How to Be a Folkloric Traditional Witch in 5 Steps
For those who adore folklore and history comes a tradition of witchcraft inspired and fueled by the past. The folkloric traditional witch is one who studies and uses mythology, folk tales, folk magic, folk medicine, and more in his/her practice. If you’re curious on how to be a folkloric traditional witch, read about the basic beliefs and practices below.
I’ve written quite a few “how to be” or “how to become” articles on OtherworldlyOracle.com. For our intents and purposes, when we title an article “How to Be” something, it means it’s an article full of resources and suggestions for study and practice. Nothing more, nothing less. If you feel you were “born” a witch and/or that no one “becomes” a witch, that’s absolutely fine. But if you feel you’d like to learn witchcraft, you’re starting in the right place.
What is Folkloric Traditional Witchcraft?
Folkloric traditional witchcraft is a form of witchcraft that focuses its beliefs and practices heavily on folklore and history. A folkloric traditional witch seeks to mirror aspects of the witch from folk tales and historical documents (particularly Witch Trial documents). Within this definition, there is a lot of lee-way and open opportunity to tailor your craft to meet your spiritual needs and preferences. Folkloric traditional witches study and use folklore from their local area in their craft. And they also read and use their ancestors’ legends and lore.
Why Use Folklore in the Craft?
Why use folklore as a basis for your magical practice? Folkloric traditional witches believe that folklore is a blueprint of traditions that have been passed down for centuries. What we lack in “religious documents” for witchcraft today, folklore fulfills. Folklore was originally passed down verbally but more recently, folklorists and writers like the Grimm brothers, Charles Godfrey Leland, Claude Lecouteux, Linda Raedisch, WY Evans-Wentz, WB Yeats, and Emma Wilby have studied and recorded folk tales and made them accessible to the world. While folklore isn’t necessarily fact, it gives us a picture of the morals, fables, lessons, and traditions of our ancestors.
How to Be a Folkloric Traditional Witch: 5 Ways
1. Study and Record
Just like with everything else in life, when learning how to be a folkloric traditional witch, the first thing you must do is study. Study folklore of your local area, and study the folklore of your ancestors. Study folk tales, fairy tales, urban legends, folk magick, folk medicine, myths, and even historical aspects of witchcraft based on the Witch Trial documents. Find a lot of this information online, but be mindful of the legitimacy of the sources used. Record your key findings in your grimoire.
Examples of Folklore Books for Witches:
- Ozark Magic & Folklore by Vance Randolph
- Salem Witch Trials: All Documents and Books
- Fairy & Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry by WB Yeats
- The Fairy Faith In Celtic Countries by WY Evans-Wentz
- Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches by Charles Godfrey Leland
- Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm
- The Pendle Witches by Walter Bennett
- A Treasury of Southern Folklore by B.A. Botkin
- The Visions of Isobel Gowdie by Emma Wilby
- Fairy Tales by the Grimm Brothers
- Pow Wows or Long Lost Friend by John Hoffman
- American Witch Stories by Hubert J. Davis
- Encyclopedia of Norse & Germanic Folklore by Claude Lecouteux
- Night of the Witches by Linda Raedisch
- The Viking Spirit by Daniel McCoy
- Moll Dyer and Other Witch Tales of Southern Maryland by Lynn Buonviri
- Cunningfolk and Familiar Spirits by Emma Wilby
- Silent As the Trees by Gemma Gary
- Sister Witch: The Life of Moll Dyer by David W. Thompson
2. Connect with the Genius Loci
Folkloric traditional witchcraft is a “book heavy” practice, but also pushes the witch to connect with his or her natural landscape and the spirits that reside there. Many folkloric traditional witches work with the genius loci as their familiar spirits. The folkloric traditional witch might also tend a garden or grow plants that are mentioned in certain folk tales. Plants can also be familiars to the folkloric traditional witch.
3. Shamanic Practices
Folkloric traditional witches often practice or seek to reconstruct the practices of the witch of folklore, including: shapeshifting, flying with flying ointments (trance-work and astral projection), working closely with local wildlife, working with ancestors and the dead, as well as working with the wee folk (sidhe/fairies/etc). Focus on each of these separately.
4. Folklore Heroes & Gods
The gods, spirits, heroes, and characters in folklore become guides to the folkloric traditional witch. Some examples include: Baba Yaga, Berchta, the Lady of the Lake, the Green Man, Widukind, Cliodhna, Mother Holle (Holda), Cu Chulainn, Paul Bunyan, Morgan Le Fay, Merlin, Leprechauns, etc. The folkloric traditional witch might set up an altar and leave offerings based on folklore. Example: coins for leprechauns, apples for the Lady of the Lake, foliage for the Green Man, etc.
5. Folk Magic & Medicine
The folkloric traditional witch bases his or her beliefs off local or ancestral folklore and is often inspired by a specific book or passage. In American Witch Stories, a “witch ball” is mentioned over and over again. The folkloric traditional witch might use the witch ball in his or her practice by recreating it and using it according to his or her favorite folk tales. By recreating folk magic and medicine of the past, the witch is bringing the old ways back to life…in a new way.
6. Connect With Witches of the Past
As I walked the path of the folkloric traditional witch, I met quite a few powerful witches from the past in my studies. I found the more I studied and connected with these “witches” from the pages of history, the more I was inspired to practice in my own way. While also weaving their practices into mine. I recommend finding witches, sorcerers, healers, etc. from your ancestors’ home lands to study and potentially contact in the spirit world. A few witches I’ve taken to include: Isobel Gowdie, Besse Dunlop, Moll Dyer, the Pendle Witches, and Biddy Early. But all you have to do is look up your ancestors’ lands and “accused witches”, “witch trials”, etc. You’ll find someone who inspires you.
Folkloric Traditional Witchcraft vs. Traditional Witchcraft
There is a witchcraft establishment known as American Folkloric Witchcraft developed by two witches in Indiana, U.S. Their practices are close to that of folkloric traditional witchcraft, but they also use a mixture of practices from ancient Egypt and Britain, among others. They claim to be inspired by the works of Robert Cochrane and Robert Graves, which are two of the witches who helped establish Traditional Witchcraft in Britain.
Is Traditional Witchcraft and Folkloric Traditional Witchcraft the same thing? This is up for debate. Robert Cochrane, Robin Artisson, and Andrew Chumbley’s writings inspired the Traditional Witchcraft path. While folkloric traditional witchcraft focuses mostly on folklore and works of mythology. However, as Sarah Anne Lawless states in her informative blog, “Traditional Witchcraft is much bigger than any one tradition. It is an umbrella term much like ‘Pagan’ or ‘Reconstructionist’ to classify all the hundreds of traditions and practices that fall within its shelter.” This means folkloric traditional witchcraft falls under the umbrella term of traditional witchcraft in that it seeks to revive the image and magical practices of the “folkloric witch” from the pages of fairy tales and legend.