What is a Warlock? Is a question I hear all too often. While there are several factors as to how it became associated with male witches, the term is actually not what most people think. In this article I am going to break down the history of the term and provide insight into what the term ACTUALLY means and how it was used.
The most commonly accepted etymology derives warlock from the Olde English wærloga which meant "oathbreaker" or "deceiver" and was given special application to the devil around 1000. In early modern Scots, the word came to be used as the male equivalent of witch, which can be male or female, but has historically been used predominantly for females, according to some.
While the term warlock is often used to describe a male witch, though it is relatively unheard of that a true male witch will self-identify this way, as the term “witch” is gender-neutral. However, the term warlock has started to be embraced within new age pagan spirituality, specifically men of the Church or Wicca and the Church of Satan respectively, but it is still considered derogatory among true witches, and I will explain why later in the article.
The founder of the Church of Wicca, Gerald Gardner, tried to give new definition to the term warlock stating it to not be a MALE witch, but rather a “dark” or “evil” witch, do to its definition as an “oath breaker”. However, men within the Church of Wicca and other new age or neo-pagan communities recently started to embrace the term as a way of reclaiming masculinity within their spiritual movement. These men state that the term has a more masculine feel to it and choose to embrace the term, as their personal path is more masculine or “God” based. They also argue that the word actually comes from an older Nordic or Germanic language meaning “spirit caller” or “spell singer” however, there is evidence to support that this is implausible due to the extreme rarity of the Norse word and that it actually forms without hard -k, which is actually more consistent with the Old English etymology of the word meaning “traitor”.
Among the magick practitioners of the Church of Satan, they see the term as a reminder or badge of honor that they have turned away from the religion imposed on them and embraced that which they view as true., or that they have turned away from the official church of the land. The term warlock is also specifically associated with Satan Himself as the first traitor or oatbreaker of God. While some women who follow this spiritual path will also embrace the term warlock, it is more commonly applied to men as, like in Christianity, this religion is very patriarchal and consider the male sex as somewhat superior, and thus also use the term to segregate themselves from the women of this particular faith., who they typically refer to as witches.
Another interesting fact, is that English is the only language that uses this separate term for a male witch. Other cultures around the world and throughout history, even in languages that have masculine and feminine pronouns, Spanish is a great example. The term Bruja is used to describe a female witch, where Brujo is used to describe a male witch. However, the term Brujo still means witch, NOT warlock.
The reason why this term is considered derogatory among true witches, is because we speculate that the term was actually used by the witches of olde as a GENDER NEUTRAL term to describe a witch who has betrayed their community or another witch. If a witch was branded a warlock, they were seen as a disgrace, and were typically shunned from the community, or worse. With that being said, the word warlock amongst us true witches is a term that carries a different negative connotation, in the sense that for us it means that you are considered to be low liar and a disgrace to your family, your heritage, your magick, and that you are no longer considered worthy to be referred to as a witch.
This concludes my article on what I know about the term warlock and how I personally perceive it within my cultural witching heritage. While I am all for people using whatever terms they find empowering, I must admit that, due to it having the type of connotation that means a witch has disgraced themselves, I don’t like how some who call themselves witches, have chosen to embrace the term that means disgrace and traitor, but like I said before, do what works best for you!