Today, when people talk about witches in America, they have in mind the broom-holding witch of yesteryear. Today’s witches are still a “pagan” movement, and over one million Americans practice witchcraft. To spot a modern witch, though, you need to know how to identify one. This short article should help to break a few myths about modern witches, too.
Invisible to the Average Person
The witch of today doesn’t worry about black cats, pointy hats or brooms. You can’t spot a witch the way you used to, and contrary to the beliefs of many, the modern witch doesn’t cover themselves in tattoos, piercings or Goth clothing. Many witches today like to dress inconspicuously—that single father you saw this morning may be a high priest. That cashier at Walmart could well be a practicing witch. You just won’t know until you know…
It seems to be common for people to believe that witches are women who live alone with their cats and stand in front of a cauldron. This isn’t the case at all. The person who founded the Wicca movement was a man—Gerald Gardner. He was a retired civil servant from an extremely wealthy family. Another common misconception is that men who are involved in witchcraft call themselves “warlocks.” Most don’t. That’s considered to be an insult to them. Warlock is a term that is taken to mean “oathbreaker.” Don’t call a male witch a warlock!
A Strict Moral Code…
Anyone who ever saw a horror movie with witches can safely assume that witches are Devil worshippers who dance around naked and put spells on those they come across. This is actually incorrect. The truth is that the pagan groups have a concept that is very similar to what we would call “Karma.” Any action they take will come back to them three times over. This is also repeated in the Wiccan tradition– “An’ it harm none, do what thou wilt.” Basically, follow your own ideas, but don’t cause harm to anyone.
Now, that’s not to say that witches haven’t done harm to others—hexes have been performed and there is rivalry within the covens—there have even been witch wars—but this is not common behavior. The majority of witches live in peace and harmony.
Thanks to Hollywood, this has become a frightening term, but the “coven” is just a sect attended by the disciples of a powerful priestess or priest. As the witchcraft traditions have grown, more and more covens have been created out of splintered groups. Some witches prefer to grow through their own personal training in solitude. Some like to learn from the experienced members of a coven. Like any class, club or society, there are those who like to attend and those who like to be alone.