Which Witch is Which?

Traditional Witchcraft Expounded

Which Witch is Which?

Traditional Witchcraft Expounded

Dawn R. Jackson

Do not do what you desire —
do what is necessary.
Take all you are given —
give all of yourself.
“What I have --- I hold!”
When all else is lost, and not until then,
prepare to die with dignity.

Robert Cochrane

This essay is written to show the differences as well as what similarities exist between what is known as the practice of Traditional Witchcraft and the practice of Wicca.

The practice of what has been termed as Traditional Witchcraft or Trad Craft has seen a rise in the number of seekers of information and actual practices over the last several years due to many reasons — the advent of the information age including the sharing of information by electronic means (as we are now), the removal of the fear of being outed by non-witches due to the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in Britain in 1951 (and soon followed suit by many other countries over the next several years), as well as a genuine yearning by those seekers who wish to find a spiritual practice that fulfills them and hearkens to a similar faith as may have been born down through-out their family line and ancestry.

While Wicca had its birth in the latter half of the twentieth century, due to the concentrated efforts of a retired British civil servant by the name of Gerald Brosseau Gardner, Traditional Craft has been recognized as expressed by the particular practices and beliefs of entire family lines that carried on these traditions (even having to resort to going underground when it was considered dangerous to openly admit to having such knowledge) since far before our current century. While such practices are recognized by historians and folklorists, it is only at the beginning of the seventeenth century and later that there are verifiable records by which to date these activities and practices in the form of personal and family journals and other written means of communication.

While both Wicca and Trad Craft claim to be descended from the same set of Pagan Parentage so to speak, you will soon see that is hardly the case. Gerald Gardner (GBG) cobbled together his set of practices and ideas from many sources including the Masons, Rosicrucians, Hermetecists, and various other orders such as the Fellowship of Crotona that were popular during his youth. While it has been agreed by various historians that GBG may have had actual contact with a Traditional group of Witches in England known as the New Forest Coven and may have even been initiated into their ranks, the vows that he took to not reveal the information he garnered while a member made it so that he needed to bejewel the elephant in order to fill in the blanks, and gain acceptance and recognition for his own newly sprung practice.

In GBG’s practice, there was an extremely formal hierarchy or degree system that one had to work through. This degree system was borrowed from the Masonic practices with which GBG was familiar. There is no such system in the practice of Trad Craft. While local leaders of groups of members (called cuveens or covens) may be called Magisters or Magistras (for the female equivalent) serve the same purpose as a Wiccan High Priest or Priestess in theory, they do not receive that title and subsequent egotistical baggage usually associated with such rankings. A Magister or Magistra has usually taken on that role due to their own personal experiences as well as personal gnosis. This voluntary rather than elected leadership due to rank and title allows for a much smoother interaction between all members in most cases, as there are not the problems of ego and such to sidetrack and hinder the true goals of spirituality and nature of the group.

Implements of Arte will vary widely from a Wiccan to a Trad Craft perspective. Wiccan practitioners will often become bogged down with a preponderance of items from ceremonial robes to swinging incense censors and full elaborate altar set-ups. This makes going off to the woods to work Rites or perform Magic rather bulky and unwieldy. Robert Cochrane called these sorts of Witches Clunkers from the sound their knapsacks made whilst going off to the woods and wild. The Four Hermetic Tools in the Dagger, Chalice, Pentacle and Wand is prevalent in Wiccan usage, whereas you will find a much different set of tools to the Trad Craft Witch if indeed you find any tools at all. Those tools for a Trad Witch may include such things as Stangs (a forked branch usually of ash wood that has several significant meanings), Skulls (of animals and on occasion people), Cords, Besoms (brooms), Cauldrons, Spindles, and even Millstones. Oftentimes though a Trad Crafter will just use the power of his or her Cunning Mind.

Quarter Calls or calls to the Enochian type Watchtowers are a Wiccan specific activity. While the Trad Crafter may on occasion call to the Spirits of the Directions, that marriage of elemental attributes and what physical place those four elements uphold may differ (even from tradition to tradition). In the tradition that I currently practice, East is represented by Fire and not by Air as Wiccans would have it, for example. And while Wiccans tend to formally draw out their circles for their practices (these circles can be rather formal and structured in creation) the equivalent is termed drawing a compass round and is not quite as formal an activity for a Traditional Witch. The Wiccan is making his or her circle specifically hallowed to better enhance their own power and objects for their particular Rite. To the Traditional Witch, that same ground is already hallowed or holy and needs no additional actions to make it so for them to work their Arte. While both the Trad Crafter and Wiccan may incorporate similar results from their magical efforts, it is how they each arrive at those end results that bears the shade of differences.

Sabbats and Holidays take a decidedly different turn as well. While the Wiccan practitioner uses a Wheel of the Year that is eightfold in pattern and scope utilizing the Solstices and Equinoxes, the Traditional Witch will celebrate according to the tradition they are currently a part of. Other variances due to simple geographical differences and whether or not they are following a practice that solely recognizes only an agrarian year will also play their part in the creation of the Trad Crafter’s celebratory kalends. A Traditional Witch will also celebrate for more than just the one particular day (more used in the Solar traditions that celebrate a particular moment of passage or conjunction etc. in Hamlet’s Mill, our sky). These are known as the Tides and usually encompass an eight day period with the most powerful of these days being mid-way between.

Laws and Ethics differ also between the Wiccan and the Trad Crafter. The Wiccan Rede, or the one commonly recognized as being the Thompson/Porter Rede from a poem published in Green Egg magazine in the early 70’s, is widely accepted and dogmatically adhered to by many Wiccans. GBG published a unique variant of this same Rede in his book The Meaning of Witchcraft in 1959. A few years later, Justine Glass also published a version of the Rede in her book Witchcraft: The Sixth Sense (of which the infamous 1734 plate incident derived from the interview of Robert Cochrane). The particular section in the verse that admonishes to “Mind the Threefold Law ye should — three times bad an three times good”, meaning that what circumstances you enact on another is returned to you threefold, in the same vein has no equivalent in the practices of a Trad Crafter and is not recognized. The Traditional Witch ultimately knows that there must be a balance of what is considered dark or negative forces with the light or positive ones and that trying to uphold such a law only causes the sort of retributive actions they were trying to avoid originally with such a idea.

And these Laws and Ethical Codes are not usually to be found written down in books of any sort such such as the well known grimoires or gramayres, for the practicing Traditional Witch of days yore, such acts would have exacted the penalty of death if caught with such a Liber Umbra. At the beginning of this page are the Witch Laws as given by Robert Cochrane, and you will notice there is no mention of the well-known three fold law discussed in the preceding paragraph. Most of the laws, ethics and such were encoded into Oral Lore and passed down among the descendants, hidden in plain sight and subtly woven into the ballads, faerie tales and myths that are still actively sought after by mythographers and folklorists to be subjected to additional interpretations today.


Last but not least we come to semantics, word play if you will. Witch Which is Which? The term Witch has a long and convoluted etymology. Having Indo European roots the word’s reputation has suffered greatly over the ensuing years and it is a matter of personal preference as to whether you and your kith and kin choose to use it. While not all Wiccans will accept being termed a Witch and most Traditional Witches will resist being described as Wiccan there are some specific names with which Traditional Witches are associated such as; The People of the Faith (Faery Faith as opposed to the Fairy Faith), Pellars (a derivative of Repeller - used for those who worked the White Artes aka Cunning Crafter), Hedgewitches, Crafters, Cunning Men or Women. Below is the customary definition for the word Witch from the American Heritage Dictionary.



  1. A woman claiming or popularly believed to possess magical powers and practice sorcery.
  2. A believer or follower of Wicca; a Wiccan.
  3. A hag.
  4. A woman considered to be spiteful or overbearing.
  5. Informal A woman or girl considered bewitching.
  6. One particularly skilled or competent at one’s craft: A witch of a writer, [she] is capable of developing an intensity that verges on ferocity (Peter S. Prescott). VERB: Inflected forms: witched, witch·ing, witch·es

Transitive verb

  1. To work or cast a spell on; bewitch.
  2. To cause, bring, or effect by witchcraft.

Intransitive verb

To use a divining rod to find underground water or minerals; dowse.


Middle English wicche, from Old English wicce, witch, and wicca, wizard, sorcerer. See weg- below.

Other forms

witcher·y (—r) NOUN witchy ADJECTIVE


To be strong, be lively. Oldest form *we-, becoming *weg- in centum languages.

Derivatives include watch, vigilante, reveille, and velocity.

  1. Suffixed o-grade form *wog—. wake1, from Old English wacan, to wake up, arise, and wacian, to be awake, from Germanic *wakn.
  2. Suffixed o-grade form *wog-no-. waken, from Old English wæcnan, wæcnian, to awake, from Germanic *waknan.
  3. watch, from Old English wæccan, to be awake, from Germanic *wakjan.
  4. Suffixed form *weg-yo-. Wicca, wicked, witch; bewitch, from Old English wicca, sorcerer, wizard (feminine wicce, witch), from Germanic *wikkjaz, necromancer (one who wakes the dead).
  5. bivouac, from Old High German wahta, watch, vigil, from Germanic *wahtw.
    1. wait, from Old North French waitier, to watch;
    2. waft, from Middle Dutch and Middle Low German wachten, to watch, guard. Both 1 and 2 from Germanic *waht-.
  6. Suffixed (causative) o-grade form *wog-eyo-. vegetable, from Latin vegre, to be lively.
  7. Suffixed (stative) form *weg—. vigor; ravigote, from Latin vigre, to be lively.
  8. Suffixed form *weg-(e)li-. vedette, vigil, vigilant, vigilante; reveille, surveillant, from Latin vigil, watchful, awake.
  9. Suffixed form *weg-slo-. velocity, from Latin vlx, fast, lively. (Pokorny e- 1117.)


Sup the Wine and Swallow Feast,
In the Hallowed Name of Pan,
He, The One, Half Man, Half Beast.

Neath the Light of Day and Dawn
In Verdant Fields of Jaded Hue.
Pipes the Sylvan Lord as Faun.

Here, Fair Nymphs give Chase and Sport
Playful, Rustic and with Ease,
Drawn to Arcady, His Lustful Court.

See There, the Woody Shepherd’s Crook.
Rising as the Sap in Trees,
Now Found Planted in Floral Nook.

Here the Twilight Mourns and Gives,
Voice to Turgid Echoes Song
That Cries - Great Pan, He Lives, He Lives!

© Dawn R. Jackson

Dartmoor Sacred Wood Verse

Oak logs will warm you well
That are old and dry.
Logs of pine will sweetly smell,
But the sparks will fly.

Birch logs will burn too fast,
Chestnut scarce at all:
Hawthorn logs are good to last—
Cut them in the fall.

Holly logs will burn like wax,
You may burn them green;
Elm logs like smoldering flax,
No flame to be seen.

Beech logs for winter time,
Yew logs as well;
Green elder logs it is a crime
For any man to sell.

Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room;
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flower of broom.

Ash logs, smooth and grey,
Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way,
Worth their weight in gold.

—Traditional Verse

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