Witchcraft is a label given to certain traditions of magic within the scope of certain cultures, primarily certain European cultures. Yet magic has existed all over the world, not just in Europe. Forms of witchcraft were performed in Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia, all over Asia and Africa, and even indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia. Over the years these magical traditions have blended with each other and been transported across the world with their practitioners. This article is a brief overview of “alternative” magical traditions.
Obeah is one of many names given to witchcraft that originated from Africa and is still practiced in Caribbean countries. Its name is derived from an Ashanti word meaning “magic” or “sorcery.” Obeah is primarily derived from West Africa and Central Africa magical traditions. When people from those regions were brought over to the Americas, they took these traditions with them. They then became connected both to their original religions and to Christianity. Even today many Christians within the Caribbean community practice Obeah. Obeah contains both benign and malignant magic. Like hoodoo, or the magical practices of African-Americans whose traditions originated in Africa, one of the emphasis’s of Obeah is the magic hidden within motion, within footwork and dancing.
Santeria is more of a religion than a magical practice. Like Obeah, it originated in West Africa and combines elements of Yoruba (a West African religion), Catholicism, and various Native American religions. However, Santeria includes several magical elements such as communicating with the deceased ancestors and the various gods within the religion. The Catholic elements infused the religion when missionaries attempted to convert the slaves in the Caribbean to Catholicism. To maintain their traditions and their gods, they began to refer to those gods within the guise of various Christian saints, and accepted Baptism as a practice.
Vodun, or voodoo as it is known in the West, is a reference to shared religious and magical traditions held in Africa itself. Though many African practices are (erroneously) called voodoo by Westerners, we will concentrate on Vodun, which means “spirit” in Gbe. Vodun has an elaborate cosmology of messenger and leader deities who were all created (directly or recursively) by a single Creator god. Practitioners of voodoo invoke the descendants of the gods (within plants and animals), within magic spells to heal the sick and bless the harvests. They also pray to the symbols of their gods, usually in the form of a fetish or carved statue.
Moon magic refers not to one particular magical tradition associated with a region or culture, but rather the widespread practice of magic as it is associated with the changing phases of the moon. Practitioners of moon magic attempt to harness the flows of magic that the moon controls, as it controls the tides and the weather. It can be part of other kinds of magic and witchcraft spells usually involve the moon in spellcasting. The witch simply casts the spell as normal, but performs the spell under a particular phase of the moon to increase the rate of success.
Egyptian magic is a lingering influence on witchcraft from ancient times. The oldest recorded love spell was found in the Egyptian tradition. Back in Egypt, religion, science, and magic were all closely related, as scientists could not fully explain many of the strange phenomena they found. As a result, they believed they were caused in person by the gods. Egyptian spells usually require specially prepared talismans and written spells. However this was also a form of symbology, as Egyptian writing was purely pictographic. There are many parallels between Egyptian magic and modern witchcraft.
Wicca is often considered to be a form of witchcraft. It is essentially a Neopagan religion that is based around nature. Wiccans always believed in magic, or magick as it is more popularly called, and the practitioners of Wicca are also often called Witches who embrace witchcraft as their religion. Now you know where the terms ‘witch’ and ‘witchcraft’ came from.