You Call Yourself a Witch? Then Own It

You Call Yourself a Witch? Then Own It July 17, 2018

You want to call yourself a witch? Own it. Take on the mantle of the past. Wear the centuries of oppression. Embrace the inherent otherness of it. Then step into your own sovereignty. But, for the love of Hekate, stop telling other people that they are not doing witchcraft right. And please stop calling it a religion. Taking the title of witch brings with it responsibility. It means to fight against those who limit it to a set of rules or through oppression. Because when witches don’t fight, they burn. 

John William Waterhouse. Magic Circle. Public domain.
Owning your witchcraft. She is definitely doing it.

Witch. No Religion.

If there is one thing that can get people wound up it’s a discussion about witchcraft and religion. Confession: I get riled up, too. I fundamentally don’t get it when people call it a religion. It’s not. It can be part of one, but witchcraft can also include elements of a religion. Being part of a witchcraft oriented religion does not make you a witch. Choosing to call yourself one does. But, I’m going to make a few points to clarify that being a witch requires something from us. That this title is a honor that comes with responsibilities far beyond making sure that the altar is set up perfectly. I don’t think the witch in the classic painting above was following any rules or religion.

Some people completely lose their cool whenever they hear this. An even worse offense in the eyes of some is claiming that witchcraft has nothing to do with deities. I want to be clear: if you believe that witchcraft requires gods and goddesses, that’s true for you. However, witchcraft writ large does not in any way need anything more than a belief in using internal and external energies to bring about a desired outcome. Period.

Some people assume that because I have a *slight* thing for Hekate, that I consider myself a religious person. Nope. I am:

Witch. No religion.

I teach an entire course that has NO deities. I specifically designed the course this way because I do not believe that religion or belief in gods or goddesses are requirements of witchcraft.

Witchcraft is Personal

Like I wrote in my recent article, What Makes Witchcraft…Witchcraft?, being a witch is first and foremost deeply personal. If you practice what I mentioned above, then you can consider yourself a witch (if you choose). For example,

You can be an atheist.

You can be an agnostic.

You can be a polytheist pentacle wearing high priestess.

You can be a naturalist.

You can be a Christian…

And still consider yourself a witch.

There are Jewish witches & Muslim witches.

And you can dabble in witchcraft and not be a witch.

Witches can be all genders.

Witches are ALL ages…except for children who aren’t old enough to accept the responsibility of claiming the title.

YES. There is a great responsibility in taking the title of witch. This is what it means to be a witch.

The Responsibility of Calling Yourself a Witch

Traditionally, women have carried the burden of the title. If you do not identify as female, but call yourself a witch, then you’ve got to also accept the extensive history of the torture, murder, ostracization, marginalization and misogyny directed at women who either were witches or (more often) called witches by others to victimize them and advance their own political agenda.

Strea of Starlight Witch said some things that needed to be said. Witchcraft is fast becoming about “my way is better than yours.” Scarlet aka The Tea Addicted Witch also is truth bombing when she wrote about the sexualization of witches (and other occult practitioners). These are different symptoms of the same problem: the systemic pervasive attempt to control females who claim their power. So if you identify as a witch, you’ve taken on this mantle, too.

You don’t like politics? Don’t want to talk about institutionalized racism, sexism, ablism and heteronormativity? Don’t think there’s anything wrong with a hyper sexual cult that relegates women and goddesses to their reproductive capabilities?

If you don’t like that last paragraph, ask yourself why. Or get all huffed up and stomp away. Witchcraft has a past. Stop denying that it does.

Owning the title of witch requires embracing the inherent otherness of it. It is risky and dangerous. But there’s more to this than having a cool skull collection.

You Want to Call Yourself a Witch? Own it.

Take on the mantle of the past. Wear the centuries of oppression. Embrace the inherent otherness of it. Look the bones of the past square in the empty eye sockets. Then step into your own sovereignty.

If you can’t handle the heat of history and the mantle of responsibility, then I suggest you consider whether the word “witch” is really the right one for you. Because witches know the heat of the flames. We were born from them. Witches speak out, act up and disrupt when they need to. And keep all the way quiet when they must. Silence can be a mighty form of resistance, but I think that (in general, depending on your personal situation) this is a time to be heard. We need to resist all things that seek to lessen witchcraft and diminish individual rights, from dogma to sexualization and oppressive political regimes. Because we know the risks. Witches remember.

Owning your witchcraft varies between individual practitioners. For me, it means speaking up. A lot. To others, it involves quiet solidarity for those who are on the front lines. It may mean having the courage to practice witchcraft according to your intuition. Maybe skulls aren’t your thing. You may find ownership uncomfortable at first. That’s because it should be, like picking up a skull for the first time. Shifting responsibility to our own shoulders is a lot to take on. Research the history of your favored tradition if you have one. Learn about the history of witchcraft. Read up on the ways that witches are currently being persecuted. Perhaps connect with a witch ancestor who owned their title. Most importantly, do what feels right for you.

But always remember…

Witches fight. Because when we don’t fight, we burn.

(from American Horror Story)

NOTE: A reader brought to my attention that men were sometimes the victims of witch hunts as well. With his permission, I am sharing his comment:

“I hope to not raise a stink saying this, but for me, a part of it is about the menfolk who made up the vast majority of witches in Finland. (I understand this may be unique to my own circumstances, and I am not saying this to diminish the fact that most were women who suffered. I just feel like there’s a certain segment who are often overlooked – but again, this is probably due to my own sphere of understanding.)

Unlike what is known about the trials in most western European countries, witchcraft in Finland was not primarily associated with the female gender. More than half of the accused were men, as well as the majority of those convicted.

https://www15.uta.fi/yky/ar…

I feel these men deserve to be remembered and any other male who honors his intuitive connection, and God-Self, but is looked down upon by those who adhere to patriarchal paradigms.

Just my personal feelings and thoughts.”

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About Cyndi
Cyndi Brannen is a witch and spiritual teacher living the coastal life in rural Nova Scotia. She is a trained energetic healer, psychic and herbalist. Merging together her training in shamanism, Tarot, past life work, meditation and her twenty year career as a psychologist, she teaches and writes about better living through witchcraft. She founded Open Circle about a decade ago which now offers online courses, including The Sacred Seven: A Course in Applied Modern Witchcraft. She has written the forthcoming Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft. Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft: The First Key is a year-and-a-day course that will start November 1. More info at keepingherkeys.com You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • You said it perfectly. Thank you!

  • I hope to not raise a stink saying this, but for me, a part of it is about the menfolk who made up the vast majority of witches in Finland. (I understand this may be unique to my own circumstances, and I am not saying this to diminish the fact that most were women who suffered. I just feel like there’s a certain segment who are often overlooked – but again, this is probably due to my own sphere of understanding.)

    Unlike what is known about the trials in most western European countries, witchcraft in Finland was not primarily associated with the female gender. More than half of the accused were men, as well as the majority of those convicted.

    https://www15.uta.fi/yky/arkisto/historia/noitanetti/witchtrials.html

    I feel these men deserve to be remembered and any other male who honors his intuitive connection, and God-Self, but is looked down upon by those who adhere to patriarchal paradigms.

    Just my personal feelings and thoughts.

    Great post otherwise, and I have been enjoying reading all the latest posts regarding witchcraft that have been cropping up.

  • Thank you so much for pointing this out…do you mind if I add this as a foot note to my blog?

  • Sure, go right ahead. 🙂

  • Terry Lynn Magierski Pellegrin

    This hit several chords for me. My roots are Wiccan, an acknowledged religion, but I’ve changed, expanded, evolved from that. I practice Witchcraft, not a religion

  • JudithAnn L

    You’ve described what I’ve felt for so long. “However, witchcraft writ large does not in any way need anything more than a belief in using internal and external energies to bring about a desired outcome. Period.” All the rest is accoutrements, “you do you.”

  • Lindsay Laubenstein

    Just a quick recommendation: You mention that witches can identify as all genders, but having agender friends who identify as witch, as well, witches can also identify as non-gendered.