“Types of Witchcraft” lists are one of the most popular witchy articles online. I can see why; many magicians who are just starting out want to learn what to study. Many more benefit from having some type of label.
My issue with these lists is not that they exist--it’s that they are always incomplete. In this post, I’ll explain the most popular controversies with these lists, and how new practitioners can approach them.
This might seem like a long list, but read between the lines. Why is sea witch mentioned but fire and other elements are not? Why is spirit work not mentioned? Hedge magic and divination are methods of spirit work, but spirit work overall seems to have been ignored.
There are also a lot of vague terms on these lists that I don’t understand. Hereditary witch makes sense I guess, but it does not clarify what they practice. It only says that they were taught by a family member, so it’s strange that that is on most lists. I’ve also seen vapid terms like “basic witch” (what does that even mean?)
The most comprehensive list I’ve found is this one on tumblr, which includes 99 types of witchcraft. And I’m sure that some magicians still didn’t find their practice on the list.
So why are these lists so popular, and how did so many types of witchcraft come to be? That’s what I want to explore in this blog post.
The Origin of Witchcraft “Types”
Later, these two words split and began to mean different things. Witchcraft became a secular (albeit still spiritual) practice that many people in Europe and America used to describe any type of magic. This is not true, by the way; magical practices like alchemy, chaos magic, and Hoodoo are not witchcraft. My own magic teacher absolutely refused to call herself a witch!
Despite this, practitioners wanted a way to distinguish their crafts from one another. The earliest form of this I could find is the division between white and black witchcraft/magic. Although these terms have been thrown around for centuries, they skyrocketed in popularity during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Witchcraft authors pushed the term “white witch” to prove that they weren’t evil.
Many people in the community, including myself, do not like these terms because of the obvious racial implications and inherent “we’re better than other practitioners” mentality. So we got more specific. Kitchen and green witchcraft quickly became mainstream. These focused on herbs and plants and had a lot of historical backing due to folk magic and ancient herbal medicine.
With the rise of the internet, people have had an easier time coining terms for their crafts. If they didn’t find a label they liked, they made one themselves. Urban witchcraft, tech witchcraft, pop culture witchcraft, and so on. Personally, I didn’t find the phrase death witchcraft until 2015, and few people were using it.
Controversies with Witchcraft Types
As you might imagine, not everyone in the occult community likes these terms. Specifically, most people in traditional and ceremonial magic communities will not use these labels. Many have brought up valid arguments against these terms that I want to discuss.
Their main argument is that people don’t need a label to practice magic. More accurately, opposers say that new practitioners waste too much time looking for a label when they could just start studying.
This I agree with. Nobody needs a label to practice magic, and newbies should not feel pressured to pick a witchcraft type just to start. However, many people benefit from a label. We want to clarify what we focus on in our craft, and plenty of people feel proud of their witchcraft type.
The other argument is one I’m less keen on. Many claim that witchcraft types “put people in a box.” In other words, if someone pursues sea witchcraft, then they will automatically miss out on other types of magic (like spirit work, divination, etc.) in the process.
This argument makes sense on paper, but not in practice. In my 13 years of practicing, I have never met anyone who clings to one type of magic. Studying magic automatically leads you to different fields. Green witches often end up researching animism and spirit work. Cosmic witches frequently encounter alchemy, which also relies heavily on planetary associations. Crystal magic has deep roots in divination, which guides crystal witches to spirit or deity work.
When I meet someone who says that they’re a water witch, I assume that water magic is their main focus. I do not assume that they only work with water and also, fuck candles.
That said, I believe peoples’ main concern is for beginners. Many worry that beginners will feel limited or pressured to research only one type of witchcraft. This is what I want to address next.
So What Is the Solution?
Do magicians need to be a “type of witch?”
That said, if they want a label to describe their craft, they can use one. You can even use multiple. I’ve met people who practice multiple types.
Are these terms inherently negative?
No. But people can approach these terms in a self-sabotaging way, specifically by limiting their Craft through labels.
How should new practitioners approach these terms?
View them as options. Read them as inspiration. Remember that you do not have to be a “type” of witch. In fact, you don’t have to be a witch at all.
If you want to practice magic, write down a list of topics you want to explore. Are you interested in spirit work? Ancestors? Which element fascinates you the most? Have you always been fascinated in herbal remedies, crystals, or tarot? Do you want to research magic associated with your culture or heritage?
The more you research, the more you’ll learn what you enjoy. After a while, you can take on a label if you want to.
What do you think about witchcraft type lists? Do you like or dislike these terms? Let me know in the comments below!