Pagan Terms and Definitions
Some terms listed here may seem like common-sense words; however, they are defined as most often used in Wicca, Witchcraft, and Paganism. Some terms have a different meaning in general society, other religions, and other sub-cultures. Please keep this in mind as you learn the terms as they are listed here.
If there is a term you have seen on this site or other Wiccan/Pagan sources that you are unfamiliar with or uncertain of, please send us a message so we can add it to this page for you.
Aisling: a dream vision.
Akasha: spirit; the fifth element; omnipresent spiritual power that permeates the universe; the energy out of which the elements are formed.
Altar: a surface, usually flat, that is set aside for magickal workings and is sometimes used as a focus for power. Some traditions use multiple altars devoted to specific purposes.
Amulet: an object which has been known to give protection to its carrier. Amulets are objects which are found in nature such as stones.
Animism: the belief that all objects have a spirit.
Ankh: an ancient Egyptian symbol resembling a cross with a loop at the top. It symbolizes life and cosmic knowledge. Most Egyptian Gods and Goddess are shown carrying one. Also known as the crux ansata, the Ankh is used in modern craft for fertility and health.
Anointing Oil: a skin-safe, scented oil, that is dabbed on the body (common locations are the pulse points and forehead) in order to purify an individual mentally and physically.
Asperger: a bundle of fresh herbs used to sprinkle purifying water around the circle; also, the person using the herb bundle.
Astral Projection: the art of "leaving one's body" whereby someone in a trance state visits other locations or realms. This is thought of as traveling into the astral plane which is generally conceived as a parallel world unseen in our world of form. Studies have shown an individual successfully astral projecting can be seen and heard by a non-projecting individual on this plane, giving credit to this ability.
Athame (a-tha-may): a double-edged knife(usually dull) used for directing energy. A tool representing the God.
Aura: a single or multi-colored light produced by heat energy and electromagnetic energy that emanates from all objects. It's claimed that the ability to see an aura can be developed and used to help in understanding a person's state of health and personality. Some schools of thought count several layers of auras, though only the one is currently backed by modern science.
Balefire: an outdoor ritual fire (or a sacred bonfire).
Bane: bad, deadly; sometimes used to describe a bad omen.
Besom: a magickally charged broom generally used to sweep away negative energies. Sometimes used for home protection by placing above a door or window.
Blessing: act of conferring positive energy upon a person/place/animal/thing; a religious or spiritual practice.
Blue Moon: the second full moon occurring in the same month. Originally referred to the third of four full moons occurring in one season.
Bodhran: a specific type of Celtic drum.
Bolline: a white-handled knife (sometimes curved) used for inscribing, cutting herbs, etc.
Book Religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and some lesser known faiths. Called "book religions" because a holy book or text is central to the faith.
Book of Shadows (BoS): the spellbook, journal, diary, grimoire, and/or ritual guide used by an individual witch or coven. "Shadows" is used to mean past as in past experience and knowledge.
Burin: a specific engraving tool used to mark names and symbols.
Burning Times, The: alternate term used for the inquisitions specifically dealing with rooting out witchcraft that occurred in several cultures spanning many generations; a period of turmoil in which there was Catholic and Protestant conflict. Millions were accused of and an estimated 30,000-300,000 were executed for being witches. Those executed were hung (most common), stoned, drowned, or burned. Few of the victims worshiped Pagan deities; many considered themselves to be good Christians - though some did practice old folk traditions that are common in modern Witchcraft as the term is used today. This period was riddled with prejudice, discrimination, sexism, ignorance, and mass hysteria; it was an attack primarily against women and non-Catholics, not the equivalent of modern Witches.
Calling the Quarters: verbal or symbolic acknowledgment of the Elements in a ritual environment. "Quarters" refers to the directions north, east, south, and west.
Casting a Circle: the creating of a magickal circle.
Cauldron: an iron pot of any size used to prepare ritual magick, herbs, infusions, etc. Sometimes used to burn incense or other items with magickal intention.
Censer: an incense burner.
Centering: process of balancing energy in one's body in order to better focus one's attention. The act of becoming focused and calm.
Chakra: energy centers in the body. Most Wiccans and Witches work with the seven major chakras to help enhance health, balance, and magick.
Chalice: ritual drinking cup.
Charge: to infuse an object with personal power.
Circle: the sacred space where all ritual and most magick - depending on tradition - is performed. It contains raised energy and provides protection for the Witch. It is created by his/her energy and is released by drawing back the energy.
Clan: any number of covens who have agreed to follow the same kinds of rules, which spring from one central governing source.
Coelbrini: divination sticks.
Cone of Power: energy or power that is raised and directed by more than one person (such as a coven) for specific goals. Today, groups working from different geological locations may create a cone of power stretching a large distance by crafting individual cones to send to a central point. Believed to be the symbolic reference the conical witch hat represents.
Conscious Mind: the analytic, materially-based, rational part of consciousness; part of the mind at work when we are awake and focusing on everyday activities. What we are aware of and focusing our attention on is what is conscious to us.
Correspondences: materials used in magick to heighten energy which refer to a specific goal. Lists of associations. Ex: element of Earth correspondences include structure, finance, wealth, security, plants, stones, foundation, soil, planet Earth, etc.
Coven: a group of Witches; can be all male, all female, or a mix of both; the traditional number of coven members is 13; however, this is not a requirement in many traditions today.
Cowan: a non-Witch; sometimes also used to refer to anyone who is not initiated into a Witches' coven.
Covenstead: an area of power or energy where a coven meets.
Crone: one of the three aspects of Wiccan Trinity; the Goddess in her wiser, more experienced, and elder aspect.
Crystallomancy: form of divination using crystals.
Daily Devotions: the practice of acknowledging the deity in one's life at least once a day. Method of devotions may differ based on tradition or individual preferences.
Dedicant: an apprentice Witch or solitary choosing to dedicate a major part of his or her life to learning, studying, practicing, and living their path.
Deity (or Divinity): one's understanding of a divine spiritual form; a Goddess or God; "deities" is often used as a generic term to encompass all gods and goddesses, wherever they have come from.
Deosil (jezz-il): sun-wise movement (clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere). [Note: A misspelling of the word "deasil".]
Divination: the art of seeing the unknown through the use of various instruments and methods; bringing that which is unconscious or subconscious to light through use of tools such as pendulums, tarot cards, and scrying.
Divine Power: non-manifested, pure energy that exists within deity; life force, ultimate source of all things. Believed by Wiccans and Witches to reside in all things and is what makes magick possible.
Drawing Down the Moon: invoking the spirit of the Goddess into the High Priestess.
Earth Magick: a practical form of magick which involves drawing energy from Mother Earth.
Earth Power: energy which exists within stones, herbs, flames, wind, and other natural objects; manifested divine power.
Eclipse: when one heavenly body obscures another for a short period of time, creating a temporary veil or shadow. Ex: Solar Eclipse - the moon blocks light from the sun by moving in front of the earth's view of the sun. Believed to have an influence on different energies of people, places, animals, and objects.
Elder: a degreed and respected Witch in the coven; teacher. Some elders today choose to avoid associations with specific traditions and covens and follow a solitary path instead; however, such elders are often leaders, motivators, mediators, and counselors within the community as a whole.
Elementals: spirit-creatures of the elements. Ex: Undines=Water, Salamanders=Fire, Gnomes=Earth, Sylphs=Air
Elements, The: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit; the essential energies of the universe.
Empower: to infuse an object with energy, sometimes used interchangeably with "charge," though empowering is thought by some to not require a specific intention.
Energy: general term for power that exists within all natural objects and beings; can be broken down into microscopic scales. What is used and manipulated in magick and spellwork.
Esbat: a lunar celebration honoring the Goddess. Most commonly full moons, although new and dark moons are also observed in some traditions.
Evocation or Evoke: act of calling upon spirits; used in ritual to invite entities, elementals, deities, etc. into the ritual space. Often confused with the term "invocation" or "invoke."
Faeries: some refer to them as The Wee Folk; the word "fairy" is a synonym for "brownie." Many Earth elementals are called faeries or the fey. A deeper study is required for better understanding.
Familiar: a witch's pet that has the ability to communicate - usually telepathically - with its owner. More specifically, the familiar is an assistant or partner in magickal and spiritual workings. However, many Witches today will refer to any of their animal loved ones as their familiars regardless of the traditional meaning of the term.
Fey: spiritual beings; faeries, divas, etc.
Folk Magick: practice of magick utilizing personal power in conjunction with natural tools and objects, most often in a non-religious framework. May refer specifically to old folk traditions and customs. Sometimes used to refer to a style of Witchcraft and/or spellcasting that does not follow formal and ceremonial approaches to spells and rituals; more loose in form, though still containing the necessary aspects required for effective magick.
Gardnerian: the style or tradition of Witchcraft started by Gerald Gardner; one of the British Traditional Witchcraft traditions.
Geomancy: Earth divination.
God/Goddess: titles for the male and female divinities celebrated by Wiccans.
Great Rite, the: ritual union of Goddess and God invoked into a priestess and priest. The sexual act is preferred to be between married couples; today, more commonly performed symbolically using the chalice and athame.
Grounding: sending excessive energy generated during ritual into the earth; helps to provide equilibrium and often used in conjunction with centering.
Gnomes: Earth spirits.
Grimoire: a book of magickal information; includes observations, correspondences, rituals, spells, entities. Contents differ depending upon tradition; some use the term "grimoire" in place of Book of Shadows.
Handfasting: a Pagan wedding; many follow the year-and-a-day tradition and renew it every year and a day if so desired.
Handparting: the breaking up or divorce of a handfasted couple. Generally performed at the end of the year-and-a-day period excepting dire circumstances.
Hedgewitch: a Witch who follows a shamanistic path.
Herb: any plant used in ritual; may refer to a whole plant, petals, roots, leaves, etc.
Herbalism: the art of using herbs both magickally and medically.
High Priest: the male leader of a coven; knowledgeable & proficient with many years of experience; possesses strong leadership skills.
High Priestess: the female leader of a coven; knowledgeable & proficient with many years of experience; possesses strong leadership skills.
Holy Water: blessed, purified water used in ritual.
I Ching: a Chinese form of divination through the use of hexagrams.
Incarnate: a spirit with a physical body.
Incense: herbs, oils, or other aromatic items which are burned - usually in the censer - to scent, cleanse, purify, or add intention to the air during ritual and magick.
Initiation: process whereby an individual is introduced or admitted into a group, interest, skill, or religion; literally "to begin."
Intent: goal or purpose of a magickal working; the Will of an individual or group.
Invocation or Invoke: Calling upon an entity to come into an individual's body. Often confused with the term "Evocation" or "Evoke."
Journey: a shamanic practice of traveling between the worlds to seek aide from guides, animal spirits, and other entities for answers, advice, and guidance. Sometimes used by Witches to perform magick in or through other realms or to enhance magick performed outside of journey or meditation.
Karma: law of cause and effect that applies to all of our actions in life; the belief that what we do in this life will determine how our next life will start out. Though not a Wiccan concept, some Wiccans agree with this idea. Often confused with the idea that "what goes around comes around" in this lifetime, in which case is sometimes referred to as instant Karma.
Labrys: a double-headed ax; used in some traditions to symbolize the Goddess.
Lady: title of honor given to the Goddess; traditionally used in reference to a High Priestess who acts as an incarnate representative of the Goddess. Commonly used by females within eclectic and solitary traditions who break from tradition.
Law of Return: Wiccan concept that what we send out comes back to us; related to the Three-Fold Law with the exception that the consequences of our actions are not magnified.
Law of Three: also called the "Three-fold Law"; Wiccan concept that our actions are built up so that energies returned are three-fold what they were sent out.
Libation: an offering for spirits; symbolic sacrifice to the deities. Common libations today are portions of the cakes and ale used in ritual that are then placed outside.
Lord: title of honor given to the God; sometimes used traditionally in reference to a High Priest. Occasionally used by males within eclectic and solitary traditions who are breaking from tradition.
Lore: knowledge handed down from generation to generation.
Maiden: one aspect of Wiccan Trinity; the Goddess in her youthful aspect. Associated with virginity, new learning, inexperienced archetypes.
Magick: the movement of natural energies - including Personal Power - to create needed change. Spelled with a "k" to differentiate it from slight-of-hand, stage magic and fictional magic; some prefer to drop off the k.
Magick Circle, the: see circle
Meditation: entering of one's inner self for clarity and information. May be guided visualizations with intent. Meditation within Witchcraft traditions often resemble shamanic journeys as opposed to other meditation techniques used for relaxation, breathing, and health benefits by non-Witches.
Megalith: a large stone monument; sometimes believed to have been or currently used for magickal or ritual purposes. Ex: Stonehenge.
Menhir: a standing stone engraved with symbols, often used to mark the covenstead.
Mentor: an elder or magickal peer that offers advice or guidance; a teacher of Wicca and/or Witchcraft.
Mother: one of three aspects of the Wiccan Trinity; the Goddess in her motherly aspect. Associated with compassion, comfort, experience, teaching, guidance, etc.
Neo-Pagan: "new Pagan"; Pagan religions or practices which are modern but modeled from ancient Pagan systems or traditions; some Pagans today dislike the term. First coined by Oberon Zell to differentiate from other uses of the term "Pagan."
Occult: "hidden" or "hidden from public knowledge"; used today for anything not widely understood and usually feared. Sometimes used in reference to non-mainstream things that were once secret or obscure, but are more widely available to the public today.
Old Ones, The: all of the Gods of the many pantheons worshiped or acknowledge by ancient cultures and civilizations predating the Gods of modern and monotheistic faiths.
Omen: a sign, most often of the future; sometimes referred to a sign taken as advice to a current situation.
Orthodox: used to identify beliefs which people tend to think of as older than supposedly "New Age" beliefs; well established traditions, beliefs, and behaviors considered to be right, true, and normal. Some orthodox approaches are thought to be outdated or in need of change by those of non-orthodox beliefs, whereas others value the integrity of orthodox traditions.
Pagan: means country dweller and was used in the same way the terms hick, redneck, or hillbilly are today; often used to refer to those not of Christian faith. An umbrella term encompassing various religions and practices and often defined differently among them; followers of polytheistic and non-Christian religions.
Pathworking: form of guided meditation that involves a journey to discover knowledge.
Pentacle: a five-pointed star within a circle; worn for protection; widely used by - but not limited to - Wiccans as a sign of faith.
Pentagram: a five-pointed star; long used for protection. Various cultures and religions have used the pentagram for various uses. Ex: early Christianity used the pentagram as a symbol of the five wounds Christ received during his crucifixion.
Pendulum: a crystal or other object attached to a chain or string for divination purposes.
Polarity: concept of equal, opposite energies. The Yin-Yang symbol is often referenced as an example of this concept.
Prana: life energy.
Prayer: act of focusing one's attention on deity and engaging in communication; most often used in times of need and/or gratitude.
Priest/Priestess: each Wicca is his/her own priest/priestess, needing no "middle-man" and interpreting deity and life on their own; usually seek guidance from a High Priest/Priestess or elder. A practicing member of a coven, mystery cult, or other tradition.
Projective Hand: dominant hand; generally used to send energy from the body.
Psychic Mind: unconscious mind; part of the mind that receives psychic impulses; at work when asleep, dreaming, and meditating. The unconscious mind holds information and experiences that we are not aware of consciously.
Quarters: another name for the four cardinal directions.
Quarters of the Moon: astronomical measurements of the moon's cycle as it journeys around the Earth; waxing, full, waning, and new.
Receptive Hand: opposite of the projective hand; generally used to receive energy or sense information in the body.
Reincarnation: the belief that souls of living things return to the earth plane in another body after death (rebirth); a common belief in Paganism; some believe that there is a break between incarnations.
Ritual: a religious ceremony; often includes magickal workings in Wicca and Witchcraft traditions.
Ritual Consciousness: specific, alternate state of awareness that aids in the successful practice of magick. Tools are often used to help trigger this mindset in magickal practitioners.
Runes: Nordic or Germanic pictographs or alphabet often used for divination; stick-like figures used in magick and divination; usually inscribed on stones or flat sticks. Symbols used in magick.
Sabbat: a Wiccan holiday; solar festivals that usually honor the God and the changing of the seasons or Wheel of the Year. Eight sabbats are celebrated in a year.
Sacred Spiral: a Wiccan symbol that represents "coming into being" - death and rebirth and the cycle of life.
Sands of Time: the sand taken from the paws of the Great Sphinx in Egypt.
Scry, to: to gaze at an object for the purpose of divination.
Scrying Mirror: a mirror painted black on one side - usually with paint or soot - used for divination purposes. Mirrors made of Obsidian are commonly used today, although silver-backed mirrors were traditional in times past.
Shaman: a spiritual healer; a walker between the worlds. Performs rituals and provides healing and guidance while bringing information to the surface to help individuals and communities.
Shamanism: the practice of shamans; usually ritualistic or magickal. Not specific to a religion, shamanic practitioners may or may not be religious.
Shields: spiritual barriers erected around one's self or one's space.
Sigil: a type of symbol; a magickally oriented seal, sign, glyph (sculptured symbol or character) or other device used in magickal workings. The most powerful ones are those that the individual makes themselves; can be used on letters, packages, clothing, paper, or tucked in one's pocket.
Simple Feast, The: meal shared in honor of the Goddess and God, usually in a ritual setting.
Skyclad: performing ritual in the nude (clad only by the sky). It is not a necessary practice to perform magick, though it is considered a sign of being truly free in Wicca.
Solitaire or Solitary: a witch who practices alone and is not or no longer associated with a specific Tradition, coven, or group.
So Mote It Be: a closing phrase meaning "so shall it be." Often used in spells and magickal workings as a way of reaffirming one's Will and that their Will will come to pass.
Spell: casting of, changing, or working with energy to obtain a specific purpose; can be non-religious and often accompanied by spoken words and other tools.
Spellcraft: art of crafting or creating and performing magickal spells.
Summerland: the place where the soul goes between incarnations; believed by some to refer to Sumeria where many beliefs and traditions may have originated.
Talisman: an object infused - or charged - with energy in order to attract a specific energy such as love, protection, or money by wearing or carrying the object.
Third-Eye: the psychic eye located in the middle of the forehead; the Chakra associated with inner vision, telepathic communication, and awareness.
Three-Fold Law: whatever one sends out, they will get back times three - send out good, get good in return; send out bad, get bad in return.
Thurible: shallow, three-legged dish used as a censer.
Tools: includes physical objects and internal processes. Ex: athame, wand, visualization, meditation, natural objects, etc.
Tradition: organized, specific sub-groups or denominations of Wicca; also used to describe practices that have been passed down generations.
Triple Goddess, The: the three main aspects of the Goddess; maiden, mother, crone.
Visualization: the forming of mental images; seeing with the inner eye.
Wand: tool used for evocations and invocations; used in place of the athame by some traditions.
Waning Moon: the phase of the moon after the Full Moon and before the New Moon; when the moon appears to be shrinking.
Warding: creating barriers and protective measures on a magickal or spiritual level. Methods differ between traditions and magickal practitioners.
Warlock: from Anglo-Saxon "waer-loga" a person who has broken their oath, specifically the oaths of the church; oath-breaker. From Old Norse "vardlokkur" a spirit singer (shaman). Synonymous in some traditions with "warrick." Like the term "witch" is being claimed for those who practice magick, this term is being claimed as a positive term for male witches. Some Witches still use this term in a derogatory or negative sense toward people - usually male - because of rumor that oaths broken referred to coven oaths.
Watchtowers, The: another name for the four elements in some traditions; earth, air, fire, water. Sometimes used in reference to the spirits of the four directions - north, east, south, west - regardless of Elemental association.
Waxing Moon: the phase of the moon after the New Moon and before the Full Moon; when the moon appears to be growing.
Wheel of the Year, the: the Wiccan calendar made up of the sabbats and esbats; ends and begins with Samhain (sow-en).
Wicca: originally spelled "Wica," taken from the root words "wicca" and "wicce" meaning "witch." A Pagan religion with spiritual roots in Shamanism and the earliest expressions of reverence of nature; influenced by ancient traditions, folklore, magical societies, and others. Followers of Wicca are also Witches.
Wiccaning: the blessing of a child; a similar concept to baptism. Wiccanings generally do not devote a child to Wicca, allowing the children to choose a religious or spiritual path for themselves as they grow and experience the world.
Wiccan Rede: "An it harm none, do as ye will!" A guideline to remind Wiccans to remain conscious and aware of the consequences and effects of every word, action, and thought; sometimes may be found with additions because of a confusion between the Credo and the Rede.
Wiccan Triad: see Triple Goddess, The
Wiccan Trinity: see Triple Goddess, The
Widdershins: counter-sunwise movement (counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere).
Witch: derived from "wicca" and "wicce"; a practitioner of witchcraft. The term itself has held negative connotations in various languages and cultures. Only in recent decades has the term in English been successfully claimed as a positive term; a result of confusing the cunningfolk for the wicca and wicce.
Witchcraft: craft of the witch; craft of magick. Many Wiccans use this term to describe their religion as Wicca was originally introduced to the world as the Religion of Witchcraft. Prior to the confusion of the cunningfolk for the wicca and wicce, witchcraft referred to supernatural acts of evil against others and the community, such as poisoning crops.
Yin: female, night, dark, cold, spirals inward, Goddess, winter; equal and opposite of Yang.
Yin-Yang: a symbol often used to express polarity and equality; reinforces the idea that one cannot exist without the other (Yin contains Yang; Yang contains Yin).
Yang: male, day, light, hot, spirals outward, God, summer; equal and opposite of Yin.
Compiled and Written by © 2003-2014 Evylyn Rose