The Definition of “Witch”
The definition of a witch will defer from person to person. Lets begin with a dictionary definition of the word “witch”
a woman thought to have evil magic powers, popularly depicted as wearing a black cloak and pointed hat, and flying on a broomstick.
Damn! The dictionary does not paint a pretty picture. However that IS what the majority of people think about us witches.
Let me provide you with an alternative definition of “what is a witch”
- A witch is a weaver of the worlds- this physical one and the ‘other’.
- A witch is a catalyst for change.
- A witch draws upon ancient knowledge and techniques that date back to prehistory.
- A witch is deeply connected to the natural cycles and can control energy.
- A witch can work solo (solitary) or within a coven (formal group of close knit like-minds that follow a tradition) to weave their magic.
- A witch can follow many paths (or traditions) and have a number of areas of expertise. Not all would say they have psychic abilities (although this is common), and not all would say they work with deity (Gods & Goddesses) although the majority would.
- A witch, once dedicated (self or within a coven), takes on vows or responsibilities often including promises to serve the community which are taken very seriously.
“I don’t shy away from the word ‘witch’. Witch meant “wise one”, it meant “weaver”. We have just had a couple of thousand years worth of bad PR is all.”
Common Questions about Witches…..Answered!
Can a man be called a witch?
Both women and men are called “Witch,” and most Witches do not generally use terms such as “warlock” or “male witch” for men. Some men choose to be called warlock. It is always best to ask.
Witches can curse you
Why don’t some witches curse people?
Well one reason is what we call the “Threefold Law”. Some witches believe that what you put forward comes back to you in magnified ways in consequence.
So if I assist people ethically, I will have positive consequences come back to me. If I assist people to curse or curse myself, well I get those negative consequences back to me. I like my life- I’m happy getting all that positive energy back thanks!
Is there any occasion in which we may use curse energy?
Yes, paradoxically in healing. We may raise destructive energy to assist in removing disease from the body for example. Many pagan practitioners from many cultures in fact do this, including shamans.
Witches control your mind
Record keeping during the Burning Times and the Inquisitions was actually pretty good. There are pages and pages of legal transcripts that still exist that describe testimony of suspects who blame witches for controlling their mind and therefore their behavior. Additionally, to ensure a conviction, witch hunters often called for witnesses to a supernatural crime, and if no one came forward it was presumed that a witch was controlling the witnesses rather than that there was no real crime. It is a simple stretch to assume that if a witch can grant wishes, she could also control minds as well, and so this twisted idea of dangerous mind control entered the culture.
Witches focus your mind!
When a client comes to me with a problem it is important to firstly clarify exactly what they want rather than what they don’t.
Getting very clear about what we want, is imperative to casting an effective spell. If we aren’t sure about our purpose and intention for a spell, our end result, how can it work? Witches assist you to focus your unconscious mind on what you want, and not to take a shotgun approach. The empowering nature of The Craft allows you to gladly take personal responsibility for your actions and concentrate on creating the future that you desire without blaming others.
The image of a Witch casting a spell to control the actions of her “victims” is still a potent one today. In the past, Witches were often accused of controlling the minds of their victims and in the burning times it was easy not to choose to take responsibility for ones actions and to blame a witch for ‘making you do it’. Those accused who made confessions would blame the Devil (yes, the Devil made me do it!) which is also a breach of free will and a surrender of personal responsibility.
The idea that Witches commonly cast spells to ensure that someone falls in love with them or their client is something I deal with almost every day. By asking a Witch to assist you to make someone love you or fall in love with you again is impacting the target’s free will. It also breaches our central tenant of Harm None. I will have no part in this kind of spellcasting and neither will any other ethical practitioner.
Witches empower themselves and their clients.
One of the central guidelines of many witchcraft paths is the idea of Harm None, and by interfering with anyone’s free will, I am changing the natural way of things and enforcing my will over theirs.
Real Witches do not engage in this behavior. For example, no matter how desperate the case, I will never cast, or assist anyone to cast, a love spell that involves a specific ‘target’. Instead, I will ask the person to refocus their intention on what they want, list the attributes of the ideal partner they wish to attract, and cast for that, not a person they know. That way, no free will is being affected. If the person my client desires is in fact the person that that the Universe sees as ideal for them, the person will be attracted. Wonderful! If not, there will be someone else more suitable that will enter the scene. Wonderful! A Win/Win situation!
Witches are part of a cult
It is easy to see how it could be misunderstood that a coven is a cult. All that mind control, all that chanting and clandestine meetings. And what about all the secret magical business that no one knows about?Most witches in today’s worlds would describe themselves as solitary. This means they do not belong to a coven or to traditions that require this kind of training. Covens are groups of like minded people who come together to focus and release energy for specific purposes and to worship according to a tradition. They do not control members in any way and people are free to leave at any time.
Witches are part of a legitimate and evolving spiritual practice.
The pagan path is the oldest kind of veneration on earth. It is also a legitimate one and is recognized as such by many official channels. Wicca is officially recognized as a religion by the US military, it is included in Interfaith conferences all over the world and in Australia and UK its members are protected against discrimination on the basis of religion.
I believe that as more and more people decide that the Witchcraft is for them, the more important it becomes to educate society on what we are and what we believe. As such, I am often asked how to best ‘break the news’ to relatives or friends. My advice is always to not make this a dramatic thing. Ensure your own motivations for wishing to share what your spiritual practice is unmotivated by grandstanding or self promotion. You don’t have to wear a pentagram or tell everyone about your latest ritual to proclaim your faith. Instead, you may choose to allow the positive effects of following the Witches Way to become apparent in your life, which will become obvious to those around you. If people care about you they will be happy for positive change for you. You might also wish to give them books or literature to give them a bit of education on the subject.
Do Witches believe in God?
Yes and no. Just not the modern Abrahamic God (Jewish, Christian, or Muslim God)
We do not believe in a father-figure who lives in some place other than earth, and who rewards and punishes people. But we do use the word “god.” More often, though, we use the word “goddess.” For Witches these two words mean something very different from how people in the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim faiths use them.
The earth is the most familiar and beloved part of the universe to humans, spinning in the sky like all the planets and stars, its origins and destiny unknown and possibly unknowable. The earth is literally the source of life and when we die our bodies return to the earth, so it is through the earth that we are connected to the mystery and beauty of the cosmos. We believe that our most important lessons come from nature, since that is what surrounds us, and we are part of it. For us, the earth is sacred, meaning something to be cherished and given our highest respect, and worth dedicating our lives to protecting. We call the earth “the Mother,” and “the Goddess.”
The “God” is a very different concept; it means all that lives, grows, and dies — so that includes all plants and animals. Sometimes the sun represents the God because every year it grows bright in the summer, and fades (or dies) in the winter.
Obviously, both men and women have both God and Goddess energy in them. Many things in nature are associated with aspects of the Goddess and the God. A mountain may represent the Goddess and the power to endure, to sustain strength. A snake, which can shed its skin, also represents the Goddess and the power to transform, while an egg may represent the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. The “Horned God” refers to animals with horns and antlers–sheep, goats, deer–and represents that aspect of our own natures which is wild and untamed. The “Green One” refers to the young God, the new grasses and plants in springtime, and represents our own powers of tenderness and vulnerability as well as the miracle of rebirth and rejuvenation.
Often, Witches today call on the Goddess or the God using names that come from other historical periods, and other cultures, especially Celtic, Greek, and Roman — but some Witches also use the names of Egyptian, African, Scandinavian, Native American, Chinese, and Indian gods and goddesses. This is a very modern phenomenon, since obviously, a woman living in a small village in Scotland 500 years ago would probably not have known about the religions of these other cultures. But for modern Witches, discovering the many connected concepts in various spiritual traditions, and feeling that we are sharing an understanding of the sacredness of nature, and of spiritual power, with other cultures and other times has become a basic part of our religious life. We try to be extremely careful not to “rip off” other people’s spiritual practices: we do not imitate other religions, but we recognize that different cultures always affect each other when they come in contact, so we are open to the influence of other religions which are harmonious with ours.
Witches are satanic
Possibly the most damaging and still lingering piece of mythology is that Witches are satanic. MOST Witches do not believe in Satan. Witches do not even recognize the concept of Satan, as it is, in fact, a Christian construct and we are not Christian. Satan is a fallen angel, rules Hell, and tempts those to sin in Christian doctrine. Again, we are not Christian, so we do not buy into the idea of Satan or even the conceptualization of sin and Hell.The idea of a horned man, wildly and inappropriately sexual and evil can be traced back to the misunderstanding of the pagan masculine entity, the God. The God was the partner of the Goddess. He typically was depicted as the powerful figure of a stag, fully realized with huge protective antlers. His sheer life force was one of vitality, virility and fertility. This beautiful, inspirational, peaceful masculine face of the Divine was soon tarnished and denigrated into a horned, hoofed, sex-crazed figure by the new religion Christianity. The horned Devil was born.
Witches are Educating Society in regards to Satanic Labeling
No doubt, there are Satanists out there. Some of them may even choose to call themselves Witches. But these groups or individuals are not the majority, and they differentiate themselves from Wiccan or other pagan groups.
Although the practice of witchcraft is debatably the fastest growing spiritual practice in Australia, the UK and US, we still battle satanic stigma.
What is a coven?
A coven, or a circle, is a small group of Witches who meet regularly to practice their religion. It may be that traditionally a coven had 13 members, but nowadays it could have fewer or more. Some Traditions have strict rules about how covens are organized and others have no rules at all about this.
Some covens are all women, or all men; others are mixed. Some are hierarchical with priests or priestesses or leaders with other titles; some are lineage-based; some are affinity-based; and some make their own rules about who can join. Many covens prefer to keep their own way of doing things secret. Members of a coven often become extremely close to each other, and may consider each other as family.
Note: Black Witch Coven is our sister website, and has had an international online coven for over a decade.
With the coming of technology, you can share your coven activities with brother and sister witches around the world. – Black Witch S.