Witches, magick, sorcery and witchcraft have been part of humanity for far longer than any of the organized modern religions. Consequently, witches have been persecuted more than any other group of people, with much of that coming directly from organized religious groups; specifically Christianity. Religious leaders throughout time have coined terms to denigrate and brand witches as negative, dark, evil entities who owe their allegiance to Satan, the Christian devil, in an attempt to convert and control the masses. Because of this, witches have been hunted down, tortured, and executed in the most horrible of methods. And yet, despite centuries of persecution, witches and witchcraft are still part of nearly every culture and civilization on earth.
Today, the number of people openly calling themselves a witch continues to grow. The actual number is unknown, as many witches continue to practice in private and there really isn’t a “witch registry” to add your name to. Now, it seems that it’s no longer satisfactory to only claim to be a witch; there are classifications, segmentation, and sub-groupings within some of those groups. As in everything else in modern society, people seem to gravitate toward others with like-minded though processes and lifestyles.
This article isn’t about elevating one group over the other, nor is it about giving an opinions on the different types or practices of them. Instead, I’ve tried to show the most-common types and give a short description about each one – some of you may disagree with my definitions and summary, and I’m fine with that. It’s extremely difficult to get a consensus on a topic which has such a lengthy history; much of it unwritten.
Traditional Witchcraft Types (Prior to Wicca)
This section lists some of the many different types of traditional witchcraft, which, for this analysis, means anything that predates Wicca. Wicca dates back to the mid-twentieth Century and has it’s origins in the New Forest Coven. The term Traditional Witchcraft, or Traditional British Witchcraft is often used by practitioners of Wicca, and without explanation, may cause some confusion among the non-initiated.
For this discussion, Traditional Witchcraft means something not related to a sect, coven, or named group. They are types of practitioners which loosely define what part of the natural world a witch works with. These can be traced back for a thousand years, perhaps more. Traditional witches have a very strong connection to the past, and much of their influence, rituals, and everyday practices come from history. They honor the customs and practices of their ancestors and the old ways. Some people classify traditional witches as a separate classification, but it’s a vague term that is better served as an umbrella term for other traditional practices.
Elemental Witch – elemental witches work with the four major elements; earth, water, air, and fire. Elementals are nature spirits which are the life force of all living things. Each element has different forces associated with it as well as colors, stones, plants, herbs, and other natural things. For earth, the elementals are Fae creatures, gnomes, dwarves, trolls and giants. Water elementals are sprites, mermaids, and undines. Air elementals are slyphs, slyphons, and imps. Fire elementals are salamanders and dragons. If you’d like to learn more about the elementals, start with this article or this one.
Hedge Witch – the hedge witch also has a deep connection to nature and the energies of the natural world, and usually they practice in solitary. The hedge witch can communicate with the spiritual world, or as the name indicates, on the other side of the “hedge.” No two hedge witches are alike and most develop their own specialties over a lengthy amount of time spent in the forest working with different plants and herbs.
Kitchen Witch – the kitchen witch, sometimes referred to as the hearth witch, spends most of their time in the home. They are known for using essential oils, herbs, food, and other household items in their magick. They tend to be amazing cooks who experiment with all parts of food preparation. It’s likely that the kitchen witch was the originator of the first brews and potions. They always have an herb garden and are gracious hosts; loving and nurturing. They focus more on magick rather than religion or religious practices.
Sea or Water Witch – the water witch has very strong connections to the oceans, rivers, lakes, and ponds of the world. Like the water, the water witch reflects; kindness is shown kindness, and attacks are returned equally. The water witch is balanced and fair and does not see anything as an obstacle. Sea witches specialize in healing, cleansing, intuition and energy with a magickal style that is usually based on instinct. There is little structure as the water witch does not care about either correspondences or timing. They will not be rushed by others into decisions or actions.
Green Witch – the green or garden witch is focused on nature and using natural materials and energies. Green Witches are well versed in gardening, herbal medicine, and wildcrafting. They are dedicated to living an environmentally-friendly lifestyle and will work hard to preserve the natural world around them. Garden witches find sanctuary in natural places and draw energy from the natural world to boost any magickal rite. The Green Witch is usually female and a solitary practitioner. They specialize in healing, protection, and blessings.
Star Witch – Star Witches draw their knowledge and energy from the stars and other celestial bodies. They are deeply connected to astronomy and how things in space move, align, and connect with each other. Astrology is the primary form of divination, but not the exclusive form. They are also known as Cosmic Witches, especially individuals who practice astral projection. Unlike most other witches, who ground themselves using the naked earth, Star Witches often use celestial energy to ground, cleanse, and center themselves.
Earth Witch – some consider Earth Witchery the very heart or core of all witchcraft. They are highly suspicious, cautious, and usually silent unless a reason to speak is evident. They move like the earth itself; sometimes building and at other times destroying. Earth Witches are mostly homebodies who believe that actions speak louder than any words could. They are great teachers and filled with knowledge of the natural world. They work with all natural things in their personal magick and are strongest in the Springtime.
Culturally Connected Witches
Historically, many types of witchcraft are directly connected to a culture or civilization. In ancient times, clans and villages were sometimes separated by many miles. Each of these communities had healers, who later were called witches; they took care of the needs of their people. Some of the notable types are listed below, along with any notable areas of interest or similarity. None of these people considered themselves witches.
Caledonii – the Caledonii craft is traditional Scottish witchcraft; formerly known as the Hecatine Tradition. It holds to the pagan folk beliefs of pre-Christian Scotland and celebrates many ancient Scottish rituals and festivals. This particular type of witchcraft is very secretive and little is known about the rituals, practices, or magick of their members.
Celtic Tradition – Celtic Witches are practitioners of nature, the elements, nature, and ancestral workings. They are experts in plant medicine and many were healers. There are Gods and Goddesses included in the practice, but the truly notable thing about a Celtic Witch was the connection to the magickal realm of the Fae Folk.
The Druids – the Druids are an exception to nearly every rule or tradition espoused in ancient cultural witchcraft. The most obvious thing of note is that they were all men, where most witches were women in ancient times. They combined the duties of priest, judge, scholar and teacher in ancient Celtic communities. Druidic lore consisted of a large number of verses which would be memorized over a member’s lifetime. Modern attempts at reconstructing, reinventing or re-imagining the practices of the ancient Druids are called Neo-Druidism or Druidry; no written records of ceremony, ritual, or practices has been discovered to date.
Strega – the Strega witch’s craft originally comes from Italy and deals with the manipulation of elemental spirits of air, earth, water, and fire. They follow a tradition based on appreciation of beauty and wisdom dating back to the 14th Century teachings of a woman named Aradia. Some modern-day Strega witches incorporate Catholic themes into their work, but most remain faithful to old pagan beliefs mixed with undertones of reworked Hermetic and Egyptian folk beliefs.
Pow-Wow Witchcraft – based on traditions of the German/Dutch immigrants of pagan heritage who settled in the Pennsylvania region of the United States. There are some people feel this tradition should be part of the Shaman classification due to its practices and rituals of healing through visions in addition to using traditional medicines. The word pauwau (pow-wow) was came to be used for Native American ceremonies and councils because of the important role played by the pauwau in both. The Pow-Wow Tradition elevates the vision seeker as the nexus of group activities and rituals. Others have claimed that the Pow-Wow Tradition is German in origin and that practitioners only adopted some of the local Native American traditions.
Welsh Witchcraft – Welsh witches believe themselves to be one of the oldest witchcraft traditions in existence. It’s a traditional practice of magick and spiritual beliefs that stem from the area now known as Wales; part of the United Kingdom. Much of the tradition overlaps with Celtic and Scottish Witchcraft but there also are many unique characteristics that are only Welsh as well.
Nordic or Teutonic Tradition – the Norse people had an extensive pantheon of Gods and Goddesses and also had a highly developed origin story to support humans existence. All free Norse and Germanic women were expected to be versed in magick with the most powerful known as the Völva.
Pictish Tradition – This tradition also originates from Scotland (formerly known as Pictland). Pictish witchcraft attunes itself to all aspects of nature; animal, vegetable, and mineral and it is more magickal in nature and practice than it is religious. Almost everything about the Picts has been lost to history except for symbols carved on stones and intricate metal-workings.
Wicca is a duo-theistic religion (belief in the God and Goddess) made up of hundreds, maybe thousands, of covens worldwide. Some of the areas of focus are personal responsibility, mysticism, the exploration of true will, and absolute adherence to the Wiccan Rede. Some of the original and most influential sects are listed below.
Gardnerian – Gardnerian witchcraft is the name given to those who follow the teachings of Gerald Gardner. After the repeal of the 1736 Witchcraft Laws in Great Britain, Gardner played an important role in the resurgence of witchcraft. Practitioners of Gardnerian Wicca have strong ties to nature, regularly challenge societal norms, and have many rituals that are the foundation of their practice. Today, Gardnerian Wicca is practiced in over 60 different countries; members must be initiated by existing members and cannot initiate themselves. There is a structured system of membership and advancement which governs the global order.
Alexandrian – Alexandrian witchcraft was founded shortly after Gardnerian witchcraft by Maxine and Alex Sanders. The two are very similar. Alexandrian Wicca is less structured than it’s predecessor and considered a bit more eclectic. There is a structure for advancement and rules surrounding rituals, but has elements of Qabalah and ceremonial magick added. At one time, Alex Sanders was considered “the king of witches.”
Correllian – the Correllian Nativist Tradition of Wicca was founded by Orpheis Caroline High Correll. It began as a fusion between Cherokee Native practices and Scottish Witchcraft. The group was founded at the Correll Mother Temple in Danville, Illinois on September 4, 1879, with Orpheis leading the church until her death in 1940. Because of it’s hybrid status, there was debate on whether it belongs with Wicca; debated mostly between those who can trace their lineage back for generations in British Traditional Witchcraft. It was however, officially recognized in the 1990’s.
Seax – in 1974 Raymond Buckland authored a book titled, “The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft.” The book was so influential that it led to a new magickal tradition called Seax Wicca. Buckland was a student of both Alexandrian and Gardenarian Witchcraft, and his new venture was heavily influenced by both traditions. One notable thing is how Buckland approached things; rather than try to recreate Saxon rituals and practices, he only relied on the Saxon influence as a cultural foundation of Seax Wicca. Seax Wicca also allows self-initiation and attracted many solitary practitioners. It also had no secret rituals or practices and was the first group to accept members of the gay community.
Dianic Wicca – founded in the United States in the 1970’s, Dianic Wicca is almost completely focused on all aspects of the Goddess. It is primarily made up of lesbian females, with a select few men allowed to join. It was founded by a hereditary witch named Zsuzsanna Budapest and teaches feminist values, folk magic, and healing practices that Budapest learned from her mother. Many Wiccans do not consider the Dianic path to be Wiccan at all, as they only venerate, and sometimes espouse only the existence of, the Goddess. There are some Dianic witches who practice other forms of paganism outside of their Dianic practice.
Practitioners Associated With Witchcraft Who Aren’t Called Witches
There are many different types of magickal people who don’t call themselves witches. They have powers, connections to the energies of the earth and the cosmos, and have the gift of sight, but predate the modern definitions of witchcraft.
Shamanism – the shaman can come from any of a number of origins, including Native American, African, and other indigenous people’s worldwide. Shamans offer a direct link to the spirit world though an altered state of consciousness; in some cases hallucinogenic plants or drinks are used to assist the practitioner during the journey. The shaman enters a trance-like state during a ritual for divination or healing. They may also have dreams or visions with pertinent information for others. Shamanic practices predate all known religions.
Augury – augury is an ancient form of divination, originating in Rome. There were priests, called augurs, who were tasked with interpreting natural signs, and then giving guidance based upon those interpretations. These signs could be nearly anything; the way birds flew overhead, weather patterns, crops, trees and plants, and more. Omen reading was considered a way to decipher the “will of the gods,” and augurs were consulted before any important decision was made.
Dowsing – a dowser is basically a person who finds things that others cannot without the use of technology. It’s most commonly associated with finding water or mineral deposits. Other terms for dowsing are twitching, rhabdomancy, witching, divination, dousing, doodlebugging, radiesthesia, doodlebugging, or water witching. It’s not magick, but neither is it a pure science. To learn more about dowsing, you can read about it here – Dowsing – More than just searching for water
The Wild Card
Eclectic Witch – in every area of life, there are individuals that simply cannot be classified due to a poor goodness-of-fit into any category. Introducing the Eclectic Witch. This type of witch will choose specific beliefs and traditions that he or she feels most drawn to and then combines them to form his or her own personalized craft. Unlike witches that follow a rigorous discipline, Eclectic Witches seek out knowledge across the spectrum and pick and choose as they see fit. This is one of the most popular forms of the craft in today’s modern world. Practitioners take whatever works best for them and make it something new, but unique to them only. These individuals are also referred to as Wild Witches.
A quick internet search will return dozens of websites, each with lists of the different types of witches. I’ve reviewed them and have come to the conclusion that almost every one of them makes the same mistake. There are several types of witches listed that aren’t really types, but rather sub-types.
Solitary Witch – the solitary witch practices their craft alone, meaning they have no coven association or group to work with. There is usually no mention of which type of magick they practice in most articles. Every type of witchcraft mentioned in this article can be practiced alone. In many cases the solitary witch practices alone out of fear of being negatively branded by others.
Hereditary Witch – hereditary witches are witches who are born into the world of witchcraft. Magick is a way of life for them and has been since birth. They often come from families with lengthy lineages of witches dating back for hundreds of years. But, just because someone is born to witch parents, there is no guarantee that they, themselves will become a witch; it’s always a choice. Every hereditary witch follows a path; it’s really not a type of witch, only a piece of knowledge about the person and what could have influenced them in their lives.
Witches and witchcraft will continue to exist, regardless of whatever the modern-world throws at them. The names might change, the world might experience a period when they go into hiding again, but nothing short of the end of the world will stop witchcraft and witches from playing their role in the turning of the great wheel.
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