Kate West

Common Questions about Witchcraft


Over the years we have answered many questions about the Craft and about our Coven.  In fact it was the regular answering of some of these questions that prompted Kate to write her first book.  Here she tries to answer some of the more recent FAQs:


What is Witchcraft ?


Take a look at "Religion, Ritual and Magic" in What is Witchcraft on this website.

Why is Witchcraft becoming so popular?


This question is frequently asked as "Do current books and television programs encourage people (especially young girls) to become interested in Witchcraft ?". To this the answer is almost certainly no. The makers of TV programmes and the writers of books rarely set out to capture or entertain a market which does not already exist !  Hence the interest must have already been not only present but noticeable.  In my experience children and young people have always had an interest in magic, spells, Witches and so on.  It is just that up until a few years ago there were few ways in which they could explore that interest other than fairy tales and mythology.  When I was young there were few books on the subject in either shops or libraries.  Now we have many books by many authors and, or course, the Internet. These days the information is available to just about everyone who cares to seek it. But to return to the question of why the Craft is becoming more popular: 


Perceptions of authority in any form have changed radically.  As a species we no longer blindly trust politicians, teachers, lawyers or indeed the formalised hierarchical socio-political forces which most patriarchal religions represent. 


We prefer, indeed need, to make our own choices and decisions. Mankind is coming of age and we not only question authority but seek to take personal responsibility for ourselves and our lives. In the Craft we are each our own Priest or Priestess and have direct access to the Divine. We have no formal, paid, priesthood to interpret our Gods for us and we are free to decide how, when and where to worship.  In the Craft we believe in and encourage personal development and personal responsibility.  The Craft gives back control to the individual, whether male or female.


Also the Craft gives equal status to the feminine and to the Goddess.  This is attractive not only to women, who are not recognised nor respected by many of the patriarchal beliefs, but also to a great many men who recognise the need for this kind of balance in their own lives.

Additionally, as Witches we seek to live and work in tune with the land, and the seasons.  We do not believe that we have dominion over anyone or anything, but that we should tread lightly on the Earth and care for the world around us.



Is Witchcraft polytheistic?


Yes and No!  Witches believe that the Divine is both male and female, equally and in balance, and that we should seek that balance in ourselves and in our lives.  Put simply this means that we believe in the Goddess and the God, and they may be referred to by many names, according to the needs of the individual or indeed their personal preference.  It helps to think of the Divine as being like a mirror ball, with each facet having a different identity, although all being part of the Divine.  As a result you may find that the Goddess is referred to as Isis,  Astarte or Hecate etc. and the God referred to as Osiris, Herne or Pan etc.  Each of these facets will have their own identity and personality. 


Some Witches will simply refer to the Lord and Lady or the Goddess and the God, and these are the terms that I will use in this book.  Others will call them the Old Ones or the Old Gods, or even just the Gods.  It may also help to think of the aspects which a person may have; I am (or have been) to different people; wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, partner, High Priestess, author, manager and employee.  Whilst I am different in each of these roles I am still just the one me!



How do I become a Witch ?


Consider the Craft from the perspective of the three stages of Religion, Ritual and Magic:  If you believe the beliefs of the Witch and want to follow that spiritual course you can, from that moment call yourself a Witch, just as someone who accepts the beliefs of the Christian Church can call themselves a Christian.

In order to comprehend the Rituals of the Craft you need to spend at least a full year, practising those beliefs and Rituals in the spirit in which they are intended, hence the year and a day it traditionally takes to enter a Coven.  If you enter a Coven your subsequent progress may well be marked by the degrees of initiation.

To learn how to perform successful magic you will need to spend a lot more time understanding yourself, others and the world around you.  You will need to learn self control and how to harness the energies both within and outside of yourself.
No-one ever finishes learning how to be a Witch as there are always new things to learn or new subjects for exploration, but your path can start as soon as you believe you are ready.



Does self initiation really count ?



Initiation means to begin, and your first initiation is your promise to the God and Goddess as you see them.  In a Coven setting it is also a declaration of those beliefs and that promise before others who believe likewise, and is facilitated by your Initiator and the other Coven members.  However, if you chose to work solitary, or cannot find a Coven there is no reason why you cannot make your own promise, which is just as valid so long as you stick to it. 


So, yes, self initiation does count.  However,  if you subsequently join a Coven you may well find that you are required to take their initiation(s) so that you can share in their meaning and intent.



Why is the Craft so secretive ?


Actually the Craft is not all that secretive.  Most of our beliefs and Rituals are published either in books or on the Internet and are available to those who are interested.


We do, however, protect the identity of our members, and we encourage those who are new to the Craft to think long and hard before revealing their beliefs to family, friends and employers.  An individual may be happy to be known as a Witch but their partner, parents, children, employer or even maiden aunt may not appreciate the association ! 


Witchcraft is still misunderstood and hence feared by many, and whilst it is possible to explain to those of an open mind, there will always be those who look no further than the stereotype.  Many Witches work in sensitive areas; nursing, education etc. and for them (and their employers) revealing their beliefs could unfortunately cause major problems. Hopefully the time will come when it is as acceptable to say you are a Witch as it is to be  member of any other religion. Obviously it is up to each individual to make their own decision as to who, if anyone, they choose to tell, but we do not reveal their identity unless they are certain they are happy with this.

Another reason for not broadcasting your beliefs is because we do not proselytise (i.e. seek recruits) and it is almost impossible to discuss the merits of your beliefs without appearing to do this.


The other area where we are secretive is in the full content of Rituals of Initiation.  This is because the Initiate is required to take steps of trust in these Rituals and to enter the Circle not entirely sure exactly what will happen.  If the full detail were published or broadcast there would be no element of trust and the full meaning of the Ritual would be lost to the Initiate.



Why call yourselves Witches if it causes so many problems ?


I find this question somewhat offensive, can you imagine asking this of any of the more well known belief systems?  Additionally, any discussion of what we believe is almost inevitably going to return to the term Witchcraft, in which case we would also lay ourselves open to charges of trying to deceive.




How do I find a Coven ?


The best way to locate a Coven is in fact to ask the Goddess and the God to help you find a Coven that will be right for you.  It is easy, when seeking like minded  individuals to share your Craft, to leap at the first group you encounter. However, this is not necessarily the best thing. Covens are as different as individuals and you can waste a good amount of time and energy trying to fit into a group which, whilst right for the other members, is not right for you.  Being wrong for a Coven is not a reflection on the self but more simply a matter of compatibility.  Consider it like choosing a team of horses to pull a carriage; if the others are all farm horses you will not fit in if you are of race horse stock !

The next best way is to approach the Children of Artemis (see their link on title and links pages) who seek to find reputable Covens for genuine seekers.


Some things you might like to bear in mind when looking for a group:
No one should try to force you to do anything you are not happy with (this doesn't include being asked to take your turn with the washing up!).  You will be expected to submit to the authority of the High Priestess and/or High Priest, but if you don't like the things they ask of you, or the way the group is run, you should be free to leave without any problem.

You should not be asked to pay for training, tuition, spells etc. 


You can expect to pay reasonable subs which cover the costs of the group e.g. candles, incense, wine, tea, coffee etc. or you may be asked to contribute by providing some of these things yourself.


The right Coven for you may not be within walking distance of your front door and you may well have to travel.  I find it somewhat interesting that just 10 years ago Witches would happily travel 250 miles for a Sabbat whereas now many feel that a 20 minute drive is too far!

Having been accepted by a Coven you will be expected to demonstrate real commitment. You will need attend all the Rituals unless you have a really good excuse (an exciting episode of your favourite soap does not count!).  You will also be expected to be on time, every time, well presented and having completed any tasks or assignments you have undertaken.  Remember that your commitment is to the Goddess and the God, and the Craft, as well as to the other members of the group.



Why are there no Covens who accept people under the age of 18 years ?


Reputable Covens do not generally accept members under the age of 18 for two main reasons.  Firstly, as Witches we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to make an informed decision about their spirituality, and this generally takes a


knowledge of life as well as religions.
Secondly, there is enough prejudice about the Craft without laying ourselves open to accusations of corrupting the young, however inaccurate they might be.


To some extent 18 is a somewhat arbitrary figure, but it nevertheless is one which provides a good rule to work to.  Some Covens will in fact offer some level of support and guidance to those who seem genuine in their search and who are approaching 18, but this almost always stops short of involvement in formal Coven activities.  I would always counsel a young person to be very wary of an Coven who does seem prepared to accept them under 18 years of age.



If I don't belong to a Coven how do I get help when I need it and answers to my questions about the Craft ?


There are now many websites which provide a question and answer forum.  Don't rely on just one site, look around, use your intuition and experience to determine which site(s) provide the help which seems most likely to be reliable and accurate.  Again I would recommend the Children of Artemis.  If you are fortunate you may well find yourself a mentor who will communicate with you directly. 


Once again you should ask the Goddess and the God for guidance in this.




Can I work magic for myself ?


Yes of course you can.  So long as you remember the Wiccan Rede "An it harm none, do what thou will", and the Law of Threefold Return "Whatever you do, good or ill, will be returned to you three times over".  One of the points about being a Witch is that you help yourself, your near and dear, and your community.  Obviously you will need to be very honest with yourself about what you need, rather than what you want.  Remember, be careful what you wish for - you might just get it!  If in doubt about the wisdom of a particular act of magic, seek guidance from the Goddess and from other Witches.  If still uncertain - don't !




Why is it wrong to work magic to gain money ?


Money is not a concept in the natural world, it is a man made invention.  Spells for money have a greater tendency to go wrong than any other, because they do not really take into account the need for a fair exchange of energy.


There are a number of ways this can happen:
You could inherit money from a loved one.
You might wreck your car and get money from the insurance, which you then need to pay out getting the car fixed.
You ask for cash and find a penny on the ground.


There is a tale that a Witch asked for gold and within 24 hours had a coin, a goldfish and a bowl of orange chrysanthemums!
If you are in need of cash then ask for the opportunity to earn it in a fair exchange of energy.


Similarly don't work magic to get a particular job, it could well turn out to be the worst one you have ever had for a number of unforeseen reasons.  Instead ask for the right opportunity, increased confidence at interview and so on.


It is worth mentioning here that true Witches do not expect payment for working Magic, although they may ask for a contribution towards the costs of materials used, especially if the spell involves the purchase of an amulet or piece of jewellery.



Can I cast a spell to make someone love me ?


Don't !   No matter how much you feel that you love, want and need an individual casting a spell to make them love you is wrong.
Firstly, this would be interfering with their freedom of will which comes under the heading of doing harm (against the Wiccan Rede) and is certainly not the sort of thing you should do if you care for them.

Secondly, no matter how much you feel you can't live without them there will sooner or later come a point when you ask yourself whether they love you because of yourself or because of the magic, and that way lies emotional turmoil and great pain for both of you.


Similarly don't perform this kind of spell for anyone else, not only for the reasons above but also because if anything at all goes wrong, however temporarily with the resulting relationship, you the spell caster will get the blame!
You can however work Magic to help you find a person who is right for you (unspecified), or to give you an opportunity to meet someone.  Also there is nothing wrong in performing spells for increased self confidence, reduction of blushing, healing of acne and so on.

Hope this helps to answer some of your questions, there are many more, but space does not allow !