Folklore and Superstitions
As you have seen, the roots of witchcraft and Wicca reach back to the origins of humanity. The magickal heritage carefully preserved by witches throughout the ages includes a rich body of folklore as well as tales of divine and legendary figures. Ancient rituals and practices, along with many, sometimes odd, superstitions, have also been handed down through generations.
Witchy Lore and Superstition
Fantastical tales and superstitions about witches and magick derive from various sources. Some beliefs developed from simple misunderstandings. For example, a witch might use a broom to vigorously sweep a space, in order to clear away any unwanted or disruptive energies. Observers of such a magickal rite, not realizing what they were seeing, misunderstood the witch's intent and may have thought she was trying rise off the ground. Thus, the idea that witches fly on their broomsticks was born.
Mainstream religions that intentionally wished to demonize the “Old Religion” also put forth erroneous concepts about witches. Still other ideas grew directly out of ancient magickal customs, country sayings, and primitive conventions.
Some modern witches make light of the nonsensical images most people hold. For example, as you drive to work one day, you might see a witch's car bearing a tongue-in-cheek bumper sticker that reads “Real witches don't melt in the rain” or “My other car is a broom.”
Although some superstitions are rooted in truth, many are simply misrepresentations of witches and what they do. Halloween is a good example. Pointy hats, costumes, and black cats — the symbols of this holiday — are misinterpreted by holiday revelers. Pointed hats, for instance, actually represent a cone of power and wisdom flowing from a higher source into the mind of the witch or wizard. Black cats aren't harbingers of bad luck; they have long been the faithful companions and familiars of witches. Donning a costume on Halloween (or Samhain, in witch-speak) serves as a visual affirmation to show what you hope to become in the next year — sort of a New Year's resolution, for Halloween is the witch's New Year's Eve.
Witches do not eat babies, and they're not Satanists. They're more likely to wear a business suit than a pointy black hat. Most drive cars rather than ride broomsticks and prefer pizza to eye of newt any day.
Here are some common stereotypes:
Witches sell their souls to the devil in return for special powers. This folkloric image is erroneous and has been fostered by mainstream religions.
Witches are humans who have psychic abilities. This assumption may or may not be true. Some psychics may be witches; some but not all witches are psychic.
Witches are sorcerers. This term is accurate from an anthropological point of view.
Witches are modern worshipers of ancient gods and goddesses. This description is fairly accurate for Wiccans but not always for witches.
Witches cast evil spells on people, either for fun or revenge, such as turning men into toads. Although witches do cast spells for people (with their permission), these spells are done to help others, not to harm them. And if they could, most witches would rather turn frogs into princes!
Witches are old, ugly hags. Witches come in all shapes, sizes, and ages — many are quite beautiful, and young women are eagerly joining the ranks of Wicca. This stereotype is inspired by the crone, a woman whose child-rearing responsibilities are behind her and who can now devote herself to her Craft.
Only education and understanding can uproot misconceptions and prejudices about witches. Many universities now offer classes in the history and practice of magick and witchcraft. Wicca is the fastest-growing religion in America — even the U.S. Armed Forces now officially recognizes Wicca, according to a National Public Radio program. It's time to start thinking of witches and Wiccans in a whole new sense — as people who are simply living their lives in a uniquely magickal way.