I think everyone is familiar with the phrase, “It is what it is.” I don’t know who originated it, but I know I’ve heard it way too many times to count. I like it. It’s simple, direct, and can be applied to just about anything. It makes a clear statement to be understood from a point of view that takes things at face value.
It is what it is.
So then, shouldn’t the opposite of that phrase also have meaning?
It’s not what it isn’t?
I think so.
See, the thing about describing the beliefs or practices of Witchcraft comes down roughly to a lot of personal interpretation with a few key ground rules that make these ties between those who bear the name of Witch. It’s tough in a lot of cases because there are only a few specifics and within that, entire piles of extra stuff and fluff can be thrown on top and because the key links are still there, still in place, the word is still applicable. The part that bugs me personally is that when too much stuff is added on, it’s not really that “Witch” ceases to apply, but rather that other words are more accurate to use in its place. Words like: Mage/Magus, Mystic, Shaman, Cunningman, Sorceress, Wizard, or Fluffy-Bunny.
I love language. I love picking apart words and finding their roots and connections and definitions. Other words are very important when describing or attempting to define groups of people who follow a core system of either beliefs or practices. When you leave out these words, these simple words, what you are saying goes from being an accurate, helpful, or sensible statement into silly, semi-fabricated fluffy nonsense.
Those words are: many, most, few, several, or some.
Leaving those words out of an attempt to correct misinformation then turns your entire commentary into a steaming pile of bovine fecal matter.
So I have two points to make and I’m going to use (what I intend to use in any case — we’ll see how this progresses… ) a single example as best I can.
Point the first – If you have to resort to defining yourself, your practices, or your beliefs against something that it is not, then you need to gain a better, stronger, and clearer understanding of what it is you are, believe, or do. It is a sign of ignorance to have to rely entirely on ‘defensive’ speech in this way. It is okay to use these opposing points as clarification, or as a jumping-off point to move on to a more solid explanation, however if you don’t quickly switch gears then you are showing yourself to be on the beginner side of things.
Basically, if you have to define what Witchcraft is by saying “don’t” over and over again, you aren’t actually explaining or educating because you aren’t supplying knowledge. Words like don’t, in this case are for clarification. So do not set your entire defining parameters by that word.
Witches don’t worship the devil
Witches don’t kill animals
All of those statements are basically true and are often used to enlighten someone who may have misconceptions about Witches and our practices or beliefs. But denying something doesn’t actually offer education on its own. Okay, so Witches don’t worship the devil, who do we worship?
That is a multi-layered answer and will vary from Witch to Witch. But each Witch should be able to say, “Well, speaking for myself, I worship ____ because I believe ___ .” and go from there. If you aren’t doing that follow-up, you need to go back and figure out how you would handle it.
Some people want to then say, “Well, my beliefs and practices are personal and private. I don’t want to share them.”
That’s perfectly acceptable and understandable. But if that is the case, then you shouldn’t really find yourself in the position in the first place where you are called upon to offer answers or educate the masses. If you are going to wear a visible pentacle or put a bumper sticker on your car that references Pagan ideas, then be prepared to accept the consequences for your actions (which is what Witches should have beaten into their heads with the most galactic-sized clue-by-four in the universe anyway) and do your best. If your personal best is then only the ‘don’t’ responses, then you have some work to do in order to better educate yourself and come to a stronger understanding of your own inner being.
When I am asked how I answer questions about my practice or beliefs, I explain that when someone asks me a question I ask them one in return before I decide how to answer. This first response question of mine is always, “Well, what do you think ___ is/means?”
First example: (this is the way not to do it, in my opinion.)
“Are you a Witch?”
Second example: (the better alternative)
“Are you a Witch?”
“Well, what do you think a Witch is?”
The first example has a tendency to overshadow the rest of the conversation. But, because I don’t know what the person has in mind when they use the word “Witch” I don’t actually know if I fit their description of one. What if they think Witches are evil? Devil-Worshipers? Sex-crazed fluffy flakes out to work for the evil overlord they follow? Someone who thinks they can shoot fireballs and levitate to the tops of buildings?
If they don’t actually understand what a Witch is and think it’s one or more of these things, then what have I done but confirm in their mind before we even get started that I’m a psychotic nut with delusions of grandeur?
However, by asking them what they think that word means, I know now where to begin our conversation. They can respond with thinking it was any of those I listed, or maybe they could say something like, “I don’t know, I heard it has something to do with honoring the Earth.” I can now clarify, explain, or educate more concisely.
Point the second – Understand that no one wants to be spoken for and that when you answer questions or offer information you aren’t speaking for all Witches. You may be speaking for a majority of us, but outside of the Witchcraft community, the level of independent thought that Witches cling to and espouse may not be fully understood. So, when you speak about Witchcraft and fail to use words like most, some, several, many, few, and the like you are turning yourself into a bearer of false information.
I learned in middle school that when you are taking a True/False test, if one part of the answer is false, then the whole thing is false. Also, I learned to watch for key words like All or None because most of the time, those were clues to a false statement. In general, it may be mostly accurate to say, “Witches don’t cast curses on people.” or “Witches never draw blood for magic or in ritual.” Because there are Witches that do both of these things. There are talented, serious, devoted, faithful, good people who practice Witchcraft and do these things.
I was actually inspired to write this blog post because I read an article that said some of these things. I think the author of the article did the best they could without understanding the deeper levels and inner workings of Craft practice and belief, which is fine. I don’t think it was a Witch who wrote the article. I might be wrong, but I just got that sort of vibe from it. So, I can be forgiving about his failure to clarify enough to make his statements even more accurate. Then again, given the projected audience of that article, I think the author did a fine job of debunking falsehood. I just think he could have tweaked it to be more accurate, but ah well… It is what it is.