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Once considered a slur against womankind, the term “witch” has enjoyed a widespread reclamation by people of all genders — basically anyone who finds solace in the supernatural, particularly the beauty and wrath of the divine feminine. Whether you’re a hardcore occultist, or a dabbler who became conscripted to help bind Donald Trump from doing harm, or just someone who admires a spooky aesthetic, you’re unlikely to hear anything negative in the word now, no matter who flings it.
Not only is there a lineage connecting historical witches to contemporary feminism, they’ve also served as iconoclasts in the often male-dominated fields art, literature, and medicine. Then, just as now, there was no one so fearsome as an educated woman (or one who knew her way around poisonous herbs).
Enjoy as the following authors comment on some of the characteristics often attributed to witches, including a few insights from those who fully embrace the term for themselves.
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929
“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
Arthur Miller, The Crucible, 1953
“Until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.”
Silver RavenWolf, A Witch’s Notebook: Lessons in Witchcraft, 2005
“As a girl, I used to believe that I could see and taste the air. I was TOLD that was impossible and forgot how to do so.”
Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad, 1991
“Blessings be on this house,” Granny said, perfunctorily. It was always a good opening remark for a witch. It concentrated people’s minds on what other things might be on this house.”
Ray Bradbury, Long After Midnight, 1976
“A Witch is born out of the true hungers of her time,” she said. “I was born out of New York. The things that are most wrong here summoned me. (“Drink Entire: Against The Madness Of Crowds”)”
Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America, 1979
“The first time I called myself a ‘Witch’ was the most magical moment of my life.”
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Witch’s Sister, 1975
“From the shadows of the pool,
Black as midnight, thick as gruel
Come my nymphs, and you shall be
Silent images of me.”
Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing, 2016
The white man told us he was the way, and we said yes, but when has the white man ever told us something was good for us and that thing was really good? They say you are an African witch, and so what? So what? Who told them what a witch was?”
Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic, 1995
“The children on the playground all heard her. They took off running together, as far away as possible from Antonia Owens, who might hex you if you did her wrong, and from her aunts, who might boil up garden toads and slip them into your stew, and from her mother, who was so angry and protective she might just freeze you in time, ensuring that you were forever trapped on the green grass at the age of ten or eleven.”
Anne Rice, The Witching Hour, 1990
“Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a very dangerous enemy indeed.”
Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown, 2015
“’Are you going? What shall you wear?’
‘I shall go in what I am standing in,’ said Mak Genggang. ‘A witch is always appropriate whatever her attire.’”
Euripides, Medea, 431 BC
“By Hecate, the goddess I worship more than all the others, the one I choose to help me in this work, who lives with me deep inside my home, these people won’t bring pain into my heart and laugh about it.”