Saturday, 15 March 2014

Which Witch is Which?

        If you asked me what a witch was a year ago I would have answered: a woman who flies on brooms with a black cat, a character in Harry Potter or Charmed, people who meddle in Satanic sorts of things, conjure demons and hex others. Though I'd love to go to Hogwarts and fly on a broom, I am quite allergic to cats so apparently I could never be a witch. I mean really, how can I even considered witchcraft as my path?! I wasn't invited to Hogwarts, I can't fly on a broom and am too allergic to consider owning a black cat.

A little collage of some Witchy stereotypes
       Even older than all the previous assumptions about witches, is the stereotype of the evil witch. From Snow White to Wicked, the misconception that a witch is an evil, periodically green, spiteful old woman is far from uncommon.

The Evil, Green Witch

       Though witches may be commonly mistaken today for old, green, hags who are liable to curse anyone they see it wasn't always this way. Let me tell you the story of the Wise Woman before Christianity....

The Wise Woman

Once upon a time, in a land fa,r far away across a vast body of water called the Atlantic Ocean, lived a young woman. She lived on the island not yet called Great Britain, in a small peaceful village surrounded by forest green highlands and was called Wise Woman, for she knew many things.

One day while tending to her garden, a villager approached her house. Running forth and clasping her hands in his own, the villager begged her to come quickly for his pregnant wife had begun her labour. Quickly gathering herbs to soothe the future mother, Wise Woman lifted her skirts and and with haste to the villager’s home. When she arrived she set about the monumental task of preparing the room with enough supplies for the birthing process and then focused on the task at hand. After a time that seemed like forever to the villager but was merely a few hours, Wise Woman bathed the new born and handed the villager his healthy baby son.

            Several years later, Wise Woman, when returning from a walk from the forest where she had gathered several medicinal herbs that would not take to her garden’s soil, the villager once gain approached her house. “My son he is sick, could you help us?”, asked the villager. And so it was that once again Wise Woman found herself in the house she had helped birth a child seven years ago, brewing a tea to settle the boy’s stomach so that he could rest and heal. Wise Woman cared tenderly for the boy for many days until his colour returned and he regained the look of life, then she quietly gathered her belongings and returned to her home.

            As time passed, Wise Woman’s hair greyed and her skin wrinkled delicately around her mouth when she smiled, but she never ceased tending to her garden or to the needs of her villagers. She helped many a mother successfully birth a child, healed wounds, and sat by the bedsides of the sick and dying easing their passage to the Otherworld. And so it was that Wise Woman lived the rest of her days in peace, and passed away quietly in her home at a ripe old age with birds singing to her on her windowsill.

      Most fairytales have a conflict which a dashing prince solves, but the Wise Woman in this story didn't need a dashing prince to solve her conflicts, she had none, she simply lived her life peacefully healing the villagers.

      For as long as people have walked the earth, witchcraft was never a problem, and neither were the witches, wise women, or shamans who practiced it. Then along came Christianity and its anti-witchcraft, anti-pagan bible. If the pagans continued to believe in their gods and goddesses, and went to the wise woman for help, Christian rules could not control them. To solve this problem, the bible depicted the Christian devil an anti-deity that unique to Christianity, in the likeness of the Celtic pagan all-father Cernunnos. The antlers upon his head which originated from his deep union with nature became horns, his skin was painted red and suddenly the wise woman who was simply working with the all-father of her religion became the witch summoning the devil.

     From this point onwards witches were almost universally condemned for their knowledge of nature, energies and the spirit world. They were burnt for heresy, whether they were witches or simply a woman making tea to soothe her cramps. Christianity's effective labelling of the witch as evil was so powerful and resonating that even today the word witch has a negative connotation. Just think of how many times you have called a woman a witch instead of bitch, even if only in your head. I know I can't claim that I haven't, though now that I am more aware, I refrain from this distortion of the word witch.

      So, which witch is which? I can't say that everyone who practices witchcraft has good intentions, it is simply human nature that there are bad seeds but witchcraft is not the practice of summoning the devil. In reality, the witch is a woman or man who practices witchcraft by working with herbs, the energies of the universe and the spiritual world.

     If you have any questions about the history of witchcraft, witchcraft today or any requests for future posts be sure to let me know in the comments!

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