The Pagan Glossary

The information provided here is for reference use only. It is offered without bias or opinion as to the content. We at Ancient Pathway offer this information for those that would choose to pursue private study.
~The Ancient

Here you will find the ever growing Glossary of Witchcraft, Wicca and other Pagan Faiths. If you see something that is missing, please send your request for addition to us using our contact pages. We will be making additions and expansions to this page as required.

The Pagan Glossary

AKASHA - The fifth occult element, the omnipresent power which permeates the universe. It embraces the other elements (earth, air, fire, water) which are said to stem from it. Some consider it the "other" of the two worlds that a witch walks between.

ALEXANDRIAN - That tradition of Witchcraft descended from the teachings of Alex Sanders.

ALTAR - A flat surface used for religious and magickal rituals, preferably of natural materials such as wood or stone.

AMULET - An object that is charged with specific energies to protect the bearer. It is often a natural object such as a feather, shell or stone.

ANKH - Egyptian "Cross of Life" which represents the union of male and female and was regarded as a universal life charm. The symbol is a cross with a looped, oval top. Also called the Key of the Nile.

ARADIA - Daughter of the Goddess Diana and Lucifer, God of the Sun (sometimes said to be her brother), Aradia is called the Queen of Witches. Though used in many Wiccan traditions, she is central to the Italian witchcraft tradition, Strega.

ARCANA - A deck of Tarot cards is divided into two halves or arcanas. The Major Arcana has 22 cards representing dominant events and forces in life. The Minor Arcana (lesser Arcana) has 56 suit cards representing smaller and/or more mundane events in life.

ARCHETYPES - Universal symbols that speak to us in the language of the subconscious. They are the ideal images of deities and other powers that embody concepts such as knowledge and beauty, and allow us to communicate such concepts to the subconscious in order to perform magick, divination and other rituals.

ASTRAL PLANE - The invisible "other" world that is unseen from our material/temporal world, another dimension of reality.

ASTRAL PROJECTION - The process of separating oneself (or one's self) from the physical body in trance states in order to visit other planes, times or locations.

ATHAME - A black-handled, double edged knife used in rituals to cast and open circles, serving the same function as the magickal sword. It is the Witch's ceremonial knife, never to be used for mundane purposes (cutting anything on the material plane).

BANE - An archaic word for bad, evil, destructive.

BANISH - To magically send away or repel negative energies or entities from the person, home, or ritual area.

BESOM - The witches' broomstick. Often used to sweep away negative energies from a space before casting a circle there.

BALEFIRE - The traditional bonfire of the sabbats, still used in many pagan celebrations.

BELTANE - An ancient Celtic Fire Festival celebrated on May 1. The modern version still celebrates the marriage of the Goddess and the God, and the passage of the Goddess from Maiden to Mother. Fertility rituals are commonly a part of this Sabbat. Also spelled Bealtaine and Beilltaine.

BIND: To magically restrain something or someone.

BLACK MAGICK - Any negative magick performed to harm or manipulate people or situations in a negative way. Practitioners of black magick are said to be on the "left hand path."

BLOOD OF THE MOON - A woman's menstrual cycle and her most powerful time, especially if it occurs on a Full or New Moon.

BOOK OF SHADOWS - A book of spells, rituals, recipes, and other guides and materials written by a witch or coven. It is often hand-written, though today many witches write their book on computers. Also, traditionally, the book was kept secret, either by the individual witch or the coven, though many such books are now published on the internet (never with all of the secrets however). Also called the Book of Lights and Shadows or grimoire.

BURNING TIMES - Reference to the period during the Middle Ages when many people were executed by the church or by public officials for practicing witchcraft. Some estimates suggest as many as nine million were killed while other estimates are far more conservative. Also, it is unlikely that they were all witches in that this became a favored means for officials to get rid of personal enemies or any unwanted person in the community. While burning was the method of execution in Scotland and some parts of Europe, in other areas the convicted "witches" were hanged. You can find more information about the Burning Times on our burning times page.

CANDLEMAS - The Celtic Fire Festival, held on February 1, commemorating the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden again. The festival, also called Imbolc, celebrates the passing of winter and the coming of spring.

CALL - To invoke divine forces, as when one calls the Guardians of the Watchtowers before casting a circle.

CARDINAL POINTS - North, South, East, and West, often marked by candles of green, red, yellow, and blue.

CAULDRON - A favorite tool of witches, this three-legged cooking pot has many uses. It may be used to cook potions, for scrying, and as a censer. On an altar, the cauldron symbolizes the Goddess.

CHAKRAS - Seven major intersections of energy located on the vertical axis of the body. Each is associated with a color and an area of the body. They are also associated with life experiences such as love and may be used when meditating on those experiences. Starting from the tailbone, they are Root (Red), Sexual/Generative (Orange), Solar Plexus (Yellow), Heart (Green), Throat (Blue), 3rd Eye (Indigo), and Crown (Violet).

CHALICE - A witch's tool which can be used to represent the element of water and may also be used to hold the juice or wine for the offering.

CHANNELING - A New Age word for mediumship, channeling involves allowing a spirit entity to speak through the channeler. The process is virtually impossible to prove and therefore does not enjoy a particularly good reputation.

CHARGE OF THE GODDESS- Originally written by Doreen Valiente, the charge gives the story of the message from the Goddess to Her children. The High Priestess often recites the charge at the Full Moon Esbat.

CHARMS - May be a gemstone, amulet, talisman or other object that has been charged with power for a specific task.

CIRCLE- The sacred space in which ritual and magickal workings takes place. A circle may also refer to a loosely organized group of Witches or Pagans choosing to work together in a somewhat less formal manner than a coven.

CONE OF POWER- Energy or power raised within a circle by either an individual or group for a specific purpose. After the power is raised and visualized it is released to work the magick.

CLEANSING - The process of removing negative energy from an object or place. May be accomplished through replacing negative energy with positive energy, sweeping with a besom, burning sage sticks and other means.

CONSECRATION - The act of cleansing and blessing an object or place by charging it with positive energy.

CORRESPONDENCES - Sets of ideas, concepts or objects that are regularly associated in a particular way. Most magickal workings involve the use of correspondences. For example, the Moon is associated with Monday, moonstones, the color white, and purity, among other things.

COVEN- An organized group of Witches, usually thirteen or fewer, who meet regularly for religious rituals.

COVENSTEAD- The meeting place for a coven.

CROSS QUARTERS - The modern name for the Celtic Fire Festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lammas, the Sabbats that do not fall on the solstices or equinoxes.

DAYS OF POWER - See SABBATS

DEDICATION - A ritual in which a Witch dedicates herself to the Craft and vows to remain steadfast to the path she has chosen.

DEGREE - Levels of achievement in a particular tradition. Many traditions have three degrees.

DEOSIL- Clockwise or sunwise movement of actions in a ritual.

DIANIC - Tradition emphasizing the Goddess Diana. Leadership is generally female, though males may be members.

DIVINATION - The use of magickal tools and means to seek information on events, people and situations in the past, present and future. Examples are runes and Tarot cards.

DRAWING DOWN THE MOON - A ritual used during the Full Moon in which Witches invoke the power of a Moon Goddess to increase their power.

EARTH MAGICK - A form of magick in which the powers of the Earth are sought and used to conduct ritual and magickal workings.

ELEMENTS- Earth, air, fire, and water, plus spirit, or Akasha. Each is associated with a direction and a color (among other things): Earth (north, green), Air (east, yellow), Fire (south, red), and Water (west, blue), plus Spirit (center, white).

EQUINOX - One of the two times a year when the sun crosses the equator and the day and night are approximately the length. Spring Equinox approximately March 21st-22nd, Fall Equinox September 21st-22nd.

ESBAT - Meeting of Witches on the Full Moon or the New Moon usually to perform rituals. Esbat rituals may also be performed by solitary Witches.

FAMILIAR - An animal, either a pet or a spiritual entity, who serves the Witch as a magickal helper.

FIVEFOLD KISS - The Witches' ritual salute performed in the Circle, with kisses; (1) on each foot, (2) on each knee, (3) above the pubic hair, (4) on each breast, and (5) on the lips.

GAEA - The Earth Mother or Mother Earth. The name has recent significance for Environmental action groups.

GARDNERIAN - A tradition of Witchcraft descended from the teachings of Gerald Gardner.

GREAT RITE - Part of the third degree initiation as well as some festivals, the Great Rite symbolizes the union of the God and Goddess, and thus all creation. It is usually performed by placing a knife into a chalice, though it may be performed by the physical union of a man and woman (privately, of course).

GREEN MAN - Another name for the God, particularly in His aspect of God of fertility.

GUARDIANS - Ceremonial magicians and some Witches call the Guardians of the Watchtowers to guard the sacred circle during rituals. These are the guardians of the four quarters, though they may be envisioned quite differently, from gargoyles to angels.

HANDFASTING - A Wiccan or Pagan marriage ceremony.

IMBOLC- Celtic name for Candlemas

INVOCATION - A ritual to call energies into oneself from outside, sometimes in the form of a deity. The purpose may be ritual or magickal workings. Also refers to the words, often a poem, used to achieve this.

INVOKE- To call energies into oneself from outside, as in calling a Goddess or drawing down the Moon.

KABALLAH - Mystical teachings from the Jewish-Gnostic tradition which formed the basis of ceremonial magick and the Alexandrian tradition. An elaborately structured Tree of Life is central to the system of study. Also Qabala and Cabala.

KARMA - In Hindu belief where the term originated, it is the idea that the good and evil a person does will return either in this life or in a later one. Among Pagans, the theory is that whatever negative or positive energies one sends out will come back to the sender in like kind. The "Three Fold Law" is a version of this belief.

LAMMAS - The Celtic festival also called Lughnassadh. It is the first of three harvest festivals and takes place on August 1.

LEFT HAND PATH - Also known as the Dark Path, this is the path taken by those who would oppose Nature and seek to harm others for their own benefit.

LITHA - Sabbat celebrated on the Summer Solstice when the Sun is strongest and accordingly the God is celebrated for His strength.

MABON- The second harvest festival, held on the Autumn Equinox. It celebrates wine and balance.

MAGIC - Illusions done by a modern magician for entertainment purposes.

MAGICK - The act of focusing will, emotion and energy to effect change within yourself and in the world. Whether it is good or evil depends on the intentions of the magician.

MAIDEN - The first aspect of the Triple Goddess which symbolizes new beginnings and creation.

METAPHYSICAL - Pertaining to realities which are outside those of science, such as cosmology and ontology.

MYSTICISM - The belief that one can achieve direct consciousness of God or truth through meditation and intuition. In mystic practices, one attempts to merge with God or the source of creation.

NEW AGE - Modern term for a variety of metaphysical practices, often combined and redefined to fit the contemporary world.

OCCULT - Literally, occult means "hidden" and is applied to a range of beliefs and activities that are outside of the mainstream philosophies and religions. It may also imply something that is secret, magickal, or supernatural.

OLD RELIGION - Another name for Wicca. Also, Old Path or Old Ways.

OSTARA- The Sabbat celebrated at the Vernal Equinox, the second festival of spring. Symbolized by the egg, it is a time to celebrate new life and sexuality.

PAGAN - Among those who are not Pagans, the term refers to anyone who is not Christian, Islamic or Jewish, and may have the negative meaning of heretic. Among Pagans, the term refers to anyone who follows an earth or nature religion.

PENTACLE- A pentagram surrounded by a circle. It may be a disc placed on an altar, a pendant to be worn, or any such representation.

PENTAGRAM- The five-pointed star often representing the five elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit (the upper point). It may also represent a person with arms and legs spread. Pentagrams are used in many pagan rituals for either positive workings such as invoking or negative ones such as banishing. Inverted the pentagram may represent the Horned God, though it also has Satanist associations.

PROJECTIVE ENERGY - The energy that one sends out either intentionally or unintentionally. In magick, it is the energy that is put into an object or thought-form to achieve one's goals. It is also the energy of power objects that repel negative forces by sending out positive energy.

RECEPTIVE ENERGY - The energy that attracts or is magnetic. Gemstones carried to draw in love or wealth have receptive energy.

REINCARNATION - The belief that one has lived before in another lifetime, and that one will live again after physical death.

RUNES - A set of symbols that are used both in divination and magickal workings. These symbols may be engraved in small pieces of wood for divination purposes. Runes that fit one's magickal goals are often carved into candles for candle magick.

SABBAT- One of the eight festivals observed in the Wicca calendar. They are: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Mabon, Lammas (Lughnasadh).

SAMHAIN - The Sabbat now celebrated on Halloween (October 31). This celebration marks the New Year and is a time for remembering the dead and honoring the Crone Goddess. It is also the final festival of the harvest season.

SCRYING - A method of divination in which one gazes at an object (crystal ball, water, candle) until prophetic visions appear.

SHAMAN - A word derived from the Tungas language of Siberia, it is a generic term for healers and spiritual leaders in tribal societies. Traditional shamans induced trance states through drums, dancing, ingesting hallucinogens, self mutilation and deprivation and virtually any means by which one might achieve an altered state of consciousness. While in such a trance, the shaman crosses over into another world to get information for his people such as the cause of illnesses and other misfortunes. The shaman is the peoples' link to the spiritworld.

SIGIL - A symbol with some occult meaning that may be used in magickal workings. Often a seal, sign or other drawing, it may be carried or otherwise used to control the power symbolized.

SKYCLAD - The act of doing magickal workings or rituals in the nude. It is common in some traditions such as the Alexandrian, as well as among many solitary practitioners. Working skyclad does not imply anything sexual, but rather is an attempt to remove all barriers to the energies with which one is working.

SPELL- A magickal working directed toward the achievement of some goal such as obtaining, banishing, changing a condition, etc. Sometimes refers to the verbal part of the ritual.

TALISMAN - An object carried for protection or other goals that has been charged for that purpose. Examples are gemstones, shells, drawings and virtually any small object that one may carry.

TAROT - A set of 78 cards with pictures and symbols that are used for divination by connecting the reader to the subconscious mind. The origin of the cards is unknown.

TRADITION - The particular branch of paganism that an individual follows, such as Gardnerian, Alexandrian, etc.

TRIPLE GODDESS - The one Goddess that encompasses three aspects, the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

WARLOCK- A derogatory term for a male Witch. It's original meaning, derived from the Old English "waer logga," is "oath breaker" and it was used in reference to a traitor to the Craft during the Burning Times.

WHEEL OF THE YEAR - The Pagan calendar which symbolizes the eternal cycle of time. It usually begins with Samhain.

WHITE HANDLED KNIFE - The knife used by a Witch for Craft tasks such as carving candles, making tools, chopping herbs, etc. Though it is not as sacred as the athame, it is reserved for Craft work exclusively.

WICCA - A modern tradition of witchcraft based on the old earth religions of Europe. The term comes from an Old English word meaning "to bend" or "to have wisdom."

WIDDERSHINS - Counterclockwise motion used in magickal workings or ceremonies. It means to go backward and is sometimes used in banishing magick.

WITCH - The word conjures up a variety of images ranging from the comic Halloween witch to a Satan worshipper to the pagan practitioner of the Craft. The latter is, of course, the truer meaning, though it is difficult to change peoples' perceptions of Witches. Witches are Pagans and generally follow a nature religion, and usually (though not always) practice some form of magick.

YULE- The Sabbat celebrated on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. In some traditions it celebrates the birth of the God and in others the coming birth.