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Patti Wigington

What's a Warlock, and Can I Be One if I Want?

By August 11, 2008

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Reader SkippyJonBones (and several others) write in asking about the use of the word "warlock." It's possibly one of the most hotly debated issues in the Pagan community, right up there with "Can I self-initiate?" and "Remember the Burning Times!" There does seem to be a high proportion of people who are just thoroughly anti-warlock, and a few of us who are indifferent about it completely. So, rather than caution everyone about how Really Bad and Evil it is to call oneself a warlock, I thought I'd present a few varied opinions on it: Meanings and Use of the Word Warlock. Meanwhile, I'm curious what everyone thinks about it. Is it just here in the US where it's got negative connotations, or is that global? Chime in with your Comments, and tell us where you are and how people see the word "warlock" in your local community.
Comments
August 11, 2008 at 4:58 pm
(1) theo geer says:

I have to say I’m relatively indifferent. I’ve heard lots of arguments about it, and I do tend to hear the ‘oath-breaker’ definition thrown around a lot. — I don’t know if that is a valid definition by any etymological research, but it’s common. Whether it is historically true or not, the perception is that a Warlock is someone who is up to no good.

Anyone that asks me about whether they should use the term I tell them to research it themselves. Before calling yourself something you should be aware of the implications it will have to other people, whether or not that is what it represents to you.

It’s a lesson the entire pagan community could focus a bit more on. Many of us have chosen the word ‘witch’ to self-identify, or even the word ‘pagan.’ In western culture these words have a lot of baggage. We can not use them without also accepting responsibility to transform the language and connotations, and realize that some people are going to make assumptions based on them.

August 11, 2008 at 7:23 pm
(2) Kendall says:

My limited understanding was that a warlock was a male witch, though not sure where I got that from. I never really noticed any negative connotations of the word, but then again, I don’t believe in evil.

August 13, 2008 at 6:25 pm
(3) Kitty says:

I have to admit I thought the same thing Kendall.

August 15, 2008 at 12:25 pm
(4) Moonshadow says:

I read that both male and female are all considered witches and a warlock is someone who follows the left hand path. But I guess it is what is in your heart and not just in a name.

August 15, 2008 at 8:07 pm
(5) Crystal says:

My husband insists he is a warlock. He says that a witch is female, and warlock male. I find it has a lot of negativity associated with it but just like most magick, what it means to you is what is important.

August 15, 2008 at 11:50 pm
(6) Leslie Lanning says:

When one breaks up the word into its parts, it can be defined as one who is “locked” on “war” in which case, it really depends on ones sense of these words. If one sees war as evil, then a warlock would be evil where as if one sees war as necessary and one locked in a war state of mind would be a positive to accomplish the desired outcome. It really depends on perspective.

August 16, 2008 at 10:31 pm
(7) DarkSpirit says:

Come on, people! Who cares what a person decides to call him/herself. If the Intention is to use Majick, then whats in a name?
Since Wicca is relatively a New Religion, then those of it’s adherents should back off and concentrate on their own path.
I call myself a Sorcerer. I could even call myself a God. Who you are is always changing. Go with the flow. Forget about names, and your little games.

Power to us All.

August 22, 2008 at 9:13 am
(8) Derry says:

Hi all…

In my research, it has come to mean a witch who has betrayed their “perfect trust” oath and who is banished from a coven.

This of course would carry a very negative conitation (sp).

August 22, 2008 at 11:33 am
(9) FreeOak says:

In all I have read,
a Warlock is one who
has broken that perfect
trust, just as one person
said above me.

Warlocks cannot be trusted.

August 22, 2008 at 12:40 pm
(10) Chiroff says:

I was taught that Warlock was the name of a witch who betrayed his coven in the burning times. I have done some research and found nothing to contradict that teaching.

A label you place on yourself, you do for your own reasons. However, it is a good idea to research said label. This is to understand what conotation others may put to that label when they refer to you by it.

It is just a label and it does not change who you are. Only if you are concerned what others think of you, do you need to be concerned about whatever label you choose.

August 23, 2008 at 6:00 pm
(11) Nysa says:

I think the negative connotations are the same that “witch” carries for most of society. I consider it to have basically the same meaning as socerer & believe that it only has a bad rap because magic was associated with evil. In my studies of primary sources I have never seen it used in relation to someone who blew the whistle on witches, or in fact used with any meaning other than that of sorcerer. Obviously I haven’t seen all of the documents on the subject, but for all of the insitence of that meaning I have never seen any primary source cited in support of that meaning. Etymologically it is up for debate.

August 29, 2008 at 11:24 am
(12) Andy Foxcub says:

I have been a pagan in the UK for 40 years. To me ‘warlock’ means male witch, or in modern parlance ‘Wiccan who is male’. I am not aware of the US connotations. I don’t think any pagan groups in the UK use the term warlock any more, partly because it is sexist, also because ‘war’ gives the wrong impression. Over here, we like trees.

August 29, 2008 at 12:49 pm
(13) I am i said... says:

Going on the side topic here, aren’t labels meant for soup cans anyway? When soneone says, “What are you?” I say “I am.”

I always thought warlock was a Hollywood term for a male witch. But have been told it means someone who breaks an oath. Will have to admit that word sounds masculine though.

August 29, 2008 at 2:42 pm
(14) Eclipse says:

For what it’s worth! I was taught in ‘WitchSchool’(my year and a day) that warlock was the term used during the burning times for anyone who chased and/or persecuted witches.

Pre ‘WitchSchool’, I thought the term meant male witch. Guess it is what you want it to be, in the long run.

August 29, 2008 at 4:41 pm
(15) marieAlice says:

Here in Flemish Belgium a witch in called “heks” be it a man or a woman. No different name for different sexes.
Personally, I don’t like the word “warlock” because it feels like someone that can not be trusted. Just following my intuition.

August 29, 2008 at 6:27 pm
(16) freeluna says:

It seems to me that the word “warlock”, if derived from the Norse “Vard-lokkur”, would mean “spirit caller”, which is pretty specific. I just consider myself to be a pagan or perhaps witch and leave it at that.

August 29, 2008 at 8:11 pm
(17) opalescentscales says:

I’m inclined to go with the Old English origin of waer+loga, which, according to the dictionary I consulted did in fact say it meant “oath breaker”, but that’s just me.

August 29, 2008 at 8:53 pm
(18) mollyjeanne says:

Who cares? If you are a trustworthy person then the label isn’t going to matter, and if you aren’t a trustworthy person the label isn’t going to matter. And labels look lots better on cereal boxes and soup cans than on people. I’ve followed The Craft for over 30 years and it never ceases to wonder me how tied up in the externals some people get.

August 29, 2008 at 10:42 pm
(19) Kila says:

I have heard of warlock meaning someone who is an oath breaker. However, I asked my boyfriend, who isn’t wiccan but knows a lot about Wicca because of me, what he would want to be called. Now, he has never heard of the oath breaker meaning and said he would want to be called a warlock.

I want to know what you would call a male wiccan. No male wants to be called something that sounds as feminine as wich.

So what would you call them?

Blessed Be!
Kila

August 29, 2008 at 11:46 pm
(20) paganwiccan says:

A male Wiccan is a Wiccan, just like a female Wiccan.

Unless he wants to be Really Kewl and call himself a wizard :)

patti

August 30, 2008 at 1:14 am
(21) morigianna says:

I think the thinking of it meaning male witch comes from shows like Bewitched and such that used the term. But if you are using a show to show you your religon- we are gonna sic the witch’s council on you! (witch’s honor) LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

August 30, 2008 at 7:20 pm
(22) HedgeWitch says:

Hi,I’m from Devon in the South West of England, and while the term ‘warlock’ doesn’t really have any negative conotations, it’s not a ‘label’ we tend to use. A Witch is a Witch regardless of gender. But where I’m from, calling oneself a Witch has no negative connotations either. Paganism is quite widespread and reasonably well understood. Anyway, we don’t worry ourselves with little things like labels. Most people just call me Rae! (or Witch!)

Blessed be xx

September 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm
(23) Erica says:

I have to admit I never really paid attention to the etymology, and the term ‘warlock’ always conjured up images of Gandalf-esque wizards and sorcerers from fantasy novels. Reading the article on the beginnings of the word, though, I have to admit the thought of being referred to as a “spirit singer” is VERY attractive. My recommendation: If YOU identify with the word, use it. Have background info ready for any naysayers, state your piece in love and understanding, and allow the poor, judgmental souls to continue on their own benighted paths. We are much more than our monikers, anyway.
Blessed Be! =)

September 1, 2008 at 9:46 pm
(24) sirena says:

A warlock is a oath breaker and someone who has been banned or locked out of the church, hence the term warlocked

January 15, 2009 at 1:58 pm
(25) Xylarthen says:

…It seems that “The World”, as we know it, is so tied up in “My Path is right, and so Your Path must be wrong” that we fail to see that ALL our paths lead back to the Centre as the spokes of a giant bicycle wheel.
…To further this farce of right and wrong… some then try, and unfortunately sometimes succeed, at warping the way others are viewed.
…Most times this is achieved by warping the meaning of the terms that a belief uses.
Other times, or in addition to the previous, it is achieved by spreading falsehoods about another belief … to the extend that others do not know what to believe, or what the truth really is.
…..In the end, truly unfortunately, it confuses, or frightens, other so badly so as to inhibit others from finding their own true Path to the Centre.
… The Result?
… Many times, these unfortunate seekers will merely let themselves, involuntarily, be subjudicated to the will and directives of others who seek to control by fear and mis-information.

….As far as the term “Warlock” … it means whatever you feel inwardly what it means … whether it be “Male Practitioner of Wicca”, or “Spirit-Caller”. .. or whatever \ however you personally want it to mean – when you use it with yourself.
Ultimately …
IF … you let someone degrade what you are viewed as – by spreading vulgar interpretations of the “label” you use …
Then…
…What says that if you change and\or use a different “label” … they won’t try to spread vulgar interpretations of the “label” you then use ?????

January 15, 2009 at 2:02 pm
(26) Xylarthen says:

It seems that “The World”, as we know it, is so tied up in “My Path is right, and so Your Path must be wrong” that we fail to see that ALL our paths lead back to the Centre as the spokes of a giant bicycle wheel.
…To further this farce of right and wrong… some then try, and unfortunately sometimes succeed, at warping the way others are viewed.
…Most times this is achieved by warping the meaning of the terms that a belief uses.
Other times, or in addition to the previous, it is achieved by spreading falsehoods about another belief … to the extend that others do not know what to believe, or what the truth really is.
…..In the end, truly unfortunately, it confuses, or frightens, other so badly so as to inhibit others from finding their own true Path to the Centre.
… The Result?
… Many times, these unfortunate seekers will merely let themselves, involuntarily, be subjudicated to the will and directives of others who seek to control by fear and mis-information.

….As far as the term “Warlock” … it means whatever you feel inwardly what it means … whether it be “Male Practitioner of Wicca”, or “Spirit-Caller”. .. or whatever \ however you personally want it to mean – when you use it with yourself.
Ultimately …
IF … you let someone degrade what you are viewed as – by spreading vulgar interpretations of the “label” you use …
Then…
…What says that if you change and\or use a different “label” … they won’t try to spread vulgar interpretations of the “label” you then use ?????

May 28, 2009 at 7:37 pm
(27) Chaos says:

A warlock is someone who uses belief as a tool. Though they may give themselves completely to a belief, they will abandon it once they have gained what they were looking for or it is no longer useful. This is why they are regarded and named as oathbreakers and betrayers.

August 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm
(28) James Raven says:

Check us out and find us on facebook if you want to explore more about this term for a scholarly point of view – “Heretical Order of Warlocks”. We are spellsingers and summoners of spirits and do not accept modern ‘wiccan’ interpretations of the word, but rather what it meant in ancient times and can mean today in a positive way. “Oath breaker” is a reference to the God Odin and not modern pagan interpretation… Of course if modern men can label themselves Witches, if they want modern women can also call themselves Warlocks… Additionally, Oath breaking can be a very positive practice if you have made a very foolish oath…

March 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm
(29) Hexenmeister says:

people think the word warlock means oath breaker, and wicca or wicce is a witch and that its only term. All the things out there that you all read is all from the books that Gardner wrote, no one used the term wicca before gardner stuck it in his books in the mid 50′s and that that alot of this info out in the world is off his books and thats the only true info that is in the world. There is many countries out there that uses different meanings of words and different ways they live their lives. But if you want to fight over the word maybe doing some reading on the true history of it, no one realy knows the true meaning of the word. since meanings of the word has changed over the years. If you all want to argue over the meaning of a warlock maybe you should not judge a person since wiccans likes to do that alot and to that person that went to witch school, them are a bunch of correllian members and copy stuff out of other books for their teachings. but maybe you all should just learn the true history before you make a comment on something you are not sure of. P.S. Dont judge or respond to something unless you know, best way to do that maybe going to someplace that has copies of old writin text. thats the best way to learn all on your own is study the past before you step forward.

March 21, 2011 at 2:56 pm
(30) Hexenmeister says:

I got one more thing to say. You can not be a oath breaker if you brought your self up on practicing magic your way. Who are you breaking an oath to??????
Lot of wiccan books out there says warlock is an oath breaker. And lot of the wiccan books are writin like Gardners books and he says his ways the only way. NOT, he copied out of other books to write his own. lot of his stuff he copied from solomon’s texts and people need to follow the roots of what they believe not say its the only way there is and other ways are fake. Wicca was started from gardner that he wrote in his books in the late 50′s and them terms of wicca and wicce are from his roots not mine or what i believe does not use what he says norse, egyptians, solomon, moses, and levi was around way before gardner and they dont say nothing about the term oath breaker and plus there isnt no white or black magic is the way the host wants it evil or for good. and that space started from darkness not light. I am done.

November 5, 2013 at 5:45 am
(31) Paul says:

A warlock is a sorcerer who has been given a specific job to do and that is to bring down all covenants which do evil. He works in the name of God! His role is to work with the Holy Spirit and send in their armies of spirits to clear down and take back the magic and destroy all the evil they have produced! This is all to do with the Spiritual War which is happening more and more now and will get much worse! Believe & Be Blessed – Dis-Believe and be Damned!

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