Witchcraft is a practice of magic that encompasses many different types of activities including astrology, divination, spell casting, and spirit communication. It includes the practices of many cultures, nations and religions as well as many books and writings from ancient times. Depending upon the individual, some witches practice their power by certain belief systems, such as Shamanism, Voodoo, Wicca, or any number of other magical practices from countries and cultures all around the world.
The term "witch" has its origins in the ancient Anglo-Saxon word "Wicca", which itself is derived from the word "Wicce" meaning "wise", and ultimately from the Germanic root "Wic" meaning to "bend" or to "turn".
The witchcraft label has historically been applied to any influence on another person's body, mind, or property against his or her will (or sometimes in order to undermine the social or religious order). One of the most commonly attributed characteristics of a witch is their ability to cast a spell, which is basically the means employed to accomplish some magical action. Necromancy (the practice of conjuring the spirits of the dead for divination or prophecy, or sometimes for other purposes) is another practice which historically has been commonly associated with witches.
Throughout history, witches have faced persecution because of misconceptions about them and their practices. However, it should be stressed that the practice of witchcraft is not necessarily associated with evil or the infliction of harm, nor with diabolism (the invocation of devils), and certainly the vast majority of the participants in the contemporary revival of Neopaganism and Wicca would identify themselves as benign witches. In addition, many of the accusations of malicious witchcraft in the past have been unfounded and have sprung from irrational fears and social anxieties.
Since ancient times, there have been reports (such as those from Egypt and Babylonia) of magic believed to have the power to influence the mind, body or possessions. Malicious magic users were accused of causing disease, sickness in animals, bad luck, sudden death, impotence and other such misfortunes. Witchcraft of a more benign and socially acceptable sort was then employed to turn the malevolence aside, or to identify the supposed evil-doer so that punishment may be carried out.
Contemporary Witchcraft (Wicca)
Some modern commentators consider the malefic nature of witchcraft to be a specifically Christian projection, after sorcery came to be associated in the early Middle Ages with heresy and apostasy. It was increasingly believed that Christianity was engaged in an apocalyptic battle against the Devil and his secret army of witches, who had entered into some kind of diabolical pact. This led to the trial, execution, imprisonment, torture or banishment of tens or hundreds of thousands of people in the Late Medieval/Early Modern Europe, the vast majority of them women.
However, at the same time, there has also long existed in popular belief the concept of white witches and white witchcraft, which is strictly benevolent. Many modern Neopagans and Wiccans strongly identify with this concept, and profess ethical codes that prevent them from performing magic on a person without their request. Cunning folk (also known as white witches, unbinding witches, wise-men, wizards, sorcerers, etc.), for example, were a recognized part of British rural and urban life, as late as the 19th Century, and were well respected and considered a valued part of the community. Among the services offered by these practitioners of folk magic were protection against other witchcraft, healing, treasure hunting, fortune-telling and love spells and potions.
As an ancient craft practiced by a wide range of cultures over countless millennia witchcraft is split into various types of practices, or traditions, which are often a core part of a witch's magical powers. Some traditions in True Blood include:
Group Magic is a form of witchcraft that involves a mass of people combining their personal energy together. By doing so, the group can magnify their magical strength and perform powerful spells.
Brujería is a Latin American magical tradition that includes demonology, folk magic and various occult practices. So far brujería is a dark tradition that sacrifices living beings such as goats and uses their blood to draw malevolent spirits to do their bidding. It also contacts demons. It's unknown if there are brujos who draw power from benevolent spirits.
Theurgy is a type of magic that draws power from divine sources instead of spiritual ones. Theurgy magical purposes are for one to perfect oneself and achieve spiritual evolution though not all godly beings are exactly benevolent.