There are many stereotypes about Pagans and Witches that people outside of Paganism hold. There is a bit of a divide over these stereotypes, especially the evil hag witch one. For some of us, we love the evil hag witch, she’s fun with her pointed hat and shoes, black rag dress or robes and wicked besom. For others she is an insult to the true witches, perpetuating the lie that we are all evil and horrible and eat little kids inside our candy made homes.
I personally fall into the former group – I love the evil witch stereotype, indeed I love a lot of the stereotypes non-Pagans have about witches and pagans. I have a pointy black hat, I love to wear black, and while I don’t embrace the whole wart nose thing, I totally dress witchy for Halloween. Every year. Because I am original and diverse like that.
While I do understand the reason why some hate her so much, and I don’t really seek to change their feelings – I do think it could be helpful to explain why some of us like her, and even why I think this is a good thing.
Taking It Serious, Makes it Serious
When it comes to certain types of stereotypes (not all types, just some) the very act of taking it seriously makes it serious and harmful. By being offended or insulted by the stereotype, you give it power over you, you give others power over you, to harm you.
Laughter Removes the Power
The strength of laughter and humour is often under rated. They do say, if you are feeling bad or sad, forcing a smile onto your face can help improve your mood. This, to be honest, only works sometimes – but that’s the thing, it does work, maybe only sometimes, but that is better than nothing.
When we laugh at something like the evil hag witch, we take her power away from those who would wield her against us. By making fun of the stereotype we remove the power it holds, we remove the seriousness, it loses its strength. It can’t hurt us if we laugh at it or have fun with it.
This is why I make jokes as a homeschooler, lamenting that I have no basement to lock my kids in “like a good homeschool mum should”. This is why I enjoy sharing those little memes about how fattening and unhealthy kids are now days, so maybe we should eat them only as an occasional treat. This is why I think dressing up all evil witchy is fun and good.
Because when someone comes up to me and tries to stab me (intentionally or unintentionally) with stereotypes about my labels, religion, practices and lifestyles – I can laugh at them. Their words don’t hurt me, don’t upset me, don’t anger me, they make me feel amused. Suddenly they are the stupid ones for believing what they believe about me.
My games, my laughter, takes their power away. Not all their power, just their power of jerkishness.
Reclaiming is the Game
A lot of people and groups have taken to reclaiming things that were once used to hurt them or others in some way. Think of how African Americans use the N-word, women use the words “bitch” and “slut” in the same way. Think about the words we use – “pagan”, “witch” and “heathen”.
Though the evil hag witch still exists in peoples minds, in media and pop culture – when you speak of being a witch, you have a pretty good chance (in the western world) of people not automatically thinking of old wart nose. Okay, they might think of teenage girls dressed in black, but that’s a different stereotype altogether – and nowhere near so bad as the idea of evil baby eating hags poisoning your cows (which you probably don’t own anyway).
Of course it doesn’t remove all the power of these words to be hurtful, but we are still only in the beginning stages for all of these things. And so it’s the same with reclaiming the images of witches – however that may be. Putting pointy black hats on young women instead of old women, on beautiful women instead of warty nosed “ugly” ones, innocent looking women instead of evil looking ones and best of all, on men of all types too, instead of a woman at all.
All of the above are pretty compelling reasons by themselves, in my opinion and they certainly are part of the reason I enjoy the witch stereotype. But in all honesty the most important reason is that we like it, we find it fun, we enjoy it.
The other year I bought a new straw broom, they’re pretty good for sweeping the carpet – I don’t even vacuum any more, just sweep. My kids asked me why I bought it (yeh I have no idea why they would ask that either) but I answered them, “For flying of course!” And then proceeded to have hours of fun, first convincing them it was indeed for flying and then later having them tell me off when I used it for sweeping – because that is not what it is for mummy! Haha.
Can you tell me that isn’t fun? That isn’t worth it? My kids know the stereotypical witch isn’t what is real, isn’t what I am, but they also love when I play games like that with them. When I pretend that pretty red apple I just gave them might be poison, when I pretend I am going to cook and eat them. They love it, why shouldn’t I?
We All Have Our Reasons
These are just some of the reasons I have for embracing something that otherwise might anger me or upset me. But it is part of my personality, to never feel offended and rarely feel insulted by anything – because I am easily able to twist things to be amusing to me instead, usually at the other persons expense. Poor them.
But I understand why others feel differently, why they react differently. That’s fine with me, we all have our reasons for feeling as we do. These are my reasons, this is what works for me. And what works for me, won’t necessarily work for everyone else. That’s as it should be. But it’s important for us all to try to understand each others reasoning.
If you hate the evil witch, well that’s okay. I will embrace her for you.