Today as I was walking along the beach, I tossed around in my head the word “witch,” also the word “Witch.” These words have been familiar companions since I began thinking of myself as maybe possibly sometimes a witch, well over twenty years ago. Since then the word has been at various times an albatross, an inspiration, a dare, a tired relic, an embarrassment, a shocker, a battle cry, a statement of fact, and a clever diversion.
I have never been completely comfortable with “witch” as a description of myself, my friends, or what we do. Yet we came of age with Deirdre English and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Witches, Midwives and Nurses. Being a witch was something to be proud of, set us square in the midst of a righteous chain of women healers throughout time, and dared to speak truth to power.
So as I walked today I spent a little time with the knowledge that I have grown less happy with the term Witch, though I refer to myself as a Pagan all the time. For one thing, while my entrÃ© to magic was through Witchcraft, those ritual forms are no longer central to my spiritual practice. Many elements of my training continue to serve me in good stead, but for the most part I have migrated to more extemporaneous, eclectic ritual acts more aptly described as constant conversations with the Gods. Lately I consider the highest spiritual achievement the ability to walk fully upright.
Another reason is that as a teacher, speaker, and dreamworker, my primary aim is to be understood. Too often, insisting that people think of me as a witch is counter to that goal, so I have stopped forcing myself to use the term when it doesn’t seem right. Instead, I let my intuition tell me which label is the best descriptor for the given circumstances. This feels much more authentic to me, and allows me to communicate effectively with a much broader range of people. And sometimes Witch is the exactly right word to describe who I am and what I do; just not all the time.
Finally, I have made peace with my Christian heritage for the most part. Not having to rebel against it means I no longer feel as spiritually bereft as I once did. Labels don’t matter so much anymore. Years of immersion in both Eastern and Western mysticism has given me confidence in my ability to tell truth from falsehood, and I feel kinship with like-minded souls regardless of spiritual identity.
I know not everyone will agree with me; I certainly have friends who use the word Witch proudly and who are dedicated activists on behalf of the Craft. But the story of the resurgence of Paganism in our time is ongoing, and best served by truth-telling whenever possible. This is my small contribution for the evening.