“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” Ah, Shakespeare, you fiend! His portrayal of witches in Macbeth has been the first thing most people think of when you say WITCH for the better part of 400 years now. Christianity around that time sure didn’t help either. Anything that couldn’t easily be explained was blamed on witches, some still to this day. Just like with any other group of people, there’s good ones along with the bad ones. We aren’t perfect, just human. With the Halloween (and Samhain!) festivities coming up at the end of this month I wanted to showcase witches in a positive light instead of the typical “bad” or “evil” ones. I was able to interview seven local witches who told me about their practice. Some were willing to let me use their names while others wanted to remain anonymous. Please open your minds and let’s read what some RVA witches have to tell us!
*minimal editing for clarity and/or grammar*
How long have you been a witch?
Shannon: Known since age 13 but owned it since age 21 and my mother found one of my spell books and asked me for a spell to make her lucky at bingo!
David: I have been involved in the craft for 18 years, I started when I was 7.
Witch #3: Since I was a child. I guess I was different because other kids called me a witch and I’d laugh and say thank you.
Jill: Well, I think some part of me has always felt a different connection to things, plants animals, weather,and people. When I say different, I mean different than what my family and society seemed to be trying to teach me as a child. For me, being a witch is a natural thing, almost a calling if you will. It is my ground, my center. Before I found my personal path, I was in constant inner turmoil. Always searching for answers. The biggest question in life is “why”. Why am I here? Why do I feel this way about various things? Why do things happen the way they do? Why? Why? Why? When I stumbled and crawled my way to my path in life, I finally found the answers that soothed my soul.
Witch #5: Ever since I was little I was drawn to witches. It all started with Halloween of course. I dressed up as a witch three years in row. Then I saw the movie The Worst Witch back in 1987. I loved the different personalities and types of witches that were represented. I wanted to go to the witch academy to learn how to make potions. Then when I was 12 years old, I met and befriended a girl who was raised Wiccan. Her mother recommended that I read “The Truth about Witchcraft Today” by Scott Cunningham. That changed everything for me. My whole world opened up. Witches were real and not just part of history or in the only way movies portrayed them. So I became a teenage Wiccan.
Jewel: I have always loved witches of all kinds from very early on. I remember as a teenager deciding that I wanted to look into witchcraft. I did some research, read some traditional materials on witchcraft and felt turned off from that path. I will say that just within the last 10 years I have decided to open myself up to my natural inclinations.
Witch #7: Really only claimed the title within the last 5 years but have been leaning and learning towards it for close to 2 decades.
What deity do you worship?
Shannon: The only deity per say that I really worship is Mother Nature herself.
David: I am a Hacate and Horned One worshiper but I also work with the ancients and my ancestors as well as the Loa.
Witch #3: No specific deity, just Goddess.
Jill: I do feel a closeness to certain deities. I have ones that I lean on when needed and ones that hold comfort or joy. Cailleach, Cerridwen, Brighid and Ana…each for their own strengths and the strength they give me. I do believe there is a supreme Being. I feel that they are neither male or female, but a force or energy that guides all. I give them no name. I feel there are Gods and Goddess that are responsible/control each of their own passions or segment of the universe. These Gods and Goddess all combine to create and maintain life in conjunction with a Supreme being. In my studies of various religions, cultures and Pagan paths I notice that most believe in a higher power with some kind of “helper” (for lack of a better word). The higher power has many names..God, Buddha, Mohammed, Yahweh, Inuit, Krishna…it goes on and on. The core belief in all these is of a higher being and each has Disciples, Lesser Gods, followers or whatever they are called, helping their higher power. So why is it wrong in the eyes of society for me to believe as I do? My words feel shallow compared to the depth of my beliefs.
Witch #5: The first experience I had with a Deity was when I was 13. My friends and I formed a coven and called ourselves The Children of the Solstice. We performed a Yule ritual in the woods. The whole time we were there, until the closing of the circle, I heard a flute or some type of wind instrument being played. It wasn’t until we got home and out of the woods did I ask my friends if they heard it too. They said I must have heard Pan. As far as choosing a deity, I have always loved Hekate, goddess of magic, Queen of the witches. When I was a teenager, if I ever was having a rough day or depressed, I would go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One particular visit, I was on my way out of the museum feeling that even the art wasn’t going to cheer me up when I glanced down at a statue I was passing and realized it was Hekate. It was beautiful! So if I had to pick one deity that speaks to me, it’s her.
Jewel: I honor the Most High, which to me is the mother/father creative energy of life. The supreme life force. I give thanks to all things in nature and I am guided by my ancestors.
Witch #7: Generally speaking, Mother Nature or Gaia. The deity I feel closest to though is Bastet, the Egyptian warrior goddess of women, love, and protection.
Do you prefer a title other than witch?
Shannon: I usually go with the term Pagan when asked about my religion in public for the simple fact that it’s a lot easier for people to accept than the term Witch.
David: I am pagan, but I also go by mystic.
Witch #3: I don’t mind being called a witch or pagan. Or a pagan who practices witchcraft.
Jill: No, I would just like people to stop thinking of it as a negative. Being a witch has a long tradition in history and should be celebrated.
Witch #5: No, I love being a witch. It’s a title I take pride in. For along time I considered myself Wiccan, but since my studies have broaden, I prefer to call myself Pagan. It means that I am a steward of the earth, of the Goddess, the Sacred feminine. It means helping those with my intuition and bringing a balance to our environment and keeping that connection.
Jewel: I am not fearful of the title witch; I find it to be very powerful. It is a sort of rebellion about it, reclaiming parts of yourself lost to society. I consider myself a Hedgewitch. I walk between worlds. I am a solitary practitioner and I would never feel comfortable in a coven. My work relies on me being in periods of isolation and quiet. I work with spiritual or ancestral energies and I focus heavily on nature.
Witch #7: I love being called a witch, but it’s hard with so much negativity surrounding. I consider myself an Eclectic Witch, a little bit of this and that. If I don’t know someone well and they ask about my religion I’ll usually say Pagan first then if they seem accepting then I’ll own up to being a witch.
What brought you to witchcraft?
Shannon: I had always known in the back of my mind but I didn’t really try to deal with it until I went to a sleepover at 13 and meet my best friend Mary. We quickly realized we could see/feel things together that no one else there could and have been on this adventure ever since.
David: It runs in my family on my father’s side, he’s a heathen and a sun worshiper. It’s been in the family for about 10 generations.
Witch #3: I was raised Christian but life events made me question things at about 13 and I walked away from that. I really figured things out the more I read and learned and didn’t feel so alone.
Jill: Over the years I have explored many philosophies and religions, trying to find something that “fit” what I have always felt. Something that help explain my inner turmoil. I found many good things in most of the places I looked….but always seemed to be just a little of this and a little of that, none had a solid foundation that I felt drawn to. Then I began reading more and more about the craft and knew this was me. I do not follow and single path, more of a hodgepodge of all “types” of being a witch. Witchcraft is such a broad term and encompasses so many paths that all I can say is I am a witch and let anyone take that for what they like!
Witch #5: I can’t explain what has drawn me to Witchcraft. In my ancestral research, I was hoping to find someone who could tie me to it; someone who was a healer or showed traces of the craft. I did find a distant relative in the 1800’s who married a Mohawk Native American. She was known for herbal remedies and was a skilled midwife. However, I am not Mohawk. I do love history and enjoy learning how things were done. I was always curious about religions and what people believed before the explosion of Christianity. So when I read about Wicca, I was drawn even further into exploring the craft. It just felt right.
Jewel: Life brought me here. My heart brought me here. My dreams. My mother. My ancestors and so on. I am called to this work. It is a path of freedom for me, but it is also a difficult path, if done right.
Witch #7: I was raised Christian but was upset with the power dynamics pretty early on. Women had no real honor, duties, purpose, or power other than as married baby-makers. It felt so wrong to me. Women in power should be revered instead of feared. Women and men are (should be) equal. I needed my religion to match that firm belief. Nature (particularly moving water and forests) also felt more like a holy place than any building I’d ever entered. I felt peace and love when was walking in a creek or exploring the woods, like all my worries could wash away. I was thankfully encouraged to read about anything I liked. Eastern ideologies and ancient mythologies started speaking to my soul. A little Buddhism, a bit Celtic, a trifle Egyptian, some Norse, a dash of Hindu, a pinch of Confucius, and a taste of Wicca, they all had parts that stood out for me.
Are there any books that have influenced you?
Shannon: The Mists of Avalon and the Harry Potter series
David: Earth Power, Working Conjure, Complete Book of Witchcraft, the Book of Voodoo, Crone’s Book of Magickal Words
Witch #3: There are several but I have a hard time remembering their titles.
Jill: There are a lot out there. Here are a few of my favorites. I don’t know how much they influenced me, but I enjoyed them! The classic Bucklands is a must for all. Witch Unleashed Untamed and Unapologetic by Lisa Lister. The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. Witch A Magical Journey by Fiona Horne. I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem.
Witch #5: A great book that heavily influenced me is Witchcraze, A New History of the European Witch Hunts (Our Legacy of Violence Against Women) by Anne Llewellyn Barstow. It’s a must read along with Drawing Down the Moon (Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and other Pagans in America Today) by Margot Adler. There is so much history to learn and those two are my favorites. Another honorable mention is Diary of a Witch by Sybil Leek.
Jewel: I own many different books on herbs and essential oils. I love books on religion. I also love reading about history. I think that whatever you read can influence your craft in some way.
Witch #7: Beside mythologies, the first book that truly influenced me was the Way of the Peaceful Warrior. It really opened my eyes to life’s possibilities. I also got hooked on meditation through coloring mandalas. Having the colors surround me and getting lost in the symmetry and beauty of it is cleansing for me.
What’s your favorite witch-y movie?
Shannon: Witches of Eastwick and Practical Magic for actually taking the time to be kinda accurate about some things. Hocus Pocus for fun!
David: Practical Magic, Beautiful Creatures, and Serpent and the Rainbow
Witch #3: Practical Magic. That’s pretty cliche but one of the few movies that’s positive.
Jill: For pure entertainment purposes Rosemary’s Baby, Practical Magic, and of course, The Wizard Of Oz.
Witch #5: I always liked the movie Practical Magic (although it’s not quite like the book which I also recommend). And of course, all the Harry Potter films (and books!). As far as TV shows, I also enjoy The Discovery of Witches (and its books!), American Horror Story: Coven, and Charmed.
Jewel: Eve’s Bayou has elements of witchcraft in it that I enjoy. I love the setting and feeling of that movie. I also love the witch played by Diahann Carroll. It is a very beautiful film.
Witch #7: I love the Harry Potter series. Hermione, Professor McGonagall, and Molly Weasley are my favorite examples of good, smart, and powerful witches. I also recently fell in love with the movie Half Magic.
What is the biggest myth(s) you’d like to clear up about being a witch?
Shannon: I would LOVE for people to stop thinking witches are like the ones shown on TV and the movies! It’s absolutely ridiculous the ideas people get in their heads because they don’t don’t fact from reality.
David: 1.) You can be a witch and worship any tradition, even Christianity.
2.) We do NOT worship the devil. Nature is both loving and cruel, just as we are. We have a birth right to bend all forms of energy , as well as cast what we so please whether dark, grey, or light. Magick is neither light or dark, it all depends of the heart and will of a person.
3.) All magick has the same impact as the strongest prayer, whether good or bad. All magick is equal no matter what culture or race you are a part of. Every witch is unique in their own way.
Witch #3: That we worship Satan. Jeez, that annoys me. Satan is a Christian concept.
Jill: Not all witches are Satan worshipers!!! Yes there are some witches that are, but far more witches that are not. I do believe that a witch can be a Christian and still follow her/his path.
Witch #5: Biggest myth I’d like to dispel would be the negative stereotype that witches have. Witches have always been placed in this box of narratives. For example, witchcraft involves the Devil or that we are evil. The Pagan community is full of multifaceted people with varying levels of experience, tradition, and knowledge. I like the funny saying “You say Witch like it’s a bad thing” because for the most part it’s not. We are far from the era of the Salem witch trials but the word witch still has a negative connotation to it. Decorations of ugly, scary, warty witches are still abundant. It’s all just seems unbalanced and I’m not sure if it will ever change.
Jewel: 1.) That all witches work with spells and conjuring. I don’t work with spells. I work with prayers for healing. My practice is simply giving thanks and giving offerings and listening. The magic is life itself and all that is created.
2.) That all witches are white. In every culture and in every tradition, there is a witch. The folk healer, the medicine woman, the midwife; these women would have all been considered dangerous at some point in time. They would have been labeled as witches. Witches come in all colors, shapes, backgrounds, and beliefs. The only requirement is that you feel it on the inside. It is not a path for everyone.
Witch #7: That there is just one type of witch. There are as many types as there are colors in the spectrum! We witches aren’t all good OR all bad, just like anyone else.