Sunday, July 25, 2010

Origins of the Word "Witch"

The origin of the English "witch" may be the Indo-European (IE) root word weik, having to deal with magic and/or religion. From weik we get four different derivatives of the word. The first derivative is the word wih-l, which in turn begat the Old English words wigle and wiglera, meaning sorcery and sorcerer respectively. These words are also the root of the word guile. The second derivative is similar in spelling to the first and is the Old Norse wihl, meaning craftiness. The third is wik, meaning holy. From wik comes the Middle High German wich, having the same meaning as its root word, derived itself from the Old High German wihen. The fourth derivative of the word is wikk, meaning magic or sorcery. From this comes the Middle German wikken, meaning to predict. Wikk also begat the Old English wicca and wicce (respectively pronounced wee-cha and wee-chay, roughly, I am no linguist.) These words pertaining to a practice comparable to Seidr, wicca being the masculine variant and wicce the female. From these words is the verb wician, roughly meaning to work sorcery. Wicca then begat the Middle English witche and from this our modern witch.

It should be stated that if one wishes to practice what can truly be called witchcraft it will be a mystical path of Germanic, or at the least IE, origin. This is not to say that it will be of a pure strand of Germanic or IE based paganism, as true traditional craft would vary from locale to locale and pick up many magio/spiritual practices along the way. Nor is modern witchcraft called "wicca" necessarily "witchcraft." This is not to say that modern wicca is not a valid path and religion, but it is wicca, not witchcraft in a traditional sense. Much of modern "witchcraft" and wicca is derived from ceremonial practices, such as those of the Golden Dawn. While this is fine by itself, it was something of the unknown to the practitioners of wicca (Saxon usage,) a Germanic path.

As a final note I will discuss the idea that wicca is a word that means to bend or to shape. This idea has its root in fact, to a point. The Old English word (no doubt derived from the same root as those words discussed above) wican, did, indeed, mean to bend. Related words are the Old Saxon wikan, the Old High German wichan and the Old Norse vikja. All of these words having the meaning to bend.

It may also be noted that the practice of traditional wicca and wicce (Saxon uses here) and Medieval Witchcraft (the origins of the craft in many of the forms that we know it) are derived from Galdr and Seidr (mentioned above) and are the Saxon variants of these. Thus the path of the Helrunar and the Haegtessa are far closer to Traditional Witchcraft than most modern "Craft." "Witchcraft" in it's origin was very much a religion, first and foremost, and it's practitioners were "mystics" and "shamans" in a sense. This should be noted, for folk magic and witchcraft are not one in the same, as believed by many, though the former is practiced by those of the persuasion of the latter. Nor are modern wicca and old craft truly the same, as believed by others. That said, modern traditional witchcraft only bears a passing semblance to what would have passed for craft in times before. And that, as they say, is that.