I'm doing research in the current YA market, and it's a surprize to see so much interest around the subject of witches. Whether we're talking about the hunts of the 1600s or unfairly powerful minxes from the fantasy world, it really seems to be making a buzz.
As people, I reckon we're naturally drawn to the unknown. We might fear it, we might even discard it as rubbish, but a lot of the time, I think deep down many of us find it fascinating. I will make it no secret - at school I was low-key bullied, or at the very least taken the piss out of for coming out as a witch. Obviously I'm partially to blame as well. Being that age, other kids aren't to know the finer details behind it, and at the time I didn't know the right words to explain it myself, so I should have known better than to blabber on. More to the point, if it was a classmate who was coming out as gay, or had an unusual religion or cultural background, they would not be questioned about it at all. Most people know by now that harassing someone for these reasons is plain disrespectful - so why should it be any different for witches?
Looking back now, I think it will always come back to the fear of the unknown. If it's not something you can measure, if it's not something you can touch or taste, how can you prove it's there at all? And it's not just the younger generation who thinks this way; you can find adults who are in exactly the same place years later.
Some kids asked me if I can turn so-and-so into a frog. The answer is no. A fairy tale witch and a real life witch are completely different things. Not everyone knows the distinction between them yet, but with the growing interest in witchy fiction, paganism, wicca and other movements, more and more are learning the true meaning to this identification and we're no longer feeling so alone. Let me describe in my own words.
Some kids, the ones who were more open-minded, asked me if I could give them a spell from my book so I happily printed stuff off for them. These were mainly for romance or making money. I never got to find out if it ever did work for them or not. If it did, that's awesome. If not, then I'm really not surprized. Spells are not so much about having to get the exact colour of your candle right, or the right number of stones or what day of the week you do it on (all of this helps in its own symbolic way, but it's really not necessary to have these things at all). What matters is the intention. If you do not show the resolve, if you don't charge your actions with feeling and most importantly, if you don't actually believe that any of this can work - then you really won't get anything at all. Those kids might have gone through the action of tossing a penny over their doorsteps and saying the magic rhyme, but if they were doing it only to prove how useless it'll be, then the self-fulfilling prophesy will give back more of useless. Also if you were to take part out of curiosity but was riddled with doubt, again, doubt is the biggest killer of dreams. How could all these rituals and incantations and woo-woo ever lead you to getting what you want? is pretty much the underlying question. Well, that's just the way the world works. You put out energy - you get it back. You keep having bad thoughts - you'll keep having bad days. What you think and what you do gets drawn back to you. You don't even have to bring out crystals, candles or writing, but these things can strengthen the intention and bring results faster, because they carry their own charge. I'm not a scientist who can explain how that happens on a molecular level, but I'm sure you get the gist of it. But you try explaining that in a high school. Even if I did have the words and confidence to describe how I have here, the sad truth is that most just wouldn't want to listen. But that's ok. Not everyone's ready to take on what can be startling new information, sometimes, not in their whole lives.
We may be starting to get a better idea of this in society, but there's still a lot of ambiguity in fiction that I feel needs to be cleared up eventually. In a story, 'witch' could mean a whole lot of things. It could be a wicked hag with warts on her nose. It could be an innocent woman in the middle ages who just knew too much. It could be sorceresses born with powers such as telekinesis, flight, invisibility, working with fire, water, wind and many other things. Or they might have been taught it in a school. It's great that people are taking an interest in this not=so researched concept, but with such a big range of what a 'witch' can be in a story, it doesn't actually answer the question of who are the real women (and men) who we can see in our day-to-day lives. In our world, being a witch isn't all that glamourous as it's made out to be, with flying and transformations and the like. It's more like dabbling around in the energetic fields of life to bring about what you want. There are many wise women who know about herbs, cooking them and using them for medicine - knowledge that has came close to dying out in today's world. For some witches their connection to nature and taking part in rituals is their identity - religion, you could call it. There are even those who train psychically, but with the amount of impostors in this field, I won't go too deep into that one.
After reading this post, I hope you've gained a better understanding of who the magic practitioners of this world are, and that you'll be more open to respecting other beliefs you may not have heard about before. This is only an overview, so for anyone who wants to learn more it would be best to reach out directly.
PS: I did go a lot into my past experiences. That's because any of you who's ever been excluded for being different will know that it's lonely, and it hurts. Funnily enough, I no longer identify as a witch, but even if I did, the people in my life make me feel more valued and interested to hear my perspectives than ever before. So thank you all for that. My reason for no longer practicing spells is that you can often get caught up in what you think you want rather than what's truly good for everyone. If you're having to drag in a job, relationship, life change, etc by force or before its due time, events can go very sour. Basing spells on selfish needs is also the basis for black magic, which is not something you want to experience as a caster or victim. These days, I'd much rather ask for help with fulfilling my goals and to bring a happy, fair outcome to everyone, then do the necessary work and wait for the results to happen. That's a lot safer and more effective than thinking you know best.
I hope that anyone reading this will one day see that their biggest reason for not fitting in is probably their greatest strength, and learn to love it. <3