Ceremonial Magic vs. Folk Magic: What is the Difference?

Your Witchy Roots: Discovering Your Magical Heritage

What is ceremonial magic?  What is folk magic?  And what’s the difference?  Learn the distinction between these two broad categories and figure out where you fit on the spectrum.

Ceremonial Magic

Sometimes called high magic or ritual magic, ceremonial magic involves precise, detailed and often very elaborate rituals and spell casting formats.

Ceremonial witches often use richly layered invocation techniques with specific tools, gestures and symbols.

This form of spell craft taps deeply into Renaissance-era witchcraft and frequently draws on grimoires and spell books from this time period.

There is usually a system of progression, a clear curriculum and formal rites of passage.

Historically, these traditions tend to be secretive, exclusive and largely (though not always) dominated by men of European descent.  

Aleister Crowley, Francis Barret and Eliphas Lévi are all famous ceremonial practitioners. 

Folk Magic

Plush Love Spell Poppet

Unlike ritual magic, which generally taps its roots into Western Hermeticism, folk magic appears universally in cultures around the world.

As the name implies, folk magic is the “magic of the people.”  It differs from ceremonial magic in that it’s practiced outside the more formally educated circles of ceremonial magic.

Folk magic encompasses a much less specific, much more general classification of witchcraft.

Broadly speaking, folk magic typically addresses matters of everyday or practical concern.  Love spells, spells to find lost objects, healing magic and even magic to bring rain or an abundant harvest fall under this category.

It includes folk healers, magical herbalism, sympathetic magic, and many other techniques.

It often borrows from many sources, and it evolves wildly over time.  Its origins are sometimes known, and sometimes completely lost.

Folk magic may or may not call on the aid of a specific deity. 

Sometimes, it crosses from one tradition to another (for example, from a regional pagan tradition to Christianity or vice versa).

But it is usually connected to a particular culture, or a group of related cultures.

Where they overlap.

Despite their differences, ceremonial magic and folk magic do overlap, and sometimes, the line is blurry.  

But for the most part, the most common forms of magical tradition fall under the heading of folk magic.

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re a ceremonial witch, you probably know it.  It’s kind of hard to break into a secret society without being aware of it.

On the hand, folk magic is so pervasive in cultures all over the world, you may actually be unaware of it, or not even think of it as witchcraft.

Folk magic is your grandmother’s home remedy for chest colds, it’s the rabbit’s foot on your keychain, it’s the horseshoe hanging over the threshold, it’s the salt you sprinkle on your windowsill to keep negative entities on the other side.

Which one is better?

The best magic is the magic that fits your spiritual life, and that you have access to.

Fancy orders and formalized systems of learning provide structure, but so does a casual moon circle of experienced practitioners willing to teach you the ropes.

And, if you’re a solitary practitioner, committing to a comprehensive witchcraft education on your own may be the best option to suit your needs and lifestyle.

Moody Moons School of Metaphysical Arts offers online courses in magical herbalism, beginning witchcraft, potion making and more!

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