The word witch is often associated with images of an old woman with warts and a large nose who’s into evil or scaring children. In the Wizard of Oz or other mythology, the witch was either good or bad but never both but these images and stereotypes are outdated and already in the midst of a makeover.
The way I see it, the new version of the witch is much different. She (though could be a he, for the purpose of this article I use feminine pronouns) works for the light and the dark and oscillates between being a loving mother and a wild lover. She has the beauty/power of the seductress and the brains/wisdom of the crone and knows when to use which. She is both the Earthy warrior goddess and the mysterious cosmic communicator.
I want to be this woman. And, as my latest issue of the magazine The Cauldron: Witchcraft, Paganism, & Folklore arrived in the mail, I wondered if I was, in fact, a witch. Sure, I have a cat, celebrate the cycles of the moon, wear lots of black, love magic and study astrology—but was I really a witch or just a wannabe one?
After careful reflection and a lot of tarot, I decided that yes, I am in fact part witch (though not as much as I’d like). However, as an etymology detective (it was my entire thesis topic) it was important for me to first understand where the word itself came from since the original meanings of words are often more powerful than the modern adaptations. It is of mysterious, uncertain origin, though the best guess is that it came from Proto-Indo-European meaning “to be strong, lively.” It shares the same roots as the word wake, though I have come to understand the word means an awake woman/man.
A witch is a woman who is awake and aware of her soul, body, and darkness. She knows the deepest parts of herself and knows her strength comes from this depth of knowledge. Transformation is her playground as she loves her ever-changing, wild and chaotic nature. Throughout different cultures, she has many names as the Dark Goddess: Kali, Lilith, Ceridwen or Psyche. However, witch seems to sum her up best.
“Witches don’t look like anything. Witches are. Witches do.” Franny Billingsley Chime
The truth is, a modern witch is a balance of both good and evil, light and dark. They possess a great deal of power and beauty and are highly intelligent. A witch is highly in tune with her body and her soul, understanding the deepest parts of herself and what drives her ambition. She draws strength and wisdom from self-reflection, capable of creating a balance within her mind, body, and soul that others will struggle their whole lives in an effort to obtain.
“Where there is a woman, there is magic.” Ntozake Shange
Witches are highly in tune with nature, and this connection provides them with the power, understanding, and balance to use their natural gifts of birth, transformation, healing, and rebirth. They honor the earth around them, understanding that all things in life are connected, and thus killing off the environment would be, in a sense, killing off a piece of themselves.
As witches are bridges of duality, the signs of witchhood require an “as above, so below” approach. So, here are the internal and external omens that have revealed to me my own witchiness:
Most importantly, the witch understands the importance of tending to her cauldron of desire. She understands that this transformational energy of desire feeds her soul and moves her toward becoming more herself. While she may not always be “pretty” or “nice,” she is powerful and a virgin in the purest sense of the word.
It is up to us to help the witch enjoy her freedoms by owning up to our own witchiness and paying attention to the omens.