© Copyright Arabella K. Federico All Rights reserved
the writer's guide to witchcraft and witches
A blog by Arabella k. Federico
We all know witches exist, we wonder who they are; we secretly wish for their power. Witches. They come in all shapes and sizes, and Hollywood has distorted our view of what a Witch truly is to the point where most of us have no true concept of the modern Witch. Grab your cauldrons, brooms, and wands; let's make some magick.
A Brief History of witches
To begin, most people believe Witches got their infamous reputation in the Salem Witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, but the truth is it goes way further back than that. Much, further. Some believe the beginning of human consciousness, due to the mythology of Witchcraft. Legend and folklore, which is real? Typically, back in the European Witch Trials between 1560-1630, people often blamed single, middle-aged women (between 20-30 years old based on the life expectancy) for random instances of bad luck. A poor crop, a sick friend or loved one; even bad weather. If a woman were to be a Witch, she must have been marked by the Devil himself, therefore these women were often stripped and searched for birthmarks and moles-then branded as Witches. Often impossible tasks were given to these women to “prove” their innocence, often leading to their deaths. If dead, the brand of Witch was lifted.
"Thou shall not suffer a witch to live"-Exodus 22:18
Firstly, the hysteria is real. Many branded women were actually well-natured healers. But if the wrong person saw this back in 1600 European culture, it could be a death sentence. Therefore, people were fearful, believing the Devil was within these women. The book “Mallevs Maleficarvm” was the fuel to the fire that exploded the Witchcraft hysteria. But the book that truly fanned flames was the Bible. Essentially justified torture and murder. Any scapegoat that a person could point to and say was different/unknown was immediately branded as “Witchcraft”. Anywhere from modern-day psychiatric issues to seizures. Even a woman’s demeanor was suspect to public sabotage and persecution. Persecution of nonsense.
so what is witchcraft, if not devil-worshiping?
Secondly…it’s not that simple. Traditionally, people think of Witchcraft as the belief, execution, and casting of magical spells that do harm to those who slept with other people’s boyfriends…and that’s not wrong. Simply it depends on who’s asking, and who’s answering. Culturally, Witchcraft and Witches are seen differently. For example, in the Philippians Witches are seen as the opposition to the organized religion there. Native American culture consider Witches-AKA Shamans-highly in the community and are looked to often for answers about the paranormal and healing ailments. The modern era, most use the term “Witch” to describe Modern Paganism, which is a movement influenced by historical paganism, though the newer, more contemporary version is much more diverse and does not hold a single set of beliefs or practices. Check out the WIKI Page for a super detailed breakdown.
deciding what type of "witch" you want to write about
Thirdly, like discussed above, there’s no one “type” of Witch. When considering a story about Witches, the type of Witch you choose to write about is crucial. Below are a list and a brief description of Witch-practices and what their beliefs are.
- Cosmic Witch~ Astrology, Zodiac Signs, Horoscopes, Celestial Energy
- Divination Witch~Tarot Cards, Scrying, Palmistry, Crystals, Candles
- Green Witch~Herbalism, Botany, Folk Magic, Essential Oils
- Sea Witch~ Oceans/Lakes, Lunar Magic, Weather Magic
- Paranormal Witch~ Traditionally “impossible” magic. Flying, levitation, Telekinesis, Portal Creation, Necromancy, Memory Manipulation, Mind Control, Longevity, Illusions, Healing, Energy Blasts, Conjuring, Etc.
- Blood Witch~Draws the power of their spells through the sacrifice of theirs or other’s blood
Additionally, many Witches cross in and out of these categories, and so too can your Witch characters. Don’t be so focused on the label, but instead, the powers you want them to have.
Not every Witch is a WICCAN, but every WICCAN is a Witch. In a sense, Wicca IS a religion, but one that’s loose definition. Additionally, there’s no central authoritative figure like Jesus Christ or Buddha. Its materials were created by Gerald Garder in the 1940/1950’s, but a lot of Wicca’s practices and traditions are orally passed down. Typically, people get the term “Witches” and “WICCANS” confused with each other, but they’re not synonymous. Wicca is a religion where gods and goddesses are worships, the beliefs, theology, use of magick, and history is completely different from Witches and Witchcraft. They are not the same. For more information on the deets of WICCA, I recommend the WIKI page here.
Deciding whether or not you wish for your Witch character to be a WICCAN or not is up to you, it is not a prerequisite for this market of being a Witch.
the light vS the dark, the black vS the white, the good vS the evil
Coincidentally, another huge misconception about Witchcraft is the fallacy of White Magick and Black Magick. Most people, typically, see White Magick as “Good”, I.E.-Doing no harm to others, healing, positive spell-casting, etc. Whereas Black Magick is “Evil”. Hexes, curses, getting revenge, dropping a demon in your ex’s new girlfriend’s house, shit like that. But the thing about Witchcraft is-none of that exists. There is no White or Black Magick, despite the categorization of it. It’s all determinant of the Witch practicing. Their intentions, their core values, and goals.
You have to decide where your character falls on this spectrum. A prime belief about magick users and WICCANS is the “Law of Three”. Which basically says, if you go out and get revenge on your ex…that shit’s gonna come back and bite your ass TIMES THREE. So be mindful of this convenient plot device in your story.
Typically, a coven is a group of Witch-minded individuals who collectively meet-up to perform Witch-like practices together, rather than alone. (Solitary Witch) Alternatively, you can write about Covens where this is their family. A Witch is either born into it or paid a high price to join, and are committed to the practices, beliefs, rituals, and other goals of the Coven. Coven’s can be good, bad, lazy, inaccurate, WICCAN, or not; it’s up to you. Remember the types of Witches from above? What TYPE of Witch Coven does your character belong to? What are their rules? What happens when those rules are broken? What retaliatory steps are taken if a Witch were to leave or go against her Coven? How do they get in/out? There’s rich conflict within Covens, don’t waste the opportunity. Use it.
Sabbats, also known as “The Wheel of the Year”, are a representation of the seasons important to Witches. These are important dates for you as a writer to know about because they could possibly play a role in your novel. These days are like Witch holidays. The Winter Solstice is like their Christmas. So you can’t simply leave this cultural aspect out of your Witch’s life.
- Winter Solstice (Yule)
- Imbolc (Candlemas)
- Spring Equinox (Ostara)
- Beltane (May Eve)
- Summer Solstice (Litha)
- Lughnasadh (Lammas)
- Autumn Equinox (Mabon)
- Samhain (Halloween)
Lastly, you don’t have to believe that the magick real life Witches and WICCANS casts is “real” or not, that’s irrelevant to your story. You’re writing fiction, and within fiction there is magical abilities at your character’s disposal. Witches cast spells, hexes and curses; they heal and astral project and use crystals and dance to the moon cycles. That all happens IRL, but in your story, if you so choose, you can do even more. Bring a little magic to the magick. Push the boundaries of what you believe about Witchcraft/WICCA magick and create something uniquely yours. There’s no limit or laws of nature; except one. All magick comes at a cost. Even for your fictional Witches. If you want to keep some realism, don’t skip over that karmic little detail.
a witchy conclusion
In closing, I know this is A LOT of information, and believe it or not, this is the most basic, slim-pickens of dives into Witchcraft and Witches. There is so much there for you to discover and learn about to create a vividly rich Witchy world. I recommend you do your own research, this is merely an outline, jumping-off point for you to build on; not an exhaustive list. Witchcraft is old, it’s fluid, it’s mysterious. I’m jealous of your Witchy world already, as this topic is fascinating to me. Maybe one day I’ll write about Witches, but until then, my dear Army; it’s up to you. The genre is coming back into mainstream; now is the season of the Witch.