In this article we shall go through a simple list of terminology commonly found in Wicca. It is important to note this is a simple and quick primer and by no means definitive. You will learn what these terms mean in your own specific covens as each tradition will have it’s own meaning and correspondence to these terms.
Athalme or Athame – a ritual knife used by witches. This is used to direct the will. Most witches use one with a black-hilt. It is utilized to help create psychic barriers and thought-forms. An elemental tool used to command the elementals of fire. Other traditions may ascribe this tool to the element of air instead – such as the Golden Dawn “Air Dagger”.
Bolline – a pratical knife, typically with a white-hilt that is used for the cutting of herbs in a sacred or ceremonial manner. Most bollines have a crescent shape blade in the manner of a “hand-sickle.”
Chalice – sometimes called a “Cup” in some traditions. This is used for not just sharing ritual wine within the magical circle, but can be used for mixing potions and elixirs. Emotion and Desire corresponds with this tool and it can be used for acts of scrying. Some chalices will hold blessed water used in ritual as well. Connected to the element of water and controls and commands the elementals of water.
Deosil – meaning sun-wise or clockwise. In our coven, the magical circle is banished clockwise to send out the power that has been called in. The circle is only cast deosil if a psychic or a protective barrier is constructed.
Elementals – these are being that comprise what we refer to as the “Astral Nervous System” and reside within the Astral Light. They typically are classified amongst the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire & Water. They are in various stages of development and are malleable. Some of these beings take the shape of our thoughts that we impress into the Astral Light which makes them “Thought-Forms.”
Fortune-Telling – this is the practice of using some type of device or items to predict the future for yourself or another person. Common trappings to do so include playing cards, crystal balls, casting lots, tea-leaf readings. Typically this is performed by a witch for another person requesting answers to a situation or a problem.
Great Mother Goddess or Gracious Goddess – Symbolized by Water and Earth, or condensation and solidification, which is one-half of the Supreme Being or Universal Power/Life-Force. She is the fashioner of all-life in this place and Mother to us all. She gives physical form to all life in this physical plane of existence. She is often symbolized by the Earth and Moon.
Horned God/Father God or Good God – Air and Fire, or Evaporation and Combustion … motion and heat, which is one-half of the Supreme Being or Universal Power/Life-Force. The God initiates or sparks all life. He is often symbolized with Solar and/or Light-Bearing symbolism.
Initiation – a ritual or series of rituals used to integrate a new witch into a coven or tradition. Initiation into each degree of Witchcraft marks a level of advancement for the experience you’ve gained and the knowledge and wisdom that you have achieved. Each initiatory level has different responsibilities. Each successive degree of initiation builds on the previous one.
Journey – this usually relates to taking an “astral journey” using the practice of astral projection, or, it may refer to a type of meditation or path-working. Typically, the body is put into a relaxed state and mental chatter is slowed down to induce an altered state of consciousness. This can be self-induced or led by another person, and at times might involve tools or trappings. Hypnotism may also be employed. Today, we often talk about this in terms of brainwaves, such as Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta, etc. The “Alpha State of Consciousness” is utilized for most types of journeys and psychic work, and is the state we induce the mind to enter when performing an act of spell-making or psychic pursuit.
Knot Spells – certain spells within Witchcraft use cords or string for the tying and releasing of knots to bind a spell and release a spell. The tying of knots in a cord binds the “thought” into it once the thought-form has been created of the desired effect, and the untying of the knot releases the thought-form to carry out its work. This was common work in weather manipulation, love and lust spells and curses.
Lammas – or “Loaf-mass” is one of the four compulsory Great Sabbats that the initiated witches attend and is celebrated August 1-2. It is a harvest festival that originated in England. During this Harvest Festival, libations are offered in Thanksgiving and Graditude to the Great Mother Goddess for the rich bounty that she has bestowed upon us. During the Sabbat festivals, the psychic batteries are “re-charged” until they are refreshed again at the following Sabbat. The two Equinox Sabbats and the two Solstices are Solar Sabbats that initiate each season. The Terrestrial/Earth Sabbats of Candlemas or February Eve, May Eve or Beltane, Lammas and Hallowmas are when the season that was initiated at the Solar Sabbats are at their height.
Magic Circle – a marked out space used in most forms of ritualized magic, such as Wicca, to set aside a place outside of space and time. When magical circles are drawn Widdershins, it creates a negative flow that invokes that which you call to it. When a magical circle is drawn deosil, it creates a positive flow that banishes or sends out that which is present. One pulls in power, the other sends out power. The space may be physically marked on the ground, although ritual action and elemental tools are used in erecting the circle and also banishing it.
New Thought – first arising in the USA, but has influenced occult practice and philosophy around the world. Mental Healing and Thought-Control is emphasized in order to use the power of thought to affect our realities. One main belief found in most New Thought movements is that our thoughts are causative and the quality of our thoughts can shape our physical conditions and our mental states and actions – including the actions of others.
Operative Magic – this is better known as “practical magic” by most. It is a magical action to receive results on this physical plane of existence…. Push buttons A & B, and receive result C. Examples of this would be for spells and rituals related to love, luck, protection, money, hexes, etc.
Pentacle – A tool used by the witch that is typically a round-shaped disc made of earthly material like wood, metal or stone with symbols related to earth symbolism or sigils of a tradition. Symbolizes solidificaiton of all things and controls the earth elementals. Typically will hold the dish of earth or salt in rituals. In most of our rituals where it is used, it is placed at the Northern point of the altar.
Quaich – a two-handled drinking cup used to hold wine during Sabbat rituals. Most today use the word Chalice, but Quaich is a word at times still used to describe the Wine Chalice of the High Priestess.
Rite of Passage – We typically use this to describe two things. For the first, see “I” for Initiation – for initiation is also a Rite of Passage to acknowledge achievement and begin the next stage of development. For the second, it is used to describe a ritual marked by a coven to acknowledge the passing of a coven member or initiate from this physical world, and bless them in their transition into the next life. These rituals are performed so that the Soul of the Initiate will transition with ease into the next incarnation as we celebrate their life and bless them on their journey.
Spells & Spellmaking – this is the process whereby you purposefully impress upon the Astral Plane the thought-form of that which you wish to affect and bring about. This is done by using Imagination, Will, Faith & Silence in an active fashion – while at the same time performing a dramatized ritual act.
Thurible – this is a dish that can be carried or is on a chain that is used to burn ritual incense during rituals and spells. It relates to the action of evaporation as well and controls the elemental spirits of Air. For most rituals, we place this to the Eastern side of the Altar, corresponding with the Air element.
Uncrossing – this is an old occult shop term used that is used to describe a ritual concept of freeing yourself or someone else of a “crossed” state. A crossed state is typically described as a streak of bad luck or even an intentional curse that impedes a person’s freedom. Think of how it would feel if the shoe-laces of both of your shoes were tangled and tied together – uncrossing would be the untangling of this condition to a state where your path is free and clear of that obstacle. Sometimes performing an Uncrossing is also described today as a “Cleansing.” Various magical and cultural traditions have methods for this. In some cultural and magical traditions, like Hoodoo, that may include ritual baths, or in the practice of Curadismo of Mexico it may include a “Limpia.” In Wicca this may include the practice of practical techniques such as hands-on healing, concentration, house-cleaning, candle-burning and the physical action of breaking or burning a symbolic object to be free of its negative influence – sympathetic magic is applied.
Visualization – this is the active and purposeful forming of a mental image or object within the mind out of your own mental-matter. When you visualize, you are using the imaginative will in a purposeful way to create the image in your mind and hold it there. This is the first step in creating a thought-form and is crucial for the casting of spells.
White-Handled Knife – this is a practical knife of the witch and typically has a white handle to it. It is used for carving, scribing, cutting or any of the practical tasks that a witch may need it for. The Athalme is not typically used for physical cutting – so only the white-handled knife is used for physical cutting and scribing. A common use of the White Handled Knife is for carving symbols into candles. This ritual blade is often confused with a “Bolline”, but it is a separate ritual knife.
X Factor – this phrase is used to describe something that is indescribable, but at the same time extraordinary in which we don’t have an exact answer for just yet. When you have been in the world of the Occult for a long time, you will see things on occasion that will just blow you away that you can’t fully describe in the moment exactly what they are because they are remarkable occurrences. Many times, these experiences are deeply personal and not often shared with others as we try to determine just what that indescribable X-Factor is that makes something work, or made something happen in a remarkable way.
Yule Log – At the festive meal shared by the coven near the Winter Solstice, a log of wood is be-decked with at least three candles and decorated with greenery such as pine, holly, mistletoe and or whatever type of evergreen trees or plants found in your own location. This is placed in the center of the table for the feast, and typically, the High Priestess will perform a consecration and ceremonial lighting of the Yule log. Typically the invocation will concern making the coven strong and sure of purpose and symbolize the blazing light that returns – the unconquered sun who initiates the seasons. It is also an indoor representation of the blazing light of the Sun and the Fires. Covens who use a Yule log in their ceremonies of the seasonals will have their own traditions and invocations used for this little ritual and tradition.
Zodiac – the earth orbits around the sun and spins widdershins. The Zodiac is used in astrology to divide the earth’s journey around the sun into 12 astrological signs in Western astrology. Astrology can be found throughout the world, and other locations and cultures will have their own representations. In our Western Astrological Zodiac, we begin with Aries and end with Pisces; but in the Chinese Zodiac, they typically use animals beginning with Rat and ending with Pig.