A Witch? A Beginning Explanation

A Witch's Hat, drawn by RowI have often found myself being asked questions about what it is I believe in, and what, specifically I do in following those beliefs. This is because I don’t follow one of the more well-known or widely-followed major religions of the world. There is a lot of stigma around some of the words that I use to identify myself, and a lot of automatic assumptions are made when I reveal my religious identity.

I do my best to help those that are willing to open their minds to new ideas and concepts learn what it is, exactly, that I believe in and do. Unfortunately, there are still those that refuse to listen (even in my own family), and for them, there will always be stigmas. I think this is sad, because more knowledge can never hurt, and even if what I tell you doesn’t change what you choose to believe, at least you’ve got a window of knowledge that you didn’t have before, and you can look through that window instead of standing stolidly in ignorance the next time you run into someone like me.

But I digress. I’m here today to try to shed some light on some of the widely believed misconceptions of my belief system.

First, I should define some words. The following are the simplest terms I can attempt to put down here without writing whole novels on each of the words themselves.

Pagan: A follower of a polytheistic (meaning having more than one god) religion. Think of the ancient Greeks or Romans. That will give you a good idea of what this word means. (There are a few more definitions of this word if you look it up in the dictionary, but this is the one that most closely follows what I mean when writing the word ‘pagan’).

Wicca: A contemporary pagan (a.k.a. neo-pagan) religion in which the followers (Wiccans) believe in the duality of a god and goddess, and the use of magick. Wiccans may use any of the old pagan religious pantheons (groups of gods – again think of the ancient Greek and Roman gods) in representation of their god and goddess, or even a mix of different pantheons (in eclectic Wiccanism). There is no “one rule book” in Wicca (like the Christian Bible), but there is one widely followed rule: “Do as ye wish, an it harm none”. Thus, there are many different groups of Wiccans, as well as solitary practitioners, that practice in different ways. It is widely accepted that there is no one definition of how one must follow this belief system, and so you will run into many different ways in which this religion is followed and practiced.

Magick: The use of spells or charms in order to work toward a particular outcome. The reason I use the word spelled with a ‘k’ is to differentiate the term’s usage from the stage magic you often see magicians use – which is producing illusions by sleight-of-hand. Not all pagans or Wiccans will use this spelling of the word, but I am one of many who prefer to do so. (I will be writing a blog in the probably not-so-distant future entirely on the subject of Magick – so please keep checking in!)

Witch: One that uses magick. Yes, it is as simple as that. (A side note: I realize that if you look this word up in the dictionary, you will find a much different definition. A very unfavorable one. I realize that in the past the witch has been defined as being inherently evil, but this word has changed in recent times, and has evolved past that meaning. Please don’t let those old printed words define what you think this is. It is time to put away old prejudice and find a new definition for this word.)

Now, lets put those words to use.

I identify myself as a pagan, and used to also identify myself as a Wiccan. I say “used to” because in the path of my learning, my thoughts have evolved to find some differences in how I believe, and I’m not sure I fully fit in that niche anymore. But that is a post for another day. I also identify as a witch. This means I use magick – casting spells and using charms to try to influence various outcomes in my life and in the lives of those close to me.

As one that began in the Wiccan path, I truly believe in the rule “Do as ye wish, an it harm none.” This means that I may cast away on whatever subject I please, as long as it does not negatively influence a person or being in any way. I cannot cast a spell on someone else without having their permission first (manipulation of another person or person’s life is clearly not looked kindly upon), and of course, that spell cannot be a negative one. This basically puts all spells that would manipulate another person’s (or any other living being) free will out of play. So, I’m sorry to disappoint anyone romantically inclined out there, no love spells.

Having this rule clearly also indicates that the idea of this religion or belief being evil cannot possibly logically follow. Indeed, there is no room for any kind of “evil” in the Wiccan religion. There is no deity representing the ultimate evil (like Satan) to even speak of within the religion. Look at those pantheons of gods and goddesses that the ancient Romans and Greeks worshiped. There really is no “evil” personage there. You may look unfavorably upon the gods of the underworld, but they are not inherently evil. They have a positive purpose, even if it doesn’t seem so to our mortal, death-fearing minds. Again, I reiterate: There is NO evil in Wicca. (If you run across someone that claims to be doing black magick or some such in the guise of a Wiccan, you’ve run across someone that clearly hasn’t studied in the religion and is probably just running their mouth in an attempt to impress you.)

As for witchcraft, well, it does have a sordid history. But so does any system out there that has been followed for centuries. (Need I remind you of the crusades?) Outside of the ‘Wiccan’ label, witchcraft may be used for any purpose. However, I would not be beyond myself to say that as a whole, the community of witches in the world today generally still follow that one rule. “An it harm none”. Many people like to slap a label on witchcraft as ‘white’ or ‘black’. This idea, however, doesn’t really hold water. Think of it this way: You probably know (personally and impersonally) many people that follow the Christian religion. And you know of many more in history. Were all of those people always the most wonderful, most kind people they could possibly be? No. But many of those people were and are very nice people. The same can happen with witches, as with any other religious community. There are some people that try to live up to being the best person that they can be, and there are some people that you love to loathe. And no matter how nice a person is, everyone always has their bad days.

That being said, I think I should wrap this post up for now. I apologize that I cannot make this just one post, but there is entirely too much information to cover in one session. I’m sure you understand. Please check back for another post over the next few days with some more in-depth information about the beliefs that I follow.

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