A to Z of Witchcraft | Terminology, Definitions & Glossary

Witchcraft has a unique and fascinating lexicon. If you are new to witchcraft, it can be a path paved with confusion. Some of the terminology used may leave you unsure or even overwhelmed. With this in mind, we have created this guide to the most common magickal terms and their definitions. While you develop your craft, it is essential that you also develop your understanding of these words, why we use them, when we use them, what they truly mean (as in some cases they may be used out of context by those not within the magickal community) and the weight many of them carry.

Many of these words are rooted in magickal history spanning centuries, carry incredible cultural significance and must be respected as such. Please note, that just because we offer a definition, we in no way condone, promote, or condemn the use of hexes, sour jars, etc. Nor do we offer or promote our own religious or spiritual beliefs – everyone’s path is unique, and valid.

Affirmation

The assertion that something is true, it exists, and you believe in it. Affirmations are a powerful tool in witchcraft as they serve as a constant reminder that there is a limitless power in your intent and belief. State who you want to be, or what you want to accomplish, as if it is already so. “I let go of the past”, “I am respected”, “I got the job” – such affirmations are the very beginnings of manifesting your desires.

Altar

The ritual workspace; a table, shelf, or other dedicated area where witches practice their craft. For some witches, altars can be a place of regular spells, rituals, and magickal workings, for others, it is simply a sacred space where they place symbolic objects. There is nothing to suggest that a witch’s altar should be dedicated to a specific religious path; indeed, there are witches across all religions, and some witches worship nothing but Mother Earth.

Amulet/Talisman

An object which has been ascribed magickal powers, or with which intentions have been set. In witchcraft, an amulet or talisman is a kind of ‘good luck charm’ imbued with the intention of the witch and then carried with them so they can draw from its energy when needed. Often added to charm bags, spell bottles, or carried in the pocket or purse.

Astral Travel

Also known as astral projection. Astral travel is where the soul leaves the body and enters the astral plane, where they can simply observe, some claim to encounter, and interact with, spiritual beings and entities during their travel. Unlike an ‘out of body experience’, astral travel involves an intentional effort to direct your soul from your body.

Athame

A ceremonial knife or blade (most commonly with a black handle and a double-edged blade), which is used to channel and direct energy and cast protective circles. As the blade itself is not traditionally used for cutting, it is often beautiful, rather than functional. If the ritual, ceremony, or spell requires cutting, a different knife (or boline) is used. Unlike the gentle energy of a wand, the athame has a firm, commanding energy.

Baby Witch

(Often considered derogatory) A new, inexperienced witch, a newcomer to the Craft, who has just started out on their journey. It is advised to only use this label if it is self-applied, and a label you wish to use; to apply it to someone else, could be seen as offensive as it suggests a ‘helplessness’. The word ‘novice’ or ‘new’ is preferable when referring to others, since these terms suggest an ability to move forward independently.

Beltane

Also known as ‘May Eve’, ‘Beltaine’, ‘Bealtaine’, or ‘May Day’. Held on the 1st of May, and one of the eight sabbats, Beltane is an ancient fertility festival; a joyous event which marks the beginning of the planting cycle and ensures a bountiful harvest. Spells and rituals for fertility or abundance are appropriate at this time, as is spending time outdoors.

Besom

A traditional broomstick constructed of twigs tied to a sturdy pole. Large besoms are used to sweep clean a ritual space before practicing, though as this is more of a spiritual or metaphorical cleaning, the besom usually does not touch the ground, but is used a few inches above ground. Small besoms are often used to clean the altar in much the same way.

Boline

Also spelled bolline or bolleen. A boline is a white-handled knife which, unlike the athame, is used for practical work before, or during spells and rituals, such as cutting herbs, cords, wands, etc. or inscribing candles. The boline sometimes has a small, straight blade, but a crescent-shaped blade is not uncommon.

Book of Shadown

A book of instructions for magickal rituals and spells, often also containing religious text, and personal thoughts, the Book of Shadows was at first associated with the Wiccan religion. Book of Shadows are now widely used by witches of all religious paths. Unlike the Grimoire, the Book of Shadows has more of a ‘journal’ quality, since it is often used for recording experiences and emotions, rather than just ingredients and instructions.

Cauldron

A pot which was traditionally made of metal and used for cooking and boiling. While the classic imagery of a cauldron shows it bubbling magickal concoctions over leaping flames, today the cauldron is more often a smaller, more understated fireproof pot which is used to burn herbs and incense, and for performing fire magick.

Chalice

A drinking vessel intended for ceremonial drinking. Often used to represent the element of water on a witch’s altar, it is also a symbol of femininity and fertility. It is tradition in many covens, to pass the chalice around each coven member, to each take a sip to symbolise their bond. Witches who work with deities will use their chalice for liquid offerings.

Chakras

Chakras are the energy centres in the body, which are believed to be spinning disks that should be kept open and aligned for our spiritual and physical wellbeing. There are seven major chakras in the human body, as follows:

Root Chakra
Colour: Red
Location: Base of the spine
Stability, identity, self, trust, grounding

Sacral Chakra
Colour: Orange
Location, Above the pubic bone, below the belly button
Creativity, sexuality, and pleasure

Solar Plexus Chakra
Colour: Yellow
Location: Stomach/upper abdomen
Confidence, personality, and self esteem

Heart Chakra
Colour: Green
Location: The centre of the chest
Compassion, empathy, love, forgiveness

Throat Chakra
Colour: Blue
Location: The throat
Communication, expression

Third Eye Chakra
Colour: Indigo / purple
Location: One the forehead, in the centre, just above the eyes.
Imagination, intuition, psychic awareness

Crown Chakra
Colour: Violet or white
Location: Top of the head
Enlightenment, awareness, spirituality

Charm Bag (Conjure Bag/Mojo Bag)

A magickal bag filled with things which represent your intention. Typically, the pouch is filled with herbs, crystals, affirmations, amulets, etc. and then (depending on its intended use) kept in the home, on the altar, or carried with you. Once the charm bag no longer serves, any herbs can be offered back to the earth with thanks, and crystals can be cleansed for re-use. You can read more about charm bags here: The Magick of Charm Bags

Coven

A gathering of at least three witches who come together to practice witchcraft. Often (but not always) led by a High Priestess, a High Priest, or both. Covens will gather, usually in nature, to celebrate the sabbats, for rituals, initiations, etc. It is wise to avoid taking part in initiations which make you feel uncomfortable, or to pay to be a part of a coven.

Craft

The Craft is an abbreviation of ‘Witchcraft’, and is how many witches refer to their practice. An appropriate word, since witchcraft is a practice in which we are always learning, acquiring new skills, growing our abilities, honing our power, honing our craft…

Crystal Grid

A crystal grid is a special geometric arrangement of crystals with a set intention. The grid is created to amplify the power of the crystals, and to combine the powers of multiple crystals towards one end goal. There are many ways of working with grids, and this is a very simplified description of just one of those methods.

The choice of grid patterns you can use is endless, so feel free to be creative! Your main crystal (the largest of the crystals you are working with) is placed in the centre, with your smaller crystals laid in a geometric pattern around the main crystal.

You then place one finger of your dominant hand on the centre crystal and focus your intent. Move your finger around each of the crystals connecting their energies while setting your intent and activating your grid.

Meditate on your desired outcome and leave the grid in place for as long as is needed. Go back every few days to connect the energies, meditate, and re-focus your intent.

Crystal Heading

An alternative or complementary therapy, crystal healing uses crystals to bring harmony and healing to the human body and mind. This is an energy-based therapy which draws on the unique vibration of each crystal to help us balance, and unblock, our own energy centres (chakras) in the body. Each crystal has its own unique vibration and energy; each cell in the human body also has its own energy, and when a crystal is brought close to the body, sensitive people can feel the energies from the crystal, and this can help to bring their own energy into balance.

Crystal Magick

All crystals have their own natural properties which you can draw on, which means they are excellent additions to charm bags, spell jars, etc. It is useful to set your own intentions to get the most out of the magickal energies in the crystals.

Choose a crystal which is appropriate for what you’d like to achieve (it could be rose quartz for love, amethyst for health, citrine for abundance, etc.) Find a time when you can be completely at peace. With your mind free from any negativity hold the crystal in the palm of your hand. Feel a connection to the crystal and imagine a white light emanating from the crystal and surrounding you completely. Once you feel fully connected to your crystal, meditate on your intention, see what you desire as if it were already realised. Continue until you feel your intention is set.

Once your intention is set, you can use this crystal in your spellcraft, or simply keep the crystal close by, in which case, it’s very helpful to keep it within your auric field as much as possible, so try sleeping with it under your pillow, keeping it in your pocket etc.

Reset your intentions at regular intervals to remain connected to your crystal.

Curse

A pronouncement of ill-fortune. Spoken words with the power to inflict harm. Unlike a spell intended to cause harm, a curse requires nothing other than intent and the spoken word. A witch’s energy and harmful intent combined with words, are all it takes to cast a curse.

Deosil

Other accepted spellings: deasil / deiseal / deisal / deisul. This means clockwise/sunwise, and in witchcraft is used to attract, or bring things to you. For example, when stirring a love potion, you would stir it clockwise to attract love. If making an abundance charm bag, blend the contents clockwise to attract money, etc.

Divination

Divination is the practice of seeking knowledge of the future, or the unknown, by using your own intuition and insight in order to translate the images, visions, or messages that come through your chosen divination tool. There is an art to divination, and it is true that many people seem to have a natural gift, but this is also something that can be mastered over time as you learn to tune into your intuition.

Elements

Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. Everything here in our physical world is made up of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. And the fifth element, Spirit, is the binding force between all other elements, and between everything in existence. Witches work with the powers of these elements, and invoke their energy when practicing their magick.

Esbat

A meeting of a coven of witches at a time other than one of the eight sabbats. Often these meetings are held once every moon cycle, often during the full moon, and incorporate healing work, psychic and magickal training, moon rituals, etc. Solitary witches who take advantage of the moon phases will often refer to their moon magick or rituals as ‘esbats’.

Familiar

Familiars are a witch’s helpful, guardian spirit. Familiars may take the form of a pet, a spirit animal, or even an obliging non-physical entity. Not every witch has a familiar, and not all witches who have a familiar are aware of it, so watch out for animals with which you share a special bond, and if you desire it, work on that psychic connection. You may also find your familiar in the spiritual realm during mediation, or astral travel.

Grimoire

A book of spells, rituals, and magickal instructions. Traditionally a Grimoire (unlike a Book of Shadows, which contains script about experiences, and emotions, and religious text) is a book containing only tried and trusted magickal directions, spells, incantations, and invocations.

Handfasting

Spanning many cultures and thousands of years, handfasting is an ancient ritual in which the hands of the couple wishing to pledge their union, are tied together with cords, ribbon, or lace, to symbolize the binding of two lives. A symbolic marriage ceremony which is popular among pagans and wiccans.

Hex

A magick spell or charm which is intended to bring harm. To hex someone is to put them under a spell which will attract misfortune, ill health, or hardship.

High Priestess

Though this can vary depending on tradition, and coven, the leader of a coven is often referred to as the High Priestess. The High Priestess embodies intuition, creativity, and the divine feminine. Having dedicated their life to the Craft, studied, trained, and incorporated it into their everyday life, they will have earned this title and status. The High Priestess is a teacher, a leader, and a healer.

Imbolc

Also known as Imbolg, or Saint Brigid’s Day. One of the eight sabbats, Imbolc is a traditional festival, held on the 1st of February each year (in the Northern Hemisphere), which is about midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It is celebrated on the 1st August in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a time for purification, cleansing, and planning.

Incantation

A spoken spell or charm intended to have an effect on a person or object. Incantations can be spoken words, in your own language charged with intent – or they can be a chanting of noises, or made-up words which have meaning and power known only to the witch casting the spell.

Invoke

To call in a higher power for help. This is usually calling on a spirit, deity, or the power of the elements for some kind of assistance, inspiration, or protection.

Jinx

An unlucky or malevolent thing, person, or force. If someone or something is ‘jinxed’ it attracts misfortune. Unlike a hex, a jinx is more of an unintentional curse…it is thought that you jinx someone, or something accidentally.

Lammas

Also known as Lughnasadh. One of the eight sabbats, on the 1st of August, midway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox, Lammas is the celebration of the first harvest; it is a time for giving thanks for abundance.

Litha

Also known as Summer Solstice or Midsummer. One of the eight sabbats, Litha celebrates the longest day and the shortest night of the year. This is a time of joy and celebration, as the sun is at the height of its power.

Mabon

Also known as the Autumn Equinox. Celebrated in September at the time when night and day, dark and light, are equal. Mabon celebrates the period of rest after the labour of harvest, and is a time to reap what you’ve sown and celebrate the fruits of your labour.

Magick/Magic

Magick with this spelling was first used in the 1600’s and is an early English spelling for ‘magic’ – it has more recently been adopted to differentiate stage magic and illusion, with the very real magick associated with witchcraft.

Magick Circle

A magick circle is an energy field that you surround yourself with before your magickal workings begin. Some people also like to cast a magick circle before meditating. The circle provides protection since you cast it with the intent of positive energies only being allowed to enter. This means that when you open yourself up to energies, you are protected from negative ones. Not only this, but it contains and amplifies your own personal energies making your magick more powerful; the circle is almost like a cauldron for brewing up powerful energies! Find out how to cast a magick circle here: Casting a Magick Circle

Moon Magick

Magick associated with the moon. Working with the different moon phases is an important part of many witches’ practice. The full moon, for example is a time for intense magick, for casting important spells for life-changing results, it is a time of extra potency. The new moon is all about new beginnings and a perfect time to cast spells or moving forward, starting new projects, etc. The waxing moon is the phase where the moon grows, and should be used for spells for growth, self-esteem, and attraction spells such as love, wealth, etc. The waning moon is the phase where the moon becomes smaller, and should be used for banishing, letting go, and removing unwanted negative things and energies from your life.

Moon Water

Water which has been charged with the moon’s lunar energy.

How to make moon water (Best results on a full moon, but not essential!)

  • Fill a container with water. We use jars, since you can seal the lid (very important if you plan on adding to drinks).
  • Place the jar under the full moon and surround the jar with crystals, charms, or herbs that match your intention. You can also draw sigils on the jar to help focus your energy and intention. The colour of the jar can also help, for example a green jar would help with things like prosperity and a pink jar would help with self-love and relationships.
  • Leave your jar overnight.
  • Your moon water is ready to use!

Some uses for moon water

  • Add moon water to your tea or coffee (please use bottled or filtered water if you intend to ingest it.) This is a simple way to add more magick to your daily routine if you’re tight on time!
  • Water your plants with it!
  • Add to your bathwater for ritual baths.
  • Wash your crystals and altar tools with it! (please research your crystals and make sure they can come into contact with water. For example, selenite would dissolve, calcite can fade and hematite can rust.)
  • Wash your hands with the water before casting spells/rituals.
  • Add to potions/elixirs.
  • Use on your altar to represent the element of water.
  • Create essential oil perfume.
  • Create an aura cleansing spray. Add it to a spray bottle and spray your aura every morning to cleanse your energy before starting your day.
  • Use it in magickal floor washes.
  • Place a jar or bowl of moon water on your altar to amplify your intentions.
  • Use for facial steams or add to your aromatherapy diffuser, add different essential oils to match your intentions, for example, add some rose or lavender to help with self-love.
  • Cook with it. Infuse soups and other magickal recipes (please use bottled or filtered water if you intend to ingest it.)

Pagan

A person who holds religious beliefs outside of the mainstream religions. Pagans believe that nature is sacred; and they connect spiritually with the earth, observing the changing of the seasons and the natural cycles of birth, growth, and death. Many Pagans worship multiple Gods and Goddesses, and some worship only Mother Earth. Pagans do not necessarily all share the same beliefs and values as each other; they follow their own spiritual path, without feeling the need to conform.

Pentacle

The pentacle has long been used by witches as a symbol of protection; the points of the pentacle representing the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit…the five things essential to sustain life. The circle surrounding them contains and protects, and also connects the five points indicating that earth, air, fire, and spirit, are all connected.

Pentagram

A five-pointed star without the circle, a symbol of the elements.

Poppet

A doll made to represent someone in order that you can cast spells on them, or aid them, through magick. Traditionally, these were often carved from natural materials such as roots, or branches, but in modern witchcraft they are more likely to be mindfully sewn from cloth and stuffed with herbs that relate to the intention of the witch creating them.

Ostara

Also known as Eostre or the Spring Equinox. One of the eight sabbats, Ostara is a March celebration (typically celebrated on the Equinox, or the full moon thereafter) which celebrates balance, rebirth, and new beginnings. Ostara is a great time for purification spells, and spells for fresh starts, or new projects etc.

Ritual

While a spell is a set of actions to bring about a desired result, a ritual, similarly, is a set of actions to bring about a desired result, but is more involved and tends to bring religious or spiritual beliefs into the magick; this can be done in many ways, such as calling on deities, chanting, dancing, etc.
Any spell can become a ritual, by incorporating your own personal spiritual practices.

Sabbat

A sabbat is one of the eight celebrations/festivals recognised and celebrated by wiccans and many (but not all) pagans and witches. Beliefs can vary regarding the precise timing of each celebration, depending on their own religious or spiritual beliefs, and based on distinctions such as lunar phase and geographic hemisphere. Each Sabbat is covered briefly in this blog post, and they are as follows:

  • Yule
  • Imbolc
  • Ostara
  • Beltane
  • Litha
  • Lammas
  • Mabon
  • Samhain

Samhain

Also known as Hallowe’en. One of the eight sabbats, Samhain (celebrated on the 31st of October) celebrates the thinning of the veil between our world and the spirit world. This is a time to celebrate and honour our ancestors and passed loved ones, and to communicate with them, leave offerings for them, and remember them.

Scrying

Scrying is an ancient form of divination, which involves gazing into a surface such as a crystal ball, a mirror, water, or flickering flames. There are no limits to how and where and with what tools, a person may scry; perhaps they stare into the darkness, or up at the clouds, or maybe they will drop ink into water and look for it to form any signs and symbols they can translate…some people even talk of ‘eyelid scrying’, where they simply close their eyes and speak of what they see there.

The images seen by the diviner can be fleeting, hazy, or vague, but the intuition of the diviner helps them to discern and understand the scattered, fragmented images, and translate them into something tangible.

Practitioners gaze at their chosen scrying tool, and focus on nothing else. This helps them to clear their mind, and enter a trance-like state, and it is in this state, that those gifted with vision, can see signs, symbols, and imagery which can give them an insight into the knowledge they seek.

Sigil

A sigil is a symbol used to represent a desired outcome. Commonly created by using lettering, and condensing the lettering down to a single symbol. Sigils are charged, during their creation, with the intent of the practitioner, or witch. This can then be used in magick; etched into candles, written in salt, or herbs, sewn into poppets or charm bags, the uses of sigils are only limited by our imagination.

Skyclad

To be naked, particularly during ritual magick. Some believe that clothing interferes with our ability to connect with nature, and therefore, magick is more powerful when performed naked, and fully able to connect with the elements.

Smoke Cleansing

Smoke cleansing involves burning, herbs, woods, incense, or resins in order to rid your space of negative or stagnant energies. There are several incenses, herbs, or resins you can use depending on your desired results – here are some examples:

  • Lavender – calming and protecting – will attract peace and love
  • Dragon’s Blood – Banishing and protecting
  • Peppermint – Purifies, calms, and heals
  • Sandalwood – Protects and heals – will attract serenity and peace
  • Frankincense – Protects and attracts good fortune
  • Cedar – Protects, purifies, and heals

You can find our simple house cleansing ritual here: Simple House Cleansing/Blessing

So mote it be

A common way of ending a spell or ritual. Meaning ‘so must it be’, or ‘so shall it be’. Often used at the end of a spell or ritual, for example, in candle magick, as the candle burns out; while making a charm bag, as the bag is tied shut; as the final words in a spoken spell, etc.

Sour Jar

Often used as a form of revenge or retribution, a sour jar is a jar created to literally sour someone’s life. It is a jar in which you place something to represent your target, a base of vinegar, and to this you can add other items to annoy and irritate such as chilli, thorns, etc.

Theban Script

Also known as Theban Alphabet, or The Witches’ Alphabet, is a writing system which has been utilised by some witches to disguise their words so they cannot be read and understood by anyone unfamiliar with the script. The script can be used in the same way sigils would be used, or it can be used to write an entire Book of Shadows; though this would only be recommended if fluent in the script, or reading your own text could become problematic.

Triple Moon

Also known as the Triple Goddess. Representing the Maiden, Mother, and Crone, and honouring each stage of the female life cycle, the triple moon symbolises the three, united.

Wand

Traditionally made of wood (but can also be made of metal, or rock, and is often set with gemstones and crystals), a wand is a rod used to channel and direct energy, and cast protective circles. Unlike an athame, a wand has a gentler energy, which is used to invite and encourage rather than to command.

Widdershins

Anti-clockwise / counter-clockwise. Used in magick to banish. For example, if making a healing broth, you would stir it counter-clockwise to banish illness. If you were making a charm bag for ‘letting go’, you would blend the herbs counter-clockwise, etc.

Witches’ Bells

The ringing of bells has long been used to clear away stagnant and unwanted energy from the home. Witches bells are a cluster of bells, designed to hang on your door as a protective charm, and ring whenever anyone enters, ensuring whoever is paying you a visit doesn’t bring negative energy with them.

Witching Hour

A time of night when witches are at their most powerful and spirits are most active. This is considered to be the time when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. There are different beliefs as to when exactly the witching hour is; some say midnight, and others believe it is around 3am.

Yule

Also known as the Winter Solstice. One of the eight sabbats, celebrated in December. A time when the darkness gives way to the sun, and days start to get progressively longer, Yule is a celebration of rebirth, renewal, and the continuation of life. A perfect time for candle magick, rest, and self-care.

In witchcraft, we are always learning, no one witch knows it all – in fact none of us have even scratched the surface of all there is to learn! We must always try to remain open, non-judgemental, and respectful of each other as we find our way, and follow our path.

Of course, there are more words and terms you will hear as you learn about witchcraft, but we hope you found this guide a useful introduction, and one which helps you understand the significance of the terms and words we use as we practice. At Witch Casket we are here to support your magickal journey however we can; we want to build a safe community for magickal education, knowledge and of course beautiful items that support your craft as you learn.

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