Traditional Witchcraft in Britain and Wicca are not the same thing. Traditional Witchcraft, or “Trad Witchcraft,” is the historic form of witchcraft that dates back into Britain’s historic past. Wicca was created in 1954 and includes many beliefs and practices that are alien to Britain.
It is said that “Wiccans spend most of their time preparing for ritual and magic, while Traditional Witches spend most of their time doing ritual and magic.” That could very well be true. Compared to Wiccan ritualism and formality, rituals in many traditions in Trad Witchcraft could be considered downright casual. Certainly, there is little use of props such as correspondences, unless they happen to be handy.
The Trad Witch will usually use only one or two white candles for both ritual and spellwork. Wiccans use a wide range of colors, each color for a specific “magickal” reason not based on any tradition in witchcraft.
Wiccans will always use a “circle” for ritual and spellwork because they believe they need to create a “sacred space.” But in Traditional Witchcraft, land and air are innately sacred, which means that all space is sacred. Therefore, most Trad Witches will not create a circle, or “compass round,” because there is no need. However, a seeker, one in training, will be instructed to use a compass as an aid to their concentration. Of course, a compass will also be used if there is a very special need, especially a group meeting; again to help concentration and not to create a sacred space.
The location of rituals is another matter of little concern to the Trad Witch. Again, because all space is sacred, there is no preferred location where rituals should take place. Of course, on a beautiful, warm day, there is no reason why a ritual should not be held in the woods or an isolated location in the countryside. However, all things equal, location is irrelevant. As British weather tends to be very chilly and rainy, Trad Witches have always preferred to do spellwork and rituals indoors.
An important exception to this general rule are ancient circles and other ancient sacred places located across Britain. If possible, it is always good to visit such wonderful places and to absorb the energy. However, care must be taken as rituals and spellwork must never be observed by strangers.
In Trad Witchcraft rites and spellwork, it is the tradition of many to ask for the assistance of friendly spirits, including Land Spirits, Spirit Guides and other spirits. In some traditions, when a compass is drawn, the Land Spirits, the Spirits of the Four Kingdoms (or the Elementals or Directionals), will be asked to attend and uphold the compasses (the four directions).
Spirits are always treated in a respectful manner. Their invocation is always worded as a request. Spirits would never be “commanded” to attend as in Wicca.
A ritual fire such as a small campfire or hearth fire is used during rituals, if possible. If a fire is not possible, then one or two white candles are used indoors, or a lantern is used out-of-doors.
Because the earth is sacred, an altar is considered redundant and would only be used for the sake of convenience. Inside the home, any near-by table can be used. Outside, the earth is often used.
The ritual tools used can vary widely. One or more of the following might be used: a stang (staff with two prongs), staff, dagger or a simple kitchen or workshop knife, mirror, bowl, besom, cauldron, some stones, or a “horn” (usually a glass or cup).
For ritual and spellwork, Trad Witches are usually clothed in street cloths or occasionally in robes. Being “skyclad”, or being naked in the Wiccan manner, is thought to be insulting to the spirits and the gods. Thus, it is never done.
The most important ritual observances are the Full Moon celebrations, outside of Trad Witchcraft called the esbat. The term “esbat” is certainly not traditional. The Full Moon is special because magical energies are enhanced during that time of the month.
The Festival celebrations are of secondary importance and they are not universally celebrated. Many Trad Witches celebrate the solstices and equinoxes of the moon because they are closely associated with the seasons, with sacred Nature. Other Trad Witches observe the four Celtic Festivals instead. Of course, there are some that keep all the Festivals. But traditions vary quite widely. The god/goddess narrative story is not followed as it is in Neo-Pagan and Wiccan celebrations.
It should be noted that this information is a generalization as traditions within Trad Witchcraft can vary.
Adrian Eglinton is a writer, author, and practitioner of witchcraft for over 29 years. He is dedicated to the spread of the natural and eternal truths of this most precious spiritual path. Read an article about Witchcraft or take a FREE Magic Mini-Course which is an introduction to Traditional Magic.