Let's talk about Witches. It's a popular topic these days. I'm noticing that I have a strong reaction to how younger women are using the word and I'm curious about why that is. I have a great respect for words and names, I believe they have their own power (although I'm not sure if I think this is a good or bad thing), so I try to be careful about how I use them.
My first version of Witch was the typical childhood fairy tale bad gal. The black pointy hat, the hooked nose, wild hair, broom, cat, and warts. Always the warts. I was given a Pelham puppet when I was about five - love those things - and it was this one. I was never quite clear on why she had green skin but the rest of it I accepted without question. Remember, this was in the days before The Blessed Jo Rowling and all who followed in her footsteps, making Witches and Wizards cool for little kids.
Later I learned more about the terrible hunts of the 17th Century and my internal image of a Witch became more that of a persecuted wise woman who was 'probably just a herbalist', and more than likely 'a bit gobby'. Next up, in my New Age years, was an awareness of Wicca and the feeling that only practitioners of that should be called Witches. This was happily superimposed with the wondrousness of the Buffyverse, The Craft, Charmed and (*puts hand on heart* *sighs*) Practical Magic.
I discovered the concept of hedgewitchery only in the last few years and found that I could really identify with it. I've dabbled in various versions of earthcentric faiths and practices but always ended up going solo and patching together my own way, so hedgewitchery kinda fits. I have a 'We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn*' t-shirt and when I wear it, I mean it.
Ack tho. 'Witch'. Does that not make me sound like some teen emo who likes to play dress-up and drone on about how 'different' she is, along with a dozen friends who look exactly the same? I just recoil from it because grow up.
But I listen to a lot of podcasts and a lot of the more spiritual of them are hosted, and guested, by women who are anything from 20 to maybe 32, 33. Their experience with the word Witch is different. Not to say they aren't aware of the history because mostly they are well-read, intelligent women who are curious about their roots, but it's just different. Maybe it's the post-New Age culture. The way the world is more open to the esoteric and what used to be 'alternative'. It's no longer something to be hidden; it's cool. And suddenly everyone's a Witch. Meditate? Witch. Like plants? Witch. Essential oils? Witch. Believe in spirit? Witch. Candles? Witch. Yesterday I heard someone describe Jesus as 'The Grand Poobah of Witches".
My knee jerk reaction was WTF? (That's pretty much my 'go to' reaction for anything these days.) Then I caught myself and asked why. The word Witch has evolved and if young women are reclaiming and celebrating it, is that wrong? Of course not.
I'm still not ready to embrace it myself though, however fitting it may be. I bought domains based on hedgewitch. Can't bring myself to use them. I love the whole hedge/edge thing with all my tree-hugging heart and I'm very comfortable there but the W word? Not yet. Maybe never. It just feels disrespectful on the one hand, and childish on the other. I wish it didn't. Also, if I'm as honest as I promised I would be, I feel excluded (by myself) because I'm not young and hot anymore. I don't look like the Instagram Witches. I know that's crazy, but it's true.
Do you have feelings and/or experience around identifying as a Witch? Have you found your way into peace with it? I'd love to know your thoughts.
*Pedantics Corner: when people rewrite that as 'We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren't able to burn' it makes me want to scream. READ IT OUT LOUD. Where's the rhythm?! Oy. I know. I'm that petty.