Season of the Witch: Why I Claimed My Inner Magic
A witch is more than spells and potions –– declaring yourself a witch is an act of rebellion, and you can count me in.
I've written about witches before. Of course I have. I've always been fascinated by them, and even more so the mystical ideology surrounding them: After all, practicing witchcraft is about owning your power, in more ways than one. It also has an ancient legacy of bringing women together in sisterhood.
My love for all things witchy has taken on a life of its own over the years. As kids, my sister and I used to jump off the wall bordering our home, scraggly brooms in hand, to see if we could fly. Long before I knew what astral projection was, I connected with the spirit world in dreams, sending my spirit soaring out over the trees into the night sky.
In my teen years, I became a lover of the mysterious; the moon and her many phases, the dark and fantastical things that go bump in the night. They say that the easiest way to work magic in our day-to-day is to live and manifest according to the moon, after all. I was enamored with the idea of magic, read voraciously and wrote stories about it, stayed up late into the night scribbling poetry with nothing but the moonlight to keep me company.
As I grew up, I soon began to understand that this love for the dark and strange and mysterious spoke volumes about my own rebellious nature. I also began to understand there was a symbolic power and strength in the sisterhood of witches, in the flagrant act of not fitting into the "female narrative" that society attempts to mold us into. In this way, witchery is women's circles, tarot card readings, spells and bubbling potions. It's gathering crystals and herbs and joining together beneath the full moon, and it's so much more. It's as straightforward as a group of women –– and men, should they so desire –– gathering to declare a collective shirking of the rules and embracing the desire to step out of bounds together.
This means you could go as far as to say that all women are witches. It's just that not all tap into and claim their power. (Divine feminine, anyone?) In an interview for The Numinous, Bri Luna defined a witch as such:
But no matter your personal definition, declaring yourself a witch is an open act of rebellion.
Because the witch has always been a polarizing figure. This hasn't changed, only evolved over time. It can be seen in many ways as just another construct of the patriarchy, seeking to strike down women who dare to stray from the status quo. Another way to shrink and belittle women, compartmentalize them, and make them feel less than. Dare we say, it's one that dates back to the age-old trope of Madonna and the Whore.
And we need only look at the type of women who were actually burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials then to the current state of affairs in Hollywood to comprehend the underlying why of the "witch hunt" in all of its bald prejudice and flagrant, disturbing abuse and harm.
Today, we have an unhesitating, unequivocal, resoundingly LOUD response, though. We have women, and men, working to upend the concept on its ugly head. We have New York Times journalists such as the iconic Lindy West writing op-eds like: "Yes, This Is a Witch Hunt. I'm a Witch, and I'm Hunting You." in response to Woody Allen's labeling of the Harvey Weinstein allegations as a "witch hunt" atmosphere. "The witches are coming, but not for your life. We're coming for your legacy," West writes. Do I hear cheers?
We have Vulture's response to West's NY Times op-ed, "Why the Witch Is the Pop-Culture Heroine We Need Right Now."
In today's world, claiming "witch" is a form of reclaiming female power. It's a way of stepping up and refusing to accept our current reality, of subverting the "witch hunt" and making it our own. It's an awakening –– of women choosing themselves, for themselves. It's a way of using the tools at our disposal, mystical or not, ironic or not, to transcend the confines of a society that so often want to wrest our power from us, or worse.
But whether or not you consider the term witch a political one, it's obvious that it is having a serious cultural moment. No longer merely an outlier of "normal" society (although the ideology still lies firmly outside the realm of what that entails), identifying as a witch, like identifying as a feminist, is making a conscious decision to break from the norm in an environment that is decidedly hostile toward women. Our bodies, our rights, our identities, and yes, even our magic.
When I call myself a witch, new or not, I declare myself a part of this cultural awakening. Of this moment. The notions of which make up the fabric of what I stand for as a human being –– and witch, feminist, and writer. They're also long-held beliefs that thousands of women died for. The legacy of the witch and the divine feminine transcend far past this season, no matter its current upsurge in trendiness, no matter the opinions of those who scoff in this direction.
These are the powers I cast my lot with. In this way, I stand rebelliously, sure-footed, fierce and powerful. I stand with the women who came before, and the women who will come next. I'm a witch, and I'm staying right here.