American Traditional Witchcraft 3

So, my friends, what is American Traditional Witchcraft?

I’ve been mulling this around for a couple weeks now and I find it quite fascinating.  No two people that I’ve spoken to use same definition – or even close to the same description!

In this context:
American means the people and cultures residing in America, specifically the U.S.A.
Traditional means pretty much the dictionary definition

a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
: characteristic manner, method, or style tradition

and in this context, Witchcraft means a system of magic (as a spirituality or set of practices), generally based in a culture or sub-culture.

Now, I know that not everyone will totally agree with the above but at least it is a starting point.  If we take the above as a working description, then American Traditional Witchcraft is incredibly diverse with many different cultures harmoniously contributing to something uniquely American.

That got me thinking.  There are so many people looking for something from “the Old Country” or some form of external verification of “what really was done”.  Why aren’t modern Pagans in the U.S.A. looking to what is right under our noses?

It’s almost as if they don’t realize the immense value of what is already here.

The U.S.A. is a country build on the fabric of the diversity of the immigrants from many countries and cultures who came before us. Each of the cultures and sub-cultures that has contributed to the greater syncretic culture that we call American Culture.  This is equally true of many “American based” forms of Witchcraft.

I found this interesting bit here:

  • Magic was done as early as the 1700’s in the Appalachian Mountains by those of Scottish and Irish heritage, and is more commonly called Appalachian Granny Magic, kitchen witchery, hedge witch craft or Ozark Folk Magic.
  • Magic was done since the time of slavery in the south from South Carolina to Texas by those of African heritage. These practices are more commonly known as Hoodoo, Conjure and Rootwork.
  • Magic was done in the 17th and 18th centuries in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvanian Dutch, German settlers. This is known as powwow magic, braucherei, or hexenkraft.
  • Magic was done as by fisherman of Sicilian and Portugese heritage along our sea coasts, particularly in California, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.  This is known as Stregheria, or witchcraft.
  • Brujeria, Americans of Spanish colonial heritage in the South West and West.
  • Scandinavian Folk Magic in Minnesota and Wisconsin, from Sweden, Norway and other Scandinavian countries.
  • Native American practices and influences.
  • More recently Chinese and Japanese folk magic.

Perhaps American Traditional Witchcraft can be described as Witchcraft practiced in the U.S.A. that has a specific connecting to the culture, people, and lore of the practitioners’ ancestral homeland (often through successive generations of Immigrants and their descendants) yet strives for a balanced and harmonious blending with being part of the modern day culture of America?

In my case, the personal questions that this raises are –

When does something go from being Stregheria (Italian Witchcraft, practiced within Italian culture)

to American Stregheria (Italian Witchcraft practiced as part of Italian culture in America)

to becomming Italian-American Stregheria (Italian based Witchcraft practiced as part of Italian-American culture in America)

to becomming American Traditional Witchcraft (syncretic traditions of American Culture/Magic with the Ancestral culture, usually through several generations starting with immigrating to the U.S.A).

And finally, does it matter except to help us find a common language?

Perhaps I am over thinking it.  I welcome your thoughts and personal insights into what I believe is a fascinating group of Traditions and traditional practiced that is right under our collective noses.



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3 thoughts on “American Traditional Witchcraft

  • Miss Maya

    Very interesting post. I think many are looking overseas or without for that which is within or “under our noses”. There is a lot here in the US in terms of magic and witchcraft and I think we have so much to pull from in a way which can be more liberating (one of the goals of the witch) that getting bogged down in a “witchcraft” ideology of how things are “supposed” to be. I think it would behoove us to remember our “Don’t Tread On Me” roots and claim our power as American Traditional Witches. Thanks for writing this with eyes that see.

  • Tiyana Le Grand

    This post is interesting. I was trying to find traditional witchcraft and only found the on in Britain. Then when it came to america native american belief and America has a lot of different types of cultures. I was thinking may be combined the different belief at make American Traditional witchcraft. Taking bits of peaces from each culture.