Flavors of Witchcraft (Week 2 - Chapters 1-3)

Hi, friends! Welcome back! In this week's update, I'd like to cover Chapters 1-3 of the book. It's quite a bit of material, but I want to make valuable use of our time and read through much of the history on our own. Then, we can focus on sharing our experiences of working through Penczak's Exercises.

I'm providing some highlights from Chapters 1-3 here, with prompts at the bottom of this post. Next week, we'll focus on Exercise 1 in Chapter 4.

Chapter 1, Ask a Witch

In this chapter, Penczak discusses what it means to be a witch and how history shaped the modern view of witches being evil. He covers the Burning Times, when witches were persecuted for their beliefs.

One of the biggest takeaways from this chapter for me was the idea that witches have always been accepting of other cultures, feeling that their spiritual archetypes -- the god and goddess encompassed the other gods and goddesses from other religions. I find this idea very appealing, the open-mindedness of these people to accept multiple religions and, in fact, celebrate them as a mirror of their own spirituality and inner knowing.
A Victorian Witch Costume

A Victorian Witch Costume

Penczak describes witchcraft as 3 separate aspects of a greater whole:

Witchcraft as a Science

Its methods are often scientific, psychological, and proven successful via the scientific method.

Witchcraft as an Art

"Change encourages new expressions of the same pattern and energies. Change encourages creativity." Each witch performs spells and rituals differently, in their own unique way.

Witchcraft as Spirituality

It is called the "Old Religion." It is a spiritual path, it is designed to bless you with nourishment for the soul, to better understand your life, and as a path to enlightenment.

Beliefs of the Witch

  1. Nature-based religion
  2. Divinity recognized in all things
  3. Polytheistic (worshiping more than one deity)
  4. Divinity as both male and female energies, god and goddess

Traits and Associations of The Goddess, the Great Mother

  1. Creativity
  2. Earth
  3. Moon
  4. Night
  5. Oceans
  6. Loving, Kind, and Life-Giving Energy
  7. Dark, Warrior-Like, Vengeful Energy
  8. Often portrayed as the Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother, Crone

Traits and Associations of The God, the Good Father

  1. Sky
  2. Sun
  3. Vegetation
  4. Animals
  5. Warrior and Protector Energy

Witches as Healers, Walkers, and Weavers

Penczak describes the spiritual nature of witches as Healers (all-encompassing healing including physical, emotional, and spiritual; as advisors and teachers); Walkers (with the ability of 'walking' with one foot in the spiritual realm, to travel into the spiritual realm to gain insight and information); and Weavers (with the ability to weave many practices, traditions, and beliefs into one religion that feels right to the practitioner).

Chapter 2, Digging for the Roots

Penczak notes in this chapter that, "History is written by the victors," and that witches were seldom the victors. It's difficult to study a craft that's been shaped by many different histories and traditions.

The Stone Age

Penczak believes, as do I, that witchcraft has been around since the Stone Age, literally. Traits of this era that reflect the early foundations of witchcraft are:

  1. A clear spiritual belief, as indicated by cave paintings.
  2. Nature spirits.
  3. The Earth as a mother spirit.
  4. Polytheism.
  5. Tribe healers who tapped into spiritual communication
  6. Akin to the Native American shamans

The Changing Age

The Changing Age represents the shift toward patriarchal (or father-focused religions). This age is also marked by the evolution of agriculture, stone tools, and pottery. A need for healers and spiritual workers increased.

The rest of this chapter delves deeper into the history of witchcraft. It covers: Pagan Europe, The Rise of Christianity, The Holy Roman Empire and the Burning Times, The Modern World, and The Witchcraft Renaissance.

I think the most important takeaway from this chapter is that the history of witchcraft runs deep, deeper than modern religion, and that the patriarchal shift doesn't necessarily exclude a need for spiritual healers and teachers.

Chapter 3, Flavors of Witchcraft

This chapter covers the many different witchcraft practices that have developed across cultures. You may find that you feel a closer connection to the witchcraft practices of your own heritage, or you may have family practices that have been passed down to you. And, of course, it's OK to develop your own style of witchcraft or spiritual practice.

Penczak begins this chapter by covering Common Ground among the "flavors" of witchcraft then lists the traits of each cultural flavor, including Alexandrian, Cabot, Celtic, Christian Wicca, Dianic, Faery (or Feri), Eclectic, Gardnerian, Greco-Roman, Green Witchcraft, Hereditary (or Family Tradition), Radical Faery, Seax Wica, Solitary, Stregheria (Italian), Wiccan Shamanism.

*Note that I'm skipping over the Wheel of the Year chapter to cover it next week with Chapter 4, The Witch's Path.

Prompts and Discussion

To me, the most important ideas from these historical chapters are as follows:

  1. Witchcraft has been around since the beginning of the human race.
  2. You do not need to leave your current faith to pursue witchcraft.
  3. There is nothing inherently evil about witchcraft. Like other modern religions, it's how you use it!
  4. You can choose a path that suits you, your faith, and what you feel comfortable with.

I strongly encourage you to choose a path that you're drawn to and learn what you can about it. Doing so, you can create your very own "flavor" of witchcraft!

Journal Prompt

Design Your Own Craft

  1. Which parts of witchcraft feel "right" to you as a solitary practitioner? What are your main beliefs? Here is a loose guideline to help:
    a) What is your cultural heritage?
    b) Does this culture shape your practice?
    Do you believe in or would like to practice:
    c) More than one deity?
    d) Nature spirits?
    e) Rituals?
    f) Spell work/magick?
    g) Spirit/spirit guide communication?
    h) Past lives?
    i) Solitary work or coven initiation?
    j) Cartomancy?
    k) Herbalism/herbal magick?
    l) Other? All of the above? :-)
  2. Not that you need a title, but if you had one, what would it be? Witch, Wiccan, Faery Witch, Buddhist Healer, Christian Gardnerian? Here are some other words for "witch" that might help, pulled from the chapters above:
    -wise one
  3. Start to develop your own "Way of the [Insert Your Title Here]." And remember, it's OK to change your title or practice at ANY time. That's the beauty of witchcraft! We learn as we go!
  4. If you want to share your journal pages with us, please use #willowsitow


Here's a quick link to our ITOW Channel where you can answer these questions. New here? Jump in any time!

  1. Which aspects or practices of witchcraft do you most connect with? If you're new to the craft, which are you most interested in exploring? Spell work? Spirit communication? Something else?
  2. Does your cultural or religious tradition affect how you practice witchcraft? If so, how?
witchcraft, itowGretchen Pearl