Backing up the channeled message I keep getting that real witches do in fact work with evil forces, someone mentioned the root of the word "witchcraft" is based on the Latin word "maleficium", which implies to do harm with magick. I don't know this for sure, but I also wonder if the word "wicked" is linked to the word "witch" - I am not a linguistics master, so I am only guessing here. It was implied in this group that modern witches have reappropriated the term "witch" to suggest a person who practises magick that could be positive or neutral - not just sinister. I added to the chat that I have no problem with anyone personally identifying as a witch if they want to - who am I to tell them who they are, but it's interesting to consider the root of the word. Historically, witches have been associated with abducting children and doing difficult things, we see it in folklore tales like Hansel and Gretel. This must come from somewhere, and I imagine there have been many occult horrors overtime associated with demon worship. Once in a while, in the news, you hear about some weird cult doing this kind of thing, after all.
I see the modern witch as a feminist power symbol that exists to flip the bird at the evils of religious patriarchy - what is more rebellious than a person, especially a woman, who has magickal skills, seeking to empower herself with it for personal gain, but also personal development? The Burning Times was a horrible response that the church, I guess, saw as their answer to a "problem" they felt existed, and it is understood that most people who died during that time were innocent, many were probably healers and folk magicians, which I think is exactly the kind of stuff that modern "witchcraft" tends to be about, such as in practices like Wicca. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of stuff, I do it myself in my own way.
I also want to add that I think magick, even magick from benevolent sources, can sometimes inflict things like curses, if it serves the greater good. It becomes witchcraft, by its original definition, when it goes against the greater good. I can understand why people want to call themselves witches, especially in this day and age - it's fun to get Christian knickers in a knot with that term, it's evocative of occult power, and is kind of sexy sounding. While "magician", as a word, sounds almost like a boring trade one takes up in college, "witch" suggests someone who wears lots of black leather and has a fascinating aura about them. "Witch" also sounds like "bitch", another reclaimed feminist word describing a difficult woman. Makes sense it's popular with young people especially to identify with this archetype in a stupid age like this, where absolute losers rule the world.
Another thing - language can change overtime, so perhaps that's the most important thing to remember. Words get reclaimed, definitions become broader or adjust. I think it's marvelous that many want to explore nature based religion and spirituality in this time, considering how much the Earth needs people who care about Her, and thus want to worship Her. I have zero problem with paganism, nature religions, and that kind of thing - what the witch movement on the web is doing with spirituality, I see, is a positive. I just personally, in my own practice, identify as a magician (among other things), as boring as that word sounds by comparison, for my own reasons. But call yourself what you will - like all identities, it's up to the individual.