On “Real” Magick – A Look into White and Gray Witchcraft

Wiccan witch, green witch, kitchen witch, eclectic witch, garden witch, Christian witch, Satanic witch, elemental witch – the list goes on and on. There are many different types of witches, many of which we have discussed in depth in various articles. But regardless of which kind of witch you are, how long you have been practicing or how established and comfortable you feel with your practice, there is forever the lingering question – am I a real witch? Am I an authentic witch? What is a real witch? How can I be an authentic witch?

This type of insecurity is common not just in the budding witch of today, but also within the witches from way back in the day. In fact, it is almost as if the true mark of a witch is not witchcraft or magick, but the constant self-questioning and self-doubt about whether her brand of witchcraft is authentic or really witchcraft. Honestly it boils down to something rather simple – what is witchcraft? What is magick? There are many, many definitions of what constitutes witchcraft, but the truth is that it doesn’t really matter how someone else defines their craft because their craft is not your craft – and you don’t need to prove your craft to anyone. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you liberate yourself from this nagging desire to prove yourself. Is your practice improving, developing and flourishing? Is your practice fulfilling your intended magickal goals? If so, that is all that ultimately matters. 

Witchcraft often conjures up imagery of bubbling cauldrons, satanic symbols and ancient blood sacrifices – but it needn’t be any of those things (it can, but it doesn’t). A lot of beginner witches, practitioners and “babywitches” get their start into the occult through Wicca. The Wiccan Rede (An’ ye harm none, do what ye will) gets cited often, as does the Rule of Three/Three-Fold Law. Among neopagans this gets interpreted as White Witchcraft or following the right hand path, and all of a sudden witchcraft is divided into a “white” path and a “black” or evil one. (Note: To clarify, the Wiccan Rede is not a sacred or holy text and is just a general guideline. One does not have to follow the Rede in order to be Wiccan. This is just a popular misconception. The same is the case with the Three-Fold Law.)

What is White Magic?

White magic often refers to altruistic magic, or magic done for the sake of good. As such, white magic is selfless, not done to further personal goals and ambitions and as such serves a greater purpose. A white witch is typically someone who embraces witchcraft as a source of good, with potential to nurture, heal and cultivate positivity in various forms. This is viewed in stark contrast to using witchcraft for self-motivated reasons or to do harm or evil – black witchcraft.

A Historical Case for White Witches

As we have already discussed, traditions within witchcraft tend to vary enormously. However, many link the concept of white witchcraft with the idea of cunning folk. Cunning folk were folk healers known from various folk contexts across Europe around the 15th to 20th centuries. Cunning folk are known by many names cross-culturally: leveurs de sorts (curse lifters) in French, hexenmeister (sorcerer) in German, banfháidh (prophet) in Irish, vedmak (warlock) in Slavic mythology. Cunning folk, for the most part, had positive associations, as the work they did was for the good of the community: removing hexes, healing injuries and sickness, and providing protection via charms, spells and other folk remedies. Many cultures perceived a distinction between white magic and black magic, with the latter believed to be connected to Satanic practices, demonic rituals and blood sacrifices. “Cunning-folk professed to cure the bewitched, practiced various kinds of prophetic divination, and offered to find lost goods or hidden treasure, among other activities…They were not witches, and…[Davies] notes that many cunning-folk also learned their rites from books, and created their own rituals…Many cunning-folk were tricksters, or hard-nosed business people, not saintly sages. Finally, the traditional cunning person is unlike any modern “witch” in that most were firmly Christian, and the curing of bewitchment was one of their main tasks.”

This is extremely fascinating to discuss because Owen Davies’ wonderful dive into cunning-folk paints a starkly different picture than what many believe: cunning-folk might be characterized as white witches or Christian witches, but all of them weren’t necessarily benevolent. As always, the picture is never truly as rosy as it appears from the outside. Cunning-folk, or white witches, exist in the gray space, in the middle path. In books, theories and flashy books of shadow/grimoires, white witches might be known as the ones following the right hand path and acting in totally selfless ways, but I’d argue that that rosy mist evaporates the second you inspect and dive a little deeper. Even the alleged predecessors to today’s white witches weren’t entirely selfless! Perhaps it is not even entirely possible to be both human and selfless. 

Moreover, the concept of white witchcraft only makes sense when contrasted against the opposite absolute of black magic and black witchcraft, known as the path of sin and evil – the left hand path. To be honest, while there are many traditions that honor totems, ancestral entities, ghosts, spirits, demons and even the ideological concept of Lucifer himself, 99.9% of witches are not the diabolical devil worshipping, child sacrificing, animal slaying, blood drinking, demon orgy engaging cult members that black witches are stated to be. I’d argue then, that 99.9% of witches and magical acts fall within the gray magic (or simply, the magic and witchcraft category, doing away with shades entirely) category.

White Witchcraft and Consumption

After everything is said and done, one has to argue, why does the category of white witch even exist? While I acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the long standing traditions of healers, cunning-folk, “white” witches, soothsayers, prophetesses/prophets around the world, I think the category of white witch exists today primarily as a capitalist tool for consumption. Unfortunately, while the right hand path/left hand path philosophy attempts to simplify witchcraft, it actually does the opposite and creates arbitrary absolute categories that I don’t think even need to exist. “Buy this wand and you’re a white witch. Buy this crystal to prove your worth as a white witch!” On the flipside, “buy this random skull and you’re an edgy black witch!” [If anything, those that manipulate you emotionally and make you doubt your own practice to make a quick buck are closer to “black magic” than anything else).  I am 100% for self expression, experimentation and self-discovery. At Witchy Aesthetic, we admire and celebrate the vast cultures, traditions and even aesthetics involved within witchcraft, even as those things extend towards clothing, accessories and so on, but I have an issue when an ideology is being sold to unknowing people for the sake of making a profit. In short: by all means, buy whatever gorgeous wand or crystal as long as it enhances your personal practice, tradition or aesthetic, but don’t do it because you think you have to in order to be an “authentic” Wiccan or witch, or in order to prove your craft to others. The beauty of the gray path is the combination of light and dark – it is realistic, human and refreshingly authentic.

Are you a white witch? Your practice is of course valid, and I’d love to hear from you about your views – whether in agreement or opposition to my views. I would love to learn more about you and your tradition. Blessed Be. 

One Reply to “On “Real” Magick – A Look into White and Gray Witchcraft”

  1. Wow! I read it twice to fully absorb each word and to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Within this text, many of my questions and curiosities were answered.
    Very informative.

    Thank you 💛

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