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In the article, I will frequently use the word "some" because of the vast amount of traditions out there of Traditional Witchcraft.
What is Traditional Witchcraft? Traditional Witchcraft is not Wicca; Traditional Witchcraft is Traditional Paganism. It is the practice of pre-Wiccan and pre-Christian beliefs (or at least trying to revive the old ways). There are many traditions in Traditional Witchcraft and it should be noted that not all Trads have the same beliefs and practices, but there are basic principles that are followed. Now on to the differences: Wicca is an oath bound, orthopraxic, fertility-based witch cult and mystery religion. Gerald B. Gardner created it in the 1950s and he never actually called it Wicca, but rather "Wica". Traditional Wicca requires its members to be initiated into a coven to actually be considered Wiccan and therefore there is no such thing as a "solitary Wiccan". It is said that in Wicca, one must be initiated in order to receive the Inner Court information (such as the deities "true" names). Depending on the tradition, Traditionalists may or may not require the seeker to be initiated.
Traditional Witchcraft does not follow the Wiccan Rede (created by Gerald B. Gardner) or the Threefold Law. "An ye harm none, do what ye will" is a part of the Wiccan Rede and many people refer to this as a law, when in fact the word "rede" actually means advice. We take responsibility for whatever we do, whether it be harming or healing. Traditionalists know that there is a creative and destructive side of nature; therefore there is no "white" or "black" magic. There are many Eastern philosophies included in Wicca (such as Karma), but Witchcraft originated from Western Europe and Trads prefer to stay true to the old ways which include folk magic. Traditional Witchcraft may be considered a religion to some, while others consider it just a craft, incorporating the craft into their religion. It all depends really.
Wiccans write in a journal that's called a Book of Shadows. They keep their workings, rituals, and other information in it. Some Trads do not keep a journal of their workings because of the belief that one should forget about it after it is done and then some write down their workings and experiences. Personally, I keep a binder full of my own workings that I have written and other information (such as moon cycles, planetary symbols and cycles, rune symbols, herbs and their chemical uses, etc.) that I call a grimoire. Some just call their book a journal. It really doesn't matter what you call it. The land and the ancestors are very important aspects of Traditional Witchcraft. Some Trads call on their ancestors for aid in working. I call on spirits and my ancestors in my workings and in divination; I ask for their wisdom and their guidance. While working outdoors, it is not uncommon for Trads to call on the land spirits or communicate with them. Spirits are an important aspect of Traditional Witchcraft. Ancestors are very important in the Trad. Craft because we searched for the old ways, which come from our ancestors! Spirits can provide us with knowledge and power. Spirits protect us when in working; they are called upon to bring power. We are surrounded by spirits, hence why they're important.
Many Traditional Witches do not believe in deities and many do. It all depends on your beliefs. I don't believe in deities and never have. I believe in and use the power of nature. We don't "worship" nature, though, as many people believe. Fate is a belief held by many. Many believe that your past affects your present and your present affects your future. I don't believe that our future has been laid out for us. This is the Way of Wyrd. Free will is also not believed in, as this is a part of Christian faith and the neo-Pagan movement. Although free will is not believed in by many, there is still common sense; if you manipulate a person's mind to love you and they do not truly do, do you believe it will actually last? Hexes, curses, jinxes, etc. are not shunned in Traditional Witchcraft. If one truly needs to perform a hex or something of the like because the individual, friends, or family were hurt badly, then one would. Hexes and jinxes can be seen as a little slap, whereas curses are more extreme in their power. I have performed a few hexes and one curse; the curse was worked because of the extreme pain it caused a certain friend and I and how badly we were hurt for multiple years. I've seen many "fluffy" sites describing how it's always better to fill a person's heart with love instead of performing hexes, jinxes, and curses and not recognizing the destructive side of nature at all! While it is better to perform "positive" workings, do you really think that filling a person's heart with love will stop them from doing the degrading things they have done?
Traditionalists do not believe in the Summerlands as Wiccans do. We believe that spirits dwell in the spirit world, or Otherworld, and may return as a land spirit or in the form of something else. There are three levels of the world: Underworld, where the spirits dwell and where wisdom is kept, Middle World, what we live in, and the Upperworld, the home of the divine. The belief of afterlife varies from person to person. Hedge-riding is a practice that involves travelling to the spirit world through the use of trance work and other various techniques to alter the conscious mind (including entheogens, which are herbs and other substances used to induce trance) which allows the spirit to leave the body. Shamanic journeying is another practice involving leaving the body for spiritual growth; it is very similar to hedge-riding and is essentially rooted off of it. Common techniques to induce trance involve drumming, rattling, heavy dancing, rocking, entheogens, meditation, flying ointments, and a lot more. Books for the beginner are Hedge-Rider by Eric De Vries, Trance-portation by Diana L. Paxson, and The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak.
Many Traditionalists do not cast circles and some may cast what they call a "compass round" which is basically a circle, but does not have the same use as a circle does to a Wiccan or neo-pagan. Wiccans use circles in order to keep the energy within it and then send it out to the Universe, whereas a compass round is used for protection. A circle in Wicca creates a sacred space to perform their workings, but Trads consider all land sacred and therefore do not need to perform a compass round for a sacred space. Sabbat, or festival, observations and celebrations differ from tradition to tradition. Some Trads observe four and some observe eight. Personally, I observe eight. I do not relate these sabbats to specific legends that Wiccans believe in. I observe them for the change in nature.
Some Trads use the pentagram to symbolize the elements of the earth (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit) while others don't believe in these elements because it originates from the East. Many neo-Pagan associate these elements with guardians/watchtowers to the four directions of the earth. Personally, I believe in the energy that flows from the four directions and from above and below. Robin Artisson has explained this in detail on his website. The symbol of this is called the "Witches Foot" or Hagal rune (from the Armanen Futharkh). Animism is a part of Traditional Witchcraft because we believe everything on this earth has a spirit (like plants, trees, etc.), just like Shamans.
Although there are many differences between Wicca, Traditional Witchcraft, and Neo-Paganism we all believe that nature is sacred and seek knowledge of the abyss.
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