I am a witch. I was trained by witches. I was in an initiation process for 6 years, guided by witches. All my family knows I’m a witch, yet I was afraid to say it publicly and online.
I am a witch.
Everyone has a reaction to the word witch. It is a powerful word. Many people feel negatively about it, some people feel intrigued and drawn to it. But most people make completely wrong assumptions about me when I tell them I am a witch.
For example: I don’t hex people, I don’t worship the devil, I don’t sacrifice animals, I’m not in a coven, and I don’t engage in ritual orgies (sadly). Are there witches that do all these things? Absolutely! (Except most witches I know don’t believe in the devil, we are a pre-christian religion.)
So why would I use a word that gives people the wrong idea about me?
The answer, for me, lies in history. In their groundbreaking text Witches, Midwives and Nurses, Barbara Erhenrich and Dierdra English outline how the witch-hunts of the middle ages served to divest women of their traditional areas of influence as village healers, and placed men as the authority over women’s health and women’s issues. Witches were demonized charged with all manner of things. So much so, that the word witch is now still means ‘evil woman’ in many parts of the world.
This divorced all people, women especially, from their innate sources of power: the earth.
For me the story goes back way further than the middle ages. To the time before the patriarchy. Back when women ruled the temples, presided over religious rights and were most likely the holders of political power in their communities.
Archeologist Marija Gimbutas who’s pioneering work in the goddess worship of ancient Europe, found no evidence of war in the early cultures she studied. No weapons, and no depictions of battle scenes. Not a single one.
I’m not naive enough to assume that these cultures were utopian, but they certainly seem to have figured out something we have not.
As religions dominated by male gods began to proliferate, so did war. Goddess religions slowly lost influence and importance until the only areas left as ‘purely’ women’s business were the common tasks of birth, death and healing. Until the witch burnings, that is.
With the subjugation of women’s bodies came the regulation of their sexuality. We are still seeing that tired story played out in our national politics.
For me the reclaiming of the word feel like the reclaiming of something fundamental. The right to know my body and it’s rhythms, the right to know the medicines that grown around me, and to know the simple remedies that can help my family. The right to birth my child at home. The right to bless him without needing a priest.
We are in the midst of what many have called the Great Remembering. We are waking up collectively to the knowledge and power that we all lost when we burned those women and men. When we shut down the goddess temples and when we stopped worshipping the rhythms of nature. For me, the word witch holds that, but it also holds something else.
It holds the scrappy anarchistic notion that we all have access to this power. It means something more that the word priestess, which I also use. As one of my teacher used to say: all you need to do to become a witch is clap your hands three times and say “I am a witch, I am a witch, I am witch!” Accessing and honoring the power innate with in each one of us, is our birthright.
In reclaiming this maligned word, I seek to honor all those women, those who were of the craft, and those who where simply deemed guilty because of they were bright or unmarried, or simply didn’t fit the mold.
That is why I call myself a witch.