Long ago, I had a friendship with a self-described witch. She emerged from an older culture, where this word had meaning I clearly had no handle for. In the midst of distancing myself from the magical thinking of catholicism, I tried to accept her lessons as important - but not to be taken literally. Still defining myself, and dealing with the persistence of mystery.
She relished the role of mentor a bit too much for my taste, I had no need for any more self-styled teachers, gurus. The witch friend really did help me deal with my reality dissonances, and prepared me to be open to mystical and random events. At that stage, I figured I just didn't quite get where she was coming from, and took her as written. My oldest brother thought he would be my guide as well, tell me how best to live my life, and I accepted all advice without over analysis. Grist to the mill. I made little distinction.
Witches have never seemed evil to me. They were a repository of folk knowledge, or victims of social discontent, or a TV fantasy - see Bewitched
. I so wanted magic to work as a child, wishes seemed more powerful than prayers, although neither had proven effective. I wanted magic to work with all my being, to fly, to disappear, to escape.
Pratchett's witches spoke more clearly to me as an adult. They had for themselves the happiness of no rewards, only living by their own choice. That last would have been quite enough for me, even as a small child. The power to say "no." They were highly regarded, if not liked. There was a price to pay for their independence, fair enough. Cranky, but not to be messed with. Feared, but not really fearsome.
Feminism embraced witches, as misunderstood, oppressed women. Wicca "empowered" them, whatever that seemed to mean. It became a word associated with the most laughable of the New Age sparkle. Odd, disenfranchised women, out for attention, approval. Some source of power beyond whatever in their lives they cannot get out from under. Secret energies, obscure authority, drama and mediumship. Poppycock sometimes, sadder still when self delusion, mental illness, bids for attention. But depending on the background, never that easily dismissed. The word witch does have the power to conjure.
Witches always struck me as utterly human, and female, never a supernatural evil. I remember being rather offended by The Witches
. If somewhat distanced from society and with a tangental approach to logic, they were never other than earthy. Eccentric women. Unique personalities. Some differences based on culture, what is allowed for those who won't fit the narrowly constrained female roles.
I don't believe in the healing power of crystals*. It took 42 years of fervent wishing to kill my father. Not what one expects of magical results. Prayer is a comfort, but not a strategy for getting a project completed. The liminal experiences are subtle, easily quashed, suggestions and hints - not overwhelming power - readily dismissed. Important, but only when noticed and coupled with hard work.
My younger brother, during our brief correspondence last year, mentioned we come from a long line of mystics and witches. Yeah, whatever. Misfits, more like. We are not psychics, just poor folks finding a measure of value. Outsiders learning cold reading. The fearful puffing ourselves up to frighten the hunters. Not a bad method, but best not taken too seriously in oneself.
Magic got me through childhood. But the world is marvelous enough without being manipulated and dramatized, once we begin to understand how hugely magical reality is. And maybe that's the thing about witches, a matter of vocabulary, definitions, context. Likely in a different time, I would have held the role. Now, I silently stand in awe of everything, I'll keep my hands in my pockets.
She was carrying a club with a nail in it. When she was close enough for conversation, Vimes said, "I've come here to-"
"Do you believe in the healing power of crystals, young man?" snapped the woman, raising the club threateningly.
"What? What healing powers?" said Vimes.
The old woman gave him a cracked smile, and dropped the club.
"Good," she said. "We like our customers to take their geology
Thud. Terry Pratchett.