Which Witch Is It?

“Are you a good witch, or are you a bad witch?”

I think most people recognize this question that Glinda “The Good Witch” asks of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, after her house drops upon the “Wicked Witch of the East,” killing her. Little innocent Dorothy doesn’t really understand the question, but I think most women then and especially now recognize it as the loaded question that it is.

The term “witch” has been used as an insult, an accusation, and a death sentence for a few thousand years. Women, and some men, were persecuted and murdered due to their practice of witchcraft when patriarchal societies became the prominent form, and women with health knowledge were seen as threats to the patriarchs. They claimed witches would eat their children, rot their crops, curse whole villages to get their way, that they worshiped the devil and took him as a lover.

However, before the patriarchy, for tens of thousands of years, women had much more equality and power than they had for the past couple of thousands of years, and do today. Matriarchal cultures were the norm, where being a “witch” was seen as something to be revered and respected. The people worshiped the goddess, the earth, the great mother, and “witchcraft” was used for worship and medicinal purposes. Witches, or shamans, knew how to ease pain during childbirth and even how to rid an unwanted pregnancy, long before male doctors and hospitals sprung up around the world.

Today, the resistance wages on, and there has been a resurgence in the witch, or Wicca, and matriarchal power. I first identified myself as a witch when I learned that the only real rule in Wicca was to “do no harm to others.” You can worship whatever god or goddess you wish to, or none at all, you just have to have respect and have an awe for nature, to love and respect the earth, and to try your absolute best to not harm others.

Of course, even today, there are movies and literature, such as Hocus Pocus and The Craft, that paint witches in an evil light, where they have to suck the souls out of children to stay beautiful or  kill their supposed friends for “betraying the coven,” and even the aforementioned The Wizard of Oz, where the Wicked Witch of the West wants to kill Dorothy solely for a pair of shoes (although this perception of the Wicked Witch is turned around by the book and musical, Wicked, which does an excellent job of portraying the persecution of witches who were just trying to do good, along with the classic motifs associated with the “evil witch,” such as the black pointed hat, a long black dress, and the broomstick).

However, doing “black magic” is not something someone who wants to identify as a witch or as Wicca does, because it would bring harm to others. A true witch is someone who puts out positive energy through prayers, rituals, or the simple lighting of the candle, in order to help improve the world. Essentially, we follow the idea of karma, in that what you put out into the world will be returned to you.

So, in answer to Glinda’s question, a good witch. That is the only witch there is.

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