The Stigma Of A Word: Witch
Author: Arachne Priestess
How many of us, amongst our vast and diverse Pagan community, wear pentagrams (religious talismans, totem fetishes, or other religious symbols) around the neck openly? How many of us wish we could, but don’t due to fear of retaliation, religious persecution, family concerns, or worse? And how many of us have born the stigma that comes from that freedom of choice, suffering at the hands of the closed minded, the bigots, the religious zealots who hold that one truth above all else, ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’?
How many have lost jobs, born verbal and physical abuse, or lost loved ones because of who they are or what they are, a Witch? And what is the result upon the hearts and spirits of those who have suffered so?
So many questions, most with answers we’d probably rather not hear, and yet, it is a critical part of walking this path that must be faced head on. And when we meet this challenge, we are left with one stark question in our minds: Why?
Why was she abused? Why did his family turn away from him? Why did he lose his job? Why did she lose her kids? Why was he called a devil worshiper? Why? Why? Why………and the list goes on. Why must we suffer so for what we have become?
It took something powerful and dramatic to bring most of us to whatever form of Paganism we’ve chosen, because it is not a choice we would choose in adulthood just to spite our father’s religion, our families and/or our societies. Human beings, by their very nature, are social creatures that tend to conform to the strictures set forth by its leaders. So it must have taken something drastic, and possibly something extremely painful, to make each of us push away from society and adopt not only a new religion, but on the whole, a new way of life.
Then, upon that transition, we discover that we are pariah in the eyes of the very society that once embraced us because of a single word and the stigma attached to it. Through all of this culture shock we endure, we preserve, and we prevail. But sadly, at a very dear cost to ourselves and those around us. It is a price that is inflicted not only on those around us, but also upon our hearts and spirits.
We are isolated, offering up to the world a façade, while we secret our true selves away to only be shown when the curtains are drawn tight and the lights are dimmed. Our children are censored in what they may speak of at school, out of fear of bullying and retaliation. We are censored at work, often amongst family and friends, and even sometimes by our spouses.
And we see those brave souls who choose to openly defy the norm by exercising their religious freedoms, by wearing pentagrams in the open, dressing in full regalia, being activists for Paganism, religious freedom, and tolerance, and those who embrace this way of life wholeheartedly without fear of reprisal, and who could not help but feel a little jealous in our confines? I would be less than honest if I didn’t include myself in this group. But even those symbols of occasional envy suffer at the hands of hatred and intolerance.
And we are left with the stark realization that no one is immune and we journey back to the beginning of our path and the singular question of why. Why, because of a single word ~Witch~, are we branded and forced to bear a scarlet letter?
Why, indeed, and what will grow out of this treatment to be instilled within our hearts for a lifetime? These are questions that not many wish to think about, much less speak of. But again, it is an essential, if not critical, part of our paths that must be faced head on.
How many amongst us feel resentment toward their former religions, their ex-friends and lovers, and their families, despite our universal decrees of tolerance? How many of us cannot see beyond that bitterness to let grow the innate potential that resides within us all? It is a bitterness that is seeded and takes root within the heart. It grows exponentially until it pervades our entire existence, forcing us to view the world through a veil of our own bigotry. It not only turns us away from all of those who are of a different faith, but it turns Pagan against Pagan.
It is an illness, not suffered just by Christians alone, but by all groups, Pagans included. And while its true that we have our reasons for being bitter and resentful, it is also imperative to find the strength to move beyond it.
For to replace one form of hate with another, despite the reasons, is still replacing one form of evil with another. The only thing that can grow out of ignorance and intolerance is more ignorance and more intolerance.
And yet, here we stand as Witches, proud and true, despite this stigma, despite the loneliness, despite the atrocious intolerance of others and despite our own innate bitterness. We are who and what we are, not in spite of our troubles, but because of them, because we have found the strength to not only preserve, but to grow within our own spirituality.
And no matter how isolated we may feel, we are never truly alone. We have the Goddess, in all of her many beloved aspects, and we have each other. Let us be the solace and the salve of a wounded world, and not the bitter rage of resentment toward those who would wound her children.
It is a lesson that must be learned over a lifetime, to let go and forgive. It is a lesson of healing, not only for us, but for those around us, as well. One lifetime of forgiveness and healing begets another, and to our children we leave sound lessons well learned.
And then they, too, will become the solace and the salve of a wounded and ravaged world, as the children of a Goddess who not only welcomes, but also embraces, all of those who are different and unique.