The short definition of witch is someone who practices magic—but the story is much more complex than that.
First, witches can be male or female. Many male witches particularly hate the term warlock because it creates a division where there is none. Witches are old souls who have been through many lifetimes and in many forms. Male and Female just don’t apply. The tradition is matriarchal, but the form is variable.
Second, magic is one dish with many flavors. You have the everyday magic of seeds sprouting, babies laughing, and beauty appearing everywhere—that’s something to which we all have access. The kind of magic witches do involves the application of knowledge and intention to cause a result. It’s like ordering a pizza on your phone—the phone is there and accessible to everyone, but unless you take the action of picking it up, unless you know the correct number to dial, and unless you know how to communicate with whoever is on the other end—no pizza is going to magically appear on your doorstep.
Witches know how to use the phone and they know the number and they know what to say. And –voila—let there be pizza.
So magic is, as Alexander Crowley defines it, the science and art of causing change to occur in conformance with will—using the super powers that reside in the natural, as Leo Martello adds. In fact, many witches don’t consider magic supernatural at all. To them, magic is a science—a naturally occurring phenomena which has gotten really bad press. (A few decades ago, alcoholism was a moral issue, traveling faster than the speed of sound was impossible, cloning only happened in science fiction, and the Web belonged to Charlotte.)
Not all witches are Wiccan and not all Wiccans consider themselves witches. Many who follow the old ways don’t refer to themselves as witches because of the whole green-skinned, warty, child-roasting image witches have. Others flaunt the term for the same reasons.
In general, witches revere the earth, believe in and practice a variety of magic including garden magic, candle magic, and divination, and enjoy the occasional ritual to connect to those forces which guide and order the Universe.
As for deities, many witches use ancient gods and goddesses as a focus, but don’t think of those entities as real people—The gods and goddesses simply represent aspects of the Universe. By invoking the names of gods or goddesses, witches tap into a millennia-old traditions using sympathetic magic—The Law of Attraction. Witches believe everyone and everything possesses a spark of the divine which they are free to use in any way they choose. Karma sorts it out later. And Karma has nothing to do with punishment and reward—it is about learning and evolving.
I can’t speak for all witches, but a great many—I want to say the vast majority—not only do not worship Satan, they don’t even believe in Satan and reject the idea of a war between good and evil out of hand. As witches see it, Nature is simply Nature and people are only a part of a greater reality. Good and Evil is subjective—Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly. Charles Adams as quoted by Morticia Addams.
This is not to say that witches are all fuzzy bunnies and gentle, pink puffballs. An acquaintance tells the story of the witch who cursed him and his farm with a two year drought over a little matter of a disputed fence line. “I don’t believe in such things,” he says, “but after she said that, I didn’t see rain for a long time.”
While witches adhere to the Threefold Law, which says whatever you send out into the world will come back to you times three, every law has a loophole. This one has a little wiggleroom which allows bindings and banishings.
Let’s say somebody pisses you off—cuts in front of you in the checkout lane, knocks your toddler down, steals the tinkly wind chime out of your yard. As a witch, you would know how to banish that person from crossing your path again and you can take it a step further by speeding up and intensifying the process of sending their own energy back to them with a binding spell. Some witches figure that Karma works in mysterious ways and who knows –maybe part of your job is to give it a hand from time to time.
A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest, Granny Weatherwax had once told her, because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her. Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith
Tomorrow–For the Dreaded X-Day at A-Z Blogging Challenge–Xing Tian–and other Headless Men