Grey Witchcraft

Illustration by Hans Holbein
      There are many types of witches in the world; kitchen witches, white witches, hedge witches, the list goes on. I am a practicing grey witch. But what exactly is a grey witch? How is she different than other types of witches? What kind of spells does she cast?
      Now, I always warn people that I do not claim to speak for all grey witches. I only speak for myself because everyone's path and practice is different. I can give you an idea of what grey witchcraft is, but I can't tell you how all grey witches practice their craft. This is because the way I practice magic may or may not be completely different than another witch.
      Some grey witches might favor the Right Hand Path, and others lean towards the Left Hand Path. Others only cast white magic spells unless the situation is dire enough to use black magic. There are some who use black magic whenever they want. There is no set code or instruction booklet for the grey witch. She really just follows her own flow, taking inspiration from whatever sources she finds helpful.

So What is a Grey Witch?

      A grey witch is essentially one who practices both white and black magic, not favoring one over the other. In essence, she is a neutral force in the world of witchcraft. The grey witch believes that the world does not work in black and white but in shades of gray, and so does she practice her craft. 
      Most people who practice witchcraft recognize natural polarities, such as good and evil, black and white, male and female, etc. Many witches will side with one of the polarities. For example white witches work with mostly beneficial magic, never harmful. Black witches will cast any number of hexes, curses, bindings, banishments, and even controversial love spells. A practitioner of grey witchcraft works between the polarities, somewhere in the middle of positive and negative.
      Perhaps the emergence of the grey witch is a response to the growing attitude of "harm none" in the witchcraft communities. It's no secret that casting a hex or cursing someone is a controversial practice among witches, especially those that follow the Wiccan Rede. White witches are sort of seen as the moral ideals of the community, and the grey witch is a relatively new force that counters this. A popular phrase among grey witches after all is "a witch who cannot harm cannot heal."

Is There "Grey Magick"?

      Yes and no. A grey witch may be less likely to chant "harm to none, nor to me; as I will it, so mote it be", but that doesn't mean she is incapable or unwilling to give blessings or perform cleansings. One could argue that there is no such thing as grey magic, only neutral spellwork that neither benefits nor brings harm. The efficacy of this is debatable. One could say that spellwork which benefits the witch while bringing harm to another is also inherently grey magic. Whether someone uses a blend of black and white magic, or performs black spellcraft and white spellcraft separately is up to the individual.
      Grey witchcraft is probably better understood not as a form of magic, but as a mindset or philosophy. The grey witch won't be the one to scorn another witch for casting a love spell or hexing an enemy. She understands and respects the merits of dark arts and has likely invoked an infernal deity or two in the past. But the grey witch isn't one to mock or dismiss the craft of the white witch either. 
      My spellwork involves both white and black magic. It may be different for other witches, and that is okay because everyone's path and practice is different. Respect is all one can ask for in this world.

Are Grey Witches Wiccan?

     Wicca is only one denomination of paganism. Not all witches are pagan just as not all pagans are Wiccan. Witchcraft, however, is not Wiccan nor pagan. It is not a religion at all, rather it is a practice. That doesn't mean witches can't be religious, in fact you can be a witch and follow any religion you want, it is even possible to be a christian witch! But a witch does not need to summon spirits, invoke deities, or call upon otherworldly entities to perform a spell. 
      A grey witch is no different than any other witch, she can follow a secular path or a theistic one. She can invoke her favorite goddess to help her out or she can cast a spell without calling on any deity at all. Many witches simply call upon the energies of the earth for their magic.
      You can be Wiccan and a grey witch if you like. There may be a conflict between grey witchcraft and the Wiccan Rede, however. Other witches might be able to reconcile this though, so again it really depends on the witch.

Are Grey Witches Solitary Practitioners?

      Whether one works alone or in a group is up to them. Perhaps some grey witches have joined a circle or were initiated into a coven. The practice of grey witchcraft requires no specific oath or creed, only an understanding of the forces at work. Should a grey witch decide to join a coven, then she might have to swear an oath or make a pact with the group.
      Just because a witch is solitary, it doesn't mean she isn't open to working with others. However, many witches prefer to work alone and there is nothing wrong with that. It is really determined by your path. Personally, I am a solitary witch. I wish I could do more group work, but there just aren't any other witches in my area. 

How Does One Become a Grey Witch?

      Anyone can become a grey witch. However, the path of the grey witch might not suit everybody. Some people aren't comfortable practicing black magic, even if the situation could use it. Before you start delving into the world of witchcraft, you should evaluate your wants and intentions. What is your reason for wanting to become a grey witch in the first place? Do you feel that it aligns with the fundamentals of grey witchcraft or does another type of witchcraft suit you better? 
      To become a grey witch, I suppose all it takes is understanding of witchcraft and knowledge of both white and black magic. Please remember to do thorough research no matter what your path may be.

Do We Really Need More Magick Colors?

      I am not a fan of identifying types of spells and magic with colors in the first place, especially since there are some historically racial connotations with "black" and "white" magic. But I will admit that it makes things a lot simpler to indicate what kind of spells are being performed by using those terms.
      The term "grey" in my opinion is not literally referring to the color gray. It is a statement to figuratively mean neutral or between the polarities of light and dark. Don't think of it as an edgy new label witches are now painting themselves with to be unique. Think of it instead as a simple way for us to let other witches know what path we follow.

Can You Identify a Grey Witch from Other Witches?

      Though historic custom dictates that witches wear traditional pointy hats and ride crooked brooms into the night sky, we don't actually have uniforms. Many witches practice their craft skyclad, meaning naked. Others like to wear ritual robes and ceremonial garb. Some simply wear their everyday clothes. 
      Grey witches are no different in this regard. Whether they go full nude, wear pointy hats, or dress the same as your average Joe, you can't specifically identify them. Perhaps some grey witches wear gray colored ritual robes while working at an altar with silver tools and a gray altar cloth, but it's safe to say that is not the case. 
      A witch's day to day clothes are a personal choice, their style could reflect their heritage, their culture, or their tradition. Witches embrace other styles too, sporting flowing folksy skirts, lacy gothic corsets, plain jeans and Tshirts, four inch heels and a club dress, etc. The choice is their own to make.

How Old is Grey Witchcraft?

      The history of grey witchcraft follows the same stream as white or black witchcraft. Most sources are lost to us today, but I did manage to dig up a few resources discussing grey witches throughout the 19th century. You can read about my findings here, but I'll give a quick summary.
      One of the oldest sources I found comes from Gleanings in England written by the clergyman Samuel Jackson Pratt in 1801. In it, he indicates the grey witch as playing a role in the Witches of Warboys witch trials around the year 1590.
      But one source that I found most interesting comes from the Household Words weekly journal, written and edited by none other than Charles Dickens in 1857. In the journal, he dedicates a section to the Witches of England, where he describes the "three classes of witches". These are, of course, the white witch, black witch, and our dear grey witch. Charles Dickens is a famous author who has produced classic works such as Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol. With a historical figure as substantial as Dickens recognizing the entity of the grey witch, there is little doubt that she is a very real part of the legacy of witchcraft.

Is Grey Witchcraft a form of Traditional Witchcraft?

      When most people think of traditional witchcraft, they imagine a highly exclusive, ancestral practice that requires some element of magical heredity. This is not to be confused with hereditary witchcraft, which is the belief that practitioners are "born" not "made". But there is no single type of traditional witch since there are numerous types of traditions in the world.
      It is important to know that a tradition begins when a witch codifies her practice or passes her practice down by sharing her knowledge with other witches. Some traditions are centuries old and are very exclusive. These tend to be family traditions, where one generation teaches their offspring witchcraft of that bloodline. Family traditions are more cultural in nature, which makes sense as all bloodlines are rooted in one civilization or another. This is why many American witches are drawn to magic of Europe, since their ancestors were mostly immigrants who came to the colonies centuries ago.
      There are also initiatory traditions in which the tradition is only taught to witches who have been initiated into that coven or circle. Initiatory traditions can vary in age. Some may have historical roots, and others may only be as old as the high priest or priestess that began the tradition.
      Social traditions are more open than family or initiatory traditions but can still hold a cultural aspect. They do not require initiation or heredity to be practiced. A social tradition can, at some point, become an initiatory or family tradition if it is taken, refined, and tailored to a specific unit of witches. Social traditions depend on the accessibility of knowledge, the exposure of perspectives, and the generosity of other witches to share their experiences.
      I personally identify Grey Witchcraft as belonging to the social tradition category. Witches who follow a social tradition may not actually think of themselves as belonging to a tradition. For most witches, especially the solitary types, they just prefer the term "path", which is their personal and private practice. It's up to you how you define traditional witchcraft, but try not to force your definition onto others.

What Kind of Resources are Available for the Grey Witch?

      To be honest, not many. You might find a brief mention of grey witchcraft in a few books, but very little in-depth discussion goes along with it. There is of course the book The Gray Witch's Grimoire by Amythyst Raine which is the only known published work created solely with the grey witch in mind. I own a personal copy of the book and recently wrote a review that you can find here. In short, I don't recommend it. If you are familiar enough with witchcraft to identify as a gray witch, then you are already too advanced for this book. Fledgling witches in general may find the work helpful, but The Gray Witch's Grimoire is best described as just another Wicca 101 book.
      Because of the lack of resources, I decided to make this blog focus on my path as a grey witch. My hope is that it helps those seeking witches find what they need to begin their journey into grey witchcraft. Though I would one day like to publish my very own book on the matter, at the moment a blog is all I have to offer. You can browse a number of posts I have written describing spells, rituals, and other intricacies that I feel represent the spirit of the grey witch. I recommend my series of posts entitled Grey Witch Guide, which are written with fledgling grey witches in mind. Here are links to the various topics I discuss that I feel are relevant to grey witchery:

  •  Introduction to Grey Magick. A general explanation of grey magick as well as things to consider that may or may not have significance to the grey witch's practice.
  • Introduction to Circle Casting. Though a rehashed topic in the witchcraft community at large, here I explain the relevance of casting a circle to grey witches and offer a simple ritual from my own tradition.
  • Spells vs. Rituals. A short look at the difference between, as well as the nuances of spellwork and Ritual work.
  • Symbols in Ritual. An intimate observation regarding the importance of personal symbolism for the grey witch. 
  • Creating Magical Text for Charms and Chants. Instruction on how to compose incantations in your own magical tongue to enchantment to your spells.
  • Three Basics of Curse Breaking. Here I briefly explore three different methods of breaking a curse that all witches should know.
  • The Importance of Anger. Using emotion as an "energetic boost" for spellwork can absolutely make your magic more potent. Here I discuss the use of anger.
  • Examen of the Witch. A self exploration and meditation ritual that grey witches can use to realign themselves on their path of balance.
  • Pathwork vs. Traditions. What is the difference between a witch's path and her tradition? This topic is explored in this post.
Most of these posts aren't really like instruction booklets for practicing grey magick, but are the personal insights of one grey witch along her path and in her tradition. The instructions that I do give are based on practices that witches new to the grey path might find helpful. If you disagree with the subject matter in these posts, or feel that it is not significant to your practice as a grey witch, that is okay because every witch is different.