What do Witches do?

Practices to which the witchcraft label have historically been applied are those which influence another person's body or property against his or her will, or which are believed, by the person doing the labelling, to undermine the social or religious order. Some modern commentators, especially neopagan ones, consider the malefic nature of witchcraft to be a Christian projection. Witchcraft can also be a magical art alone, not necessarily part of a religion.

Influencing another person's body or property

The concept of a magic-worker influencing another person's body or property against his or her will was clearly present in many cultures, as there are traditions in both folk magic and religious magic that have the purpose of countering malicious magic or identifying malicious magic users. Many examples can be found in ancient texts, such as those from Egypt and Babylonia. Where malicious magic is believed to have the power to influence the body or possessions, malicious magic users can become a credible cause for disease, sickness in animals, bad luck, sudden death, impotence and other such misfortunes. Witchcraft of a more benign and socially acceptable sort may then be employed to turn the malevolence aside, or identify the supposed evil-doer so that punishment may be carried out. The folk magic used to identify or protect against malicious magic users is often indistinguishable from that used by the witches themeslves.

There has also existed in popular belief the concept of white witches and white witchcraft, which is strictly benevolent. Some neopagan witches identify with this concept, and profess strong ethical codes that prevent them from attempting magic on someone without that person having requested it or at least given permission.

Where belief in malicious magic practices exists they are typically forbidden by law as well as hated and feared by the general populace, while beneficial witchcraft is tolerated or even accepted wholesale by the people - even if the orthodox establishment objects to it.

Spellcasting see our FREE Spells page

Probably the most obvious characteristic of a witch is the ability to cast spells. To some witches, spells are viewed as a form of prayer. Spells can be cast by many methods, including meditation, burning of candles, chanting or reciting incantations, performing physical rituals and making herbal, oil or incense preparations. Sometimes quite simple and mundane actions can constitute the physical casting of a spell, and it is a common belief amongst modern witches that the intention behind the actions is at least as important as the actions themselves. Methods are many and differ from witch to witch.

Conjuring the dead

Strictly speaking, "Necromancy" is the practice of conjuring the spirits of the dead for divination or prophecy - although the term has also been applied to raising the dead for other purposes. The Biblical 'Witch' of Endor is supposed to have performed it (1 Sam. 28), and it is among the witchcraft practices condemned by Ælfric of Eynsham:

"Yet fares witches to where roads meet, and to heathen burials with their phantom craft and call to them the devil, and he comes to them in the dead man's likeness, as if he from death arises, but she cannot cause that to happen, the dead to arise through her wizardry."

In Wicca, Samhain or Halloween is held to be the time when the veil between the living world and the Other World is at its thinnest, and this is a common time to attempt contact with those who have passed on.