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Witchypedia: a beginner’s guide to everything magick


TextAntonina RossIllustrationcactithorny

All the magick (not magic) and witchy terminology you could ever want – conjured by a practising witch

Welcome to Witch Week, a campaign dedicated to exploring how witchcraft, magick and beauty intersect. Discover photo stories shot featuring real witches in NYC, a modern reimagining of the witch, and one witch’s mission to get a tan, as well as in-depth features exploring herbology, science and alchemy, and male witches. Elsewhere, we’ve created four special covers to celebrate the campaign and our one year anniversary – something wicked this way comes.

Over the last few years, interest in spirituality and more specifically witchcraft has been growing among younger generations. Old misconceptions of spooky satanic worship and dangerous cult-like covens are being rebuked by an army of young influencers finding solace and meaning in magick. They’re a legion of young people seeking to make the art of witchcraft more approachable for those looking to dabble in the odd potion, to well-wizened warlocks– the world of magick is opening up online. 

The long-list of YouTubers and influencers are too many to mention here but key players in the magick movement such as Harmony Nice who makes videos and has written a book about her experiences as a Wiccan; to Amiifawn who speaks about her path on Instagram and Annie Tarasova who makes videos on her spirituality, in addition to platforms and online communities such as @witchessociety on Instagram, there’s a movement building.  

It’s without a doubt that online spaces are becoming a petri dish of knowledge for this particular global community. The ability to share information like never before has been intrinsic to the growth of witchcraft, an art that by nature is an adaptation of old traditions into new diverse and flexible paths. The rise in technology has also been utilised by modern witches, who now use their laptops and phones to keep notes of their practices, some even going as far as to use microwaves to aid them in spellwork – more on microwaves can be read about in Shawn Robbins and Leanna Greenaway’s book Wiccapedia.

Those who cast spells believe in Karma and the threefold law which states anything you do will be returned to you three times as strong. This is why practitioners stay away from harmful magick, curses and hexes. The religion of Wicca follows ‘an ye harm none, do what ye will’ mantra, adopted as a rigid guideline for the majority of modern magick practitioners. You read that right – magick with a ‘k’ is a term used to differentiate spiritual magick from the stage magic and card tricks. While witchcraft outside of Wicca has no laws or ethical codes which forbids or advises against the use of curses and the like, in witchcraft, many will choose not to add to their karmic debt and follow their own morals.

In uneasy times, as they are now, with debates swirling around gender equality and growing unease around climate change, the next generation is turning for more spiritual modes of existence and, in some cases, liberal practises of magick. Unsurprisingly, the mystical and elusive nature of spirituality, as well as the independent ‘follow your own morality’ approach with magick, appeals to young people today who are moving away from traditional labels and definitions. 

No two people who practise magick or spirituality have the exact same beliefs, some worship personified deities, some choose to follow the elements, others may follow a more established religion such as Buddhism or Christianity alongside their practice. 

The glossary below includes some terms which are considered the basics of spirituality and witchcraft. An interest in all of these terms is not necessary, and that is what makes witchcraft and spirituality such flexible practises – it allows you to look into what interests you and learn at your own pace. Happy magicking!

A is for…

Altar 

A space specifically for spell work and rituals, it can be decorated with anything the witch wants, usually sacred or meaningful objects, magick tools, and flowers and crystals that correspond to the sabbats. 

Astral Body 

The astral body is the psychic or spirit form that we take on when astral travelling. Some describe it as the soul.

Astral Plane 

The astral plane is a state of existence which you go to when astral projecting or doing astral magick. It is reached through altered states of consciousness where the astral body is free from the material body. Some people say that the astral plane and dream space, in which you lucid dream, are the same, and others disagree and say they are two different states.

Astrology 

The study of the stars, constellations, zodiacs, and planets.

Aura 

An aura is a subtle energetic field that surrounds objects, places, and living things. It’s undetectable to the human eye, however some people train to be able to detect and ‘read’ auras.

B is for…

Beltane 

Beltane is a celebration which marks the halfway point between the spring equinox and summer solstice. During Beltane the veil between the world of the fay and our world is thinnest. In the northern hemisphere it’s celebrated on May 1 and in the southern on October 31. 

Birth Chart 

Your birth chart shows the positions and houses all the planets were in at the time you were born. Many people don’t know that they have signs for each planet – not just the sun! 

Black Magick 

Black magick refers to any magick which involves the use of negative energy or has the intent of malice or harm. Someone who has practised black magick in the past is not necessarily considered ‘evil’ because the concept of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is relative. Practitioners tend to avoid sending out bad juju because karma sends back whatever they put out three times as hard, and many follow the Wiccan Rede ‘an ye harm none, do what ye will’.

Book of Shadows 

Otherwise known as a ‘Grimoire’, a Book of Shadows is a diary where a witch keeps all the records of their path, magick and discoveries.

C is for… 

Chakras

Chakras are energy wheels found along the spine through which energy flows. There are seven main chakras – crown, third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, sacral, and root – and they all correspond to a different energy and colour. We need to keep these balanced in order to stay spiritually and physically healthy.

Circle-casting 

Casting a circle is done to banish negative energy and create a sacred space in preparation for a spell or ritual, though it can also be cast unceremoniously to create a calm space for meditation or work. 

Cleansing

Cleansing an item or person is done to remove any excess lingering energies from previous rituals or that have been picked up unintentionally from going about one’s day.

Consecration 

The act of consecrating is to purify and dedicate an object to a specific use. Usually witches consecrate new wands or tools to make them sacred. 

Coven 

A coven is the name given to a group of practitioners that perform rituals or celebrate the sabbats together. The word originally referred to a group of people with similar interests.

Crystal Elixir

A crystal elixir is water that is infused with the energies from whatever type of water-safe crystal you choose to soak in it. The elixir can be used for drinking or for use in rituals.

Crystals 

Rocks and minerals which have different properties for uses in spells, rituals, and meditation.

Curse

A spell cast with the intention to send or bring about negative energy or bad luck.

D is for… 

Dianic Wicca 

Dianic witchcraft is a female-only path named after the goddess Diana who represents female empowerment and sisterhood. It’s important to note that this path is not a matriarchy, but rather a tradition that emphasises and explores feminine energy by creating an environment tailored to women.

Divination 

Divination is the umbrella term used for all practises which are used to tell the future or uncover knowledge by interpretation of omens, tarot, runes, pendulums etc.

Draconic Witch 

Draconic witches follow dragon deities, similar to the gods and goddesses that are followed by other witches. They have their own slightly different set of ethics which they use to honour their deities.

Dream Journal 

A dream journal is a book to write down all the dreams you have. It’s done so you can decipher messages from your subconscious as a form of divination, or so that you familiarise yourself with your dreams in order to lucid dream or astral project easily.

E is for…

Eclectic Witch 

An eclectic witch is someone who forms their practice through many different traditions, religions, and other magickal paths to create their own highly personalised witchcraft. An eclectic witch may choose to work one or a mix of gods and goddesses from many different religions, or can also be a secular witch, who does not work with any gods and goddesses.

Equinox

Equinoxes happen twice per year when the sun crosses the celestial equator resulting in a day and night that are the same length. The vernal equinox marks the beginning of spring and the autumnal equinox marks the beginning of autumn. Each equinox takes place on a different day for the southern and northern hemispheres. The word itself comes from the Latin for ‘equal’ and ‘night’.

F is for…

Faery witch 

Witches who work with Fae magick are known as Faery witches. Instead of working with god or goddesses they prefer to seek help and advice from mythological creatures such as fairies and nymphs. These also include dragons but there is a separate path for those who use draconic deities known as draconian witchcraft.

G is for…

Green Witch 

Green witches heavily involve nature in their practice, usually doing their spells and rituals in forests, mountains, or beaches – wherever they can – and growing their own herb gardens. They are interested in botany and strive to protect the planet and the environment to the best of their abilities.

Grounding 

Grounding is the act of connecting spiritually and physically to the earth’s energy.

H is for… 

Hedge Witch

Hedge witches like to work with different spiritual realms and planes. Out-of-body experiences such as astral projection, astral travel, and lucid dreaming are a main focus in their magick.

Hereditary Witch

Witches who are born into a family who also practises magick and have had traditions passed down through the generations. 

Hex 

A hex is a quick spell meant to bring about mischief, similar to a curse or jinx.

I is for…

Imbolc 

The Sabbat which celebrates the first signs of spring. The northern hemisphere celebrates it at the beginning of February and the southern at the beginning of August.

K is for…

Karma 

The notion that any positive or negative energy which is put out into the world will return to the sender. Karma is known by some witches as the ‘rule of three’ or ‘threefold law’, stating that the karma which comes back is always three times as strong as the one that is initially released.

Kitchen Witch 

Kitchen witches love working at home and making their everyday tasks and surroundings sacred.

L is for…

Lammas 

Otherwise known as Lughnassadh is the Sabbat festival of the first grain harvest. The northern hemisphere celebrates it at the beginning of August and the southern at the beginning of February. 

Litha 

Litha is the celebration of midsummer and summer solstice, fertility and new beginnings. In the northern hemisphere, it is celebrated on June 20-23 and in the southern on December 20-23. 

Lucid dreaming

The state of active and conscious dreaming where you are able to control what is going on in your dreams is known as lucid dreaming.

M is for…

Mabon 

The Sabbat which celebrates the Autumnal equinox, all about letting go of things that no longer serve you. In the northern hemisphere, it is celebrated on September 20-23 and in the southern on March 20-23.

Magick 

The word magick with a ‘k’ is used by witches to distinguish their practice from stage magic. It was popularised in the 1900s by Alistair Crowley and is considered a neutral term, not inherently ‘good’ or ‘evil’, the intent and morality behind it is up to the practitioner themselves.

Manifestation

Manifesting refers to the act of materialising your wants and goals by truly believing in their possibility.

Meditation 

Meditation is the act of concentrated mindfulness, where you can still the mind and empty it of thought while doing nothing. It is done to relax and reach an altered state of consciousness.

Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is the practice of being invested fully in whatever activity you are doing and not distracted by irrelevant thoughts.

N is for…

Necromancy 

The practice of working with the dead is known as necromancy. Witches who practise necromancy magick do a lot of ancestral and spirit work and use divination tools like ouija boards. The practise is surrounded with the fascination of death. It is not considered black magick as it is not necessary to kill or inflict pain on living things to practise necromancy.

O is for…

Occultism 

The study of the ‘hidden secrets’ of the universe. Typically refers to the paranormal, however, it also can be used as an umbrella term similar to ‘paganism’ for witchcraft, astrology, shamanism, divination and botany, to name a few.

Omen

An event or sign that is believed to foretell or foreshadow a good or bad future circumstance. 

Ostara 

Ostara is the celebration of the Spring equinox, renewal and rebirth. It is the origin of the Christian holiday Easter. In the northern hemisphere, it is celebrated on March 20-23 and in the southern on September 20-23.

P is for…

Pagan

First used as a derogatory term to describe polytheists, who believe in more than one god or goddess, implying their inferiority. Later the term shifted to describe anyone who believes in ‘the false gods’ and the word ‘heathen’ was used alongside it. Now, it’s used as an umbrella term for occult and esoteric religions and spirituality. 

Pentagram 

A star symbol with five points, four representing the four elements and the top one representing spirit. Contrary to popular belief it doesn’t have anything to do with anything inherently ‘evil’.

Pendulum

A weight of some kind attached to a chain or string which swings to give answers to questions. Using a pendulum is a form of dowsing, meaning you use your intuition and subconscious thoughts to understand what is happening in your life. 

Psychic Attack

A psychic attack can be an intentional or unintentional alteration of your mood or vibration caused by someone’s powerful negative energy towards you. Envy, jealousy, and anger, among others, can all lead to a psychic attack or a change in the atmosphere and vibration of a space.

R is for…

Runes 

Runes are the letters of runic alphabets used in Germanic languages before the Latin alphabet. There were variations also used in Scandinavia and in norse mythology. Runes can also be used for divination in the form of wood pieces, stones, clay or rocks which have the letters inscribed onto the surface. Each letter has its own meaning.

Rising sign

Also known as the ascendant, refers to the zodiac sign that was ascending over the eastern horizon at the time and place you were born. It is described as the ‘mask’ of how we first come across when meeting new people or being in new situations. 

S is for… 

Sabbat 

Eight pagan festivals throughout the year celebrating the changing phases of the seasons.

Samhain

The Sabbat which marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year. It’s also called the witches new year by some and is when the veil between our world and the spirit world is thinnest. There are many different names which this Sabbat goes by, the most popular being Halloween. In the northern hemisphere, it is celebrated on October 31 and in the southern on May 1.

Secular Witch

Secular witches choose to believe the energies they work with come from themselves, the natural world or the universe rather than following or calling upon personified deities or spirits in their practices.

Solitary Witch 

A solitary witch prefers to work alone rather than in covens, groups, or organisations.

Solstice 

A solstice is the point in Earth's orbit when the sun is farthest from the equator, the opposite of equinox which is when the sun is the closest to the equator. The days are longer in summer solstice and shorter during the winter solstice and both take place on a different day for the southern and northern hemispheres.

Sea Witch 

Sea witches like being around and utilising large bodies of water such as oceans, rivers, and lakes in their practice. The element of water is a large part of their practice, and they usually choose to make their tools and use ingredients found near water locations such as shells, driftwood, sea glass, and aquatic flowers.

Shadow Work 

The ‘shadow’ refers to the dark side of our personalities which we repress and overlook. It is the side of us that is wounded with past traumas and impulsive emotions such as envy, greed, rage and desire. Shadow work is the practice of facing those emotions and traumas head on to be able to heal properly and balance your life.

Shaman 

A shaman is a person who has access to and influence over all kinds of spirits and they typically can enter into a state of trance during rituals, divination and healing so that they can interact with the spiritual realms. Shamanism originates from tribes and indigenous traditions.

Smudging

The use of incense or dried herb smoke to cleanse items or an area. 

Sigils

Sigils are symbols which are used in magick. Sigil magick can be highly personalised as the symbols can be made specifically for a certain goal, spell, or ritual.

T is for…

Talisman

A talisman is an object that brings luck or protection from harm and negative energies to the person who owns it.

Tarot

Tarot cards are a set of 78 cards used as a tool for divination.

Tech Witch

The most modern of witches have begun to use technology and gadgets as tools for their magick, using apps as their Grimoires, listening to podcasts, and utilising the internet to find spells and information.

U is for…

Universe 

Some use the universe to describe the highest power or energy from which everything stems, similar to ‘God’ but not personified.

V is for… 

Vibration

In spirituality, vibration is used to describe the invisible or spiritual energy that objects or people give off. Auras have vibrational energy and we can pick up good or bad vibrations from situations, objects and people throughout our day. We cleanse ourselves and objects in an effort to rid ourselves of these stagnant and lingering vibrations. 

Voodoo

A religion deriving from African polytheism. The word can also be used for dolls or puppets that are implied by popular media as used for harm or ill intent, however, that isn’t always the case.

W is for…

Wand

A stick that is used to point and focus energy. It can be made of wood, glass, metal, or any other material which has been consecrated in preparation for ritual and spell work. Wands aren’t necessary and some choose to use their hands or fingers to guide energy.

Wicca

Wicca is a religion which stems from pagan witchcraft. Not all witches are Wiccans and not all Wiccans practise witchcraft.

Wiccan Rede

The Wiccan Rede refers to the basic ethical code ‘an it harm none, do what ye will’. There are several interpretations of it which are followed by many practitioners, not just Wiccans. It is considered advice rather than a rule or commandment. 

Y is for… 

Yin-Yang

A Chinese philosophical symbol representing the duality of life, and how seemingly opposite or juxtaposing forces are interconnected and can complement and balance each other out.

Yule 

Yule is the Sabbat which celebrates the winter solstice. It is the origin of the Christian holiday Christmas. In the northern hemisphere it is celebrated on December 20-23 and in the southern hemisphere June 20-23.

Z is for…

Zodiac

The Zodiac refers to the 12-star constellations that can be found along the paths of the sun, moon and planets. You have a zodiac sign for each planet which is determined by the position of the planet in accordance with the 12 constellations.

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