A Witch By Any Other Name

“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist.png

Today is Friday the 13th and let’s say I’m feeling a little witchy. And “witch” is a title that I’ve actually been called a lot. After sprinkling coffee on my doorstep while wearing a blanket as a shroud my neighbors called me a “bruja”. And it’s been a running joke amongst friends that I am clearly made of magic. I’m a Cancer. We’re pretty magical and intuitive creatures. And if that makes it seem like I can read minds or whatever then sure, lemme just hop on my broomstick. But it seldom stopped at “witch”. I’ve been called a succubus, lamia, and several iterations of the “witch” motif. And please know this is seldom said in jest. Most of my friends know what the words mean historically and culturally and the few times it was slinged my way from people I don’t call my friends it was very much in the Biblical sense. If the term witch was thrown around they meant the broom-riding evil anger hag. This isn’t meant to diminish any of my friends or readers that are pagan or practitioners of Wicca, this is just a fun little Friday the 13th story.


Since Friday the 13th was a day for women to celebrate before the old fuddy duddies of the Catholic Church said “Hey, women, stop frolicking naked in the woods and having fun!” I wanted to take a moment to tell a recent little story of me being called a witch.

Now, I’ve been called a witch a few times, as I’ve said, and one of the most dramatic was in high school. I briefly was at an very conservative high school while my papers transferred for my final high school of choice and it was the most aggressively Christian school I had ever been to. I was about 16 and I was, as you probably assumed, super into anime. One of the popular girls was rudely dropping in on some of my then very important fanfiction writing and saw that she had the same name as the character I was writing. She called me a “witch” accused me of “witchcraft” and I had to talk with the principal over the matter. Really, what an uncultured girl. If she had any idea what I was writing, she would have known good things were coming to her. I was a Mary Sue back then. Nothing bad ever happened to my characters back then.

 



But this story’s recent. It’s actually only a month or so old. And it starts with a birthday, a last day of work and a quick trip to Walgreens.  

My agency is small. Just me, the creative director, our graphic designer, our accountant and for a brief time an account executive. So yeah, when I say small, I mean small. It was our account executive’s last day so the office was  a little morose and the occasion did cloud a more pressing issue: it was also our accountant’s birthday. She’s a lovely older woman but in the rush to close out things with our account executive, we didn’t forget her birthday as much as we just didn’t have anything prepared.  

“Amanda, run to Walgreens and get a little something from all of us.” my creative director said and sent me with a modest budget to the store. I walked down the block and picked up a few things. While out and about I picked up a couple of small cakes from a local bakery and spirited away back to work where I scurried to the side office where the rest of the team and I assembled the gift while our accountant settled into her morning routine. Everyone seemed to agree on the gifts and me going slightly over-budget for the sake of cake was accepted. It was a passable present done in a hurry so we hoped for the best but assumed that things would go over just fine. It’s an office present, you can’t expect too much, right?

We presented the gift to her and on baited breath, we waited.

“Oh, this card is adorable!” it was a card with puppies on it. It was common knowledge that she liked dogs so that wasn’t surprising of a hit.

Next up was a coffee mug. “I’ve always wanted an office mug! I love this design! And this is my favorite color, too!” that was got a few murmurs from my coworkers. Our accountant had never mentioned a favorite color not a desire to have a mug just for the office. She always brought one of her to-go cups from home in. The mug was also filled with those puffy dinner mints that literally everyone loves. That was more common knowledge and how do you not like puffy dinner mints? Heathens don’t like puffy dinner mints. She commented on the cake briefly but again, who scoffs at a cake? Madmen scoff at cake.

“These praline candies are delicious! My husband and I were just talking about these! These are my favorite!” That was what brought everything to a halt. I picked those up at the checkout line and were a total fluke of a purchase. I lucked out.

“Yep, Amanda’s a witch.” our account executive said and our creative director followed it up with a sagely nod. And upon each retelling of the tale, it only emphasized that I had some sort of magic ability to give gifts.


I don’t see a huge problem with being called a “witch”. In ye olden times, women who were just different, independent, or way too smart for their own good were labelled as witches. Witches for so many cultures were spiritual leaders and women of great power. It was the patriarchy and the church that turned the witch from a helpful woman to a demon harpy lady. So if I, a young black woman in the death care industry who loves cryptozoology, obscure texts, anime, comic books and goes through about a book a week and speaks multiple languages while also being a proficient baker, cook and science lover and great gift giver happens to be labelled as a witch then lemme just throw a few things into the cauldron.