What is a Witch?
A hunched figure crouched over a cauldron stirring a mysterious brew in the midst of a kitchen cluttered with herbs, lotions and potions and all manner of unidentifiable items. The ceiling dangling with bunches of herbs drying and a roaring fire in the hearth. Is that a witch?
What about the green skinned hag, cackling to herself as she rides up into the skies on her broomstick having just pushed a couple of children into her oven. Is that a witch?
How about a bare foot waif of a girl (or boy) with long flowing hair adorned with flowers who sings as she/he dances over the meadows wearing tie dye clothes. Is that a witch?
A gypsy sitting in her caravan complete with headscarf and gold hoop earrings gazing deeply into her crystal ball? Is that a witch?
Teenagers wearing dark clothes, striped tights and black lipstick and heavy eyeliner dabbling with candles and skulls. Is that a witch?
The girls from Charmed dressed in skimpy outfits throwing fire balls at demons. Is that a witch?
From fairy tales to Hollywood
Sheesh…from fairy tales to Hollywood and everything in between we have some pretty interesting ideas of what a witch is and most of them completely and utterly wrong. Although I do have bunches of herbs hanging in my kitchen…and I own a cauldron and striped tights…
I think, and bear in mind this is my own personal view that there are a HUGE number of variations of what being a witch is. A real witch that is rather than a fairytale/Hollywood creation. The pagan umbrella covers so many different pathways and variations of those same pathways. At the end of the day each person is an individual and each journey will be very personal and different for everyone.
Down to basics
When you get down to basic details what makes a witch? In fact what makes someone a pagan? I think the common dominator to it all is … nature…probably…but not always…see how difficult this is?
But then should there be a common dominator? We are all individual and we are most certainly all unique, each and every one of us. But we do like our labels…
The problem with trying to put labels on paganism is that it covers so many different pathways. And within those pathways so many more individual journeys.
Just within witchcraft there are hundreds of different ‘trouser legs of reality’ (the term is blatantly stolen from the amazing Sir Terry Pratchett). I am a Witch and quite often referred to or refer to myself as a Kitchen Witch. But does that cover it all and what on earth is a Kitchen Witch anyway? Believe me I get asked that a lot.
Then I question why I feel the need to put myself in a neat little box with a precise label on. Generally I fight against being compartmentalised…and I think it is a combination of several things:
A lot of people like to feel part of something, they like to fit into a set or group and some people feel the need for a certain and definite identity. It doesn’t suit everyone but I am trying to justify why I feel the need to put myself in a category.
Perhaps it is because there are so many branches to paganism. Maybe giving yourself a label helps others to understand a little bit about your personal pathway.
Perhaps it makes me an Eclectic Witch but I am not sure about that word. Eclectic sounds to me like a term to cover ‘anything else left over’ a bit like being a Miscellaneous Witch…although I do quite like the sound of that. Although one lovely lady spoke to me after my talk at Witchfest a couple of years ago and suggested I call myself a ‘cocktail witch’. This is a fabulous idea including paper umbrellas and plastic monkeys on the side…
Strip it all down and basically I am a Witch, does the flavour actually matter?
And boil it down even further and essentially I am ME…which is the most important thing.
Essentially my personal pathway is a collection of bits and pieces that I take from each new pathway I learn about. I am made up from pagan flotsam and jetsam. But what I have created is my very own unique and individual journey and that is how I like to work, it is mine and it works for me.
Witchcraft is my way of life it is who I am and how I live each day. It is a journey of self discovery, learning, growth and a very beautiful and rewarding way of life. Based upon reverence for nature, respect for all life and the planet that we live on.
Although I work with the Goddesses and the Gods, both entities of the great All. And I believe we all carry a part of the Goddess within us not all witches or pagans will have the same beliefs. The true explanation of deity is held within each of our own hearts whether it is in the form of the Goddess, Mother Earth, Father Sky, universal spirit or ‘the force’…
There are many witchcraft branches, and they are most definitely not a ‘one size fits all’: Kitchen Witch, Hedge Witch, Green Witch, Hereditary, Wiccan, Gardenerian Wiccan, Alexandrian Wiccan, Dianic, Seax Wiccan, Fairy Witch. Add to that the other pagan (I use the term pagan for wont of a better collective word) pathways: Shamanic practices, Ceremonial, Heathen, Hellenic, Stregheria, Cabot, Greco-Roman…the list goes on!
And then there are those that don’t want or feel the need for any kind of label. And I have met a lot of lovely people that follow a very similar path to mine, but would never dream of calling themselves a Witch or anything else.
At the end of the day if the pathway you follow works for you. If it fills you with joy, if it leads you to discover yourself and how to create a truly wonderful life then do it.
I know some camps believe Paganism to be the religion and Witchcraft to be the practice but personally I believe that being a witch is my faith, my religion and what I practice…that’s all three then.
For me my pathway is that of a witch and I work with the gods from various pantheons, I work with spirit and energy, healing, herbalism, spell work and all the usual witchy jazz. But I also live my daily life as a witch; what I do, how I live, what I am all follows the journey of a witch.
Perhaps it is a very personal definition, there are those that practice witchcraft but don’t work with the gods, there are those that work with the gods but don’t work with magic or spells. Does it make witchcraft less of a faith?
I am not Wiccan, I am a Witch one that follows the pathway of a Kitchen/Hedge Witch and a lot of that is perhaps more informal and less structured but I still work with rituals and spells. They are often more likely to be on the spot and impromptu but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful, important or successful.
When asked by a stranger what my religion is I usually say ‘Pagan’ but only because ‘Witch’ often gets misunderstood and either laughed at or stepped back from. Pagan is a more familiar term when it comes to religion it seems. If I am talking to someone face to face I can gauge their reaction and often go on to say I am a Witch because I see Witchcraft as my religious pathway.
I don’t believe there is a definitive answer, I honestly think that it is a personal thing. Each and every one of us walks a different pathway and our journeys will be unique and very individual. In my humble opinion none of us has the right to judge another for how they practice, what they believe in or what they call it.
You don’t need a label…just be YOU.
If you would like to watch the replay of my talk, click the link below: