Witches are Hedge Wizards who survived practicing their fumbling arts without going completely insane or dying. They have a broader repertoire of homegrown spells to work with and many dabble in areas best left alone. In other words, by merit of their ignorance as to the occult workings of the Winds of Magic, many Witches begin to use Dark Magic without even realising it. As a result of trial and error, Witches’ spells are more diverse and more powerful than the petty spells of other Hedge Wizards, possessing elements of many of the Winds of Magic. However, Witches that use the power of Dark Magic inevitably take a terrible toll upon their minds and souls.
Because they do not have any real understanding of the forces of magic they use, it is not difficult for Hedge Wizards to become corrupted by the power they use. Even the most successful Hedge Wizards tend to use a dangerous and unbalanced mix of the Winds of Magic, often utilising Dhar (Dark Magic) whether they realise it or not. As such, they may quite unknowingly create spells that bear a relation to Necromancy or Daemonology, casting curses and making wax figurines of their enemies into which they stick pins, causing pain and ill health in their victim. Inevitably, such Hedge Wizards as these begin to show the psychological and even physical side effects of using Dark Magic.
These unwanted side effects can manifest themselves in many ways, the more obvious ones being insanity, mutation, involuntary summoning of dangerous Daemonic entities, a growing paranoia, and desire for more power and knowledge. Not only have they made themselves easy meat for any Witch Hunter or similar authority who hears a villager telling tales of the local Wyrd’s strange powers, but they have endangered their very souls. Hedge Wizards that survive practising such volatile home grown arts, using dangerous blends of Magical energies and succeeding in making binding or making pacts with various very minor Aethyric entities, are promoted in the eyes of Collegiate authorities—although it is an exceedingly dubious honour.
Although the Witch Hunters refer to all nonsanctioned magic users within the boundaries of the Empire as Witches or Warlocks, it is known that the Magisters of the Light, Bright, Gold, Celestial, Grey, and Amethyst Orders at the very least use these terms quite specifically. Generally, those petty Hedge Wizards not caught and burned, or do not descend into screaming madness, or simply destroy themselves with the powers they unleash, have the potential to become Witches, according to the Colleges’ definition. In fact, these Colleges seem to view it as a given that Hedge Wizards that avoid capture or death inevitably begin to practice more dangerous Witchcraft.
Once this process begins, not only do these Witch’s become steadily more powerful, but they also become more dangerous. There is a growing willingness to intentionally harm others. Collegiate Magisters no longer regard such magic users as just dabblers, but view them instead as spellcasters of exceedingly crude but increasingly dangerous skill and mentality. This is the natural danger of practicing any form of arcane spellcraft in the Empire without seeking the guidance of the Colleges. As a Hedge Wizard, the longer you remain untrained and yet still experiment with magic and if you’re not caught and burned, the more likely you are to start using Dark Magic without even realising it. Witches know a plethora of spells that they have devised for themselves or learned from other renegade spellcasters. Witches tend to have a few more powerful spells than do the lesser Hedge Wizards or even the legitimate Apprentice Wizards of the Imperial Colleges.