10 Common Myths About Witchcraft

A close-up of an open novel with pressed flowers covering the pages and a small jar of amethyst chips on a chain as a bookmark.
(Image Credits: Gabriela Nunes via Pixabay)

From the ethereal image of maidens dancing bare under the moonlight to the whimsical silhouettes of pointy hats and broomsticks, it’s no myth that the concept of witches and witchcraft has enchanted us throughout historic folklore and modern imagination. And as with all things muddied by word of mouth and veiled further by the overproduced allure of western media, a myriad of common myths plagues the practice with misconception. Today, I’d like to bring attention to just a few of these myths in hopes of shedding some light on the real-life counterparts to these mystical, magical sorcerers we see on the television.

1. Witches and witchcraft aren’t real.

It is important to acknowledge, first and foremost, that people will approach this article – and this topic, for that matter – with varying intentions. While there are certainly those who are here with genuine aspirations of enlightenment and understanding, others still may be more smugly entrenched in so-called intellectual pursuits which compel them to seek out any and everything they disagree with upon a noble mission to debunk the content they come across. To the latter, all I can say is that – in a purely semantic context – spiritual, religious, or otherwise metaphysical practices and the people that subscribe to them do exist, whether you personally believe in what they practice or not. There are people out there who practice witchcraft, and regardless of whether or not the results of this practice are concrete by scientific standards, these people can be called witches. Thus, witches and witchcraft exist. Indeed, witches have practiced their craft among us, in secret or otherwise, since ancient times, and evidence of their presence and practice can be found across many different cultures and traditions, though delving into a more comprehensive exploration of this history is well beyond the scope of this article.

As to the results of witchcraft – which is likely what most of you had in mind when coming to this article – I would say, from personal experience and the shared narratives of many others, that witchcraft is very real and its results can be profoundly transformative in personal growth, in lifestyle and opportunity, and in perceptions of how reality functions in ways that are yet unseen by modern mainstream science. Of course, I do understand that these accounts, though impressive in number, may be dismissed as anecdotal and, therefore, unworthy of consideration. In that case, there isn’t much more I can say, I’m afraid, and until we have the tools to reliably measure these phenomena in mainstream science, the belief in the effects of witchcraft tends to come with the experience of those effects.

2. Witches are evil devil-worshippers.

Standing opposite to the skeptics are the very religious among us, and thus we see the myth – propagated further by pop culture – that all witches are evil devil-worshippers who dwell in shadow and cast hexes by foggy moonlight. The dispelling of this popular myth is crucial to cleaning up the public opinion on our practice. On the contrary, witchcraft is not a religion at all, but rather a practice and a tool for working with magick, and while it cannot be denied or overlooked that in recent years there has been a trend of self-identifying witches who loudly claim to worship Satan or engage in public hexing as some form of activism, it is important to recognize that the masks these people wear do not represent the majority of genuine practicing witches, nor do they necessarily represent those who follow what people may consider a darker religious path unrelated to the practice of witchcraft.

There is no pre-established moral code or set of beliefs when it comes to witchcraft. Instead, it spans a vast spectrum of traditions, beliefs, and frameworks. Nonetheless, many practicing witches adhere to the same moral code in their craft that they adhere to in their daily life, often one that emphasizes refraining from causing harm to or infringing upon the rights of others. For example, someone who refers to themselves as a pacifist will likely avoid incorporating any sort of hexing or cursing in their practice. On the other hand, someone who views a punch to the face as an appropriate response to a nasty insult may also view the hexing of an offender as a just response to the offense. Thus, it is the moral code of the witch that determines the moral code of their practice.

3. Witchcraft and Wicca are synonymous.

As I’ve already mentioned, witchcraft is not a religion, but a practice. Wicca, on the other hand, is a religion that, though it often incorporates witchcraft into its practice, is not synonymous with witchcraft itself. You may, as a witch, subscribe to any religious belief you feel called to or no religion at all. Your religious beliefs make you no more or less of a witch, and your craft may be shaped to fit accordingly. So long as you are actively practicing it, witchcraft is versatile and may be embraced by individuals of any background. I’ve even known some Christian witches in my time who utilize their craft to deepen their connection with Christ, and though there are some Christians who may be concerned to hear that, it is worth noting that there are many customs within many religions, including Christianity, that could in themselves be considered witchcraft.

4. You must be born into witchcraft.

Contrary to what some of the more, what I’d consider, “commercial” witches among us may be peddling, witchcraft is not something you are required to be born into. Witchcraft is not exclusive to any particular bloodline, heritage, or genetic makeup. It is a path that is open to anyone who harbors the interest, dedication, and willingness to learn and grow.

Regarding those born into families of magick practitioners or psychically sensitive individuals, it may be likened to any other type of talent. Just as someone born into a family of artists may exhibit an innate inclination towards developing their own artistic ability with seemingly effortless grace, so too may someone have the same sort of luck within the realm of magick and witchcraft. Likewise, those without what we might consider a “natural talent” may still, through practice and perseverance, cultivate incredible skill, producing work that is indistinguishable from those of their genetically gifted counterparts.

5. You’re a witch by simply declaring it.

While the practice of witchcraft is open to all who wish to pursue it, it is imperative to note that not every person who claims to be a witch rightfully flaunts the title. While engaging in armchair discussion and indulging in the theoretical study of witchcraft is perfectly acceptable, referring to someone who does so without actively practicing any sort of witchcraft as a “witch” only serves to muddy the waters of the word’s meaning. It is akin to calling someone who simply watches baseball but never takes part in the sport a baseball player. In this analogy, we likely all agree that calling oneself a baseball player requires participation in the game itself.

I’d also go as far as to say that the practice of witchcraft, in my opinion, surpasses superficial gestures like lighting an herbal bundle without a grain of intention or amassing an ostentatious display of decorative crystals which sit and collect dust. There are many people out there who burn incense and collect crystals and yet do not identify as witches. For such gestures to be considered witchcraft, there must be some amount of purpose and effort behind them. Returning to the analogy of baseball, we do not consider standing idly within a baseball diamond to be playing the game, and thus someone who merely stands within a baseball diamond but never plays is still not considered a baseball player. To be a baseball player, one must play the game of baseball. Likewise, to be a witch, one must practice witchcraft.

Within my lifetime, I have witnessed the gradual erosion of words and their meanings, and the often-enflamed emotions of certain individuals who utilize such words have rendered discussions on the phenomenon futile at best and arduous at worst, viewed, at times, as an attack on one’s perfectly curated online persona. By my own observations, “witch” is one of these words, and this confusion has given rise to a surge of self-proclaimed experts with very little, if any, practice making witchcraft part of their copywritten brand. Social media platforms like TikTok and others with a similar push for short-form attention-grabbing content have become breeding grounds for these sorts of individuals, thereby diluting the authenticity of the practice in the public eye and impeding the progress of the more earnest seekers new to this path. Additionally, it begs yet another layer of proving grounds for those of us who are public about our craft and wish to share what we have learned and experienced.

There are some who may consider what I’m saying here to be some malevolent and dictatorial form of gatekeeping, and with this notion, I must politely disagree. While it is true that gatekeepers exist in abundance within this community, I believe that preserving the significance of meaning is not a matter of exclusion but rather an invitation to engage with the craft in a more genuine way. In the words of a beloved YouTube personality of mine, is it truly gatekeeping – at least, in the malicious way many people seem to define it these days – if you are handing someone the keys to the gate? I would think that if one finds themselves lacking the inclination to even attempt to practice the craft, it may be an indication that the interest in witchcraft lies more in the popular aesthetic which surrounds it, and while there’s no harm in dressing your life in a “witchy” aesthetic, a “witchy” aesthetic does not a witch make.

6. Witches must be experts in all things “witchy”.

All too often, newcomers to the craft feel that they must acquire an all-encompassing mastery of everything that may be considered “witchy” to actively participate in it. This notion is an impractical one, and there is simply no way for anyone to gain proficiency in every single mystical tool, to be expertly well-versed in all forms of mythology and folklore, and to have every ritual in existence memorized by heart. There is no need to possess some sort of encyclopedic knowledge base of the complete history of witchcraft to become a practicing witch, and I would even argue that this sort of pursuit has a tendency to challenge authenticity and growth.

If you do not enjoy lengthy ceremonial rituals, perhaps smaller workings are more suited to your practice. If spirit work is something you are uncomfortable with, it need not be incorporated. There is no need to squander precious time and energy studying things that simply do not pique your interest when you could instead by utilizing that time and energy to actively explore and practice the aspects of the craft that truly captivate your spirit.

In my opinion, the crux of witchcraft lies in the outcomes of your endeavors. Are you witnessing the tangible fruition of your workings? Are you basking in the glow of steady spiritual growth? Are you developing a noticeable connection with your chosen path? If your craft bestows upon you the fruits of your labor, then rest assured that you are precisely where you need to be.

7. Modern witches are following a rebellious trend.

The surge in popularity of witchcraft, magick, and polytheism in more recent years has elicited something of a mixed response within the existing community. As one who has been on this path for well over a decade now, I have had the chance to develop my own opinions on the matter. On the one hand, I find it heartening to see the growing openness and curiosity toward the metaphysical among my peers. On the other hand, the flipside of this current trend comes from those jumping on the bandwagon without any semblance of understanding or sense of commitment to the practice simply for the sake of crafting some sort of manufactured persona.

Across every popular social media platform, I have seen, as I mentioned earlier in this article, countless examples of individuals using the label of “witch” as a means to gain status and promote themselves as a brand. Within these particular circles, depth and authenticity are difficult to find. As a result, newcomers to the craft stagnate in a sea of shallow and confusing information. Moreover, there are those within these circles who view witchcraft as a mere badge of rebellion against what they perceive to be the status quo, many of them adorning themselves with the religious monikers of “Satanist” or “Luciferian” – often void, as well, of understanding and commitment – solely for the sake of provocation. Consequently, a cavalier attitude towards practices like hexing has taken root within the minds of a concerning number of more inexperienced practitioners.

Regrettably, the growing presence of superficiality and edgier attitudes has cast doubt upon the beliefs and practice of the community at large, and within the community itself, this has birthed a band of venomous gatekeepers seeking to defend what they hold dear to them by slinging insults at and questioning the authenticity of any and everyone who dares share their path publicly. Thus, even within the community, division and skepticism are pervasive, while outside of it, the misconceptions of all witches being evil devil-worshippers or simply hopping on a self-alleged countercultural trend is repeatedly reinforced.

In spite of these challenges, however, there remains a number of us who wholeheartedly believe in what they practice and who strive to practice in an ethical way. This is important to acknowledge, as newcomers to the craft who bring an earnest interest to the table may find that our presence is often overshadowed by the more incendiary voices among us. Perseverance is truly key in dispelling these misconceptions and assuring newcomers that a path of genuine growth and self-discovery awaits them, untainted by the allure of superficiality, so long as they put in the time and effort that this path calls for.

8. Witches must dress, speak, or act a certain way.

The image of the witch clad in black robes and a pointy hat is one that we are all familiar with, and while it is true that many individuals drawn to witchcraft may indeed have an affinity for such things, it’s important to recognize that there is no universal dress code for being a witch. Your life can be painted Barbie pink, and you can still be powerful and successful in your craft. The darker aesthetic that is common among modern witches, I feel, likely comes from the occult’s association with the discovery of things which are unseen and, therefore, “spooky”. Those who are already inclined to things we might consider dark and spooky are more likely to develop an interest in the exploration of such a path, but this is by no means a prerequisite.

Ironically, I feel that this misconception is further perpetrated by those within the community who do happen to subscribe to this aesthetic style. In fact, I’d consider myself a part of a few other self-proclaimed “outcasted” subcultures, and each one of these spaces has been absolutely rife with drama and elitism. Those who have been bullied sometimes become the bully themselves, and while this can be discouraging for those attempting to discover new interests for themselves, it is important to note that not everyone within these communities behaves this way. This is true for the broader community of witches, as well.

9. Your circumstances determine your Craft.

In the realm of personal beliefs, here is one of mine that I wish to share with you: I am very open to the possibility that all of the gods of all of the belief systems are real. This includes the gods that I have not approached or am even aware of personally at this time. Likewise, I am open to the possibility that all magickal and spiritual practices have validity and can bring about the desired results when executed correctly. Interestingly, there are those out there who would claim to agree with me on this matter but would say that one’s circumstances render some things completely ineffective. This seems, to me, to be a great disservice to the vastness and diversity of human spirituality. I would also think that a lack of willingness to collaborate on spiritual exploration has the potential to stall our understanding of the unseen altogether.

This applies to witchcraft, as well, of course. Witchcraft, as I see it, is a continuous journey of discovery of the Cosmos as it exists within and around you. During the journey, you may find yourself drawn to a variety of tools, practices, and beliefs systems across time across the world. These things should, of course, be approached with reverence and a willingness to completely submerge yourself in the exploration of the history and significance behind them. From what I’ve seen, many people of many different backgrounds will be willing to share their teachings with you if you approach them in this way. This, unfortunately, does not mean you will be immune to those outside of the practice telling you that you should not even be considering studying it.

That said, there are indeed certain practices out there which are more under wraps and require some sort of intensive study period and/or initiatory ceremony in order to be respected by those within the practice. This is even the case for some particular branches of witchcraft. In these cases, as I mentioned, it is decorous to honor these customary requirements. And as to groups which would not welcome you in at all, it is very likely that the energy cast on you there would be counterproductive to your spiritual wellbeing at best. If it is community you seek, it would be best to find a community which accepts you. If it is the wisdom of the community you seek, I am certain that the truths of existence will bring about the same conclusions regardless of how you make your way toward them.

10. My way is the only way to practice witchcraft.

When I spoke of the more venomous brand of gatekeeping earlier, I was referring to those who claim that their way is the one and only true way to practice witchcraft, and while, as I said, there are certain branches of witchcraft that do things in a certain way, witchcraft as a whole simply refers to the practice of magick. Witchcraft is unique to each witch who practices it. Practices which work for some may not yield the same results for another, and the reverse is true, as well. On this path, it is crucial to trust your intuition. Delve into the topics which resonate with you and experiment with them. Your findings will naturally carry you to a place of deeper understanding of your place in the Cosmos.

As for teachers and mentors, it is important for us to emphasize that our way is not the only way. At the end of the day, we’re all just theorizing based on the experiences we’ve had and the experiences we’ve read about. It is my goal, as a teacher, to offer foundation and resources to those who wish to read my teachings so that they have the tools they need to carve out a path that is meaningful and beneficial to them for themselves. This is why, in my writing, I also refer to your path as your own, because no one can tell you what the correct path is for you. You must discover that for yourself with a lifetime of trial and error and all of the beautiful experiences that come with it.

Ready to take the next steps on your spiritual, mystical, or magick path? Check out my Digital Grimoire which offers a plethora of information for beginner and intermediate practitioners and make sure to subscribe to The Witchy Housewife below to receive updates by e-mail whenever you release a new article. No spam – just updates! )O(

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