Witch Beliefs and Rituals

    If you've smelled a scent of incense wafting in the air, seen burning candles
    and robed figures out at night, it's possible there is a coven of witches
    performing their own form of sacred beliefs in the neighborhood. However,
    you need not worry because they are harmless. A witch's guiding principle is
    “bring no harm.” They also believe that whatever they do, good or bad, it will
    come back to them threefold.  The Wiccans have only one law, “If it harm
    none, do what thou will.”

    In the process of observing seasonal, solar and lunar phases, most witches
    today develop a concern for nature and its animals, and they are usually
    interested in practical concerns rather than magic. Yet, implicitly believe in
    the human ability to change events or situations at will (otherwise known as
    magic) through the mind and the correct performance of ritual. It is not
    uncommon for them to use ritual in an attempt to influence the outcome of
    daily events. Not unlike our own daily Christian prayer.

    Women are especially attracted to witchcraft because of the importance it
    places on paired male and female deities (a goddess and a god) and the equal
    role played by women as High Priestesses working alongside High Priests.

    Some groups, such as the all-women Dianic Wiccans, exclude males from their
    circles and instead concentrate on a goddess only, while focusing on issues of
    female empowerment and women's rites.

    Wiccans and witches (there is a distinction) have many sub-categories such as;
    Dianic, gothic, hedge, and fairy. A common thread which runs through them is
    their interest in magic, other realms of existence, and the possibility of
    experiencing those other realms.

    Most follow a particular mythology or pantheon of gods, goddesses and spirits
    which focus on personal and intuitive aspects.

    Witches usually believe the following:

  • there is a 'oneness' and interconnectedness of all things

  • there are many levels of reality of which our physical world is only one

  • the human being is a microcosm of the macrocosm

  • there is a system of correspondences between great and small, and
    events set in motion at one level can effect other levels

  • human willpower has a force of its own

  • by cultivating the imagination, one can achieve desired goals through
    visualization, concentration and willpower, aided by magical procedures.


    Ritual performances are imaginative and flexible, with group members
    creating their rites and performing them within a sacred circle around a
    central theme. These themes concern seasonal rites, full moons, initiations,
    life passages, such as handfastings, a witch's wedding or naming ceremonies,
    and healings.

    They do not use buildings like the Christian church and instead let nature
    provide the sacred space for casting circles. Rituals are usually performed in
    the forest, on the beaches, or in urban areas where many are held in living
    rooms of coven members. A coven is a gathering of witches.

    Dunwich, G. Wicca Book Of Days: Legend and Lore for Every Day of the Year.

    Dunwich, G. Exploring Spellcraft: How to Create and Cast Effective Spells.

    Normand, L. Witchcraft In Early Modern Scotland: James VI's Demonology
    and the North Berwick Witches. 2000.

    Sabin, T. Wicca for Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy & Practice. 2006.
A Coven of witches
in 1880 America.
Courtesy of
Library of Congress.