If you’re wondering what witchcraft is from a practitioner’s standpoint, then:
Witchcraft is the manipulation of energy to directly change or influence a person’s life, environment, or future.
If you’re wondering what witchcraft is for from the standpoint of an overall belief system, then:
the belief in forces of nature and ancestors, exorcism of demonic forces, and a belief in the rational order of nature, balance in the universe and reality that can be influenced by human beings and their rulers, as well as spirits and gods.
This is a simplified definition of the word Witchcraft. To learn more about Witchcraft, keep reading.
In anthropological terminology, witches differ from sorcerers in that they don’t use physical tools or actions to curse; their maleficium is perceived as extending from some intangible inner quality, and one may be unaware of being a witch, or may have been convinced of their nature by the suggestion of others.
The earliest recorded use of the word (witch, witchcraft) is in the Laws of Ælfred (the king of Anglo-Saxon England), which date to about 890 CE (Common Era / After Death).
It was used in a derogatory manner by Ælfred as he focused on converting people to Christianity  and was fighting off invasion by Vikings, describing witches as unholy. The origin of the word was born out of hate and war. “Under the terms of his surrender [..leader of the Viking invasion…] Guthrum was obliged to be baptised […as Christian…] and then with his army leave Wessex.”
Witchcraft became the catch-all phrase or activity for any activity or behavior that went against ‘the Church’. Essentially, in one word able to cast a person out of society / the church (one and the same), and without this protection their worldly possessions and assets were absorbed by their community and the church. A branding so dire to a person that it could and would lead to a death sentence, depending on the time in history and the community.
Prior to 890, the practice of what is now referred to as Witchcraft had several names as ‘witchcraft’ could and did encompass any number of things that the hateful church ‘disapproved’ of and would cause a person to be cast out of society. Many more petty aspects were defined by the mob mentality but the majority of the Church issues were interchangeable with heretic (a person believing in or practicing religious heresy).
To reshape the conversation – witches and witchcraft almost always involved a power struggle against competing religions and authority.
So we wouldn’t accuse a person practicing Yoga, and yoga lone, as a witch or a practitioner of witchcraft. The same goes for a woman that uses science – we would not label her a practitioner of witchcraft because we don’t understand how a scientific marvel was performed. Instead, we focus on the root of the Church’s issue with actual Witches – those holy and wise people that had no desire to convert to a different belief.
A more accurate description that is given to most belief systems that did not conform to the highly organized Religious structures is as a ‘folk belief system’ or a folk tradition or an ethnic religion. A great example of this is in how Chinese folk beliefs have been described.
Chinese Folk Religion is described as “the veneration of forces of nature and ancestors, exorcism of demonic forces, and a belief in the rational order of nature, balance in the universe and reality that can be influenced by human beings and their rulers, as well as spirits and gods.”
How Old is Witchcraft?
The concept of witchcraft and the belief in its existence have persisted throughout recorded history. They have been present or central at various times and in many diverse forms among cultures and religions worldwide, including both primitive and highly advanced cultures, and continue to have an important role in many cultures today.
Oldest Recorded Artifacts
Venus of Willendorf sculpture – is dated to circa 28,000–25,000 BCE (Before Common Era or ‘Before Christ’), one of many hundred artifacts found after this discovery which shows totems of goddess worship and other beliefs described as ‘folk’ to undermine their cultural and historical importance.
Chinese Folk Religion is 10,000 years old.
For reference, Abrahamic religions began roughly 600 BCE or 2,600 years old. Buddhism is only 2,500 years old. Hinduism comes in still labeled as the ‘oldest religion’ even though it is only 4,000 years old. As we know, most of the religions that spread did irreparable damage by miraculously erasing as much of the belief systems of those they conquered and converted as possible, like a plague.
Hermeticism – emerged in parallel with early Christianity, based on the writings of Hermes roughly 300 BCE or 2,300 years ago.
Wicca – the youngest at less than 100 years old. Gardnerian Wicca was created in the 1954 in the United States of America, which led to the creation of Alexandrian Wicca in the 1960s by a student of Gardnerian Wicca named Alex Sanders which is a self-styled “King of Witches” originating from the UK. All forms of Wicca has Hermetic Qabalah practices, Enochian magic, and ceremonial magic (heavily styled based on the aristocratic church hierarchy and the creep of ‘bloodlines’ emphasis in a manner similar to Kings that claim direct descent of the Christian blood lineage).
Many New-Age religions that have been created in the past 5,000 years have proliferated through war, colonialism, conquest, and the lie continues into the modern day that they are the oldest, even though they have falsified their histories and mythos in an attempt to give themselves credibility and authority.
Language evolves based on people, cultures, and usage. The definitions of HFS are based on the experiences of witches that grew up with hereditary witchcraft. For that reason, many of the HFS definitions may look very different from the definitions you’ll find from those that do not practice or have a religious bias against witchcraft.