Dictionary.com defines a witch as “a person, now especially a woman, who professes or is supposed to practice magic, especially black magic or the black art” (x).
The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a witch as “one that is credited with usually malignant supernatural powers; especially : a woman practicing usually black witchcraft often with the aid of a devil or familiar” (x)
There are a couple of things wrong with these definitions, in my opinion.
1. They use the terms “black magic,” “black witchcraft,” and “black art” which are problematic terms that, even if meant non-racially, play into and reinforce racism (White=Good, Black=Bad).
2. Both definitions say “especially a woman,” this is very close to erasing non-women who consider themselves witches.
3. Dictionary.com says “supposed to practice magic.” In my opinion, practicing witchcraft, or magic, is probably one of the requirements for calling one’s self a witch or being called a witch. If you don’t, then you aren’t. Simple as that. For many people there is some grey area around how often you have to practice to accurately continue calling one’s self a witch. I don’t particularly have any opinions there at this time. Also, you should be the one to decided if this a label you want to give yourself, not others (even though they may try to do it anyway).
4. Merriam-Webster uses “supernatural” to describe “powers” which tends to give the idea that witches are not natural, not of this world, otherworldly, extraordinary, when really, the opposite is true of some witches. Some spells are very ordinary looking, like, making a meal for happiness or burning a candle to attract money.
5. The Merriam-Webster dictionary also says “often with the aid of a devil or familiar” when in reality, it is probably less often than they say. Some witches do work with The Devil or devils, and some do work with familiars, but not everyone.
In my opinion, these definitions are skewed and aren’t necessarily as inclusive as they could be. For my purposes I use the following definition: A Witch is one who practices witchcraft and considers themselves as such.
Aren’t Witches Wiccan?
Not all witches are Wiccan. Not all witches incorporate their religion in their practice, and not all witches are even religious. Witch can be a secular term for some and a religious term for others. You can read more about what witchcraft is here.
Why include “and considers themselves as such?”
Some practice witchcraft or even something that looks like it but do not call themselves a witch. And that is perfectly okay. Some people use other titles or labels instead such as wizard, sorcerer, magician, etc. As long as you are not appropriating a title from a closed group or culture, and the definition fits, you can pretty much call yourself anything. If you don’t want to call yourself a witch, you do not have to. You can look up synonyms or not even put a label on that aspect of your life, if you wish.
Don’t witches have warts, green skin, and ride around on broomsticks?
Not all of us no. That is the stereotypical witch that is presented in media. Some witches choose to look like that and ride on broomsticks, some prefer not to. It is their practice and their life, they can do as they wish. And flying in the sky on a broomstick is very improbable.
Aren’t witches evil-doers who worship the Devil?
Not all are. Witch is just a label, it doesn’t connotate where they fall on someone’s morality scale. And some do worship or work with the Devil. Some do not. It is up to each individual to work with who they want and decide which types of relationships they want to have with them. Personally, I do not and that is my choice. Just like the choice is yours out in society to form relationships with who you want. And they have that choice as well.
Don’t witches tell the future?
Some do. There are witches who can see without the use of tools, there are witches who use tools to determine possible futures, and there are witches who don’t dabble in fortune telling at all. Again, it is up to the individual.
How do I become a witch?
The next step depends on how you want to define witch. My recommendation is to start doing your research and use your critical thinking skills. Some traditions, paths, or practices have initiation rituals, some do not. Some have particular rules about how to become a witch and live as a witch, and others do not. You can even create your own practice, just be careful not to appropriate things from others. While you can start practicing before you have an idea of what might fit you, I recommend waiting until you have a framework to work with. This is only because there are so many ways to practice and some are very sacred and particular to certain groups, traditions, paths, and practices. In the end though, it is up to you to find out what works for you and what doesn’t!
Are you a witch? Are you looking to be a witch? Tell me about it!