An elderly woman. Green skin. A wart on the tip of her nose. Pointed hat. Draped head to toe in black with a furry familiar poised at her side. What do you see?
Chances are a witch.
How about this:
A young woman. Pale skin. Raven black hair. Talons for nails. Cinched with velvet and lace. A serpent slithers across her shoulders. What do you see?
The hook-nosed hag and sexy sorceress are nothing short of stereotypes. Outdated, reductive, offensive and, to be frank, BORING (yes, I said the ‘b’ word) fantasies.
Forget the Wicked Witch of the West or the Red Woman from Game of Thrones, modern witches are more than characters. We are real people who come in all shapes, sizes, colours, genders, orientations and from a wide range of diverse backgrounds.
Anyone can be a witch.
It bears repeating.
ANYONE CAN BE A WITCH.
In fact you, dear reader, might be one too. Hi there. I see you.
So if anyone can be a witch… then what exactly is a witch?
Witch by its very nature is a slippery word.
People who associate with and identify as a witch are likely to view the term in their own unique and deeply personal way. “What is a witch?” is a question that will forever warrant a plethora of responses.
Traditionally, Brits link the word witch to the Pagan faith of Wicca. Although rooted in pre-Christian Western Europe, Wicca is actually a relatively modern religion that was brought to the public by Gerald Gardner in 1954 with his book Witchcraft Today. Whereas witches around the world will most likely link the word to their own countries’ ancient witchcraft histories: Voodoo, Macumba, Hoodoo, Pauwau, Shinto, Seiður and Yilpinji (the list goes on.)
But let’s bring it back to the present and the UK.
Most modern witches I’ve come into contact with work regular jobs, watch Netflix, support the NHS, eat avocados and have wardrobes like rainbows. Some of us even prefer dogs to cats.
I’m yet to meet a witch who drinks babies blood or dances starkers under the full moon. But hey, maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong witches?
The majority of modern witches share a deep affinity with nature. Most of us dabble in divination i.e, we read tarot, runes, palms, or tea leaves like Professor Trelawney. We’ll likely conjure magic, weave spells, grow herbs, keep dream diaries, fashion alters and identify with the archetypes of the “Outsider” or the “Rebel”. Another sure sign that you’re in the company of a witchy human is to ask them about Mercury retrograde. Any witch worth their salt will wax lyrical.
Lots of the above applies to me, but not all of it. On a personal level, my witchy ways are grounded in a belief in the law of attraction. I manifest energies and opportunities. I collect crystals, burn herbs and carve candles. I pay attention to the moon and check my horoscope weekly (sun sign Scorpio, moon sign Libra, ascendant Gemini, FYI). I adore occult imagery: goddesses, dramatic dresses and gemstones. Halloween is my favourite holiday.
Beliefs, practices and aesthetics aside, for me being a witch boils down to this: in my bones I know that I am an infinite source of creativity, connection and power.
I am magic.
I like to think of magic as just another word for intuition, gut feeling or inner-power (feel free to insert whatever word works best for you).
Whatever you want to call it, ‘IT’ is a very real and sacred force that each of us were gifted the moment we took our first breaths.
It’s the force that tells us to check we’ve locked the door, that we’ve been here before, or that against the odds we should, or sometimes shouldn’t.
Because we just know.
We all have it inside of us. That thing. Sometimes it can be hard to hear through the business. But it’s always there. In all of us, all of the time.
And if that’s the case (which, dear reader, I sincerely believe it is) then the truth is we’re all witches. Every single one of us.
It’s just that some of us haven’t realised it yet.