I don’t know any witches. Well, perhaps that’s not completely accurate: a student recently stopped me on the stairwell, having just come from a class where the day’s topic happened to involve medieval magic, and told me, “I really enjoyed your lecture. I’m Wiccan, you know.” “Thanks,” I said, “I’m glad you liked it.” “Are you Wiccan?” she continued, peering shyly under her bangs. I smiled at her, “No. I really just study medieval magic.” Our conversation ended abruptly, and it wasn’t until much later that I realized I was the one who killed it. With my casual dismissal, I created a division, a clear indication that I thought there was a big difference between what I do and what she does, between the scholar and the witch. I might as well have said, “I don’t believe in magic, you silly girl.” So though I met a witch, I didn’t really get the chance to know her. Let me try again. I don’t know any witches very well. Perhaps that’s not completely accurate either. I do know some witches quite well: I know the Wicked Witch of the West so intimately that I can recite all her lines from The Wizard of Oz, and I know the familiar chant of the Weird sisters, “Double, double, toil and trouble”; I know Circe and The Witches of Eastwick, the mistress of the tempting gingerbread house and the nefarious Morgan le Fay; I know the pretend witches, the literary witches, the witches we create, control, and manage to suit our own desires. It’s the real witches I don’t know, the women and men who practice
magic themselves. And I am not alone.
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