A witch by any other name

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A witch by any other name
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Post # 1

In my many years within the Pagan Community, I have often heard that the term "Witch" is genderless; that a man or a woman can be properly called such. This always struck me as odd, but I didn't argue it. However after some digging into word origins and their nature, I no longer feel this is the proper term.

To start with, we have the origins of the word witch. It comes from the Old English wicca (m) and wicce (f). This particularly struck me as odd, in that a religion that is predominantly feminine takes name from the masculine form of the word.

So the origin has both male and female forms. Why not the following word of "witch"?

For this, I found a word. But first let us look at the words "widow" and "widower". These come from the Slavic words "vdova" and "vdovets" respectively. As with "widow", the suffix of "er" (or "ets") is added, depending on the root word.

Similarly, the Slavic word for witch is "ved'ma". The male form of this is "ved'mak", which translates as "Witcher". And in Slavic folklore, this is just what witchers were; male witches.

We often see terms for male practitioners of witchcraft as "magicians" or "wizards." "Warlock" is out because that technically means "oath-breaker." Wizard - contrary to popular culture - is more relevant to Druidry, and magician is properly a practitioner of Ceremonial Magic.

So what should we call a simple male witch? As with a widower to a widow, a witcher.

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Re: A witch by any other name
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 2
Wow! That is fascinating. I never put much thought into it. Thank you Mech!
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Re: A witch by any other name
By:
Post # 3
Wow this is so interesting! Thank you so much for posting this!
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Re: A witch by any other name
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Post # 4

Good read, nicely done. ^^

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Re: A witch by any other name
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 5

The thought process makes sense and Witcher is pleasing to the eye and ear, but I feel like it would only ever be associated with The Witcher video game series as that is the only source most people have even heard this term before. I feel the etymology of the word Witch should be delved into to see how it progressed linguistically to see how it went from a gendered word to a commonly accepted gender neutral term.

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Re: A witch by any other name
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 6

An interesting post Mechtavolk, though as mentioned before - calling ourselves Witchers , whilst it will attract strange attention from those who do not understand what the word actually means because of the books and video game series called The Witcher - however this particular series has a lot of traceable mythology to actual sources and cultures.

As for what male witches should call themselves? Depends really on what they practice and what they want to be called, we may have all this historical information but we need to count into the fact of the practitioner - as an example a British Traditional Witch can't call themselves a Bruja because that is a term specific to the practice of Brujeria , even the word directly translates to Witch .

Same with the Italian 'Witches' - there is a word specific to them as well ( Stregha ), there is also Benandanti and Malandanti which are not gender specific, they are moral and practice specific - from seeing these words you can easily see what side of the coin they mean. They still mean 'Practitioner of Magic/Witchcraft'.

Going further on that note we also have other names for 'Witches' such as Cunning-Man, Wizard, Wise-woman, Wise-man, Witch . The reason I seperated Witch/Wizard and ' Wise-man/Wise-woman ' is because there was a difference, a pretty large one (This information I am specific taking from Western European Witchcraft around the 14 - 18th Century)

Witch was a negatively used word around the time of the Witch Trials during those Centuries which we saw stop and start over the 400 years I mention for at least 20 years or so. Witchcraft according to some authors and scholars was the term used for Black Magic - negative, harmful and baneful, many clients would see a Wise Man or Wise Woman to have Witchcraft lifted from them - or to place Witchcraft onto another, Witchcraft was more used as a term for Affliction caused by someone else through magic and a 'Witch' was the person who cast the affliction over the person. There are a lot of works to undo Witchcraft - and if you think about it, some of us according to our practice are pretty much called 'Posioners' or 'Afflicters'

Where am I going with this? Just how the popular culture of the time saw practitioners of magic and what they called them - when they were taken to court, regardless of the good they did, they would be called Witch - if they escaped conviction they would go back to being called Wise Woman etc. Another example is based on what clients would come to practitioners for, if they wanted good magic done, they were Cunning-Men/Woman, Wisemen, Wizards, Wisewomen - if they came for curses, the practitioner was seen as a Witch .

The difference between the words is much like Benandanti and Malandanti - it's the moral application and how people saw them.

Back to what title we should be called, it's down not only to the Etymology of the word but also how we see ourselves and how people see us (As well as what we are practicing specifically, such as if I was practicing Slavic Witchcraft I would call myself a Witcher , because that is who I am to that set of beliefs and practices) , I've seen practitioners trying to 'reclaim' the word Warlock - gutting it of its negative connotations and using it as a positive title for 'Male Practitioner' despire the fact it meant Oath breaker which is a rather neutral term, anyone can be an Oath Breaker.

I did thoroughly enjoy this post because it is something that people don't really think about - most assume "I practice magic there for I am Witch" when that is not true, Witch is specific and in some cultures and beliefs - highly offensive, especially for someone to call a practice Witchcraft when the culture it is from hates and abhores Witches .

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Re: A witch by any other name
By:
Post # 7

Really well done! ;)

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Re: A witch by any other name
By:
Post # 8

Oh, of course, Weatherwax, there are multiple terms for various practices - or even multiple terms in one practice. Nor was this meant to say that all men should call themselves one thing.

Although, on the point of Slavic witchcraft, technically you would call yourself a "ved'mak"; it's only translated into English as "witcher", as "ved'ma" is to "witch".

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