Question of the Week: Defining ‘Witch’


There are many interpretations, definitions, and connotations for the word ‘witch’.  It is a very loaded and historical word in our language.  Often used as a derogatory or demeaning term for undesirable or wicked people, it has a different meaning within the pagan community.  Some people say that no one is a Witch unless they are part of a coven and trained by another Witch.  Others say that anyone who practices magic can be identified as a witch.  I’m sure there are others out there with another meaning or no particular meaning for this word.

So my question of the week is:

How do you define the word “witch”?

Post your answer in the comments below!

And remember, there aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers–but if I find anyone flaming someone else’s answer, that person will be banned.   Fair warning.

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2 responses to “Question of the Week: Defining ‘Witch’

  1. “Witch” is such an interesting word because it carries such a negative connotation in mainstream society, and yet is actively embraced in many subcultures. I personally would like to see this word, along with its associations, reclaimed and used in a more positive context.

    Have you heard about the theory of Ergot Poisoning and the Salem Witch Trials? Here’s a page discussing Ergot and the Witch Trials in case you’re curious. The idea is that people in society basically went insane, due to poisoning caused by a fungus in grain. There is some evidence to support this theory but it’s still just a theory.

    Whether or not that theory explains it, I think that the witch hunts are not motivated by any genuine or sincere motive. Whether it’s poison, sexism, fear of the unknown, or an irrational cultural aversion to practices that are more closely in harmony with nature, I am hopeful that our society is moving beyond these factors and will be able to embrace pratices and beliefs systems, like those most associate with the word “witch”, that are more nature-centered and woman-centered.

    • I have not heard of the particular theory you mentioned, but I think I have heard of other episodes in history and various cultures where horrible events have been attributed to a poisoning of food, grain, or drink. It’s an interesting theory, thanks for mentioning it!

      Witch hunts and the burning times are touchy subjects for many people in the pagan community, because those times were so horribly insane and manic and so many innocents died as “evil witches.” I’m with you–I hope society is able to move past the negative connotations and learn to respect if not embrace the positive realities of the word “witch”.

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