Witch Words

Old Craft Glossary

Witch Words

Old Craft Glossary

Dawn R. Jackson

Table of Contents

Some words and terms listed are from the glossaries and lexicons and other published works by Nigel Pennick, Nigel Jackson, Paul Huson, Katharine Briggs, R.J. Stewart, George Ewart Evans, Evan John Jones, Doreen Valiente, Cassell’s Dictionary of Witchcraft, Nathaniel Harris and Gwyn.


  • ALFREKA: A term that describes land that has been physically and spiritually desecrated and been ridden of the Anima Loci whether from maleficent acts of a mundane, human nature or from deliberate magical on-lays.
  • ANIMA LOCI: The soul of a place, specifically in Nature. Several cultures believe that natural forms such as wells and lakes as well as mountains, stone menhirs, and monoliths are sacred and venerable spots where the Numinous Divine resides and that it is possible for humans to make contact with this Anima Loci.
  • ATHWART: Also overwart, the act of ploughing east-west and then tilling the ringes or rows (usually barley, corn, or wheat) north-south to assure the rows would be warmed on both sides by the Sun.
  • ARTHAME: A ritual knife usually used symbolically - also known as athame.
  • AUGOEIDES: The holy guardian angel (HGA) or higher genius. Also the mediator between one’s self and the Gods. Derived from the Greek word for morning light augos.
  • ALRAUN: Talismanic image made from the root of the Mandrake, also has several other more esoteric meanings.
  • AVERSE: Harmful or baneful.


  • BAN: Another word for a curse.
  • BALEFIRE: The fire usually lit at the center of a compass for hallowing and saining purposes, providing illumination as well as heat and overlapping both mundane and magical functions.
  • BAWMING THE THORN: The act of dressing or adorning a living tree with flowers and ribbons and making merry with great celebration afterward, including public games and various amusements. This event usually took place on or near Old Midsummer but the term bawming may include Yule trees as well as the traditional May Pole.
  • BEATING THE BOUNDS: This act is performed by a group of local folk perambulating their farms, manors, kirkyards, or specific geographical boundaries, stopping at particular markers such as trees, walls, hedges, wells, and standing stones that mark the extent of the boundary in order to ritually beat’ specific landmarks with sticks (of Ash and Birch) to chase off such things as the spirit of the old year and negative energies for protective measures.
  • BELWEATHERS: Beneficent and helpful spirits.
  • BENIZONS: Also benizon, an alternate term for blessings.
  • BESOM: A handcrafted broom usually made of Ash, Willow, and Birch concealing a phallic shape betwixt the brushes and used in ritual purposes for mundane sweeping of the bought or compass as well as being anointed with traditional flying ointments created using dark herbs and ridden to achieve transvective states of lifting or being oot and aboot.
  • BIDDING: A specific prayer or an incantation.
  • BINDING: A specific working intended to encourage the ceasing or stopping of yourself or another’s actions.
  • BLOUT: A ceremony or a ritual.
  • BOUGHT: Another term for compass or ritual circle.
  • BUD-WILL: A magical child or spirit created by a Witch and her covenmates (can be made on a solo basis as well), long term bud-wills are usually created from a concentrated group effort and charged with love and devotion from all the members of a group or coven. The bud-will is sometimes used for the purpose of sacrifice in a ritual or rite, the bud-will may take the form of a cake, a doll or poppet, a witch bottle or even a written glyph and feeds off the life-force of the Witch.
  • BULL’S NOON: An alternate term for Midnight.


  • CASSAP: Someone who is considered very wise and knowledgeable.
  • CAUDLE: A cauldron or a cast-iron kettle — also the name of a particular brew or concoction made within.
  • CHARIVARI: A mocking serenade of dissonant noise created with kettles, pots, and tin horns and done in an attempt to annoy. These events usually took place when an older person married a very young person. Such boisterous festivities are also related to Rough Musicking in nature.
  • CHIMERI: The realm above us known alternately as Heaven or Elphame in another aspect.
  • COMPASS: The magical working area known also as a bought, circlestead, mill — traditionally nine foot in diameter and created and made by using the red or white cord and a dod at the nowl.
  • COVENSTEAD: A specific location where a group of witches meets regularly - normally thought to be at least three miles apart and away from another’s covenstead.
  • CROOKS AND STRAITS: Also Crooked Path. In any direction but a straight line, a path fraught with difficulties and beset with both joys and sorrows - synonymous with the life of a Witch, known as walking or trodding the crooked path. This term often used in initiations into the Toadsmen and Horsemen societies with regard to the path to the altar, absolute trust of the initiators being ideally anticipated and all instructions from the initiators being followed to the letter by the initiate in order to avoid pitfalls and errors that may cause one to become hurt physically or in the least made quite uncomfortable.
  • CROOMSTICK: Magical stave with a hooked end — similar to a shepherd’s crook.
  • CUNNING FIRE: Known also as the serpent fire, fire of Cain (or Qayin) and cognate to the numinous light that the Cunning Father gave to us humans; that light representing a total awareness and awakened illumination of an all-encompassing inner-sight that has been attained after one has awakened the hidden serpentine fire and its snake-powers within. The root of the word “cunning” itself is thought to be connected to the Serpent’s power of old.


  • DAPTER: A person (nominally a Witch) skilled in many areas and avenues of experience: probably a corruption of adapter.
  • DAGYDE: Traditional Witches’ dollie image or figure that is used with needles or pins.
  • DAIMON: Greek word for spirit. All types of nature spirits and divine entities are included in this definition. The word demon was created from the original word and indicated specifically evil spirits.
  • DISTAFF LINE: The bloodline of a person as followed only in the matriarchal sense. The Mother’s Line whereas Mother refers to Dame Fate and her distaff by which she spins the threads of Fate, the alternate Male line is known as the Spear.
  • DOD: A stake or peg of wood, generally used for ritual purposes (used in the formal creation of the bought or compass when attached to the cord and used as a measuring device across the ground’s surface).
  • DOSSEL: Known also as the morcan it is an image of a person or of something used in a ceremonial fashion.
  • DREWARY: A sexual technique and praxis conducted between consenting magical partners that is a ways and mean to a sacred and venerable spiritual expression of the Nameless Arte, as well as an emulation of the Dame herself in the ecstatic and erotic act of sensual enjoyment using prolonged intercourse near the edge of orgasm.


  • FAMILIAR: A more readily known and recognized term for the Fetch.
  • FEEORIN: Another term for the Fae folk or Faery folk.
  • FETCH: The spiritual entity that usually takes on some sort of animalistic element and role and that is recognized in the Three Fold Alliance (human, faery and animal). A specific ally and helper that is born from a place outside our own consciousness and awareness but still comes from within our own mind though it appears to take on physical attributes.
  • FITH FATH: (Pronounced Fee Faw) A Scots Gaelic term meaning deer aspect or one who takes on the appearance of a deer and the term relates to a corpus of initiatory shape shifting lore. The term fath is connected to specific poems and incantations that enable these transitions via the magical words spoken or sung.

”I sall goe until a Hare
Wi sorrow and sick mickle care
I sall goe in the Devil’s name
An while I come home again.”

  • FOUR WENTZ WAYS: A crossroads.


  • GAST: A physical place that is considered infertile and desolate. A place in which benevolent spirits have been driven away. Such places are recognized immediately by the feeling of wanting to flee or being driven away. Continued exposure to such locations when it has been made apparent that such contact is unwelcome can be dangerous.
  • GENIUS LOCI: The distinctive atmosphere or pervading spirit of a place. The guardian deity of a place.
  • GHOST ROADS: Known also as the Dragon Paths, Serpent Tracks, Coffin Paths etc. these roads overlap with the idea of Ley Lines first promulgated by Alfred Watkins. These roads are used by the newly deceased as they travel and make their way to the Underworld. On more ancient of these lines can be found markers such as tumuli, barrows, churches, and cemeteries.
  • GODSTONE: Refers to the phallic standing stones (found at Crossroads and along certain Ghost Roads - also known as God Stanes) and representative of the World Tree, the Irminsul, as well as the Human Spine. The Stone encompasses the Heavens or Chimeri, the UnderWorld or Elphame as well as the mundane earthly realms we currently inhabit.
  • GO UPON THE LAND: A method used by those who worked the land to determine whether or not the ground was fertile and ready for planting by removing the trousers and sitting upon the land to directly gauge the temperature of the earth.
  • GRAMARYE: A book containing magical information or lore (from the scholastic term grammar) — The Secret Granary or the Red Book of Appin are two historical references for Gramaryes.
  • GREAT NOWL: The Pole Star, or the Northern Star.
  • GREEN GOWN: A tongue in cheek way to refer to a tousle in the new-mown hay. To give one a green gown or a green coat (for men) usually occurred when one went a’ Maying down in the Greenwood during Roodmas Tide. Green Gown figures are synonymous with female tutelary spirits whose origins are ever present in the land - a representative of Dame Nature herself. Additionally green coats were often noted to be the apparel of the Devil in traditional lore and phaery tales.
  • GREY MAGIC: The noble art of obfuscation — not revealing certain things about one’s self or one’s magical praxis in order to always keep those who may have thought they had a good indication who you were and what you were about unsteady and uncertain. Robert Cochrane claimed this gave him an advantage over those folks who assumed they had a definite bead on his character.
  • GRIMALKIN: Also Graymalkin (a Witch familiar). An old female cat or a bad-tempered old Witch woman which sometimes can be both at once.
  • GUDEMAN’S FAULD: Also called Jack’s Land or No-Man’s Land. A fold or enclosure of land that is left wild and never tilled in homage to the Gudeman or Devil. This plot is left as a dead ground and considered a permanent habitation for the spirits of the dead. Variants include the Dame’s Acre in homage to the Dame or Queen of Elphame.
  • GUISING: Dressing in masqued/masked costumes for ritual use (traditionally incorporating sacred animals and other historical figures such as the Fool and Mari Lwyd) — a derivative of disguising - normally seen at Misrule and Roodmas tides, those who dress in such a manner are known as Guisers or Guizards.
  • GYRE-CARLING: Alternate title for the Queen of Elphame.


  • HAGSTONE: A holed stone that symbolizes the Goddess and her Divine Femininity. Often used by prudent Farriers after having a piece of string run through the holed stone and being attached to the door of the stable with the express purpose being to keep the horses within from being hag-ridden. Can also have additional oneiric uses.

”Hang up hooks and shears to scare
Hence the hag that rides the mare,
Till they be all over wet
With the mire and the sweat.
This observed the manes shall be
Of your horses all knot free.”

Robert Herrick

  • HALLOWED: To make holy or sained - additionally something that has been empowered with Spirament.
  • HAEGTESSA: A Hedge Rider. A Saxon term for a Witch.
  • HIDDEN COMPANY: Discarnate Witches who act as Spirit Guides.
  • HORSEMAN’S WORD: A secret word taught at initiation into the Horsemen’s Society that was usually whispered to the horse by said Horse Whisperers. This word enabled that person to jade (stop) or draw (cause to go) the beast. This feat was actually accomplished by the use of oils and mixtures (sometimes added to a horse’s favorite food or snack) that were created by the Horseman that were either repellent or aromatic in nature and that caused the specific horse behavior noted above. An example of a Horseman’s Word from the early 20th Century Gypsy folk is Deagblasda (sweet-tasting).

”Hele, Conceal, Never Reveal,
Neither Write, Nor Dite, Or Recite,
Nor Cut, Nor Carve, Nor Write in Sand.”

  • HOUNCES: Colorful worsted braids usually worn by farm-horses to keep them from being fascinated by the evil eye or pixie-led.
  • HOUSLE: Variant also Houzle, Housel. A specific instance of sharing sained food and drink (usually wine and bread) between Witch folk and their brethren both seen and unseen.
  • HULDU: Norse/Icelandic term for Elves and Faerie Folk. Also Hulda-Folk, Alfa-Folk - the Hidden or Vanishing People.
  • HYTERSPRITE: Benevolent earth spirit.


  • IYNX: Plural Iyinges. Also associated with the Latin verb Iungere: to join. In it’s most cosmic aspect as a numinous magical vortex it is said to have the root meaning primal transmission. The term is derived from the name of the Wryneck bird (Iynx from Iugmos - a shrieking sound) which was spread eagled across a wheel, itself known as the Iynx or Rhombus which was then spun on two strings to attract the beloved.


  • KA!: This term is similar in scope and use to the phrase So Mote it Be and follows at the end of most workings and is also of East Anglian descent.
  • KUTHUN: An object that a dying witch gives to another witch in order to pass the power.
  • KARINDER!: An East Anglian term with deliberate incantory uses that draws attention and is used at the beginnings of most workings.
  • KEPPEN ROD: A stick or pole of sorts used for measuring.


  • LIFTING: Additionally known as Faring Forth the Fetch, Traveling and being Oot and Aboot (transvection) and refers to the spiritual soul travel when the practitioner leaves their body and travels into other relative dimensions and worlds — this form of reality is most often experienced by the Fetch.


  • MAN IN BLACK: Archaic term for Magister or Devil of the Coven.
  • MARK OF CAIN: The invisible, numinous mark usually bestowed upon initiation that marks and denotes that one is of the Old Craft Persuasion.
  • MASTER: Ambiguous title given to the Lord that bears the Light between his Horns recognized often in his primal forms of a Blacksmith as well as an Archer.
  • MAGISTELLUS: A Familiar or a Lesser God or Little Master that helps and aids the Witch in her endeavors — examples would be Robin Artisson who came to Dame Alice Kyteler in the form of a Black Dog.
  • MOLE COUNTRY: The Underworld, or the Land of the Dead.
  • MOLLHERN LAND: The Underworld, or the Land of the Dead.
  • MURK-RIDER: Alternate term for Hedge Witches, Hedge Riders.


  • NAMELESS ARTE: Or the Magical Arte, Arte Magical (also Art) - a euphemism for the praxis of the Old Craft, Elder Craft or Witchcraft.
  • NAYWORD: A secret password or watchword, or a specific term or phrase that allowed one to gain access to a Ritual or celebratory Sabbat with others and must be given correctly in order to advance into the working group.
  • NICNEVIN: Also Gyre-Carling, Scottish Lowlands term for the Queen of Elphame or Daughter of the Bones, this term has certain diabolic associations.
  • NICNEVIN’S CHARNAL HOUSE: The Underworld, or Land of the Dead.
  • NOUS: Also noetic. The principle of the cosmic or divine mind or soul responsible for the rational order of the cosmos. In Neo-Platonism, the image of the absolute good, containing the cosmos of intelligible beings.
  • NOWL: The center, navel or omphalos as in the Pole star or the center of a compass or some other area used for magical workings.
  • NUMEN: A presiding divinity or spirit of a place. A spirit believed by Witches to inhabit certain natural phenomena or objects. Creative energy; genius.


  • ODLING: Something without equal.
  • OLD FATE: Known also as Dame Fate. The Spinner of the Threads of Fate. Seen sometimes as a Loathsome Lady and sometimes Lethal Goddess, She, whose secret and unknown name is said with fear and dread sometimes appeared as Three Separate Women in different cultural contexts as the Morai, the Parcae, the Norns.
  • ONEIRIC: Of or relating to or suggestive of dreams and the dream state, also the twilight stage between sleep and wakefulness.
  • ON-LAY: The act of laying on or creating new magical virtues by the use of operative magical acts at a specific geographical space, be it indoors or out, though those out of doors are preferred — the art of placing an overlay of relevant energies and mythical and magical patterns on a particular object for specific intentions and purposes. Under an on-lay, the attributes brought on from the Anima Loci are minimally kept and can even be overridden.
  • OOT AND ABOOT: The art and act of transvection, also called lifting, faring forth the fetch. Synonymous with Astral or Soul travel.
  • OWD HINERY: Also Auld Chiel. Alternate title or name for the Devil.
  • OWL BLINK: A Curse.
  • OWL LIGHT: The Twilight.


  • PERRY DANCERS: The Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis.
  • POPPET: Also called a Mommet — a small figure made from wax and cloth and created to mirror/image a person or thing in order to work a form of sympathetic magic - they were stuffed with herbs, hair, fingernails and sometimes bodily fluids.
  • POUK’S PINFOLD: An alternate term for the Underworld or Hell with Pouk being the Devil and a Pinfold being a type of enclosure or pen for stray animals.
  • PRAXIS: Practical application or exercise of a branch of learning as related to Witchcraft.
  • PUCKEREL: Another term for the Fetch, also known as the Puckril, or Bid.


  • RED THREAD: A subtle reference relating to the idea and concept of the Witch Blood that is passed from generation to generation in a physical sense or in reference to those who have had it awakened spiritually through some form of initiation.
  • RIG: A cord or line that runs across a compass or bought that was created while attached to two dods — it usually runs from the center to the very northernmost edge.
  • ROUGH MUSICKING: Also Riding the Stang, Skimmington, Skimmity. This custom apparently began as a New Year’s tradition unique to the regions of Cumberland, Westmorland, and the Yorkshire areas. The act of Riding the Stang belongs to a range of customs that were particular to the working classes in which they claim the right to manhandle their superiors. Can be compared to similar traditions enacted at the Corby Pole Fair as well.
    This custom involved a gathering of folks going about the village to a particular place or home with metal plates, tins, poles, and such being struck loudly so as to make obnoxious noises (usually done at night). Also used as a way to drum a man (or woman) out of the village for such offenses as adultery, incest, spousal abuse. Another symbol of social disproval is the leaving of or scattering of chaff at the threshold of the home of the offender.


  • SABBATSELE: A specific Hallows experience or celebration.
  • SAIN: To make a particular place, person, or thing holy or hallowed or consecrated by the use of magical chants and songs — the act of saining in order to sanctify.
  • SCORE ABOVE THE BREATH: The belief carried over from medieval times that causing a Witch to bleed above the mouth and nose (by intentionally scratching, slashing or poking) would cause any workings that had been done or magical acts performed to become null and void.
  • SECRET GRANARY: The legendary and elusive Gramarye or grammar book containing the Craft Secrets of East Anglia.
  • SHOTSELE: Evening time.
  • SIT YE MERRY: East Anglian phrase meaning Behold, the End and used at the end of an invocation or working.
  • SKRY: Derived from Old English word descry meaning to see or observe utilizing a form of clairvoyance that incorporated the use of bowls of water, mirrors, crystals.
  • SOUTHWAYS: Moving in a clockwise fashion or deosil, with the Sun’s movement.
  • SMOOR: To smother the flames of a balefire or bonfire.
  • SPIRAMENT: Subtle energy or cosmic breath also known as Ond, Vril or Odyle.
  • SPRITE TRAPS: A form of a protective device whose name is a corruption of Spirit Trap. Sprite Traps were made by several means from a small magically charged stone nestled between the forks of a smallish stang to more elaborate creations involving weaving a particular pattern with red thread atop a forked ash or rowan wand — such woven traps incorporated design elements as runes of protection and were planted firmly at the front and back doors of homes and businesses.
  • STALE: The besom or ritual broom’s handle.
  • STANG: A forked ritual staff usually of Ash wood that serves as an altar — additionally it is a physical representation of the World Tree or Irminsul showing the illusion of duality, as well as being a staff of office for the coven Magister or Magistra. Also functions as a simple walking stick and early versions were used to mark ley lines and used as tools to survey the surrounding countryside.


  • TANGING THE BEES: Also tinging the bees. An act performed to cause bees that were swarming to settle. Examples from East Anglia include beating on a metal dustpan with the house key while in the immediate presence of swarming bees.
  • TOAD’S BOON: Distinctive powers of Witchcraft given to the Toad Men through a complicated ritual using the specific crotch shaped bones of a certain type of toad (the natterjack or bufo calamita) and known in a similar vein to the Horsemen and the Horseman’s Word in their abilities and praxis.
  • TROSHEL: A threshold in a home or boundary.
  • TWILIGHT SLEEP: Also Twylyt Sleep. A trance state.
  • TO LIE BY THE WALL: To be dead.


  • UNDER THE ROSE: Or Sub Rosa, referring to the specific symbol of the rose representing confidentiality and secrecy in matters shared.
  • UNGUENTI SABBATI: Flying ointment usually prepared with the darker herbs/worts of a specific narcotic nature (Hellebore, Hemp, Henbane) — can be dangerous and deadly if used unsupervised.


  • VERDELET: Also the Man in Green, Robinet, Robin Hood. French term for the aspects of the dual natured Horn God who represents both the primal nature of fertility that is seen as green and growing bright half of the year as well as the the obverse nature of the Man in Black or Harlequin who is a harbinger of the shadowy nature of decrease and death during the icy and freezing dark half of the year.


  • THE WAIN: The constellation of Ursa Major - The Great Bear, also known as Arthur’s Wain.
  • WARD: The spiritual guardian of an area or a place or the act of using magic via the form of workings etc. to protect a place - to ward and wane.
  • WASSAIL: Anglo Saxon term word that refers to being whole often used as a greeting and is known in the yearly blessing of the Apple trees after Winter’s frost and freeze.
  • WHINNEY MOOR: From the Old Norse hvin and the Old English mor which refers to a moorland where gorse grows. A wasteland covered in thorns that the souls of the dead had to fly over or cross on their journey to the Otherworld. Of a more mundane explanation, it is a geographical area on the outskirts of Leeds (called Whinmoor) where many folktales abound about the ghostly battles that take place there.
  • WHIST: Uncanny, silent, quiet, still, hushed, making no sound, or free from noise or disturbance. Also melancholy, sorrowful, cognate with wist as in wistful. Filled with a particular yearning or eldritch desire.
  • WIGHT: Germanic term meaning being or creature applied to both spirits of an anabolic and catabolic nature being able to influence both the increase and decrease of a specific place.
  • WITCH BOTTLES: Also known as Bellarmines or Greybeards. Squat, narrow-necked stoneware bottles depicting a Green-Man type figure (in parody after Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino) placed as a subtle decorative motif and designed to act as a repellent against Witches. They are usually filled with such things as bent nails, urine, broken glass, and needles and set in a pot of boiling water till they burst with the idea being that a form of linkage would occur that would cause great suffering to the bewitcher. They can additionally be buried to work over a longer period of time.

”To house the Hag you must do this;
Commix with meal a little Pisse
Of him bewitcht: then forthwith make
A little Wafer or a Cake.
And this raw’ly bak’t will bring
The old Hag in. No surer thing.”

Robert Herrick

  • WITCHES CRADLE: A method of torturing Witches during the Renaissance and Middle Ages by binding the Witch in a garment or sack and suspending them from the limb of a tree. The continual rocking and swinging caused profound disorientation and hallucinations and induced confessions. Used in a more contemporary context as a sensory deprivation technique to alter states of consciousness.
  • WITCHES LADDER: A length of cord that has been knotted to hold feathers, shells, stones, or other objects. Used primarily as a form of cord magic it can additionally be used in a similar fashion as a Witch’s rosary of sorts with specific meditative bids and prayers as it is moved through the hands.
  • WITCHES FOOT: Also Goblin’s Cross. This term originally assigned to the pentagram (Koch, Dover Press 1930) which also showed an inverted cross called a sword, this symbol has suffered a form of semiotic drift causing the definition to now include variations in design.
  • WOODWOSE: Archaic English Saxon term meaning Wild One and used to denote the mossy, shaggy Wild Man of the Woods or Green Man — an aspect of the Horned God as the Wood Wife is the Goddess of the Witches.
  • WORKING: A blout or compass that has the intention of bringing about some specific change via the act of operative sorcery, which is coterminous with the term Witchcraft in the minds of most people.
  • WORT: Plant matter or herbs either in the green, living state or dried.
  • WRAINGATES: Going widdershins, or against the Sun’s movement, counterclockwise.
  • WYRD: The process of the unseen web of synchronicity and cause and effect throughout the cosmos.


  • YARTH: Cognate with Dame Nature, also called the Good Woman. The Divine Feminine force recognized as the phenomenal source of all life and inherently understood as a form of Mother Nature when spoken of using the traditional expression the Green Mantle.
  • YARTHKIN: A fertility spirit (also called Tiddy People or Greencoaties - with one known as Tiddy Mun having specific beneficent actions), when neglected and proper tributes are not kept up they can become malevolent as in the case of the spirit known as Yallery Brown.

Share this post