Are you a good witch or a bad witch?


Screenshot of the actress Margaret Hamilton as “The Wicked Witch of the West” in the film The Wizard of Oz (1939).

“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” To this day, that is still one of my favorite lines from “The Wizard Of Oz.” I've actually had people (curiously, by more adults than kids) ask me this question. Me, with my twisted sense of humor, can't resist answering, “That would depend on what you mean by 'good witch' or 'bad witch'…”.

Very rarely am I asked if I practice white magic or black magic, which is a good thing because I really don't like having to give an answer. From what I've been taught, there is no “black” or “white” magic. The different classifications depends on your intent when you cast the spell or manipulate the energy within or around you. For example, if you were to cast a spell for a good purpose, that would be considered “white” magic. But if you were to cast a spell to curse someone, that would be considered “black” magic.

The general rule to doing spell or energy work is what's called the “Threefold Rule” — anything you cast out (whether it's a spell or energy) can be returned to you threefold. The only exceptions to this rule are defending yourself, defending someone else, or teaching a lesson. All of these have a very fine line on how far you can go before they violate the Pagan Rede.

The Pagan Rede (or commandment), is (in its short version): “An' ye harm none, an' do as thou wish.” To put it bluntly, live your life as you like, but harm (maliciously) no living thing. The key words being “harm none”. Naturally, I'm strongly against cruelty, whether it's towards animals or humans, and I've been known to step in and say something when I see it.

A few other rules of spell casting that I've been taught are:

  • Casting control and love spells are frowned upon (both types of spells interfere with one's free will and can (possibly) alter the course of one's fate).
  • Never create or cast a spell when you're angry since your intent goes into the spell, the results could be a bad thing (remember the Threefold Rule!).
  • Asking does not always mean you'll receive, so be careful what you ask or wish for.
  • A vague spell gets vague results, if at all. Be as specific as possible.
  • If you do get what you ask for, it may not be in the way you were thinking.

Personally, I prefer to keep my spells as simple as possible, using components that are easy to find, make or grow. I do have a personal spell book with some spells in it. I also have a journal that's specifically for Pagan purposes (notes, sketches, etc.). I keep my supplies in a heavy duty trunk that I keep locked.

My altar is, for the most part, very basic. I don't go for the fancy decorating, or anything like that. To me, it makes my altar seem cluttered. So, I just have an altar cloth,  candle holder, incense bowl (I prefer the cones) and a casting/offering bowl. I do have a small cast iron cauldron (about the size of a bowling ball) that I use for special occasions. Otherwise, I keep it put away. A fellow Pagan told me that instead of using a cauldron when she does spell casting, she uses a small crockpot. She says that the crockpot works great because it can keep a steady heat, thus allowing her to save her candles or charcoal for special rituals. 

I hope you enjoy this article. Of course, keep in mind that every Pagan has their own way of doing things, this is just my personal way. Have fun with your ideas, be creative and go with whatever feels right, you'll be surprised at what you come up with.

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Anna Marie Martin

Great post! That’s my favorite question in the Wizard of Oz as well!

It’s a “no-win question,” which was one of the things we like to talk about during the Lectionary study group at Bethany, with my great mentor, Paul Rodkey.

Other no-win questions, “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?” and the whole situation in John 8 with the woman accused of adultery – these invoke rich discussions.

Dorothy does a great job of sidestepping the question, replying, “I’m not a witch at all!” So does Jesus!

Anyway, I love the Wiccan Rede – it’s a great way to live.

One of the more profound differences between Christianity and paganism that I found, was when someone told me that prayer, in pagan circles, needs to be requested or approved. In other words, before you pray for someone in the pagan tradition, you need their consent to work with their energy.

That was pretty profound for me. It seems like we (you, me, them, everybody) prays sort of indiscriminately – “healing for so and so, recovery from trauma, etc” – flinging energy all around. The modern pagan practices teach that energy is powerful, and needs to be given with consent. That’s pretty huge for me.


Natisha Laprise

Wonderful post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject, thanks!

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