Featured image: Cynthia Caraz
April M. Short: The word ‘witch,’ the word ‘goddess’ and the phrase ‘divine feminine’—all these different sorts of spiritual-feminism terms are so hot with women on social media right now. I think it’s important to clarify what they mean, what is their purpose. We’ll start with, why reclaim the word witch? Why reclaim something so demonized rather than just come up with a new term?
Sarah Durham Wilson: Yeah. I remember when I first started using it, people were like, “can’t you use another word?” That continues to give the patriarchy, the people behind the hatred of the witch hunts and this gendercide and misogyny, the sexism—the power. It continues to give them that which they tried to take from us. Starhawk says it best: “The word “Witch” carries so many negative connotations that many people wonder why we use the word at all. Yet to reclaim the word “Witch” is to reclaim our right, as women, to be powerful; as men, to know the feminine within as divine.”
So, witch. To take back that word is to take back our power. Do your own research on the witch hunts. Open one book on the witch hunts, and you’ll be like “What the f–K?” But instead you let history, instead of herstory tell you the story. They can say that, you know, we worked with the devil, we hexed people and cast evil spells. Then you do a little research yourself, you open on goddamn book and you see they were just- women. And then your rage just wakes you up, and you take the word back.
When I took the word back, I wanted to like, stand in grocery store checkout lines and scream out. Coming out of the broom closet is a huge thing. To reclaim your power as a witch is to reclaim your power as a woman. End of story. As a self-healer, as someone with deep intuition, as someone linked to the Earth. It is a beautiful gift, a gift of true femininity, intuition and oneness. A higher Goddess moving you through life, and so many faces of the goddess represent so many faces of woman. We’re not just one thing you can put in a box. We are ugly and terrifying, and beautiful and nurturing, and deathly and life giving. We are all the things nature is. She is unending, and we are that. So take back witch. Take back being a woman.
AMS: What is feminine about the Earth, nature and healing the Earth?
SDW: Women’s bodies are directly linked to the Earth. When I say my body and the Earth are one, it’s like, I have the power to create life the way the Earth has the power to create life, and to wax and wane like the Earth and the moon do through seasons and phases. I have a 28-day cycle, and my body is like the moon. I have the power to create life in my womb, just like the Earth itself. And then, as women, the way the Earth rebirths herself in spring and goes through a full moon in the summer, we’re on fire, and then in the fall we notice our energy starts to wane, and then in winter we die only to be reborn again. What can be more powerful than the power to die (bleed for days in our cycle) or create life itself?
When you really start to link up to the cycles of the Earth, you realise you and the Earth are one and it’s the most natural thing to do is to align with these cycles. In a linear, patriarchal society we’re told to go, go, go everyday, and everyday should be 70 degrees and sunny, right? We should always be fine, always shine like the sun, when really we’re much more like the Earth and moon where we wax and wane and glow and then offer birth, and then kind of die again.
We’re changing constantly. We’re not supposed to be the same forever. We’re supposed to constantly be growing, changing, dying in that life, death, rebirth cycle the Earth itself is in. That is what I attune women to, that more feminine rebirth cycle. The way a snake sheds its skin or the Earth dies in the winter to be reborn again. That cyclical nature of life is the cyclical nature of women, of the feminine.
AMS: I want to talk about the less appealing sides of the feminine that have been repressed, and maybe labeled “witch.”
SDW: Well, a witch in the witch hunts in Salem, or the witch hunts all over Europe, which were massive femicide, was basically just any strong woman. There was one town in Scotland that left one woman standing. Everyone else was burned at the stake or hung or drowned. It was basically just “woman” who they were after.
The witch hunt manifesto is called the Malleus Maleficarum [Editor’s note: usually translated as Hammer of Witches] written in 1486. That was how the whole witchcraft-devil thing came about. That lie that women were like the devil. They even, when they wrote the Maleficarum they described the devil as the shape of basically our reproductive system, right, the uterus and the ovaries, that horned head.
If you read some of the transcripts of the judges sentencing witches to the gallows, it was because of the way these women made them feel, you know, like too lustful, or facing parts of themselves they didn’t want to face. A woman could be too beautiful, or too ugly, or too smart or a lesbian or own land that the government wanted or was owed, or if she was, god help her, a midwife or a healer. Midwives “stole” from the doctors of the time, so the men. And of course, now we’re having midwives and doulas come back, but giving birth is still not completely thought of as a woman’s business, although, of course, it is. And of course women knew more about birth than male doctors, and always have.
Witches were the healers, women who honored the goddess or honored the Earth. And covens were dismembered and became illegal because women coming together with the same intention proved far too powerful. That’s why witches wear black, because they had to move through the night in all black, in cloaks, and try to blend into the night.
I mean, too lovely, too pretty, too smart, too stupid… If a woman sneezed around someone and the next day that person got a cold, she was a witch. If she was a widow, she was a witch. Basically if you were a woman you could die. If you didn’t fit in completely to the standards of the society you could be killed, which, even though we can’t be sent to the gallows now for being different, we can in our own way these days.
Witches were too powerful. Definitely too powerful. It’s a crime in society.
Continue reading the full article on: Alternet.org here. Interview by April M. Short.