by Dianna Hardy
First written 10th March, 2019 for Between Fire & Ice
You may also want to read: Shamanic Witchcraft
Witch is a loaded word - the oppressive (and patriarchal) history of different cultures all have their part to play in that. Witch means different things in different countries, and in some, it still means torture and death for the one who holds that namesake (or the scapegoat who's labelled with it against their will). Therefore, "witch" still means to put yourself in the path of persecution by those who would benefit from your downfall.
It is not legal to be a witch in all countries. In the UK it is legal, but only since the repeal of The Witchcraft Act in 1951, before which time you could still be fined and imprisoned for displaying any type of connection with Spirit, whether healing, or divination.
So, first of all, this is what "witch" means to me:
Let's not forget how far we've come and how many (mainly women) have suffered at the hands of patriarchy, and let's not forget that in our forward-thinking, 21st Century world, the tide can turn in an instant. Anyone who thinks that's not possible only needs to look at what's going on in western society right now. Laws can be changed in the blink of eye on the tide of (often instigated) public opinion, leaving far too many people thinking it's all right for children - babies and toddlers - to be taken from their families (as just one example).
In 2019. Not 1951.
So, I use the word witch when I refer to myself, in part because we need to be mindful of the changes in society that seep in when we're not looking, trying to oppress us in the guise of "protection". It's a reminder to myself. And it's a reminder to anyone who finds my use of the word jarring. Good. Work on that. The witch has been in that place of oppression before. Let's do everything we can to make sure we don't go there again.
In terms of origins, there doesn't seem to be a set one for the word "witch". Look at the Online Etymology Dictionary for a reference; check out Power in the Name: The Origin and Meaning of the Word "Witch", by Michael Dilts for another.
To me, a witch is a: