Everyone should head on over to Necropolis Now to read the interview with Ronald Hutton. It is fantastic, as is often expected from Mr. Hutton. I think it is unfortunate that more Pagans don’t read actual history books.
I really liked this bit from the interview:
Certainly I don’t know any Pagans who would aspire to be the malevolent witches of popular tradition. The difficulty here is that many whom I know do aspire to be both priestesses or priests and witches of a different sort from the traditional: and the distinction is important. To be a priestess or priest can mean simply serving the divine passively, but a witch is more of an independent agent, making a relationship with the supernatural more on her or his own terms and working to change things. Pagans today are commonly trying to do both, but more the second. I think that the term ‘magician’ also fits the latter role just as well as ‘witch’, without the same connotations of fear and suspicion. ‘Witch’ however, also carries today associations of power and glamour, especially for women, so perhaps it is worth carrying on the struggle to redeem the word in popular parlance anyway. I think the choice must be up to individuals, as long as they have a good understanding of where the old prejudice against the words ‘witch’ and ‘witchcraft’ comes from, and how deeply and widely a fear of the witch-figure runs, through many societies which are not Christian. (Emphasis mine.)