Modern Witchcraft 2.0: Wicca
We promised you this this week in one of our Instagram stories during our special witch week, so here it is! You'll understand that the subject is very complex and we'll only touch the tip of the iceberg so that you can really discover the principle of claiming to be a witch nowadays. First we will take a look at the history of the witch and how it has evolved throughout history, and then we will see how to become a witch in practice.
What is witchcraft?
First of all, the term 'witchcraft' needs to be defined simply and effectively. In reality, it is more complex than it sounds. Let us see what it really is.
A complex definition
In the french dictionary Larousse, witchcraft is described as follows "Magical practice with a view to exerting an action, generally harmful, on a human being (spell, bewitchment, possession), on animals or plants (livestock diseases, crop failure, etc.). Synonyms: diablerie - magic - satanism". This definition has unfortunately been biased by the history of witchcraft and magic as a whole. As for our dear French academy, it does not try to get wet at all and is content to describe witchcraft as "the art of sorcerers". We have had better definitions! And what if witchcraft was not limited to the medieval and generalised image that our great thinkers have of it? It is the definition of the writer René Guénon that appeals to most people, because it offers an alternative to the evil witch: "magic is a technique by which certain natural laws are manipulated, which have been abandoned or are inaccessible to modern scientists, but which are the subject of ancient traditional sciences that have now been forgotten". What is particularly appealing about this definition is that it is natural and not supernatural! Practising witchcraft would therefore be much more natural for humans than it seems... Just imagine: if this is the case, you are already practising magic yourself without even knowing it.
The beginnings of the legend
As you can imagine, the origin of witchcraft is very unclear, but historians have gathered clues to better understand the appearance of these practices.
Many hypotheses agree that the witch myth may have originated with the emergence of Christianity. Indeed, it would seem that before the establishment of the Catholic Church in Europe, the witch was closer to a shamanic woman than to a demoness who had made a pact with the devil. This very degraded image of the pagan priestess has obviously evolved over time to gradually become part of world folklore. The caricature of the Evil Woman was imposed by the Church, because the place of witches before their arrival was well established as healers. At the time of the arrival of the Catholic Church, the population really wanted the Christians to bring a form of magic superior to that of the pagan culture. The women shamans would have been gradually discredited by the propaganda of the clergy in order to impose themselves as the only religion. They then became the pagan women using the devil to make evil amulets and talismans, while the Church gradually imposed itself as the voice of the Saints and ancestral relics.
All those who made a pact with the devil by selling their souls in exchange for evil powers were called witches and women were the most affected by these attacks, as they were the ancient healers of old. They were accused of making a pact with the devil where their ancestral rites required them to gather for pagan festivals honouring the sabbaths, the great events of the seasons. During these meetings, they were accused of carrying out diabolical rites to worship their god of Hell, Satan, in order to fight against the God of the Catholic Church, the Doxa, the most common doctrine of the time. It also showed the determination of Christians to impose themselves by force: if you denied Jesus, you would be called a black sorcerer and become a threat.
A very important turning point in the history of witchcraft came with the publication in France of a seminal text. This was the treatise Malleus Maleficarum, published in 1487, which was reprinted several times and in which the authors publicly denounced the condition of witches. It was following these writings that the witch trials began and even multiplied over time. Other major texts came out during this period, allowing these events to turn into a historical drama. These trials reached their peak around 1600 and led to the deaths of many innocent women.
Fortunately, at first drowned out by the chaos, various voices finally managed to speak out against these trials. In 1563, the physician Jean Wier contrasted evil witches who had actually committed diabolical crimes with those with health problems. Indeed, during this period, it was thought that the 'humours' (the fluids within the body) could become infected and directly impact the mental health of the mind. He explained that black bile could be the cause of melancholy and the fanciful imagination of some accused. These writings were widely accepted throughout Europe and eventually became part of the texts of the witch hunters. It was then that, after centuries of suffering, the Parliament of Paris became the first judicial body in Europe to put an end to witch trials in 1640. Louis XIV even reiterated this prohibition on debating witchcraft accusations in 1672. The term witch continued to be used, but as real witches kept a low profile for several centuries, their existence gradually became part of the folklore of imagination and legend.
It is only since the middle of the twentieth century that witchcraft has become more present again. The freedom to practise a religion other than Christianity certainly helped, and people now have the possibility of choosing their beliefs from among traditional or neo-traditional religions. The cult of nature was brought to light by the English Egyptologist Margaret Murray, who explained that a traditional religion whose existence was not really suspected could still exist in this period. She explains that this ancient cult would have survived in the form of covens where witches gathered. This theory could never be proven and was seen by some as a conspiracy theory. However, it did influence the establishment of a new neo-traditional religion based on ancient witchcraft: the Wicca of Gerald Gardner.
Witches were once seen as monsters who had made a pact with the devil and even experienced the sad consequences... This symbol has even remained with the festival of Halloween celebrated on 31 October, while the pagan festival of Samhain is celebrated by witches. Again, it would not be surprising to hypothesise an attempt by the Church to denigrate this community, which simply celebrated the last harvest and the new solar year. Today, the movement is gaining strength and witches are daring to speak out again, even using networks such as Instagram or TikTok.
The Wiccan Style
Wicca is a movement mainly represented in English-speaking countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. However, it seems that this school is gaining more and more followers by using social networks. Witchcraft was brought to the world by the British esoteric writer Gerald Gardner through two seminal works on neo-paganism ("Witchcraft Today", 1954 and "The Meaning of Witchcraft", 1959). This culture between religion and spirituality is based on a mixture of shamanic, Druidic, Greco-Roman, Slavic, Celtic and Nordic beliefs. Common to these beliefs is the veneration of nature and natural magical mysteries. While the image of witches remains negative throughout the West, other international religions and cultures pay only slight attention to them without associating them with Satanism. Other currents of thought developed later, inspired by Wiccanism, but specialising in a specific field or culture.
The pop-culture phenomenon
Thanks to Wicca, the phenomenon of witches is becoming more and more widespread until its boom in the 1990s. There are many representations of witches in popular culture through series and films on the small and big screen. From children's series such as Sabrina the Witch's Apprentice or teenagers' series such as Charmed, to series about strange phenomena such as the X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, mystery and magic now seem to attract the public. While it can be said that these works have made young and old alike dream, it would be more accurate to say that the link with real witchcraft is rather weak.
Let's move on to practice!
You now understand that witchcraft is not what you think it is. Today, witches and sorcerers are in harmony with the energies of nature and use its resources consciously. If you too would like to try your hand at magic, grab your grimoires!
The basics of modern witchcraft
Modern witchcraft generally uses the same classical bases and we will see together how you can practice this ancient art.
Basis 1: Respecting the codes
The "Wiccan Rede" is a text written in 1964 by Doreen Valiente in verse form and it defines the moral basis of Wicca and Paganism. Although there are no specific rules or laws to be followed as commandments, this text provides a guideline for living in accordance with Wiccan culture. We have decided to present the three main "rules" from this text:
- Footprint: Treat people the way you would like to be treated and do the same with the surrounding environment. Understand that all your actions leave a mark that follows you like baggage throughout your life. - The analogy: You must spread good energy around you to radiate positivity in your environment and that those around you are in positivity. - The harvest: Your actions must be exemplary because everything you do will be returned to you. Concentrate on your good deeds so that only the positive will be returned to you.
Basis 2: writing your grimoire
You must immediately think of the "Book of Shadows" popularised by the series "Charmed". You're not completely wrong, but you're not right either. The purpose of this book is to keep a record of everything you have learned about magic. You can write down your spells, rituals, intentions, dreams or even the benefits of your favourite crystals. There are no specific rules, as this book is completely personal to you, so you can write whatever you want, whenever you want and however you want. It is a reflection of your experience and wishes, so make regular notes and add to your grimoire as your expertise in witchcraft grows. The next time you wish to perform a ritual, simply open your grimoire and rediscover your notes. The advantage is also to see your evolution in your magical practice.
Basis 3: Celebrating the Sabbaths
Great Sabbaths are the equivalent of Christian Christmas or Easter, but they are festivals celebrating the calendar of the seasons based on the solar and lunar stars. As in ancient times, Wiccans celebrate rites of passage from one season to another by performing rituals and spells. To celebrate nature, they perform these actions to give thanks and celebrate nature and its cyclical perpetual changes. It is a way of placing an intention of gratitude on what one has and of setting goals in relation to the feast, until the next one: just like nature, Man is constantly evolving and renewing himself. The rituals applied by Wiccans are only a reflection of the intentions of the witch or wizard. To manifest these intentions, don't make it difficult for yourself and listen to yourself while being inspired by nature. If you are having difficulty celebrating these sabbaths, you can first take time to reflect on what the seasons mean to you: is winter a time for pause or deep reflection, is spring synonymous with abundance and fertility? To move on to practice, you can take a bath infused with flowers or semi-precious stones, meditate with incense... The possibilities are rich, so ask around, but also listen to yourself!
Basis 4: Creating your altar
An altar is an organised area in a rather secluded place where security and protection protect the witch doctor. It is an expression of beliefs and a place to work on the spiritual evolution of the person. It is a sanctuary where your intention and the energy you place is more important than the material you display. However, beginners will find it easier to use spiritual tools to achieve the desired state of consciousness. Try to represent the expression of your personality and create a beautiful place that is aesthetically pleasing to you. You can practice your favourite activity there: prayer, meditation, offerings, tarot, writing... To facilitate the setting up of your altar, you will need to place intentions on each choice:
- What will you dedicate your altar to? (goddess, event, natural element...) - Where will you set up your altar (inside or outside, in a quiet corner or in a busy room...) - How will you place your altar? (north, east, in the light, in a dark corner...) - What symbols will you use for your altar? (colours, herbs, crystals...) - What materials will you set up? (tablecloth, ritual tools, incense, statues, crystals, runes...)
When everything has been chosen, it is time to act by setting up your very first altar. Take the time to set up the space as you wish, without interrupting the process. Once everything is in line with your aesthetic and your inner intention, you will need to cleanse the energies of your space and its objects so that it can accommodate your intentions and be ready to respond. You are free to do as you wish: a prayer, a fumigation of white sage or a smudging stick... Just imagine that all the impurities burn in the smoke and disappear during the purification process you have chosen. Finally, all you have to do is consecrate your altar. Through a simple prayer, ask that it be blessed so that it can help you achieve your goal. Be aware, however, that your altar, even if it is permanent, must be regularly readjusted so that it is relevant at all times according to your personal evolution and why not the seasons. In order for the altar to be coherent throughout the year, you can use a pentacle so that its positive symbolisms help you to unify your altar. For information, the pentacle is a natural symbol that represents the white magic of light and love, where the 5 branches symbolise earth, water, air, fire and spirit.
To practice Wiccan magic, one must channel energy to achieve a specific intention. It is a spiritual act that helps to move from dream to reality. To achieve this, Wiccans make extensive use of plants. We give you 3 rituals to perform with plants to be placed in jars. Prepare your ingredients and let's go for 3 Spell jar rituals!
Spell jar 1: fortune
- Start by writing your intention on a piece of paper using a green ink pen, then fold it and place it in the bottom of an airtight jar. Then prepare 8 coins (8 is a number associated with the fluctuation of money) to clean and purify them, while focusing on your intention, and place them on the paper at the bottom of the jar. - Take fresh or dried thyme, basil and cloves and crush them in a pestle and mortar to a powder. If this is not possible, chop the herbs as finely as possible and mix them with the cloves. Place this mixture on the coins at the bottom of the jar. - Add a layer of oats on top of the herb mixture, then add another layer of vermicelli or sugar candy star shapes. Fruit shapes also work, as the aim is to represent the sweetness and fruit of your work. - Make several successive layers of the herb mixture, oats and then sprinkles. - You have finished your jar but you need to take action to freeze the spell: either leave the jar open to add change every day until your goal is reached, or close it tightly and burn a white and green candle on top to fix the spell. - Once you have reached your financial goal, remove the paper and burn it or bury it.
Spell jar 2: positivity
- Start by writing your objective on a piece of paper, being as specific as possible about the reason for this anti-negativity spell, then fold it and place it in the bottom of an airtight jar. - Put nails or tacks in the bottom of the jar. They represent all the negativity you want to keep away from you. - Finely chop fresh or dried basil and mix it with cinnamon and ground ginger. Place this mixture in the bottom of the jar. - Then place some violet or sunflower petals on top of the mixture, thinking about the positive effects of the process. - Finally, pour rainwater into the jar, imagining that it will wash away all negativity and evil. - Finally, seal the jar and burn a black or blue candle on top.
Spell jar 3: love
- Prepare two separate small bowls with white sugar. Add pink food colouring to the first, and orange to the second. Stir so that the sugars are a uniform colour. - Write the qualities of the person you hope to attract on a piece of paper, being as specific as possible. Put the paper in the bottom of the jar. - Crush the roses and lavender with a pestle and mortar while thinking about your intention to attract love. - Layer the elements in the following order: pink sugar, herb mixture, orange sugar. When the jar is full, sprinkle with cinnamon powder to attract love and happiness. - You can then seal the jar and burn a pink candle on top.
Things to remember
As you can see, witchcraft is not the evil phenomenon we think it is at first glance. The practice of magic is constantly evolving, while the Christian Church is losing more and more popularity as time goes by. If you want to get into Wiccanism, don't be afraid and find out more by reading the founding works of this movement. Not only is it interesting, but you can learn a lot from nature itself. Happy discoveries!