I can't begin to count the number of times I've had people identify themselves to me as a "white witch". For some, it's simply a term they learned from literature and adopted it as a means to describe the "type" of witch they are. For others, there's something of an underlying apology to the term, as if they are saying "I'm a witch, but don't worry, I'm not into black magic".
By using the term, there's an argument to be had that it's perpetuating the myth that witches are generally wicked. You can't change society's view on witchcraft, much less normalise being a witch as a legitimate and harmless lifestyle choice, if you have to differentiate yourself as a white witch. If I categorically reject the term "white witch", what does that make me?
But not only does the term "white witch" have the potential to be harmful towards the practice of witchcraft itself, there are also disturbing ethnic connotations. A quick search on Instagram shows 157K posts for the term #whitewitch. The posts generally include postive messages, and images of spellwork accompanied by hashtags like #healing and #cleansing. As most would assume, they allude to witchcraft of a benevolent and altruistic kind. Logic would tell us that the term #blackwitch would yield the opposite results, but that is actually rarely the case.
In searches for the latter term you get a comparatively meagre 75.7K posts, but few reference what most people consider to be "black magic". Instead, you get posts from witches of colour. With witchcraft becoming an increasingly fashionable pursuit, not to mention a popular Instagram aesthetic, witches of colour find themselves pushed to edges of the culture and subsequently find themselves adopting the label of "black witch" as a way to draw attention to marginalisation.
Sure, you can argue that the true meaning behind the term "black witch" would become immediately obvious when one considers the context of who is being described as such; just because you use terms like "white witch" doesn't mean you assume witches of colour are into "black magic", right? That is nonsensical logic. Or is it?
If you want to deny that black witches are often placed in a negative context, how about next time you're in a conversation about witchcraft, bring up the subject of voodoo or Vodou. While this is a culturally sacred form of Haitian and African-based folk magic, the first thing that pops into most people's heads when the subject is brought up is the humble voodoo doll; an object through which the cliche has it practitioners insert pins into to cause pain to others. The term "voodoo" immediately inspires fear and suspicion to those unlearned in the practice.
However you look at it, there's no getting around the fact that using the term "white witch" to suggest "good" magic automatically puts the term "black witch" at risk of being associated with "bad" magic. Are witches of colour to be associated with negativity simply for identifying themselves as "black witches"?
Not only are the terms divisive, but they are also certainly not accurate by any stretch; no form of witchcraft can be purely good. Working with energies is grey at best, no matter what your intentions. In fact, no action that anyone takes can have zero negative effects, even if the only apparent negative effects are that other areas of need are sacrificed for another purpose.
"White witch" might be a term to differentiate oneself from "black magic", but it's about time we abandoned this thoroughly outdated and frankly alienating vocabulary.