Basic Terminology of Witchcraft.

The Basic Terminology of Witchcraft

August 23, 2023

Having a basic terminology of Witchcraft is essential for your journey into the craft. As you delve deeper into the ancient practices of herbalism, divination, and folk magic that have spanned thousands of years, you’ll encounter specific words and phrases. These terms not only reflect pivotal moments in witchcraft’s rich history but also ground your understanding, ensuring you engage with the craft respectfully and authentically.

In the post below, we’ll journey together, unraveling some of the most common and foundational terms, ensuring you’re well-equipped and informed as you continue your magical pursuits.”

Cunning Folk

Picture this: You’re living in a small village several centuries ago, and you have an ailment that no one seems to have a remedy for. Where would you turn? Most likely, you’d visit the cunning folk, local healers known for their knowledge of herbs, charms, and spells. These were the go-to individuals for a variety of issues—be it a medical problem, a lost object, or even a bout of bad luck.
Example: Think of the cunning folk as the ancient equivalent of today’s holistic healers or local wise individuals. They were the ones people trusted, much like how you might trust your grandma’s home remedies for a pesky cold.


These wise women and men lived in small villages and rural areas, using herbs, simple charms, and their intuition to help locals with healing, luck, love, and various problems – an old form of hedge witchery. Your solitary spell crafting in nature follows their footsteps.

The Burning Times

Now, not all historical aspects of witchcraft evoke feelings of wonder. Some chapters are a somber reminder of the misunderstandings and fears surrounding the craft. The Burning Times refer to the dark period, mainly between the 15th and 18th centuries, when thousands were persecuted, accused of witchcraft, and often executed. This was a time of mass hysteria, where societal fears, political ambitions, and religious fervor converged to create a grim chapter in history.
Example: Think of modern-day instances when fear or misinformation leads to unjust actions or prejudices against certain groups. The Burning Times is a stark reminder of the importance of understanding, acceptance, and education—to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.


The seasonal celebrations and rituals following nature’s seasonal wheel of the year, called Sabbats or Sacred Days. Common Sabbats are Yule, Ostara, Beltane, Mabon, and Samhain – all still observed in modern witchcraft. Honoring these sacred days connects you to the cycles of Mother Earth.


Remember the first time you met a group of people who just got you? It felt like coming home, didn’t it? In the realm of witchcraft, a coven is somewhat like that feeling. A coven is a group of magical practioners who gather regularly for rituals, celebrations, and learning. Think of it as your magical support group. Imagine celebrating the full moon with fellow witches, all of you casting a spell to bring about positive change in the world. That’s the power of a coven. Example: Maybe you’ve joined book clubs or community groups before. A coven is similar, but with a focus on collective magical work. So instead of discussing the latest bestseller, you might be planning the next Sabbat celebration or discussing shared spiritual insights.


You’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and maybe even a few unique family traditions. In the world of traditional witchcraft, the monthly meetings, especially those correlated with moon phases, are termed esbats. While Sabbats focus on the sun’s position and the changing seasons, esbats are all about the moon. And there’s something deeply stirring about gathering with fellow practitioners under the soft glow of the full moon. It’s a time for magic, meditation, and, most of all, connecting with the lunar energies. Example: Think about how you might feel more energetic or contemplative during certain phases of the moon. Esbats are like harnessing that energy in a group setting. Imagine you and your friends having a picnic under the moonlight, but with the added layer of performing collective rituals and spellwork.

Drawing Down the Moon

Have you ever felt so connected to something larger than yourself that it felt like it was speaking through you? Drawing Down the Moon is a bit like that. It’s one of the most potent rituals where a high priestess, or sometimes a high priest, invokes the energy of the Goddess into herself. It’s an intimate, moving ceremony, often performed during an esbat, where the Goddess’s energy is channeled to bless the coven or convey messages. Example: Remember that time you watched a talented actor become so immersed in their role that it felt like they were the character? Drawing Down the Moon is like that, but on a spiritual level. Instead of channeling a fictional character, the practitioner is channeling divine energy.

The Horned God

Imagine standing in a dense forest, the moon casting a silvery glow around, and you feel the presence of a masculine energy, one that represents fertility, the wilderness, and the cycle of life. That’s The Horned God for you. Often portrayed with antlers, he embodies the wild side of nature, the cycle of life and death, and is frequently seen as a consort to the goddess.
Example: Remember the feeling of running wild and free as a child, feeling as if the whole world was a playground? The Horned God embodies that untamed, free-spirited energy of nature.

Triple Goddess

Ever gazed at the moon and felt its phases echoing the many stages of life? The Triple Goddess represents that very concept. She is the Maiden, full of youth and new beginnings; the Mother, embodying fertility and stability; and the Crone, symbolizing wisdom and the end of cycles. Through her, we see the ebb and flow of life and the beauty of each stage.
Example: Think of a time when you felt youthful and adventurous, or mature and nurturing, or even wise beyond your years. These phases are akin to the Triple Goddess’s energies, reminding us of the divine in every stage of life.


Ever had a pet or even a particular animal that seemed to be in sync with you, as if they could sense your moods or were drawn to your energy? In the world of witchcraft, these creatures are known as familiars. They are spirits, often in the form of animals, that serve as guides, helpers, or protectors for a witch.
Example: Remember that cat you had growing up, the one that always seemed to be by your side, especially during thunderstorms or when you were feeling blue? Or that bird that mysteriously perched near your window every morning? They might have been more than just pets or random animals; they could’ve been your familiars, lending you their energy and protection.


Imagine holding a beautifully crafted double-edged knife, its handle perhaps adorned with symbols or gemstones, and feeling the surge of energy it holds. This is the athame, primarily used for directing energy, rather than cutting. It symbolizes the element of air or fire, depending on the tradition.
Example: Ever used a pen to channel your thoughts onto paper? The athame works similarly in rituals, directing your intentions and energies precisely where you want them to go. It’s a conduit, much like that pen, bridging your inner world with the external.


Picture a traditional looking broom made of twigs or straw, handcrafted and not necessarily for sweeping up dust. The besom or witch’s broom is symbolic of cleansing and purification. While you might not be hopping on it for a midnight flight (though how fun would that be?), its primary use is to energetically cleanse a space before a ritual.
Example: Think about spring cleaning. There’s that refreshing feeling of decluttering and making everything feel ‘new’ again. The besom, in your rituals, serves that exact purpose – to clear out any stagnant energies and set the stage for the magic to come.

Book of Shadows

Ever felt the thrill of opening a diary where you pen down your deepest thoughts, recipes, or memories? Now, think of a magical version of that. The Book of Shadows is a witch’s personal diary, filled with spells, rituals, experiences, and insights. It’s a repository of knowledge and power, passed down or built over time.
Example: Remember the joy of flipping through a cherished family cookbook, every recipe holding a story, a memory? The Book of Shadows is like that, but for your magical journey. It chronicles your growth, experiences, and the spells that resonate with you.


Picture this: A beautiful, ornate charm that you wear close to your heart or keep in your pocket, radiating protective vibes around you. This is an amulet, a magical charm that’s been charged with specific energies to protect or bring good luck.
Example: Remember that locket your grandma gave you, saying it’d keep you safe? Think of an amulet in a similar vein. It’s like having a small guardian angel with you, guarding against negativity or harm. Next time you’re in a challenging situation, clutching that amulet might just give you the strength and protection you need.


Have you ever stared into water, seeing beyond your reflection and almost feeling a story unfold? That’s the essence of scrying. It’s a divination method where you gaze into reflective surfaces, like a dark mirror or crystal ball, diving deep into visions, insights, and intuitive revelations.
Example: Imagine, on a quiet evening, you sit down with a crystal ball, letting your focus soften. As you gaze, images and symbols emerge, offering clues about a decision you’ve been pondering.


Just as you declutter your home, there are times you need to sweep away negative energies or unwanted influences. Banishing is all about those magical rituals or spells designed to purify. It clears the path, making way for positive vibes and transformative energy.
Example: Feeling a lingering sadness in your room? A banishing ritual might involve lighting a black candle and visualizing the gloominess melting away, replaced with golden, uplifting light.

Cord Magic

Remember those friendship bracelets where each knot seemed to carry a wish? Cord magic takes this a step further. Spells here involve purposefully tying knots in a cord to capture the magic, then untying them when the moment is right, releasing the bound energy.
Example: Need a boost of luck? Tie seven knots on a green cord, each one capturing a wish. Carry it with you, and when your wishes come to pass, untie a knot in gratitude.


Ever watched movies where a doll is used to represent someone? A poppet is that, but more purposeful and reverent. It’s an effigy representing a person, and in sympathetic magic, this doll becomes a conduit. Imbue it with the essence of its subject, and channel magic through it.
Example: Facing a bout of illness? Crafting a poppet, embedding it with your essence, and then conducting healing rituals upon it can be an external way to channel wellness within.


Magic isn’t just in spells and symbols; it can be sipped or smeared too. Potions are these magical mixtures crafted from various ingredients, designed for different intentions – be it for love, luck, or lucidity.
Example: Feeling jittery before a date? A potion made from calming herbs, honey, and moon-charged water might just be the elixir to settle those butterflies.


What if you could condense a spell into a single symbol? Sigils are just that – symbols infused with a specific intention, charged with energy, and then unleashed to do your bidding.
Example: Seeking to boost your creativity? Draw a sigil representing creative flow, charge it with your energy, and place it on your workspace for constant inspiration.

Lunar Cycles

Remember those nights where the full moon made you feel alive, recharged, or perhaps the tranquility of a new moon nudged you towards introspection? Lunar cycles play a key role in this. The phases of the moon – full, new, waxing, and waning – each carry a unique energy that can amplify or transform your magic.
Example: Planning a ritual to attract abundance? Aligning it with the waxing moon, when energies are growing, can greatly enhance your results.


Ever felt a retrograde’s chaotic influence or perhaps felt inspired during a certain zodiac season? Astrology offers insights into this, showing how planetary energies and zodiac alignments steer events, emotions, and even magical workings.
Example: Thinking of starting a new project? Initiating it when the sun is in ambitious Capricorn could harness that earth sign’s drive and determination.


Strolling through a garden or forest, ever wondered about the whispered secrets of plants? Herbs are potent allies in the magical realm, each bearing unique properties that can be harnessed in spells, charms, and more.
Example: Need a peaceful night’s sleep? Crafting a sachet filled with calming lavender and placing it under your pillow might just beckon serene dreams.


Just as a crystal catches the light, it can catch and amplify intention. Each crystal, with its unique frequency, can enhance and elevate your spells. Quartz might amplify power, while carnelian sparks courage, and obsidian shields against negativity.
Example: Facing challenges at work? Carrying a carnelian stone in your pocket can boost your confidence and drive, helping you face obstacles head-on.


Picture this: a gust of wind ruffling your hair, the warmth of a hearth, the caress of a river, the solidity of the mountain beneath you. These sensations stem from the elements – air, fire, water, earth, and the ethereal spirit. They form the backbone of many magical practices, offering their distinct powers to rituals and spells.
Example: Working on a love spell? Incorporating water elements, associated with emotions, could add depth and flow to your intention.

Law of Threefold Return

Ever heard the saying, “what goes around, comes around”? In the world of magic, this principle is known as the Law of Threefold Return. It teaches that whatever energy you send out, whether positive or negative, returns to you magnified three times over.
Example: If you send out love and positivity in a spell, imagine it coming back like a warm embrace from the universe. But the same goes for any negativity—hence, always tread with kindness and caution in your magic.


Ever felt scattered or mentally adrift, especially after an intense ritual? That’s where grounding comes in, helping you recalibrate and connect back to Earth.
Example: Imagine you’re a tree, your feet rooted deep into the ground, drawing nourishment and stability. This simple visualization can be your go-to, ensuring you’re always centered, especially post-ritual.


Imagine walking in a bustling market with all kinds of energies buzzing around. Shielding is the magical practice of surrounding yourself with a protective barrier, ensuring you stay untouched by any negative or unwanted vibes.
Example: Visualizing a radiant white bubble encasing you can act as your impervious shield, guarding you from anything you wish to keep out.

Raising Energy

Think of the exhilarating rush when your favorite song plays, and you can’t help but dance. Raising Energy taps into a similar surge, harnessing the power within and around you to amplify your magical workings.
Example: Joining a circle, clapping, chanting, or dancing with passionate intent can make your spells and rituals crackle with electric energy.


Recall the calming scent of a fresh herb or the invigorating aroma of incense. Using smoke for cleansing and purification has roots in various traditions. The term “Smudging” specifically refers to a sacred practice from Native American cultures. Note: The use of the term “smudging” outside of its indigenous context has been viewed by some as cultural appropriation. Always approach with respect and consider using terms like “smoke cleansing” to describe similar practices in other traditions.
Example: Lighting a bundle of herbs and allowing its smoke to envelop your living space can help clear out stagnant energies, welcoming peace and clarity. It’s essential to do so with awareness and gratitude for the cultures that introduced these methods.

Moon Bathing

On clear nights, have you ever looked up and felt drawn to the moon’s serene glow? Moon Bathing captures this allure, allowing you to charge objects or even yourself with the moon’s ethereal energy.
Example: Laying your favorite crystal pendant out under a full moon can imbue it with potent lunar vibes, making it a beacon of its energy during the day.

Magical Names

Choosing a new name can feel like beaing reborn. In the world of witchcraft, Magical Names symbolize a practitioner’s renewed dedication, representing their essence and intentions within the craft.
Example: Just as ‘Luna’ might reflect a deep connection to moon magic, your chosen name could resonate with your personal journey, gaining significance as you evolve in your practice.

Remember, each of these practices adds richness to your magical repertoire. They’re tools, guides, and allies, ready to assist you in crafting your unique magical narrative.

Amythest May

Amythest is a true white witch spreading love and light wherever she goes. When she's not in the kitchen blending oils or baking delicious treats for her friends, you can find her walking in nature, communicating with the great divine or perched atop her meditation pillow breathing in and breathing out.

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