So...Your Friend Is a Witch?
Author: Danjia Water Fae
A Bare Bones Guide to Understanding Pagans and Witches –
Consider that you’re spending time with a good friend over a nice meal, some good wine, and friendly conversation. Your friend tells you that she is Pagan. As a matter of fact, she says, she’s a practicing Witch. What does this mean to you? What’s the first thing that goes through your mind? It’s likely that on at least some level, you found the idea of someone in this day and age being a “Witch” to be laughable. It’s very possible that you conjured the image in your mind of her dressed all in black, riding a broom through the night sky – like some Halloween cartoon.
It is also likely that some part of you was at least a little frightened by the word. As if, suddenly, this person whom you have trusted in your home, in your life, and with your friendship, has become some force of darkness. In truth all your friend has done is shared with you something which shouldn’t have to be a secret. Your friend has trusted you with information about her faith, her spirituality. If your friend were Baptist, would the announcement that she followed that path cause you any discomfort? Not likely. In the simplest of terms, your newly found (no matter how fleeting) doubt about your friend is the result of a centuries long media assault on the Pagan way of life. As you’re gathering your thoughts on this newly discovered facet of your friend, and wondering how it affects you and how you feel about her, try to keep an open mind. And try to keep in mind that your friend has trusted you with something very dear, and traditionally very dangerous. The truth about who she is. Remember, for centuries, Witches have been burned, and hanged for nothing more than their faith.
So, What Does It All Mean?
Let’s start at the beginning. Paganism is not a single religion. It is an umbrella term generally used to cover all those religions, which are not considered to be “main world religions”, i.e. Christianity, Judaism and Islam. A person who follows one of the “other” faiths is considered to be a Pagan. Many Witches, and other Neo-Pagans simply identify themselves as "Pagan" in order to simplify the conversation when talking with someone (like, perhaps you) who may or may not be familiar with the different belief systems. This, rather unintentionally, often makes it sound as though "Paganism" is a religion – as opposed to a collection of religions. Just for the record, Neo-Paganism is not the same as the "New Age" movement. Generally, Pagans are involved in a distinctive religion. The New Age movement draws its spirituality from varied sources, as almost a supplement to the religion already practiced by that person.
A What? A Witch?
A Witch is a practitioner of a nature-based, nature-revering or “folk” belief system. Witches believe that our planet should be revered, and respected, as the manifestation of Deity. Not all Witches follow the same belief system. There are many different belief systems, only some of which will be discussed here – for the sake of brevity. Some Witches practice what is often referred to as the "Old Religion". This system is rooted in beliefs, which pre-date the monotheistic belief systems, and it follows the agricultural seasonal cycles. The Earth is a living thing and therefore a gift, for us, from the God and Goddess. Many Witches believe in a polytheistic deity structure usually based upon the local gods and goddesses of their area of origin. Most Witches feel that a monotheistic belief structure is only half of the whole. If based upon only one all-powerful male God, and often presided over by only male clergy, it is unbalanced and only half-effective. Worship, for Witches, is centered on both the male and female personifications of Deity. The most widely known sects of witchcraft are Wicca and Druidism. “Wiccan” is often used, by the misinformed, as a description for all Witches. This tendency is likely due to the increased exposure of Wicca, thanks to many movies and TV shows of recent years. All Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan. Think of it this way – All Baptists are Christians, but not all Christians are Baptist. Make sense now?
So, you’re sitting at the table, listening to your friend, and wondering what this is supposed to mean for you? How does this affect your friendship? Is she trying to recruit you into her cult? Is she going to try to make you participate in some scary rituals? Is she going to have to leave your birthday party early because it’s a full moon, and she’s “gotta fly”? Is there some room in her home, where she keeps snakes and shrunken heads, and all manner of frightening and evil accoutrements? Does she worship the devil? Make sacrifices? Curse those who make her angry?
Chances are that your friend told you this, because she trusts you and trusts your friendship to be strong enough to handle something out of the ordinary. She will likely have things in her home, which you may not understand – although you may never see them, even when they’re in plain sight. Your friend wants to be able to welcome you into her home, without the worry that you’ll see something “odd” and make a snap judgment based on misinformation. Your best source for information, when dealing with anything surprising or confusing, as it relates to your friend, is to go straight to her. If you see something in her home that you simply don’t understand, particularly if it has some negative connotation for you, ask your friend. She has shared her path with you, and as such, has invited you to ask her questions about anything you don’t understand. There’s a good chance that she uses herbs, incense, and oils to express her faith – and that the biggest danger from that is that she may set off her smoke detector!
Witches do not “recruit” new members. They revere their faith as a very personal choice, and a personal path. Witches also believe that no one path is right for everyone, and that everyone’s path, be it Christian, Wiccan, Hindu, etc., is a valid path. You should know that, as a Witch, your friend does not believe in the Devil. There is no “Lord of Evil” in her faith, lurking around every corner, waiting to trick a human into relenting their soul through some list of sins. She does not worship something in which she does not believe…so please put the devil-worship scenario to rest. Your friend believes in the Earth…the changing of the seasons…and the cycles of Life. There is good and bad in most things, and we – as people – know the difference. Witches believe that we, as humans, are responsible for our own actions. When we do something wrong, and something happens to us, we must accept the blame and try to learn the lessons being handed to us by the universe. When we have done right, and something good happens, we are entitled to pat ourselves on the back. And there are lessons to learn from the good things, as well.
Witches live by many rules, but perhaps the most concise and encompassing rule is – ‘And it harm none, do what ye will’. Your friend is, in a sense, prohibited from “cursing” someone who has made her angry. Witches live by the rules of Karma – the law of threefold return. Whatever we do comes back to us threefold. If your friend were to wish someone ill, she would be in line for a threefold return on those ill wishes. This is something taken very seriously by a Witch. Bear in mind that the good wishes are also returned threefold. So, it’s very possible that your friend just happens to be a fairly positive person, who wishes the best for most people. Your friend is also prohibited from making blood sacrifices. Quite obviously, that goes against the “harm none” principle. Now, before we go any further, take a good look at your friend and remember – NOT all Witches are old hags, riding around on broomsticks. Some of them are bright, attractive, outgoing people!
So, What’s Different Now?
Now that your friend has told you about her faith, what’s different now? Nothing. Chances are, that if you have an open mind, and really think about it, you’ll see that nothing has changed. Your friend has simply put a label on some of the things that likely drew you to her, from the beginning. She is telling you that she is an independent thinker, and a bit of a free spirit. She holds nature in a very high regard. She is probably the friend who reminds you to stop occasionally and smell the flowers!
So, ask your friend questions, look into her faith; research the things you don’t understand. And embrace the knowledge that your friend trusts you with such a wonderful gift.