My idea of a witch was formed from The Wizard of Oz, the TV show Bewitched, Grimms’ fairytales and other stories. These stories emphasized that a Witch was defined by how she chose to use her special powers. The Wicked Witch of the West intimidates and enslaves others for selfish reasons, while Glenda uses her power to spread love and help Dorothy with her personal growth - more like how we think of an angel.
So to me a witch is someone with special powers with the free will on how to use them. She might be tempted to harm others if she is self-centered, greedy or uncaring. Or she can use it for good if she wants to contribute to the well-being of others and the planet.
But witches still have a terrible reputation. According to Wikipedia: Witchcraft, in various historical, anthropological, religious and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. Historically, it was widely believed that witchcraft involved the use of these powers to inflict harm upon members of a community or their property.
Witch-hunting was common and legally sanctioned in Europe for 300 years, reaching its fever pitch from around 1550-1650 - when thousands were convicted of witchcraft on flimsy evidence and mean-spirited accusations. Given the huge numbers of alleged witches who were killed, in retrospect, this witch fever has been diagnosed as mass hysteria. (See link below for a fascinating article on a number of these factors and some myth busting about the witch hunts themselves - as well as chilling information about witch hunts going on today).
One factor not discussed in this article but I think still relevant - there were certain people who understood the power of plants - the calming, tonifying, healing effects of various herbs and combinations of herbs. This must have seemed like magic at the time. The medical establishment then (as now) treated patients a tad more aggressively. Feel sluggish? We’ll attach a few leeches and drain your blood. Have a sore on your leg? We better hurry up and cut it off. The results were hit and miss and these doctors of medicine didn’t appreciate a mere woman getting results with her ‘magical’ concoctions. It must be the devil’s work!
I wrote a book for girls called Witch Littles: Magic In The Garden. A handful of people suggested I take the word ‘witch’ off the cover because some would be offended or frightened by it - even though the cover is light and playful. I was truly surprised by this - after all, we’ve had a steady supply of entertainment featuring witches both good and bad. Are people really scared of a children’s book?
That made me want to help reinvent the word Witch - so long associated with a negative, frightened idea about (empowered) women. In this story, my little witches communicate with nature and discover how powerful their intentions and words are - that we have a real effect on the world around us. Because they are motivated by love, they choose to use their powers for good.
And don’t we all have that choice? We each have gifts and powers - and we each have the free will to choose how we use them. Do we hide from our own power, pretending we’re helpless, feeling like a victim of life? Do we use it to manipulate, cheat or hurt others? Or do we use our gifts and powers to do good, to share love, offer assistance, help make the world a better place? If so, Glenda the Good Witch could be an example of how to do this gracefully - she was there to help, without imposing her own agenda on Dorothy.
So what’s the difference between magic and miracles? “A miracle is an unexpected event attributed to divine intervention.” To me, magic is using our free will and positive intentions to work with the divine - the unified field - infinite, unconditional love - whatever you call it - to bring about the positive results we desire - even if they seem impossible to achieve on our own.