Ready or Not: Claiming the Title of Witch
I’m pretty rash about most things. I get an idea and I’m gone. Even if that idea might only last for a little while, while I have it, it’s my world. So it’s a little surprising that I’m taking my time with paganism. I dip my toes in, then I step back. I read lots of books, and then I take a break from books. This works for me because paganism isn’t going anywhere. It’s a constant for me to dance around as I learn more about myself and my place within it and within the world. Sometimes the dance is fast, sometimes slow. I’ve been dancing like this for about three years and I’m in no rush. I’ve only begun to interact with other pagans much over the past year and in doing so, I’ve noticed something. A lot of the people I come into contact with are new to paganism. Like, a couple of months new. Their Facebook posts declare that they were born to be Wiccan. They proudly proclaim how amazing it is to be a witch. A witch? It’s one of those words that widens the eyes of outsiders the most, yet it’s an identifier that many in the pagan community have come to embrace positively. It has come to have some spiritual significance to me, as well as to many other pagans and Wiccans. The word “witch,” no matter what differing definitions you run into, generally denotes involvement with magick. And to me, it signifies some degree of mastery. Hell, at least a little. But if you just learned about paganism and you’re still afraid of doing magick ’cause you don’t want to screw it up, what does it even mean to be called a “witch”?
I’ve come to treat the title of “witch” as a sort of honor. That’s why I don’t call myself one, and why my blog is aptly titled Witchy Wannabe. The title is one I’ll bestow on myself with dignity when I’ve reached a milestone I’ve set and diligently worked toward. If you’re in a coven or group, that marker might be set for you. But if not? I encourage you to consider what that marker could be for yourself. And I encourage you to think twice before using the title “witch” if you’re not really there yet.
In Wicca, there is a traditional period of a year and a day over which one studies before being initiated. Typically, one “dedicates” themselves to this period of study, making a commitment before the gods. Some people also dedicate themselves to Wicca or the gods at this point, but I personally think that it makes the most sense to hold off on dedicating oneself to the God and Goddess and Wicca until that year and a day is complete and you are in a better position to make that commitment. Considering whether you’re ready to dedicate yourself to either a year and a day or to Wicca is important because the more we commit to things that we don’t follow through on, the weaker our will and our word becomes. Over time, we come to know that saying something is so doesn’t make it so, and we can’t have that because it makes for weak magick. So make sure you only make commitments you are pretty sure you’ll be able to keep. That way, when you say “So mote it be,” both you and the universe will know your word is solid. To get an idea of how you could set up your year and a day, head over to The Witch’s Voice and check out the article “Before You Call Yourself a Witch.” The author offers up a helpful list of things she thinks one should achieve before they take on the title.
Committing to a year and a day doesn’t mean that at the end of that time you’ll be amazing at all things magickal and witchy. The idea isn’t to achieve mastery during that year, but to get a good start on what can turn into a lifetime of learning. The successful completion of that time also shows that you’re serious about the path you’re on. Though I’ve been pagan for a while, I’ve sort of saved my year and a day. I’ve kept it in the back of my mind, planning on doing it eventually, but knowing myself enough to know that I can be fickle. I wanted to wait until I’d be serious about it, and even though I’m not exactly just starting out anymore, I want to complete that official year and a day for myself because, if I can maintain that sort of commitment to my path, then that means something to me.
This issue might seem to necessarily raise the question of just who is a witch and who isn’t. Who is to judge that? As is so often the case in paganism, I think the answer is that it is the place of each and every one of us to search that out for ourselves. I am not encouraging the constant critiquing and judgment of others, and I’m not suggesting that being a witch is some instant mystical transformation that either is or isn’t. I’m just suggesting that we think about what the word really means to us before using it so that it doesn’t become just another empty word. Not feeling ready to use the title is nothing to be ashamed of and it doesn’t make anyone inferior to anyone else. After all, we’re all filled with power. As Glinda the Good Witch said to Dorothy, “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You’ve had it all along.” Being a witch isn’t just about having the power, though. It’s about knowing what to do with it, and that only comes with time.