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This article is about Contemporary Witchcraft; including, but not limited to, Wicca.

Contemporary Witchcraft refers to many different types of Witchcraft practises practised in the 21st Century. Two Pagan derived religions that accept the practise of Witchcraft is Wicca and Stregheria. Other people believe it to simply be a Witchcraft practices that are able to coincide with strict dogmatic religious such as Christianity.

As mentioned above, one of the most widely accepted Witchcraft practises is Wicca, a Pagan religion, which was first seen publicly in the early 1950s after the repeal of anti-Witchcraft laws then extant in the United Kingdom. The practice of contemporary Witchcraft often involves the use of divination, the practice of magic, working with the four classical elements, and with unseen forces such as spirits and the forces of nature.

The practice of natural medicine, folk medicine, spiritual healing, and shamanism can also be applied under the umbrella term of contemporary Witchcraft, and is the practice of alternative medicine and New Age healing techniques, such as Crystal healing, herbalism, Reiki, aromatherapy, and more.





Wicca first emerged publicly around the 1950s, when it was popularised by Englishman Gerald Gardner. At the time, he called the religion "Witchcraft," and he called its followers "the Wica." He initially claimed that it was an ancient Pagan religion that had been persecuted during the Witch-hunts in Europe, commonly called "The Burning Times" in contemporary Witchcraft and Pagan history. Though he claimed Wicca to be a survival of a pre-Christian religion, Gardner's claims can not be factually verified, and it is thought that Gardner himself, along with other influential figures such as Doreen Valiente and Aleister Crowley, formed Wicca from various texts, sources, and practises gathered.

Wiccan beliefs revolve around pantheism and dualism, with the worship of the Triple Goddess and the Horned God. Magical practices are taken from both traditional European sorcery as was practised by cunning folk, and also from 19th century occult practices such as those taught by Aleister Crowley. Wiccans commonly celebrate the eight Sabbats that form the Wheel of the Year.

Wicca is primarily an initiatory mystery religion, with only members initiated into a legitimate Wiccan Coven being able to fully practise. Many traditions of Wicca, including those of Gardnerian Wicca and Alexandrian Wicca follow this doctrine. Within the general Pagan community, people who practise Wicca without being formally and traditionally initiated are called "Neo-Wiccans," with the religion being called "Neo-Wicca," and can include movements such as feminism (in the case of Dianic Wicca), and Anglo-Saxon mythology (in the case of Seax-Wicca).

There have been many publications both by traditionally-initiated and non-initiated Wiccans, including practitioners from Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca publicising sometimes full Wiccan rites and beliefs, such as the traditional Degree Initiations.

Within Wicca, there are set rules by which Wiccans should abide, such as the rule of "harming none," and the rule of threefold return, which states that anything that a practitioners sends out (in the form of 'positive' or 'negative' energy) will return to the caster threefold.

Contrary to misconception, Wiccans do not believe in the Christian concept of the Devil or moral sin, believing that each individual is responsible for his/her actions, and that no outside force is capable of making someone do something against their will.


Stregheria is an Italian Witchcraft religion. Some practitioners claim that the religion is of ancient origin, originating from Etruscan mythology, and was the religion of the peasants when Roman Catholicism became the religion of the upper classes. Scholars, however, claim that this history is a myth largely based upon Charles Godfrey Leland's book, Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, which was also used as a basis for Wicca. It was popularised in the late 20th century by writers and Dr. Leo Louis Martello Raven Grimassi.

Followers commonly worship the Roman Goddess Diana, along with her brother Apollo, and their daughter Aradia. Other practitioners worship the God aspect as Lucifer, a benevolent God of the sun and moon, and in no way connected to the Christian Satan.

Practises are similar to those with other Neo-Pagan Witchcraft religions, such as Wicca. The pentagram is the key symbol for followers in their magical rituals, and followers celebrate a series of eight festivals equivalent to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, though most commonly with Roman leanings and practises. Practitioners also participate in ancestor worship, something which is uncommon to other Neo-Pagan Witchcraft beliefs.

Traditional Witchcraft

Non-Wiccan Witchcraft Traditions often identify themselves as "Traditional (or Traditionalist) Witchcraft" to indicate that they pre-date or otherwise differ from Wicca. Traditionalists often use the witch trial documents of the Renaissance as inspiration, combined with their knowledge of folklore and paganism. Sometimes the term Traditional Witchcraft is used specifically for practices in Britain, as the word "witch" derives from Old English, it refers to Old English or Anglo-Saxon paganism. Otherwise the term is used to refer to practices in any of the countries in which the Witch Hunts of the Renaissance were conducted. Some Traditionalists believe it is important for their Tradition to be passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. Others believe that there is no way for a Tradition to survive unbroken from the Middle Ages to the present day, and therefore practices are based more on historical studies of pre-Christian beliefs than a body of lore passed from one Witch to another. explains, "Traditional Witchcraft is a term that was introduced to refer to the aboriginal spiritual traditions of Europe. There really is no collective historical term that could be used to refer to these traditions, so the use of the term Traditional Witchcraft fits quite nicely. Those who follow these traditional ways are often referred to as Traditionalists. However, there are other terms that are used by specific traditions and cultures that are even more appropriate, but these are left to those who follow those traditions and will not be mentioned here."[1].

Sometimes the name "witch" is seen as an insult by Traditionalists, and more specific terms are preferred. Generally Traditional Witchcraft (or "Trad Craft") is seen as any shamanic pagan priesthood which pre-dates Christianity, and which may have survived into the modern era. The Traditional Witch can also be called a Hedgewitch as the "hedge" signifies the boundary between this world and the Otherworld, which the witch may journey to and from. Such shamanic practitioners may have survived Christianity by converting or becoming syncretic Christo-pagans known as "Cunning Folk". The Cunning Folk were practitioners of Christian magic, invoking the powers of saints, angels, and other powers. They may have incorporated many pagan beliefs, however it seems they did not continue shamanic trance work. The Cunning Folk were known as "Pellars" in Cornwall .

Ros An Bucca describes it thus, "A modest number of practitioners exist in Cornwall and the West Country and even fewer private circles and lodges of predominantly solitary practitioners continue unobserved, and the ordinary people still seek their help to get over life’s hurdles and the farmer still employs the charmer for protections over their land, its buildings, machinery and livestock"[2].

Cochrane's Craft

Roy Bowers, a.k.a. Robert Cochrane (1931-1966), founded "Cochrane's Craft" in opposition to Gardnerian Wicca.

Cochrane's Clan of Tubal Cain worshipped a Horned God and a Triple Goddess, much akin to Gerald Gardner's Bricket Wood Coven. Cochrane himself disliked Gardner and his take on Wicca, and often ridiculed him and his Craft.[3]. Whilst the Cochran Tradition uses ritual tools, they differ somewhat from those used by Gardnerians, some being the ritual knife (known as an athame), a staff (known as a stang), a cup (or commonly a chalice), a stone (used as a whetstone to sharpen the athame), and a ritual cord worn by Coven members[4].

In 1963, Cochrane anonymously published an article in the Spiritualist newspaper Psychic News (9 November issue) entitled "Genuine Witchcraft is Defended". In it, he stated that:

I am a witch descended from a family of witches. Genuine witchcraft is not paganism, though it retains the memory of ancient faiths... [Witchcraft is] the last real mystery cult to survive, with a very complex and evolved philosophy that has strong affinities with many Christian beliefs. The concept of a sacrificial god was not new to the ancient world; it is not new to a witch.[5]

At a gathering at Glastonbury Tor held by the Brotherhood of the Essenes in 1964, Cochrane met Doreen Valiente, who had formerly been a High Priestess of Gardner's Bricket Wood Coven[6]. The two became friends, and Valiente joined the Clan of Tubal Cain. Cochrane often insulted and mocked Gardnerian witches, which annoyed Valiente. This reached an extreme in that even at one point in 1966 hcalled for "a Night of the Long Knives of the Gardnerians", at which point Doreen "rose up and challenged him in the presence of the rest of the coven."[7]. Shortly after Valiente's departure, Cochrane's wife Jean also left, and the Coven soon ceased to function.

Cochrane is often credited with originating the term "Gardnerian" as a derogatory description of Gardner's Wicca; however, his published letter terms it as "Gardnerism"[8][9].

Some were inspired by Cochrane's work and from the many letters he wrote to fellow occultists, to form Traditions such as Roebuck, Tubal Cain, and 1734. Some practitioners of Hedgecraft also follow a Cochrane based practice.

Sabbatic Witchcraft

Sabbatic Witchcraft, also known as the Cultus Sabbati, is . . . an ongoing tradition of sorcerers wisdom, an initiatory path proceeding from both immediate vision and historical succession[10]. It is also sometimes referred to as Crooked Path Sorcery[11].

Noted for its use of . . . the mythos of the medieval and early modern European Witches' Sabbath as the basis and idiom for its rituals and practices[12], the Cultus has been represented publicly by the writings of its former Magister Andrew Chumbley and his successor, Daniel A. Schulke.

It . . . incorporates a gnostic faith in the Divine Serpent of Light, in the Host of the Gregori, in the Children of Earth sired by the Watchers, in the lineage of descent via Lilith,Mahazael, Cain, Tubal-cain, Naamah, and the Clans of the Wanderers… onward to the present-day Initiates of Arte[13].

Hedge Witchcraft

Hedge Witchcraft, also called "hedge riding" or "hedgecraft," is the shamanic art of crossing the "hedge" or boundary between this world and the Otherworld. It is used as another name for the Traditional Witch. The Hedgewitch is usually a solitary practitioner, but may be attended by assistants. Their main function is as mediator between the spirits and people. They may also work as a herbal healer and midwife. Some practitioners claim it to be the continuing practices of the cunning folk and wise-women, while others say that it draws from such sources but is a modern tradition.

Author Rae Beth popularised a more Wiccan version of Hedgecraft on her 1992 book Hedge Witch - a guide to Solitary Witchcraft, Hedge Witches worship the Triple Goddess and the Horned God. They celebrate the eight "sabbats" of the Wheel of the Year. This version of Hedgecraft was criticised as having many similarities with Wicca. Certainly, many books published about Hedgewitchery are based upon Wicca, and actual practitioners claim that hedgewitches can come from any religious or spiritual background, and that simply most modern hedgewitches choose to base their practice around Wicca. Some main differences between hedgecraft and Wicca is a significant loss of the formality of Wiccan ritual, the lack of initiation into a Wiccan Coven, and the solitary nature of hedgecraft, with some following a Cochrane based tradition.

Hearth Witchcraft

Often also called "Kitchen Witchery" or "Cottage Witchery," Hearth Witchcraft is a both domestic and nature based, popularised by Anna Franklin in her 2004 book "Hearth Witch" (Lear Books). The household hearth is a focal point for practising magic within Hearth Witchcraft.

Feri Tradition

The Feri Tradition is a modern Witchcraft practise founded by Victor Anderson that emphasises spiritual ecstasy, often sexual ecstasy, and has a basis in the traditional Hawaiian Witchcraft of Huna.

Practitioners generally acknowledge four major deities: the Star Goddess, the Divine Twins, and the Blue God who is usually envisioned in the form of a peacock. Practitioners believe that there are three parts to the human soul, a belief shared with Huna.


Reclaiming (formerly known as Reclaiming Collective) is an international community with the aim of combining "earth-based spirituality" and political activism. Reclaiming was founded amid the peace and anti-nuclear movements of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Reclaiming's spiritual approach is based in the religion and magic of Goddess, who is understood as the immanent life force, not as a transcendent deity.

The Reclaiming Tradition of contemporary American Witchcraft arose from a working collective around the 1980s in the San Francisco Bay Area, blending the influences of Victor and Cora Anderson's Feri Tradition of Witchcraft, Dianic Witchcraft as taught by Z. Budapest, and the feminist, Anarchist,[14] peace, and environmental movements.

While some members of Reclaiming describe themselves as "Wiccan", others prefer the term "Witch".[15]


  • Cunningham, Scott & Harrington, David. "The Magical Household", Llewellyn, 1996
  • Beth, Rae. Hedge Witch: A Guide to Solitary Witchcraft, Robert Hale, 1992.
  • Moura, Ann, "Grimoire For The Green Witch: A Complete Book of Shadows", 2003.
  • Telesco, Patricia, "The Kitchen Witch Companion: Simple and Sublime Culinary Magic", 2005.
  • Duerr, Hans Peter. Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundary between Wilderness and Civilization, pages 46, 47, 65, 97, 132. Translated by Felicitas Goodman. Blackwell, 1985.
  • Jackson, Nigel A. Call of the Horned Piper, pages 4-5, 13, 14-15, 19-21. Capall Bann, 1994.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Rebirth of Witchcraft, page 122
  4. ^ The Rebirth of Witchcraft, page 123
  5. ^ The Rebirth of Witchcraft, pages 120f.
  6. ^ The Rebirth of Witchcraft, Doreen Valiente, page 117
  7. ^ The Rebirth of Witchcraft, page 129
  8. ^ Letters to Joe Wilson from Robert Cochrane
  9. ^ First Letter from Robert Cochrane to Joe Wilson dated 20 Dec 1965
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ ibid
  13. ^ ibid
  14. ^ Reclaiming Quarterly, The organisations main publication.
  15. ^

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