The Hearth of Arianrhod practices traditional witchcraft. In Britain, Traditional Witchcraft is a phrase used to denote the pre-Gardnerian Craft [unlike in the US, where it refers to Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca]. Witchcraft is an imprecise term that may encompass various folk magic and shamanic practices throughout the world. Although Wicca is a useful word adopted by Gardner to describe modern Goddess-centred, coven-orientated witchcraft, it has become rather devalued and diluted in recent years. Now covens working with Judeo-Christian mythology and Luciferian witches also claim the term 'Traditional Witchcraft'. To distinguish ourselves from these and from Wiccans, we have decided to adopt the term Wicce, an Anglo-Saxon word that can denote either a male or female witch.
Wicce defines a specific set of British magical practices stemming from the folk culture of people who worked close to nature, people who were farmers, peasants, blacksmiths and shamans. The roots of Pagan witchcraft are not found via Gerald Gardner, but in the cunning men, wise women and working class societies like the Horsemen and Bonemen.
If we try to look for evidence of Pagan survival in the last thousand years, we can find only fragmentary evidence of a belief in classical deities. However, we can see a consistent concern with in the multiplicity of spirits associated with place, with vegetation, and so on, and practices designed to encourage or placate them. This was unlike the intellectual approach of ritual magicians, whose work was based on the predominant religion, Judeo-Christianity, and who sought their mysticism in the Cabala, tales of the watchers and so on, rather than in the much despised working-class beliefs of Britain.
The concepts and rituals of grass-roots Pagan practice has rarely been part of the state religion, whether Christian or Classical Pagan. People who work closely with Nature have an instinctive knowledge that there is a consciousness within it, that there are spirits of vegetation that can be influenced, powers of blight and bane that can be appeased, and powers of fertility and growth that can be appealed to. Very little is known of the magical practices and rituals of ordinary people in the ancient world, though we have examples of festivals centred around the natural cycles of the year, and spells for fertility, curses and so on. These are remarkably similar to ones found as far apart as modern Africa, Victorian England, and Ancient Asia.
In Britain, witches were said to consort with fairies, spirits that the church condemned as demonic. Many, such as Isabel Gowdie, freely admitted this, and claimed that their powers were obtained from commerce with the fairies in their mounds. Such tales are found throughout Britain in the pages of the witch trial reports, and suggest that a belief in fairies was prevalent among the general population. These spirits had different names and characteristics in different parts of the country, suggesting that they were spiritual emanations of the local landscape.
Unlike Druids, who were the priests and magistrates, witches have always existed outside the establishment, separate, and not even as acceptable as the tribal shaman. They have always been considered dangerous and unacceptable.
Witches in the Wicce tradition have far more in common with the tribal shaman or the village cunning man than the ritual magician.