By Liz Jezorski
I was already in a different state when I entered the sweat lodge. Opened by ceremony and wild dancing the day before, and now hours of meditation and singing with other women. It all had my body loose and my mind fluid. I felt I was between worlds, in a bardo awaiting my next incarnation.
I enter the lodge. The doors flap down heavily, enclosing me in darkness; the heat turns way, way up. Steam and the heart expansive howls of the other women fill the darkness. Now we are here in the womb-space preparing for rebirth.
As the heat rises, I can feel myself burning. My body feeling like it is on fire; suddenly I am embodied in my witch self of ancestral past. I feel the pain, the writhing, the absolute terror of the surrounding flames. As the heat increases, so does the denial of my witchiness.
Over and over again, “I’m not a witch, don’t burn me”; the ghost howls in fear. The heat becoming hotter… hotter… and hotter. The screaming, my screaming, growing louder and louder. And then…
A bursting sensation as the fear and pain leave abruptly. In my mind’s eye, I clearly see the witch with bright blue eyes laughing at me. A smug, dismissive shrug: “Alright, I’m a witch”, I hear her… hear myself. Instead of fear and pain, I feel safe and comforted by the heat.
Here I was: a witch. Take it or leave it.
This experience revealed to me the importance of owning my Truth. The burning, the primal burning of the witch archetype, of any woman standing in her true nature, is not simply a distant memory from the fires of torches touching ancient bodies; this burning is still very much alive today, experienced as the sensation of shame anytime we, the women who aren’t afraid to speak out, are “put in our place”.
Question science – we burn.
Question male authority – we burn.
Question gender norms – we burn.
Question politics – we burn.
When we are mocked, beaten, raped and dismissed – we burn. We burn with the shame of a hundred thousand centuries of oppression.
Several months before the sweat lodge ceremony, I was handed a fairly thick document detailing one line of my family’s ancestral lineage, all the way back to the birth of a man in 1626 in Suffolk, England. This man, my ancestor, settled in Rowley Massachusetts in the mid-1600’s; just in time to participate in the hysteria of the witch trials.
He made accusations and testified against another man, claiming he “saw an imp” under his tongue. The man was tried and acquitted of witchcraft.
As I read this history, I felt the shudder of ice down my spine. I felt the knot in the pit of my stomach tighten. And when my family laughed at my horror, I felt the familiar burning.
The burning keeps us small and in fear. It keeps us from challenging the status quo, from speaking out against the system of oppression; a system that wounds each and every one of us.
The burning keeps us from listening to, or even seeking, the inner voice that knows, beyond the need for external authority or validation, what is real. Because when we listen to and trust in that voice, the voice of our own inner knowing, then we are truly powerful.
The Witch is a force of nature. She is connected to the elementals, to the spirit of the plants and animals and minerals. She casts spells with her dances and laughter and intentions. She knows the secrets of nature and her own body, and she trusts her intuition. She is beyond human because of the depth of her connection, yet all the same she is made of blood and bone.
She needs no authority besides her own knowing, which she trusts unfailingly.
This is why witches, men and women who threatened the system were burned; to keep power centralized in the hands of male dominant patriarchal religious systems. And the burning has never stopped.
It won’t stop until we decide to use the burning to our own advantage.
Instead of being reduced by the fear and experience of shame, we must rise up through it. We must consciously experience the burning as a Sacred Fire and allow the heat to burn off layers un-Truth, until we feel the “POP” of release and the warmth of self-love filling our bodies and beings.
It is time to be reborn in Truth. It is time to set the Witch free.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith.