Witchy Origins - How the Witch Got Her Name


               Eek! Halloween is just around the corner. If you are anything like me, I have only just begun the process of shopping for that perfect costume, and assortment of decorations with which to embellish ...

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               Eek! Halloween is just around the corner. If you are anything like me, I have only just begun the process of shopping for that perfect costume, and assortment of decorations with which to embellish my home- of course with the enthusiastic help of my seven year old. Retailers have been quite busy preparing for this ‘special holiday’ by stockpiling their shelves full of a variety of traditional Halloween fare displaying  macabre images of witches, goblins and vampires with which to accent our homes both inside and out. Speaking of which, has anyone even thought about how a Witch got her name? Or thought much about the associations that are made with the word witch? I have, and here is the scoop on what I have uncovered!

            The word witch is derived from several different words in different languages. For example, witch is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Wicca’ which means ‘wise’ whereas in German the word comes from ‘weiten’ whose meaning is consecration or bless. Whew! The most amazing part is that witches have existed for thousands of years. In early times, witches were regarded as the equivalent of doctors and treated ‘patients’ for a variety of ailments and disorders. It appeared that the patient would get well quickly and hence the witch worked her ‘magic’. This treatment modality was termed ‘witchcraft’ or craft of the wise. Some treatments were comprised of herbal concoctions that were prepared in cauldrons hence the distinct image of a witch standing over and stirring her bubbling cauldron.  This can be compared to the medicinals that are readily available on the shelves at pharmacies everywhere today. Other treatments involved incantations and an assortment of tools that would be deemed strange by today’s standards.  Nonetheless, the role of the witch was to help others and at one time they were well respected members of the community. These women held a deep reverence for nature and regarded the earth as a living entity with feminine characteristics. This is how ‘Mother Nature’ came to be. Remember those Parkay commercials that reminded us to not fool Mother Nature?  She was deemed a force to be reckoned with! Unfortunately, the religious beliefs of witches were deemed strange, and posed a threat to Christianity. This incited Christian religious leader to spread the misconceptions that witches were ‘evil’ and were hideous crones who spent their time conjuring evil entities.  A book entitled ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ or ‘Hammer of the Witches’ was written by the Inquisitor for the Catholic Church, Heinrich Kamer. This set the stage for the persecution of witches, and the author went as far to urge the reader to reach for a torch and hunt down witches. Thus began the mass annihilation of witches. They were arrested, tried in kangaroo courts, and burned at the stake. Those witches that were lucky to escape unscathed went into hiding, and were able to maintain a veil of secrecy surrounding their practices that exists to this day.

            Positive images of witches abound in movie classics such as the ‘Wizard of Oz’ in the form of Glenda. Popular TV shows also have witch characters that have a positive influence on all those that encounter as shown in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bewitched, and Charmed. The unveiling of the myths surrounding witches made me realize that fear is man’s own worst enemy. With that said I will be joining the ranks of those milling the streets searching for the plentiful bounty of ‘trick-or-treat’ that lay behind the doorbell – you guessed it-in the guise of a witch riding on her broomstick! Happy Halloween to all!


This Article was Written by Jackie Kingston.

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