The first time I remember hearing the phrase was when an old college friend messaged me to inquire about introductory Witchcraft resources. “I’m a Baby Witch!” she declared.
“Neat!” I thought. And I sent her some links.
I didn’t have any kind of emotional reaction to the words “Baby Witch.” I assumed she meant that she was just starting out on her path, and that she was excited about it and approaching it with a childlike sense of wonder. Which, y’know, all good things.
It wasn’t until a few months later that I learned how much some people abhor the term. And I do understand the arguments against it, and why people dislike it so strongly, but… yeah, it just doesn’t bug me. I find it endearing. It makes me think of Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Whenever the term crops up, what usually happens is this: Someone posts in a Facebook group like, “Hi! I’m a Baby Witch, and I need help picking a Tarot deck.” And then somebody fusses at them for calling themselves a Baby Witch, and then somebody else jumps on that person for gatekeeping, and then seven other people take to their own social media to write essays denouncing/supporting Baby Witches. And meanwhile, the OP is still waiting for help picking a Tarot deck.
It’s kind of a vicious cycle, and one that doesn’t do anyone any good. (But the best deck to start with is the Quick & Easy Tarot. You’re welcome, Baby Witches.)
The biggest — and by far the most reasonable — complaint about the term is that it’s infantilizing, and that it robs individuals of personal agency. And I agree, but… I also don’t think that this is necessarily bad. Like, maybe setting some limits on what one is willing to do and/or capable of could be beneficial in the early stages of one’s development as a Witch.
I’m thinking of all the times I’ve seen someone bound onto the Internet like, “I’ve decided that I’m a Witch! And that makes me independent and powerful.” And then they start giving out terrible advice while having “OMG SEND ENERGY MY LIFE IS FALLING APART” meltdowns at least once a week. Someone announcing, “I’m a Baby Witch! And I am not sure what I’m doing and in need of direction,” doesn’t seem so rough in comparison.
I’ve also been told that the term Baby Witch is sexist, and it definitely would be sexist AF if men were calling women Baby Witches to be patronizing. And it’s true that the majority of people who identify as Baby Witches seem to be women, but it’s also true that the majority of people telling women not to identify as Baby Witches seem to be men. So yeah, there’s sexism involved here, but it doesn’t stem from the Baby Witches themselves.
The weirdest statement against Baby Witches I’ve come across so far is that other religions don’t have a comparable term: Like, “New Christians don’t call themselves Baby Christians, so new Witches shouldn’t call themselves Baby Witches.” Thing is, new Christians do have a comparable term — people who convert to Christianity often refer to themselves as Born Again, which is, y’know, baby-related. They’re not springing fully-formed from the head of Caucasian Jesus: They’re starting from scratch in a different, allegedly-innocent life. Hence they are babies. Baby Christians.
But why would we look to any other religion, much less Christianity, to validate our own? I mean, other religions don’t have a Goddess of plagiarists and a God of gay sea snails, but mine sure as hell does. And I am not about to invoke Laverna and Nerites and be like, “Sorry, guys, but polytheism isn’t socially acceptable, so I’m only venerating Zeus from now on, since He’s in the New Testament.” Fuck that noise.
Really, though, this is a symptom of a larger perspective, that being, “If you call yourself a Baby Witch, it will affect what people think of my practice.” Which, honestly? Worrying about what anyone thinks of your practice is the one true way to rob yourself of personal agency. I mean, if outside opinions hold that much sway over your self-confidence, why call yourself a Witch in the first place?
When someone tells me that they’re a Baby Witch, that gives me a point of reference. I know what to recommend and which kid gloves to wear, and I understand that they will stop using the term Baby Witch when they stop feeling like a Baby Witch — if I were bothered by the words, that alone would be enough motivation to mentor and educate rather than just get all yelly about it.
And I know there are people out there ready to claw out jugulars whenever the term “Baby Witch” appears, and frankly, I kind of want to gather up all the Baby Witches and hide them behind Auncle Thumper to keep them safe from those people. But I am also happy to report that there is a better solution: All we have to do to is be nice to the newbies.
That’s really it. If we make sure that our online and in-person spaces are at least somewhat welcoming to and accepting of the neophytes, they won’t feel as much of a need to differentiate themselves with disagreeable terminology.
When someone goes, “I’m a Baby Witch,” maybe, instead of getting all up in arms over the “Baby” thing, we ask some open-ended questions: “What information are you looking for?” “Are you seeking a particular tradition?” “How long have you been practicing?” “What goals do you have in mind for your Witchcraft?”
Like, we treat the newbies as fellow adults instead of scolding them like children, and perhaps we’ll see less need for the term Baby Witch in the future. And if the phrase sticks around, that’s fine, too — if we can contain ourselves and handle the situation maturely, the babies will grow up in due time.
Or, whenever someone introduces themselves as a Baby Witch, we all go, “Pleased to meet you! You’re actually a neophyte, and we’re happy you’re here.” Which is a lot more fun to say. Let’s all just start calling them that. Tag me if you see it catching on.