Reflections on Being a Witch
Sometimes I am asked what I mean by the word “witch” on my website and business name. And underneath, often I sense the unspoken question, why do you call yourself a witch? Why bother? Why use a word with so many negative associations, from McCarthy’s witch hunts and the Salem trials to green skin, cruel spells, and flying broomsticks?
“Witch” is an old word, and its origins are mysterious. It has several possible etymologies, from a “shaper” of reality to a “wise” woman, a seer and healer. But no matter what its origin, it has clearly maintained a powerful charge.
I prefer to use the word “witch” (rather than the more modern word Wiccan, though sometimes I use that too) because it taps me into ancient sources of the word’s power. Before it became the more scripted religion of Wicca in the 1930s, for centuries across the globe, witchcraft was an everyday, female-centered folk religion in harmony with the earth. Being a witch allies me with indigenous and other earth-centered religions and with a time before the terror of the medieval witch hunts, before the word was clouded by irrational fears and misogynistic prejudices.
Witchcraft is a vital spiritual path that honors the sacred feminine at least as much as the masculine, regards the individual’s own spiritual compass as paramount, and reveres the earth. As a witch, I believe that all nature is holy and interconnected and that there is sacred meaning in the cycles of life and death and the seasons. I use spells and ceremonies, some formal and some spontaneous, some solitary and some in a spiritual group, to shape my own healing and growth. And I do my best to follow the apparently simple but actually very challenging basic law of Wicca, commonly called the “Wiccan rede”: “If it harms none, do as you will.”
This little poem embodies my joy in my spiritual path.
Power before, power after,
Witches shall believe in laughter—
Birth in spirit, center, love—
Witches shall believe and move!
Annie Finch is a poet, writer, performer, playwright, and entrepreneur who has published over 20 books, most recently Spells: New and Selected Poems; A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry; and Goddess Poems. She is currently completing a new book, American Witch: Five Directions to your Inner Goddess. She is the founder and owner of American Witch Community & Marketplace, an online community centered on earth-centered and women-centered spirituality.