|Witches are usually portrayed as ugly hags in pointy hats, with warty crooked noses and screechy voices as they flew astride a broomstick. / Photo by: massimo1g via 123rf|
Throughout history, witches have been portrayed as creepy, evil, supernatural creatures in league with the devil that cast spells and even eat young children. Usually portrayed in fiction as ugly hags in pointy hats, with warty crooked noses and cackling, screechy voices as they flew astride a broomstick or swirled a stew of bones in big, black cauldrons, witches have terrified generations. But, the question is: Are witches for real or are they just figments of the imagination?
History of Witches
Witches abound in fairytales, in fantasy and horror stories, appearing time and again as multifaceted purveyors of evil. Over the centuries, the supernatural elements of witchery have accumulated. Men believed that witches are everywhere at any time at the same time and a deadly threat to life and livelihood.
Women in the medieval period were considered more susceptible to the Devil's maneuverings because they were believed to have had less smart brains that when left alone, evil thoughts can easily set in. Through most of history, women were branded witches not because of their black magic deeds but because of non-conformity to societal norms.
The forerunner of witches appears in the Bible, specifically in the Old Testament, when King Saul consulted the Witch of Endor. In Roman folklore, witches appeared as owl-like strixes (birds of ill omen that assumed human forms) flying around at night and feeding on the blood and flesh of children. In Greek mythology, Circe the enchantress was a witch of sort, able to transform her human enemies into swine.
It was in the mid-1400 when witch hysteria shook Europe. Witch hunts became pretty common and around 80,000 suspected and self-confessed witches under torture were burned at the stake. Most of these were women. It was, however, only in the early Renaissance that modern perception of the witch was truly formed. Albrecht Dürer, the German painter, defined the dual stereotype of a witch’s appearance: young, charming, sexually attractive, and capable of enticing men as well as old and hideous, with drooping breasts and unruly streaming hair, clutching a broomstick while spitting wild incantations. By the 18th Century, witches were no longer considered threats but merely superstitious imaginings of peasants.
The Modern-Day Witches
Modern-day witches still struggle to shake their historical stereotypes. Today, a witch can be defined as someone who keenly practices magical rituals or spells, or someone who has sacred and divine connections, or someone who worships the Pagan gods. The modern-day witches carry with them many traditions of Pagan religion believed to be tied to satanic rituals like meditation, the lighting of incense and candles and crystals, and other rites. In a sense, modern-day witches keep in tune with the universe‘s natural resources to satisfy spiritual thirst. They practice spells and incantations comparable to acts of religious prayers using herbal potions to heal instead of to hex a person. They strive to live harmonious lives, avoiding evil at all costs.
The current witch wave depicts them as a notorious shapeshifter, clothe in many guises:
- the traditional hag in a pointy hat, cackling before a pot of bones
- a cherry-lipped enchantress sneaking a potion to a paramour
- a perfectly styled housewife, twitching her nose to alter her affairs
- a prancing lady with her coven to celebrate a new lunar phase or season
- a beautiful lady lurking in fairy tales, in sitcoms, movies, and novels
- a solitary being sometimes she or he
- a contradictory creature of beauty and hideousness, sinister and divine
More than anything, the modern-day witch is a bright and obscure symbol of female power and a mighty force for challenging the present. In whatever form, she remains an exciting spring of magic and enchantment. She is a figure of mystery, freedom, and hope.
|Today, a witch can be defined as someone who keenly practices magical rituals or spells. / Photo by: Photos by Michi via Shutterstock|
Becoming a Witch
The infamous witch hunt and inquisitions may be in the past, but witch persecutions persist. Despite man’s fascination with the mystic, mistreatments linked to witchcraft still happen today. There are of course ways to counter these manipulations of abuses like amulets and charms but the easiest one is to keep mum about the identity. So, how do we become a witch?
Paganism is the overall term for religion outside of Abrahamic faiths that usually puts emphasis on nature and the universe. Practitioners are called neo-pagans. There are lots of choices for an aspiring witch. Joining any one of the covens below can painlessly make you one. Choose wisely.
- Wicca is the popular form of neo-paganism. Wiccans are men and women who worship a god and goddess.
- Ceremonial is doing exactly and strictly the ceremonies and rituals according to the prescribed laws and rules.
- Brujería is the indigenous Latin American, Caribbean, and African witchcraft that dates back hundreds of years ago.
- Solitary is the group belonging to those who choose not to join a coven but practices their own mix of witchcraft.
- Eclecticism is the social method for those not sticking to a particular coven but choosing to practice traditional mixes as they please.
Proceed with caution before signing up for any coven. Do some research and know the risks. Start with the basics and thank your god for the choice you made. Stock up your herbs, roots, candles, oils, and potions for your rites and spells and practice, practice, practice!