historical approach—they're using the magical practices and beliefs that were around long before Wicca existed—and they may have access to a wealth of information about spells, charms, talismans, and herbal brews that date back centuries. You'll find that those who practice traditional witchcraft, or folk magic, are usually pretty knowledgeable about the spirits of land and place in their area, as well as customs and folklore of their region. Many traditional witches use a blend of old beliefs and practices combined with modern tools and ideas.

Hedge or Green Witch

The hedge witch of old usually practiced alone, and lived magically day to day—performing simple domestic actions that were infused with magical ideas and intentions. These practices are sometimes referred to as green craft, and are highly influenced by rural customs and folk magic. Similar to kitchen witchcraft, hedge witchery often focuses on the hearth and home as the center of magical activity, and the place where a hedge witch lives is designated as sacred space. Unlike kitchen magic, however, the focus of hedge witchcraft is on the interaction with the natural world, and that often expands outside the kitchen.

A hedge witch typically spends time working on herbal magic, and might cultivate related skills like herbal knowledge or aromatherapy. A hedge witch doesn't just have jars of plants—she probably grew or gathered them herself, harvested them, and hung them up to dry. She most likely has experimented with them to see how useful they are, and keept track of the results for future reference.

Gardnerian or Alexandrian Wiccan

In traditional Wicca, which is one of many forms of modern witchcraft, Gardnerian and Alexandrian practitioners can trace their lineage back in an unbroken line. Although not all witches are Wiccans, these two forms of British witchcraft are oathbound traditions, which means that those who are initiated into them must keep their knowledge secret.

Gardnerian Wiccans are witches whose tradition can be traced back to Gerald Gardner, the founder of the modern Wiccan religion, which went public in the 1950s. Those who identify as Alexandrian Wiccans have a lineage that goes to Alex Sanders, one of Gardner's earliest initiates. Founded in the 1960s, Alexandrian Wicca is typically a blend of ceremonial magic with heavy Gardnerian influences.

Eclectic Witch

Eclectic witchcraft is an all-purpose term applied to witchcraft traditions that don't fit into a specific category, often because they are a blend of magical beliefs and practices from different areas. Although some eclectic witches identify as NeoWiccan, there are plenty of non-Wiccan eclectic witches out there, using the parts of different magical traditions that resonate with them the most. Eclectic witches might use a combination of historical sources, information read online, some knowledge from a class they took, and their own personal experience, all rolled together to form one single, practical method of performing rituals and spells. In some cases, the word eclectic is used to distinguish a modified magical tradition from its original form, or to differentiate an uninitiated person who is practicing their own version of otherwise oathbound material.

Kitchen Witch

Kitchen witchcraft is a new name applied to an old set of customs—if the kitchen is the heart of every home, it's the perfect place to make some magic. In kitchen witchcraft, meal prep becomes a magical activity. A kitchen witch might have a stovetop or countertop altar, there are probably fresh herbs in jars and pots, and magical practices are incorporated into recipes and cooking. When you take the time to prepare a meal from scratch, it helps to make it a sacred act, and your family will appreciate the work and energy you share with them. By changing the way you see food preparation and consumption, you can craft practical magic at the stove, in your oven, and at the cutting board.

Ceremonial Witch

In ceremonial witchcraft, also called ceremonial magic or high magic, the practitioner often uses specific rituals and invocations to call upon the spirit world. Ceremonial witchcraft uses as its base a blend of older occult teachings like Thelema, Enochian magic, and Kabbalah. Although information on ceremonial magic often seems to be limited, this is due in part to the need for secrecy within the community. In fact, many people who practice ceremonial witchcraft don't identify with the word witch at all.

Hereditary Witch

There are numerous hereditary traditions of witchcraft, but by “hereditary” we don’t mean that the practices and customs are biologically inherited. These are typically small, familial traditions in which beliefs, rituals, and and other knowledge is handed down from one generation to the next, sometimes from mother to daughter, or father to son, and outsiders are rarely included—even those who marry into the family. It's hard to guess how many hereditary witches there are, because the information is generally kept within the family and not shared with the general public. Again, this is a family tradition based on practices and beliefs, rather than any documentable genetic link.

Sources

  • Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Penguin Group, 1979.
  • Farrar, Stewart. What Witches Do. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1971.
  • Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon: a History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Russell, Jeffrey Burton., and Brooks Alexander. A History of Witchcraft, Sorcerers, Heretics & Pagans. Thames & Hudson, 2007.