It seems almost every day there is someone in the current administration, if not the president himself, throwing around the terms “witch” and “witch-hunt.” It’s become a bit hard to escape from, dominating news headlines everywhere. I have a google alert set to email me anytime there’s news involving the word “witch” as I have vested interest in it.
Not only have I chosen not to escape this keyword but am actively seeking it out and observing how people are using it as I scroll through the results with my morning coffee. Sometimes an article with the word “witch” is interesting, perhaps an article on folklore, history, or an interview with a modern practitioner. Other times it’s some piece of news cautiously warning about the rise of millennial witchcraft to the fear and bewilderment of the conservative religious right. Most often, however, it’s a headline about the incorrect and absurd use of the term “witch-hunt” and more recently invoking the Salem Witch Trials.
We know from history that the witches of witch-hunts were innocent — often victims of an oppressive society that they didn’t fit in, a sacrifice to the lack of separation of church and state. It wasn’t a term used for being held accountable for breaking the law as modern politicians are trying to frame it. The history of innocent people being tortured and killed under the accusation of “witch” should never be used to scapegoat accountability for one’s illegal actions, conspiracy, or collusion for modern political purposes. Especially, since the word “witch” is already political in itself and in stark opposition to how those politicians are using it.
Let me back up a little bit and explain a bit more about who I am for context. I am a New England witch — yes, the word “witch” is gender-neutral. I have been a witch since I was a child, watching the cult-classic movie The Craft, and wearing out the pages of my Silver Ravenwolf and Scott Cunningham books which I would read secretly by flashlight under my sheets at night after Bible study. I have spent almost my entire life immersed in studying and practicing this path.
I work seasonally every October giving psychic tarot readings and teaching workshops in a quaint little shop on a wharf in Salem, Massachusetts — the witchcraft capital of the world due to its horrific history associated with the word “witch” and its current thriving witchcraft culture. I write for several witchcraft periodicals and am a published author on the subject. As such, my world is full of witches of all generations and stripes in both my personal and professional life. I would say that about 80% of the people in my life identify as a witch, or engage in some form of magick, or occult-oriented spirituality.
In case you didn’t put the math together with being a child in the ’90s, I am also a millennial. Yes, I’m one of those millennial witches that you are constantly hearing about and one with strong ties to Salem.
For many witches I know, they are annoyed if not straight up offended when they hear the terms “witch-hunt” and “witch” being thrown around out-of-context and inappropriately, to the degree of fundamentally not understanding what a witch-hunt is or who is doing the hunting in that term. I understand and empathize with their response to that. However, I on the other hand smirk to myself between sips of coffee as I scroll through the headlines that we’ve become desensitized to seeing until I find something of interest to spend my time reading. You see, I smirk because the word “witch” is back at the forefront of our collective consciousness.
While I’m unhappy with the rise of Trump and Trumpism, I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming, as surreal as that election day felt and still feels. In witchcraft, we understand that language, stories, and myths have power. In fact, many of the terms associated with a witch’s magick is connected to the idea of language such as spells, which are connected to the idea of spelling and a grimoire which is a collection of spells and originally based on the word “grammar.” Even “Abracadabra,” a famous ancient phrase associated with magick as both an ancient spell and a phrase used by stage magicians, is believe to be either based on Aramaic for “I create like the word” or Hebrew for “I will create as I speak.” Witches are the bards, with the power to inspire, enchant, and heal. Beyond that, bards are reputed to have the power to glorify or destroy the reputation of a king forever through their power of storytelling.
Stories take on their own lives and are given power and strength through emotional and mental attention. Trump’s rise, in my eyes, is because he isn’t just a man. No, he is so much more. He is a brand, a television personality, a slogan, an acronym, a vague idea, a meme that we can’t escape because it is constantly demanding our attention and our emotional energy and feeding off of anger, fear, and paranoia of both his supporters and his opponents. For those who are more occult-educated, Trump is an egregore through and through. Trumpism is the most dangerous of stories. It is a rewriting of history with a narrative of a golden age of America that never occurred, with a promise to return to that era of “greatness.” It is a dismissal of what we can see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears, the Orwellian double-speak of changing the meaning of words, the attack of journalism as “fake news’, and a myth of “alternative facts.”
A story, is much harder to defeat than an individual.
But this is why I smirk when he and his sycophants keep throwing around the word witch and bringing that term back into our public consciousness. In my eyes, his story is giving power to ours. It’s so easy to dismiss witches, particularly millennial witches. We are associated with a particular trend, an aesthetic, a hashtag, and often thought to embrace pseudo-science “woo” over rational thought (despite every single witch I know fully believing in and embracing the power of science despite also holding onto their spiritual beliefs.)
However, there’s something else going on beyond the surface of this current rise in the popularity of witchcraft among my generation. There’s a cultural shift occurring. You see, while “witch” is a word that is defined a bit differently by each person who takes on that mantle, there’s a common thread that I see among us. Witches are the storytellers, the dreamers, the preserver of and creators of myth. We are enchanting our world through the power of myth while dreaming a prophecy of the future into being.
While witchcraft and interest in the occult has always been around and under the radar, a lot of the cultural shift towards the popularity of witchcraft among the younger generations is a direct response to the myths of reality being force-fed to us by institutional powers that are poisoning the very essence of what it means to be human and have a heart.
Myths and stories have the historically proven power to fundamentally inform and shift culture and cultural attitudes and is the lens through which we frame reality. The power of myth informs us about who we are, how we see each other, and how we relate to our environment. We the witches are taking action to heal ourselves and others, to protect and empower the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. We hold the Earth as sacred, not some disposable stage merely here to serve as the setting for an armageddon apocalypse. We seek to create balance for the highest good of all. Sometimes the balance is watering your garden, sometimes it’s binding the parasite destroying your garden. But above all, we are weaving the spell of a new story.
Every time a politician throws around the word witch, even as a slur or a scapegoat, the spirit of the legacy of the story of Witchcraft is strengthened and grows, and we the witches, are positioned to keep empowering the new dream and the new myth that will replace these age-old prophecies of doom and gloom, greed, and selfishness, so hardwired into our culture through institutional religion — a prophecy that is now becoming self-fulfilling if we don’t take the reigns of our reality back into the hands of the people themselves and ground that prophecy in truth, compassion, justice, and equality.