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Author Topic: The term 'Witch'  (Read 11250 times)
FunkyDemon
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« Topic Start: July 23, 2007, 02:04:16 pm »


I know that there are some people on here that have been in Wicca for a long time (the beginning?).  I have been wondering why they would choose to call themselves a witch?  Wicca was created in the last century so they could have used any term to describe themselves, but they chose a word that already had negative connotations.  Now they spend all there time defending themselves.  "We are not evil."  "Not that kind of witch." etc.  Just saying 'Wiccan' should have been fine.  Nice, obscure, had no prior baggage.  I've even seen references to a whole debacle with BTW fighting that "we are the one, true witches, all others are posers" so that people decided to call themselves Wiccan to avoid it (and now they are on the "we are the one, true Wiccans, all others are posers").

Wouldn't it just have saved time and energy if they didn't try to redefine or clean the rep of the term 'witch' in the first place?

Any history on the decision to use the term 'witch'?

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« Reply #1: July 23, 2007, 03:16:09 pm »

I know that there are some people on here that have been in Wicca for a long time (the beginning?).  I have been wondering why they would choose to call themselves a witch?  Wicca was created in the last century so they could have used any term to describe themselves, but they chose a word that already had negative connotations.  Now they spend all there time defending themselves.  "We are not evil."  "Not that kind of witch." etc.  Just saying 'Wiccan' should have been fine.  Nice, obscure, had no prior baggage.  Wouldn't it just have saved time and energy if they didn't try to redefine or clean the rep of the term 'witch' in the first place?

I dont know for sure, but this is why I do it.  I am not wiccan btw, tho I did look into it at one time, and think it is a great thing, just not "For me".

I am a witch.  Plain and simple.  I think because it resonates within my soul.  I live and breathe it, I was born to it.  It is me.  I think also there is something to reclaiming the word, validating those who lived and died because of being branded one.  I think for me, it also has a past life connotation.  I was accused of it, not only in past lives, but in this one!  But in a negative sense.  As in a devil worshipping evil thing in their mind's eye.   Which I am NOT.   I am saying, I am a witch, but that is a GOOD thing.  Thumbing my nose who put me down for who and what I am.  I am me, and that includes full out, being a witch. 

Perhaps it is because saying I am Wiccan, and it is this newfangled religion, makes people raise their eyebrows, and say, oh new cult huh?  Whereas if they tie it to something ancient it gives it credibility.  If it is old it is worth more?  Carries more weight.

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« Reply #2: July 23, 2007, 03:34:07 pm »

I am a witch.  Plain and simple.  I think because it resonates within my soul.  I live and breathe it, I was born to it.  It is me.  I think also there is something to reclaiming the word, validating those who lived and died because of being branded one.

I've had similar questions.  Thank you for sharing your own beliefs.  It seems to have cleared some of them up for me.  I think reclaiming is the most significant term you brought up.  There seems to be a trend (especially in feminism) of reclaiming words that have developed negative connotations.  Words representing objects and ideas that are not "bad," only wrongly represented.  The only one that comes to my mind is the erotic, but there are many more. 

So thank you again for helping me to understand.  What I get now is that it may have been easier to come up with an entirely new name or term, "witch" has more meaning (as you say, "weight") and is worth working hard to preserve.   
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« Reply #3: July 23, 2007, 03:37:34 pm »

Wouldn't it just have saved time and energy if they didn't try to redefine or clean the rep of the term 'witch' in the first place?

Any history on the decision to use the term 'witch'?

Part of it is reclaiming words - see any number of terms common within the GLBT community, for example.

But a lot of it is - I *am* a witch. I even identify myself that way to non-Pagans (though usually people who already know me somewhat well, and have a good baseline for me. Otherwise, I start with different phrasing, and move towards "I tend to identify myself as..." later in the conversation.)

Why do I not use Wiccan? Because my personal use of the word tends to a strict definition which I don't meet. (Initiatory mystery witchcraft tradition, yes. Lineage to the New Forest area? Not so much. And by definition, some different practices and focus, which is the part that really matters.)

What I also am, however, is a big believer in the power of words. There are times I use 'witch' precisely because it jars people. There are times I use it because it echos the power of both sides (the idea that you must be able to heal *and* hex, because knowledge of one requires knowledge of the other.) Using it is partly a way to keep myself honest: recognising that my choices carry a great deal of consequence, and I need to use them appropriately. 

Honestly, in discussions, I've had far less need to do the "Not evil" as the "Not the fantasy-book version" (though most people I'm likely to talk to are thoughtful and sensible, and recognise that in general.) And, really, that latter one is just as bad with Wicca, these days (due to various mass-media uses of the term, and a lot of pop-witchy stuff), so I'd end up doing just as much explanation if I did use 'Wiccan' - plus then having to do further explanation of why I don't use that term about myself anyway. Witch saves me a step or two.
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« Reply #4: July 23, 2007, 04:11:33 pm »

Wouldn't it just have saved time and energy if they didn't try to redefine or clean the rep of the term 'witch' in the first place?

I don't think it's really that different from us using the term Heathen, which is and was also seen in quite a negative light. There's no convincing linguistic or other evidence that "wiccecraeft" was always seen in an entirely negative way in pre-Christian times really (though it definitely became viewed that way in later times). Norman Cohn in his "Europe's Inner Demons" seems to think that "witches" were persecuted by the heathen continental saxons, but the term in the latin text he's drawing from is actually "strige/strix", and we don't know if this is an entirely  valid gloss for old english "wicce" or OHG "wikkerie". I think there might have been a gradual shift in meaning of the term after the conversion.

The way the term "wiccecraeft" is used in anglo-saxon homilies and law codes from the conversion period in England seems to suggest more mantic arts such as foretelling and necromancy, with one ref linking it to various methods of healing children. "Wiccecraeft" in those texts would appear to be being prohibited not necesarily because it is intentionally harmful to the community per se, but because it is "heathenship" as one law code states (and by that token, presumably threatening to the community's "spiritual health" in the church's view).

I don't therefor see why we shouldn't use it in the modern day, and am personally quite fond of it, but do take issue with the appropriation of it by any one group who would claim it as solely "theirs". For me it is a term describing a set of arts forming a craft , not a religion per se. It therefor could be used by a variety of individuals nowadays, both pagan/heathen and otherwise.

« Last Edit: July 23, 2007, 04:30:33 pm by Gemyndig » Logged

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« Reply #5: July 23, 2007, 04:37:07 pm »

Here's an interesting piece on the term "witch" from an online etymological dictionary which appears to be quite well referenced:-

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=witch&searchmode=phrase

(hope it's ok to post links like this btw! Smiley)
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« Reply #6: July 23, 2007, 05:01:04 pm »



Links are generally fine.  We only have a problem with unsolicited advertising - ie spam.  If you want to, for example, link to your business because you think members might be interested, email the hosts for permission.

That said, if in future you think you *might* be breaking a rule, it may be best to check the rules, or pm/email a member of staff to check first.  Smiley
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« Reply #7: July 23, 2007, 05:15:45 pm »

That said, if in future you think you *might* be breaking a rule, it may be best to check the rules, or pm/email a member of staff to check first.  Smiley

Ok, will do! Smiley
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« Reply #8: July 24, 2007, 09:03:25 pm »

I know that there are some people on here that have been in Wicca for a long time (the beginning?).  I have been wondering why they would choose to call themselves a witch?  Wicca was created in the last century so they could have used any term to describe themselves, but they chose a word that already had negative connotations.  Now they spend all there time defending themselves.  "We are not evil."  "Not that kind of witch." etc.  Just saying 'Wiccan' should have been fine.  Nice, obscure, had no prior baggage.  I've even seen references to a whole debacle with BTW fighting that "we are the one, true witches, all others are posers" so that people decided to call themselves Wiccan to avoid it (and now they are on the "we are the one, true Wiccans, all others are posers").

Wouldn't it just have saved time and energy if they didn't try to redefine or clean the rep of the term 'witch' in the first place?

Any history on the decision to use the term 'witch'?



Not all witches are wiccans.
I'm sure we have some christian witches here.
And some non religious witches as well.
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« Reply #9: July 24, 2007, 11:54:33 pm »


Any history on the decision to use the term 'witch'?


If I recall correctly, the word taken to it's beginnings means "wise one" or "wise woman." Witches were originally *healers* who would deal in potions and poultices much like shamans and witch doctors still do in tribal areas of South America (I use South America here as an example because I have a prime interest in the cultures of the tribes of South America).

The word itself was then taken, adapted, twisted and changed to serve a purpose, much as many words which are today considered "offensive" by some have done over the years. The meaning of words change with time. I could cite a few, but the words are *so* offensive that I'm afraid that people would become upset with me, even if my intentions are innocent.

One also needs to keep in mind that through the world's history (or the history of civilization) there have been many religious wars, one religion attacking another. I don't believe that there is any (root) religion that is entirely innocent of this, if one considers the Romans as the root of modern paganism (yes, I know that it really isn't, but that's not my point here). The Bible itself speaks of the Jews fighting against the Egyptians (though things were quite two-sided there!). There were the Crusades, Jihad, etc... It's always been this way, and it will probably go on for a very long time into the future.

Through these fights, these wars, some words have taken on a different meaning. The word "pagan" by itself has negative connotations for some, even though the word means "country dweller." And the word "witch" is obviously no exception.

To take a word upon oneself that effectively means "wise" and "healer" is not something unusual. Who among us doesn't want to be wise, and isn't healing an honorable profession?

Usually, I only call myself "witch" anymore among those who I know understand, and I no longer know that I necessarily think of myself as a "witch" because I've strayed so far in the past year and a half or so (nearly losing my own faith) due to certain circumstances in my life which led me down a path I don't even want to talk about. Should I reach that point again, I will consider using the term again, because of what it means, and the feeling that it evokes in me (if not in others).
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« Reply #10: July 25, 2007, 01:08:25 pm »

Wouldn't it just have saved time and energy if they didn't try to redefine or clean the rep of the term 'witch' in the first place?

Any history on the decision to use the term 'witch'?

I'm use witch, because that's what I am. I'm not Wiccan so why would I call myself something I'm not?

Actually it's the guys in the house who are most likely to bring the matter up with other people - I swear they're almost proud of it... both of them! Roll Eyes
As for other people generally, if they want to have a conniption over the word, let them.
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« Reply #11: July 25, 2007, 01:23:40 pm »

Wouldn't it just have saved time and energy if they didn't try to redefine or clean the rep of the term 'witch' in the first place?

It was my understanding that Wicca and Witchcraft were two separate religions with different meanings, rituals, aspects, etc.
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« Reply #12: July 25, 2007, 01:46:49 pm »

It was my understanding that Wicca and Witchcraft were two separate religions with different meanings, rituals, aspects, etc.

They are two separate, if related, things. Smiley
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« Reply #13: July 25, 2007, 03:06:27 pm »

I know that there are some people on here that have been in Wicca for a long time (the beginning?).  I have been wondering why they would choose to call themselves a witch?  Wicca was created in the last century so they could have used any term to describe themselves, but they chose a word that already had negative connotations.  Now they spend all there time defending themselves.  "We are not evil."  "Not that kind of witch." etc.  Just saying 'Wiccan' should have been fine.  Nice, obscure, had no prior baggage.  I've even seen references to a whole debacle with BTW fighting that "we are the one, true witches, all others are posers" so that people decided to call themselves Wiccan to avoid it (and now they are on the "we are the one, true Wiccans, all others are posers").
Wouldn't it just have saved time and energy if they didn't try to redefine or clean the rep of the term 'witch' in the first place?
Any history on the decision to use the term 'witch'?

If a witch is what I am (by my definition and in that case that's the only definition that counts for me Wink) why should I use another word so that other people are more comfortable with it?

I never did justify myself or explain ad nauseum that I am not a bad witch - fact is when need be I can be  bad.

One of my standard jokes is about eating the neighbourhood children. On my window sill there are five 'statues' of lovely clichee witches in their worst aspect as old hags. The snakecooking kind.

Witch (in my case Hexe) is a powerful word and I claim its powers for myself. I claim the whole power of being a witch. Hugging trees as well as call on the powers of the Percht (german legend hag).
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« Reply #14: July 25, 2007, 03:18:03 pm »

snip

I just reread your post.
If I got it right you are specifically asking why Wiccans use the term witch?

Sorry can't help there, just a witch not wiccan Wink



edit: typo
« Last Edit: July 25, 2007, 03:19:58 pm by Tana » Logged

'You had to repay, good or bad. There was more than one type of obligation. That’s what people never really understood.….Things had to balance. You couldn’t set out to be a good witch or a bad witch. It never worked out for long. All you could try to be was a witch, as hard as you could.' Terry Pratchett 'Lords and Ladies'

(The FB button in my profile does not work, if you like go and add me: Tana Adaneth, the one with the Doom Kitty avatar Wink)

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