by Dr Catherine ‘West’ Winther
Everyone’s journey to claiming the word ‘witch’ is powerful, important and unique. However, it can be a lonely and difficult journey.
The current trend to adopt witchcraft as a fashion trend is also upsetting and off-putting. I ask you not to be put off by the challenging path but don’t be surprised by it either.
The harder the climb the more beautiful the view.
Anyone can be a witch and there is a lot of support for new witches. We are all born with the power to be witches. Some people have more natural talent than others, but that does not dictate worth.
All witches and their work are important. However, sadly, as we grow up society teaches us that magick isn’t real, that intuition is crazy talk, and that you have no claim over the title witch.
Society teaches us that witches are bad, fake, and a commodity. Society has no problem with hypocrisy. They can teach you witches are bad and fake and still turn them into a profitable object. Who’s crazy…?
Society’s understanding and handling of the word ‘witch’ is a whole load of bullshit.
If it feels right to call yourself a witch, go for it. It is your birthright.
When I finally claimed the title witch for myself I felt a sense of homecoming.
But developing a relationship with the term ‘witch’ and reclaiming it was challenging and required a lot of patience and effort.
My journey to reclaiming the word ‘witch’ took decades. I happily called myself a witch in my late teens—early twenties, but then I met other witches and teachers who told me I couldn’t use that term.
One teacher believed you couldn’t be a witch if you didn’t have a coven. One witch argued that if you had been baptized you couldn’t be a witch.
Other witches proclaimed that your mother had to be a witch in order to call yourself a witch. In the end I gave up.
Over time I fell for the rules of other witches and didn’t believe myself worthy of the word ‘witch’. Who was I to claim it? I hadn’t earned it. I didn’t have the slip of paper or certificate.
My mother was a witch, but she was an evil and abusive witch.
On top of the physical and mental abuse she used her powers to talk to the dead, conjure demons and set them on me and my brother.
The pinnacle of her abuse saw her summon a demon and then cast a love spell on the demon attaching it to my soul. I was fourteen at the time. She cursed me and my home.
I would often find thorns, yew and bones in my bed. Her hobbies included hosting a séance then getting the priest out to do exorcisms the next morning. It was a rough childhood so naturally I was ripe for unscrupulous coven leaders.
The priests and high priestesses I came into contact with were able to convince me of my powerlessness and worthlessness when it came to calling myself a witch.
Despite all this, I quietly spent my life reading tarot, lucid dreaming, astral travelling, performing séances, and preforming energy and crystal healings.
I cleanse houses and perform exorcisms. I cast spells.
I always have at least one altar in my home. I spend time in nature connecting to the trees and animals.
Even though I didn’t believe I was worthy of being a witch, I was living as one.
It was about three years ago that I decided to reclaim the word ‘witch’ for myself and make it my own.
Sickness gave me a different perspective on life. I don’t have time to waste. Whatever time I have left, I want to live it as a witch.
Living as a witch makes me happy. It is that simple. Reasons and motives don’t need to be complicated. Often it is better if they aren’t.
From a young age witchcraft has been a necessity in order to protect myself and my brother against my mother—a task I keep up to this very day.
With Weaver Tarot I have tried to turn these hard-won skills into something to help others.
I set up Weaver Tarot as a way to serve the Universe. It is more of a hobby than a money maker.
If it is destined to survive as a business I want it’s growth to be natural rather than forced. That way I can be sure it will find the people who are in need of my service.
I believe magick always finds a way.
Once again, when I claimed the term ‘witch’ and set up Weaver Tarot, I became a target of witches who were determined I wasn’t worthy of the title, that my work must be a scam, that I had no right to perform magick, they even spread the rumour that my illness was fake.
When I took on the title of witch I lost my best friend. That was a dreadful cost to pay but it’s better to know the truth.
Loved ones are not loved ones if they don’t believe in you or treat you as disposable or worthless. Love cannot reside where trust does not exist.
The same goes for teachers, too. If they make you feel less than, walk away. True wisdom and magick do not have cruel gatekeepers. And remember: nostalgia has no place in magick.
While finally claiming the title ‘witch’ gave me immense relief and strength, it also came with unexpected costs.
They were important lessons but be prepared for the loss because I wasn’t, but once I was clear of that sorrow I was lighter than I’d ever been. I was flying.
Society has trained women to keep women down.
So, when it appears the whole world is against you, know that you are on the right path.
Stand tall and howl ‘Witch’ to the stars and trust the Universe to hold you. The path of the witch is often lonely and the challenges are intense—but the rewards are worth it.
For every witch that stood against me, ten would stand behind me.
It just took time to find my witch-sisters.
A truth you will learn on the path is that your biggest enemy is yourself, closely followed by yourself, then other witches.
Try and remember that this is no different to life in general where your greatest enemies are you and your closest loved ones. And just like in general life, in witchcraft your number one hero is you, too.
All I can say to you is that if you feel the time is right to call yourself ‘witch’, if you feel it in your bones and your heart beats with magick, claim the title. Do it.
Only YOU have the power to claim the title witch for yourself. Only you will know when the time is right.
Ignore the noise around you. Focus on your soul. Feel your truth.
Smile because it is a truth that no one can take from you. Smile as you watch what you no longer need leaves your life. Smile for what comes next.
Smile because you always knew this to be true: you are magick. I promise.
Amidst the hate and judgement I encountered some genuine concerns about witchcraft being a birth right. I’d like to address those fears.
The main fear was that if there are no filters as to who calls themselves a witch it could strip the term of meaning.
The term witch has been abused for hundreds of years. Witchcraft becoming a popular fashion statement is much better PR than witch hunts and burning.
Also, witchcraft having more exposure than usual may mean that more potential witches try out and explore witchcraft, thus creating the opportunity for more witches to become.
Many witches become irate over people who call themselves witches but don’t practice.
You can’t stop people from using the term witch but if they don’t practice they just won’t be a very good witch.
Like anything in life, what you put into something is what you get out of it. If they want to be a non-practicing witch but still call themselves witches that’s perfectly fine.
We might not always like the fact anyone can call themselves a witch but we can’t stop them and fighting it is wasted energy.
Witchcraft is not something you can fake. If you don’t practice it shows.
But to all those people claiming they are witches simply because it is trendy and cool? There are people who die for that privilege you parade with such ease.
If nothing else, all we ask is you try and remember and respect that.
A fair argument against just anyone using the term ‘witch’ is the danger it can bring.
I have worked with young witches who got into trouble playing with Ouija Boards, Enochian magick, spells, and even lucid dreaming.
It is true that witchcraft can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, don’t do adequate research, and don’t show respect.
However, it is incredibly difficult to attract serious trouble as a novice witch, partly because attracting serious trouble takes a serious effort.
Also, novice witches rarely have what demons are looking for: power.
The fact that a bolshy and clueless fourteen year-old girl can stumble through years of dark magick defending against demons her mother sent and survive is an example of how young people can explore magick and survive safe and sound.
Experimenting with magick is a great way to learn. Fixing up your own magical mistakes and accidents is an even better way to learn.
And if the worst happens and you need help, despite all the witch wars you see online, at heart, most witches are good people and if a novice witch turns to them for help—they will help.
Even without a coven you are never truly alone as a witch. The red thread connects us all.
At the end of the day I believe the love that connects us at our core is stronger than the hate and jealousy that society has programmed us with.
It makes sense many young or new witches seek out covens. A good coven can be a great learning environment.
Although covens aren’t really my thing I know some witches love them. They love the company of likeminded souls, the support, and the general feeling being in a group of magickal people can bring.
Like any educational system, covens tend to be very hierarchical and rigid. There are certain levels to achieve, or tasks to complete before you can be a priestess.
However, no coven or High Priestess has the right to tell you when and how you can use the term ‘witch’.
And while they can teach you about magick in general, t they can’t teach you about your magick.
Everyone has a unique magick that has unique strengths. No one person has the right to stop you from exploring your own magick.
You can’t take away a witch’s power, but you need to own your own.
In summary, we are all born witches, whether we choose to claim that label for ourselves is up to each individual.
I have shared my story of reclaiming to illustrate just how hard and twisty the road can be, but it is possible.
It’s not too late. And it is more than worth it. If you are a witch, it is necessary to claim and understand your power and heritage lest your energy and the threads of magick go stale.
If you want to be a witch, ignore the noise of other people and listen to your heart.
You can claim the word ‘Witch’ quietly or loudly, it doesn’t really matter.
The kind of witch you are will shine through naturally as stirred by your practices and connection to nature.
Help yourself to step up so you can then help others. This isn’t about righteousness, this is about freedom.
If this essay resonates with you, please join our WITCH email list by using the forms on this website so we can stay in touch.
About the Author:
Dr. Catherine ‘West’ Winther is a retired psychologist and passionate LGBTQIA feminist who comes from a long family line of of creatrixes, witches, and wolves. Through her online coven at WeaverTarot.com she offers readings, spell-craft, curios, and counselling. Her passion is holding sacred shadow spaces and fostering alchemy through conversation. She aids healing and growth through encouraging big play, big magick, big nature, cackling, sensuality, and creativity.
all images from shutterstock
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