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This blog is all about all the things that make me up. I am a Mother, I am a Pagan Witch, I am a Wife, I am a homemaker, I am a student, I am Spiritual, I am a Teacher, I am Liberal Hippie, I am a Voter, and I am extremely opinionated! Plan to see it all! If you don't like what you see, feel free to leave! However, chances are, if you stick around, you'll find more to love than hate!

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Why Witch?

Why call yourself a witch?
Why not come up with a more PC term?
Why work to "reclaim" a title with such negativity attached?
Why not use a term that separates yourself from fictional witches?

These are the questions I hear most often when the idea of using the term Witch comes up.  People on both sides of the issue tend to find themselves feeling uncomfortable with the images the title brings to mind.  For hundreds of years a simple mention of the word could lead to prison, torture and death, and now, there seems to be an explosion of witches - popping up all over the place proud to scream with their new found freedom...

But why not find another more widely acceptable term?  People all over the world still equate witches and witchcraft with devil worship, evil deeds, murder and misfortune.  And a great many in the "western world" don't believe witches exist at all, they equate witches with fictional beings from movies and stories and assume that anyone taking the title is either delusional or just plane crazy. Those who do believe Witches are real, tend to lean way to far towards what they were taught in Sunday School.  I've been accused of doing everything from small animal sacrifice to ritual sex with demons, the ideas that people have sometimes blow my mind!

So why, when the term Witch conjures up such images do we not just all get together and pick a new title? Why not go with "Wise Woman" or "Cunning Man" or some other more static term?  Well, some do. But as a whole, the reason is the same reason Muslims don't come up with new or different names for their faith or practices, even though there is an ever growing amount of fear, anger and hatred aimed towards all things Islam.  We are Witches!  Why should we come up with new or different names for ourselves just because other people aren't happy with the one we have?

There is a line in Lady Isadora's Witch that makes this point very well, and possibly a large part of the reason it's one of my favorite songs. The line says  "Like a Jew in Nazi Germany, I don't define my name to suit the Master Plan."  This is an idea that I have heard over and over again when speaking with other Witches on this subject.  Just because what you are may not be popular, you are who you are, so love it!

As witches we are powerful.  We literally have the power to change the world when we come together.  Going in to hiding, literally or figuratively, only weakens us - as individuals and as a group.

But why use the word "Witch" in the first place? Where does it come from? Like most words in our modern American-English language, the word Witch has numerous origins and many meanings.  According to my Etymology Dictionary, the word Witch comes from the Old English "Wicce" meaning female magician or sorceress. However, additional research on the origins of the modern term "Witch" shows connections to the Saxon "Wych" meaning "to bend or shape", the Indo-European root word "Wic" or "Weik" which also mean "to bend or shape", and the Germanic "Wit" which means "to know."  Most clearly there is a connection to the terms Wicca (male) and Wicce (female) which means "a person who Devines information."

So we are left with a term with meanings ranging from "one who devines" to "one who bends or shapes" to "one with knowledge" to "magician or sorceress."  Put all of that together and you end up with a rather accurate definition of today's (and yester-years) witch.  A person who strives for both spiritual and earthly knowledge. A person who gains the ability to create change to match their will. And while terms like Magician and Sorceress are not equal to Witch, they are, as they have always been, in the same family from both a literal and a linguistic stand point.

Why then, when we have a word so well fitted to who and what we are, would we attempt to come up with something "better?" It seems to me, instead of trying to change or create a new title to fit who we are, we should be focusing on correcting the misconceptions that are out there about who witches are.  ALL of the issues surrounding the use of the term Witch, come from common misconceptions and myths.  For the most part, these come from religious teachings and propaganda from Non-Pagan religious groups and a misunderstanding of what Witchcraft really is - especially from those who's only exposure is television or movies.

For a great deal of history, and continuing on today in some parts of the world, the term Witch has held a negative meaning.  It's lead to the death of Millions of men, women and children on EVERY continent of the world (with the exception of Antarctica, which has no cultural population).  Looking at the political basis for these murders we see motivations ranging from religious prejudice to gender inequality.  Never though, not historically nor in modern times, were these victims ever murdered due to what we would now see as criminal behavior.  They were (and are) most commonly innocent people swept up in the hysteria caused by the torture and fear of others.  For those few who were/are arrested because of their actions rather than false accusations, charges range from preforming folk cures, treating illness or injury without a license, midwifery, and possibly being a non-Christian.

What we need to remember is that most of what we now term "Witchcraft"  was common place in the homes of pre-modern era homes.  Farming & Gardening was done by the moon and in tune with the seasons.  Medicine was herbal and holistic, because there were no other options.  Food prep, cleaning, curing, harvesting and most other day to day activities were done in ways we would now term as "magickal" - often complete with chanting, praying, humming and dancing - because it was the best way to ensure they were done the way they were "supposed to be."  And people looked to nature for the answers to their problems, because only there could they find answers.  In a sense, ALL men & women through the "Burning Times" were Witches by today's standards, they went through their lives completely focused on the tasks they had at hand, putting all their energy in to making tomorrow happen. But the fact still stands, NONE of them were witches by the definition that they are held against.  There were, and never have been, demonic brides, murdered babies, killer familiars, poisoned cattle, suckling of the Devil or any of the other erroneous charges which were used.

Now, you may wonder, why bring up such a dark history? Isn't that even more reason not to use the term today?  Do we really want to be lumped in with millions of tortured and murdered people?  Well, in fact, most (I can't say all) of us are happy to be lumped in with millions of wronged souls.  To me, to avoid using the term Witch just because it lumps me in with victims of religious and political hate crimes not only gives credence to the charges they faced, but also shows a great disrespect for their lives in general.  These are people who were often targeted because what they were doing challenged either the Church or the Political agenda of the day.  Just as, a great many of today's modern Witches & Witchcraft Religions do.  It's our duty to ensure that what happened (and is happening) doesn't continue to happen.  It's our responsibility to stand up for Witches, their associated faiths, and for the Earth and her people, to have our voices heard because theirs were silenced.  Avoidance of the word Witch, simply because of the images it may conjure only further denies them their voices, as well as partly silences ours.

So you see, it's not just about not wanting to change. It's not about an inability to find a new or different term.  Instead, it's about being proud of who we are and proud of where we have come from.  As witches we all share a common history, an unbroken lineage that has come to us from the most ancient of times. It's had it's dark days, and now, we are standing tall in the light.  To disregard our history, our ancestry, our heritage would be to break our ties with one another and with everything it means to be a witch in the first place!

So regardless of how it's seen by others - I am a Witch!  I am proud!

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