Religion is constantly evolving, especially in recent years. As far as religious preferences go, it’s more common for people to practice magic than go to some form of church. Many of these religions are under the neo-paganism class of religions. Neopaganism is an umbrella term for multiple neopagan religions such as (but definitely not limited to) Wicca, Jainism, and Heathenry, as well as many others. Typically, neopagan religions are polytheistic, meaning that the followers tend to believe in more than one deity.
This recent trend may be because of the Harry Potter craze beginning in the late 1990s or because neopaganism appeals to those with a deeper connection to the natural world. The reasons are as varied as for those who follow any other kind of religion, but spiritual fulfillment must be key. Some people find it more fulfilling to cast bones into a fire or read tarot cards to determine the trajectory of their career path, rather than get such advice from the clergy. There is much to say about a life following one of the many paths under the neopagan umbrella, a life in many cases devoted to the practice of magic. Perhaps one of the most interesting paths of neopaganism is death witchcraft.
What is Death Witchcraft?
Death Witchcraft, not to be confused with necromancy, has varying definitions within its own following. One definition is that death witchcraft is a spiritual practice that centers on working with the dead and honoring the spirits of the deceased. It is a spiritual practice that draws the focus on death’s ultimate power over the natural world, coming to terms with both the practitioner’s personal death and the death of everything else. Death witchcraft also focuses on non-physical deaths that happen during a person’s life, and practitioners work with the deceased to heal them and receive help in magical manifestations in return.
History of Death Witchcraft
Death witchcraft is trickier than most forms of witchcraft to pin down historically due to its obscurity and just how infrequently practitioners are found. Witchcraft in and of itself has a complicated story and a rich history that goes back to pre-Christian times. Like most forms of neopaganism, death witchcraft is relatively modern in the realm of religious and spiritual practices.
The earliest accounts of witchcraft in Europe began with the witch hunts in the 1500s, but witches were around before then. Death witchcraft is a branch that was allowed to surface after some time, particularly after witchcraft’s revival in the 20th century when it was termed Wicca by Gerald Gardner. This set the tone for what witchcraft and Wicca would be seen and practiced as today.
Although the practices used in death witchcraft mimic some of the more common forms of witchcraft, which in turn are modeled to their best of their ability from the pre-Christian practices, it is still difficult to trace the exact origins of this particular branch of witchcraft. Regardless, its impact has been felt by many.
Common Spells, Themes, and Rituals
Like many other paths of witchcraft, Death Witchcraft comprises many spells, incantations, and rituals associated with it. Some of the practices can be very similar, but the difference between Death Witchcraft, as opposed to all other forms of witchcraft, is that, you guessed it, the associated items are linked to death in some way.
Many death witches or warlocks connect with deities of death from all over the world. A common Death Witchcraft patron god is Thanatos from Greek Mythology, but there are many more with which to practice death magic. Other gods and goddesses often include Anubis from the Egyptian pantheon, Yama from Hindu Mythology, and Meng Po from Chinese Mythology.
Death Witchcraft, like many other forms of witchcraft, incorporates many physical elements into this spiritual practice. In spell casting, many items from the natural world are used to promote and strengthen access to the dead. Like most other forms of witchcraft, Death Witchcraft utilizes the five elements of air, earth, fire, water, and spirit. Some of the materials that are more common in Death Witchcraft that can be seen in other forms of witchcraft are white sage*, sea, or black salt. They also use geodes like obsidian, labradorite, hematite, or smoky quartz. Tarot cards, pendulums, or spirit boards are other common items used by Death Witchcraft, as well as general witchcraft, practitioners.
There are more tools that are quite unique to Death Witchcraft that other forms of witchcraft do not often use. Bones are very common tools used in Death Witchcraft, but skulls in particular are more common among death practitioners because they are useful for summoning and conjuring. They are even used as a way to keep a person from grinding their teeth at night.
Other tools used in Death Witchcraft and general witchcraft can be found in nature or even around the house. Shells, especially those of snails or seashells, are great for bone-throwing rituals. Blood is also a common physical tool to use during death magic rituals, but in some cases using bloodstone, nail clippings, or saliva can be a sufficient substitute. There are even specific places and times that work well for spell castings, such as dusk or dawn.
Honoring and healing the deceased is at the heart of every Death Witchcraft spell or ritual. There is much to learn about a spirituality that embraces death and uses it as a means for self-improvement and a connection to the natural world, this article only scratches the surface on the life-changing benefits of following this spiritual path. Practices in Death Witchcraft tie the balance already prevalent in nature: the balance between life and death as part of the cycle of existence.
Death Witchcraft is not for everyone, but it does draw someone closer to the themes associated with death, namely that our time on Earth is both undetermined and finite. Practicing Death Witchcraft can help some practitioners come to terms with their own death in a way that other religions and spiritual paths might not.
* If you are not an Indigenous American, purchasing white sage, Palo Santo, and other sacred herbs is not only a form of cultural appropriation but its commodification is also exploitative and harmful to Indigenous communities. Instead, we recommend these easy alternatives to white sage for smoke cleansing and smudging.