Why I Use the Word Witch

1This has been a sticky and difficult thing for me to be public about, but it finally feels like time to have the discussion.

I am a witch. I was trained by witches. I was in an initiation process for 6 years, guided by witches. All my family knows I’m a witch, yet I was afraid to say it publicly and online.

I am a witch.

Everyone has a reaction to the word witch. It is a powerful word. Many people feel negatively about it, some people feel intrigued and drawn to it. But most people make completely wrong assumptions about me when I tell them I am a witch.

For example: I don’t hex people, I don’t worship the devil, I don’t sacrifice animals, I’m not in a coven, and I don’t engage in ritual orgies (sadly). Are there witches that do all these things? Absolutely! (Except most witches I know don’t believe in the devil, we are a pre-christian religion.)

So why would I use a word that gives people the wrong idea about me?

The answer, for me, lies in history. In their groundbreaking text Witches, Midwives and Nurses, Barbara Erhenrich and Dierdra English outline how the witch-hunts of the middle ages served to divest women of their traditional areas of influence as village healers, and placed men as the authority over women’s health and women’s issues. Witches were demonized charged with all manner of things. So much so, that the word witch is now still means ‘evil woman’ in many parts of the world.

This divorced all people, women especially, from their innate sources of power: the earth.

For me the story goes back way further than the middle ages. To the time before the patriarchy. Back when women ruled the temples, presided over religious rights and were most likely the holders of political power in their communities.

Archeologist Marija Gimbutas who’s pioneering work in the goddess worship of ancient Europe, found no evidence of war in the early cultures she studied. No weapons, and no depictions of battle scenes. Not a single one.

I’m not naive enough to assume that these cultures were utopian, but they certainly seem to have figured out something we have not.

As religions dominated by male gods began to proliferate, so did war. Goddess religions slowly lost influence and importance until the only areas left as ‘purely’ women’s business were the common tasks of birth, death and healing. Until the witch burnings, that is.

With the subjugation of women’s bodies came the regulation of their sexuality. We are still seeing that tired story played out in our national politics.

For me the reclaiming of the word feel like the reclaiming of something fundamental. The right to know my body and it’s rhythms, the right to know the medicines that grown around me, and to know the simple remedies that can help my family. The right to birth my child at home. The right to bless him without needing a priest.

We are in the midst of what many have called the Great Remembering. We are waking up collectively to the knowledge and power that we all lost when we burned those women and men. When we shut down the goddess temples and when we stopped worshipping the rhythms of nature. For me, the word witch holds that, but it also holds something else.

It holds the scrappy anarchistic notion that we all have access to this power. It means something more that the word priestess, which I also use. As one of my teacher used to say: all you need to do to become a witch is clap your hands three times and say “I am a witch, I am a witch, I am witch!”  Accessing and honoring the power innate with in each one of us, is our birthright.

In reclaiming this maligned word, I seek to honor all those women, those who were of the craft, and those who where simply deemed guilty because of they were bright or unmarried, or simply didn’t fit the mold.

That is why I call myself a witch.

 

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Allison Carr

Leave a Comment

  • Connie Laitinen November 3, 2015, 10:18 AM

    Loved your article. Well written. I can relate in a little different way. I am a white Shaman, and I also get a lot of misunderstanding, however with shamanism one dosn’t say you are such as it is looked as being of the ego. But like you one day people have to accept that that is what you are and be able to let what others think and say be there opinions and nothing more. And I truly believe that that like you did is educate people. Be glad you wern’t a witch back in the days witches were burned at the stake. However that could have been a past life of youre and that was why you were so reluctant to reveal your true self today. Good on you for standing proud and opening your true calling to the world.

    Reply
    • Allison Carr November 3, 2015, 7:29 PM

      Thank you Connie

      Reply
  • Beth Owls Daughter November 3, 2015, 2:16 PM

    Writing to welcome you out of the broom closet. It is SO important that we out ourselves unless it is life-threatening to do so. Together we break the ground for the Witches coming after, as well as giving honor to those who went before. Thank you for taking this very important and brave step!

    ps: I encourage you to consider joining those of us who make it a point to capitalize “Goddess,” “Pagan,” and “Witch,” since our language has no trouble capitalizing the male words for the divine and the names of members from other religious paths and denominations (ie, Presbyterian, Sikh, etc.). Blessings to you.

    Reply
    • Allison Carr November 3, 2015, 7:29 PM

      Thank you Beth. I’m horrible at grammar, so the oversight was just one of it not coming up on auto correct! but I will make a point to capitalize from now on!

      Reply
      • Mihime June 8, 2017, 10:11 PM

        It’s not proper grammar you’re not wrong she was encouraging to capitalize those words like Witch. Empowering, i like it. But it’s not a grammar issue (:

        Reply
  • Zjannae baen November 3, 2015, 2:19 PM

    Thank gaaawd. :). Blessed Be !

    Reply
  • Heidi November 3, 2015, 6:16 PM

    Thanks for writing this, Allison. I empathize with the sticky feelings of coming out and saying what you believe in, what you stand for. And I am encouraged and heartened by the “scrappy anachronistic notion that we all have access to this power.” Although I don’t (yet?) identify as a witch or priestess, I certainly believe that we all have access to this power. It helps to be reminded of it again and again, because there is so much in the mainstream culture that can erode that belief. Thanks for standing up and claiming who you are. It strengthens everyone who reads your words.

    Reply
    • Allison Carr November 3, 2015, 7:31 PM

      Thank you Heidi!

      Reply
  • Janis Paaske November 3, 2015, 9:11 PM

    I myself have always believed in witches as being good, being healers, you should never be ashamed of who you are.

    Reply
    • Allison Carr November 4, 2015, 4:19 PM

      Thank you Janis!

      Reply
  • Vanessa November 3, 2015, 9:51 PM

    The more I asked my mom turns out my great great grandma was the town healer. She was a herbalist anf thought my mom about intuition and stuff.
    Love your story
    Witch is a majestic term. I think the reputation of it is also that they do spells for selfcentered purposes.

    Reply
    • Allison Carr November 4, 2015, 4:18 PM

      Yes, you are right Vanessa, that is also a stereotype of a witch. How cool that your great great grandma was the wise woman in her town!

      Reply
  • Yamira November 4, 2015, 6:01 AM

    Blessed are you. I know I am a witch, I beleive in all nature spirit and Goddess. I wish I could be trained and initiated and learn more but in my family no one else beleives in this magik just me.

    Reply
    • Allison Carr November 4, 2015, 4:17 PM

      Thank you Yamira!

      Reply
  • Sky Bray November 4, 2015, 12:01 PM

    Hi again Allison! Loved this article – thanks for posting. I totally relate to the broom-closet. I have never identified with ‘Witch’ until lately, but for me just admitting publicly that I was a pagan was difficult. I actually wrote a pagan blog for three years anonymously!

    It’s so funny that I wrote on just this topic a few weeks back. Have a look. http://spiritmamablog.com/2015/10/15/the-witch-reclaimed/

    I’m going to link to this article if you don’t mind. I’ve recently seen two others as well on this topic. Synchronicity! We witches/women must be onto something. Bless 🙂

    Reply
    • Allison Carr November 4, 2015, 4:17 PM

      Sky, thanks so much for linking me. Love your blog! And yes, such synchronicity! There is no such thing as coincidence in my opinion!

      Reply
  • Juhn H Harwood March 29, 2017, 2:01 AM

    Email is not working for me. When we were very young and lived on the farm there seem to be no problem with the costumes our family had .Once yearly hundreds of our ” relatives “would come to the Harvest as it was referred to and all the kid’s would hide in the woods and watch as Dance around the Fire and listen to the music . we had no problem saying the word WITCH . Then WWll came and we moved to the city and were told never to say the word and were told of the bad things they do to witches . To this day if I mention me background people say OH and take a step back . HAHAHA Now I do it to get there reaction ! I wish you Happiness And My Love Allison Carr you WITCH !!

    Reply
  • Annabelle March 29, 2017, 7:48 AM

    I feel a bond with nature and our mother . But sadly where i live i have no one to tech me . People here will not give knowledge freely and want to be paid to teach . This is sad because this should not be about money.

    Reply
    • Natasha March 29, 2017, 11:11 AM

      I have the same problem here. There is no one prepared to teach the willing and wanting. But will turn you away saying you need to know more before you can join our group to learn but won’t say where to learn from. I teach my children and friends everything I know and hope that they do the same. I just wish I had a mentor.

      Reply
  • Willow Tucker March 29, 2017, 8:02 AM

    I have been struggling with a primal fear to come out for over 4 years. Thank you for paving the way for others.

    Reply
  • Dawn March 31, 2017, 5:42 AM

    Thank you! Beautifully said.

    Reply