Something that I realised early on when learning Russian were the different words Russians would use where an English speaker would just say magic:
The first word I came into contact with was волшебство and the associated волшебник ("wizard") and for a while I thought it was the only was to say magic in Russian. Then I learned about колдовство and колдун / колдунья. Upon searching further, I came upon чародейство and чародей and began wondering how come there are so many words in Russian for describing what I considered to be the same thing.
Regarding волшебство, I couldn't help but see a relation to воля, "will", suggesting that a волшебник employs supernatural methods to do his will or project his will onto others. I looked up the etymologies of the words and saw that волшебство is actually related to the older волшба and ultimately волхв, which seems to be a word for magus. Further research revealed that волхвы were priests or shamans of some sort, associated with pre-Christian religions and therefore being accused of witchcraft and persecuted during Christian times.
I couldn't find any material on the connotations of волшебство in contemporary usage, however. Is it a more negative word or maybe neutral?
Kолдовство, on the other hand, seems to be derived from an earlier word with connotations of speech or tongue, as is clear when examining the Lithuanian cognate kalba (language/tongue) or even the Latin calō (I call). A Proto-Indo-European root for this could be *kele- ("to shout"). This implies that using this word has a connotation of speech, perhaps referring to "magic" done by incancation or, by a wider definition, charisma and the power to influence people.
Finally, чародейство and чары, roughly translating to "magical means" or "charms" (cognate?) has a connotation of action, as opposed to magic by influence, perhaps referring to a more concrete, evident type of magic, as opposed to magic of a mysterious, mystical type. An interesting dimension to this word is given, however, by its cognated in other languages (Slavic or not). For example, Vasmer's etymological dictionary identifies various cognates of чара: Avestan čārā (средство, "means") and Lithuanian kẽras (колдовство, "magic"). The Proto-Indo-European root seems to be *kʷer- ("to do", "action").
Having outlined some of my impressions and theories, I now turn to the native speakers of Russian to ask: what are the finer connotations of each of these words? Are some of them more negative than others? And how would a native speaker use them in conversation or choose between them?
Also, there might be words meaning magic I might have missed. If so, I would be curious to learn them.