Podcast 4 – Defining “Witches” and an Interview with Juniper and Dr. Brendan Myers



In this show, we spend some time trying to pin down that elusive word, “witch,” and figure out just what makes a person fit that term.  Then, in the second half of the show we have an excellent pair of guests, Dr. Brendan Myers and Juniper from the Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow.  Plus, we have a reminder about our current weather-lore contest.


Download: New World Witchery – Episode 4


From our guests:
The Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow – The podcast for thinking pagans and working witches.
Walking the Hedge – Juniper’s excellent hedgewitchery site
Walking the Hedge Blog – The ramblings and wanderings of a Canadian hedgewitch
Dr. Brendan Myers’ website – Pagan philosophy, essays on various topics, and all around good intellectual fun.
Promos & Music
Title music:  “Homebound,” by Jag, from Cypress Grove Blues.  From Magnatune.
Promo 1-The Standing Stone and Garden Gate Podshow
Promo 2- Media Astra ac Terra

11 thoughts on “Podcast 4 – Defining “Witches” and an Interview with Juniper and Dr. Brendan Myers”

  1. Hello! Apparently it’s new world witchery week for me as I’m catching up on my episodes and really enjoying them. Btw, you two have great chemistry and a wicked sense of humour. Hunh, bet there’s a whole rant-uh-discussion about the occasional lack of humour with some pagans and the resulting difficulties that are caused, but I digress. Frequently.

    I haven’t finished this episode and what I have heard was split on two days so my reference to the show is a bit off in that I don’t actually remember what four categories you laid out for defining witch. What I do recall (cuz it was this morning) was Cory talking about how innate talents for him are a marker of a witch, in particular reference to the second category which I just cannot remember what it was atm. What it made me think of was that people with innate metaphysical (if that’s an acceptable label) skills are probably more naturally drawn to a spiritual practice of some nature, that there’s often a search on the part of such people to find an environment that helps to provide structure, explanation and particularly training on how to use it. Not that all people do, just that it may be a tendency.

    If so, then perhaps it isn’t the talents themselves that lead towards witchcraft, but rather witchcraft’s openness towards such talents and willingness to explain and train that becomes the defining direction of the relationship. I don’t think we are the only spiritual path that trains, as you discuss later in the episode there are spells in many of the different religions (I believe you had several catholic examples), but I do think we are more open as a rule to it.

    I guess what I’m suggesting is that metaphysical skills are part of some sub-section (or all depending on your viewpoint) of the human race, and religion is one common methodology for managing these skills and that paganism and withcraft in particular are particularly well-suited to that task.

    On another note from the show, there is a fascinating balancing point between self-identification as a witch and identifiable witchy behaviours. Because both seem to be a way of identifying a witch and both can fail if the other side isn’t incorporated. I’ve met people who self-identify as a witch and exhibit none (no, truly, none!) of the behaviours, beliefs, practices of a witch, wiccan or pagan. And while I don’t feel its appropriate to argue with someone’s self definition, in such a case it feels warranted as they are coming across as very self-deluded or incredibly mis-informed. The opposite is also true, where there are people who are living as a witch but who out and out reject the label. It’s hard in that case to not see the person as a witch. It would be like a man who likes to have sex with men and only men flat out deny that he’s gay. It seems to contradict the very essence of the definition of what gay is and the same can go for a person refusing to identify as a witch when they are living as one. If they reject the label, fair enough I suppose, but I’m still likely to view them as one.

    So in the end I think both components are important for identification and potentially necessary as when one is present and the other not, we instinctively know that the identification has failed in some manner. But that in the end, it is the behaviour or lifestyle that matters more than the self-identification, in my opinion. Or so I think today. 🙂

    1. Wow! That’s a heckuva response, Saturn! Thanks for taking the time to say all of that.

      I think what I might have been trying to get at is that people who naturally do the work of witches (or magical work in general) usually fit the word “witch” for me, though not always. And I think you make an excellent case for the fact that those with such natural predispositions are more likely to seek out a spiritual life which incorporates their magical abilities (though I sadly can think of examples contrapuntal to this idea, in which talented demi-witches are scared out of practicing by fundamentalist religious zealotry). At any rate, I definitely agree that paganism and witchcraft are well-suited to accept magic folk into the fold in most cases.

      As to the self-identification/denial side of things, I just hope that anyone facing pressures in their life which would completely occlude their blossoming magical gifts will eventually be able to break through those pressures. I know that’s not terribly likely in many cases, but I do like to hope for the best for them. The conversation on this podcast with Laine has made me think a lot about that balance point between self-identifcation and practical behavior, and I definitely see that both being present makes for a good general criterion in figuring out which witch is which.

      Thanks again for writing! Please feel free to do so anytime!


  2. Hi Cory!

    Yes, I can occasionally go on at ridiculous length. lol Thanks for responding! It struck me as I read your reply (and after listening to Inciting A Riot this morning and a conversation with a co-worker, all seemingly unrelated) that, and maybe other people are already better at keeping this in mind and factoring it in than I am, that we rarely seem to discuss the differences in magical and spiritual practice that are caused by our culture and country.

    For instance you mention fundamentalist religious zealotry and the impact on people in a way that suggests close familiarity or experience with it. I’m from greater vancouver (which just means one of the suburbs surrounding vancouver lol), British Columbia, and we get our nutcases and zealots internal to witchcraft and occasional bigotry and difficulties from other religions but if we leave well enough alone with them, they generally do the same to us. At least that’s been my experience. It suggests that you live much closer to potential oppression or said another way that your surrounding culture is less open to our type of practice.

    It makes me wonder how our spiritual living is different between say Canadians and Americans, as an easy example. We know that there often are (and if you’re working with land spirits there damn well should be) differences in practice between different physical locations. How does our surrounding culture affect us? How does it affect our spiritual experiences? How are the practices of witches from two different home cultures different? How are they the same? Where do I have it easier than you? How might it be harder? Oooooooh, fun questions. 😀

    wow, I’ve really written a ton on your blog this week. My excuse is that I was sick for five weeks (I missed the entire month of february from a brain point of view) and now that I can think again it apparently needs expression. lol

    Happy Thursday!

    1. Lol! Wow! You’re quite prolific! And I say that as a compliment, by the way 🙂

      You raise a great point: where we are affects our practice not just because of landscape (and its associated spiritual entities) but also because of the current culture in that area. While I don’t encounter the zealotry I spoke of on a daily basis, it is definitely beneath the surface for most people in my area. One of the first questions people ask is “So, what church do you go to?”

      And the differences between Canadians and Americans in their Pagan practices are definitely there, but I tend to feel like they only enhance the relationships I have with my Canadian friends. I never feel like they judge me for my different ways of practicing my craft, and I certainly don’t judge them. The biggest place I notice a difference in attitudes is with regard to Native American peoples. Where I am, shame and sorrow are two of the biggest emotions associated with our historical interaction with the First Nations, but it seems in Canada the relationship has been much healthier and more fulfilling in many ways.

      That’s just a casual observation, of course, but I think it’s apt. Anyhow, I’ll be glad to hear what you think on the subject, too!

      All the best!


  3. Among some folk, it is not assumed that a witch is a practitioner of witchcraft by definition. Witchcraft then refers to practices only and may be used with varying degrees of success by virtually anyone.

    1. You touch on something that I think we only barely mentioned in that episode, but which I think we may have expanded upon later. I think what we came up with was this: Folk magic can definitely be practiced by most anyone, but a witch usually identifies herself as such. However, it’s been a while since we’ve discussed this, so I may be wrong on that. Either way, I hope you enjoyed the show! 🙂

      Be well,


      1. “…but a witch usually identifies herself as such…”

        Some traditionalists do not consider self identification as a prerequisite. There’s something else going on there, but this is a forum for American TW. Do practitioners of hoodoo, conjure and rootwork self identify as witches, traditional witches, or otherwise?

      2. I think that the self-identification is just what WE determined as a criterion for the tag “witch.” Folklore seems to bear that out, though there are also lots of examples of “witches” who were so labeled by the community around them, at least in America, anyways. So maybe we’d do well to amend our definition to include that idea. Hmmm….something to ponder, certainly.

        As far as hoodoos, rootworkers, and conjure folk identifying as witches, well, some do and some don’t. Some say they are “witch-doctors” but that’s not the same thing. There are lots of rootworkers who would NOT like to have the label “witch” applied to them. That’s mainly why I think Laine and I came down on the side of self-identification. If a conjure man or woman also considers him or herself a witch, then we take that at face value. If not, that doesn’t mean they’re not a powerful magical practitioner, just that they don’t like that particular label. Does that make sense?

        Thanks for reading!


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