There’s a lot that’s been said about the ‘Feminist Witch’ recently, from writers like Gala Darling, inspiring women to set positive intentions in our lives and practice radical self-love to the W.I.T.C.H. movement, hexing the patriarchy. We saw this reclamation of the mystical experience swelling quietly over the last few years, giving off subtle cultural indicators like a rekindled fascination with crystals and zodiac signs in pop imagery. While the influence of esoteric traditions feeding into these exoteric symbols has always ebbed and flowed (The late 1990’s & 2000’s saw a great interest in magic, and before that the 1980’s with artists like Genesis P-Orridge , late 1960’s and ’70’s counter-cultural movements, 1940’s Beat Generation, and 1920’s Spiritualism and the likes of Aliester Crowley.), I don’t recall a time when magic has been used as such a symbol of girl power.
Studying the mystery traditions happens to have been an interest of mine since I was six years old, grappling with the sudden death of my Father. Starting with whatever reference books I could find at the public library on occultism and unexplained mysteries, to the limitless informational resources made available by the internet, facilitating connections with real human beings. Because I had forged a solitary study from the beginning, I didn’t often join fellow seekers on the path, but we would still find one another from time to time and compare notes. It is a part of myself that had been packed away in working toward adulting, but that I was reminded of this last year, and has provided so much comfort and meaning, that I wonder where my head space would be without reconnecting with this part of my person.
Above: A Minneapolis W.I.T.C.H. protest event borrowed from Instagram.
One of the things that can be frustrating for those approaching mysticism for the first time is that no two authorities have the same thing to say, everyone’s version is different but resonates with a similar energy. As a kid, magic and personal myth-making made sense of uncontrollable circumstances. As an adult, these same internalized stories and symbols became a wellspring of strength during difficult times. The process of internal (and external) renewal and rediscovery happens cyclically, always inside of a crucible of tumultuous change. As far as I’ve observed, the process of things coming apart has always been necessary to shake things up in uncomfortable but essential ways toward finding a path forward. I am grateful for all the feminist witches out there working to raise the vibration, transcend the present discord, and demonstrate to others how we might conjure up a more just and equitable future.
After having ridden out the mounting challenges of 2016 and ’17 on a wave of witchy positivity in the face of violent cultural shifts, I was surprised to find that a negatively applied image of witchy girl power used by some feminist groups didn’t quite square for me. First, let me say that Third Wave Feminism and the need for an intersectional movement are hugely important. While I am always at work learning to become a better ally to my sisters and brothers fighting for social justice on racial, ethnic, religious, gender and disability issues, I do think its important to differentiate between varying forms of oppression and the unique ways that women and girls experience it. I say this out of a desire to protect reproductive rights among others, but also because historically, when women’s rights movements have aligned themselves with other causes, they’ve been left in the dust once they outlived their usefulness.
Above: a burnt poem with Yew, transmuting negativity into something useful.
We all must work in concert to undo the white supremacist patriarchy in favor of a more equitable world. However, I am skeptical about how well served women are within our own advocacy efforts, when we try to say everything at once – often unintentionally minimizing woman-specific grievances in the process. I think there’s enough room in the argument against social monoculture that we can all maintain our own agendas, and still support one another without eroding the central message of our own platforms. In interpersonal relationships, we think of this as having good boundaries – I can support your perspective without giving up on my personal truths. While we need to see each other through an intersectional lens, I don’t want to see the femme in feminism forgotten.
I was recently rejected from a feminist protest group in which I had dreamed of participating since it’s inception. The reason given was that it was ‘not personal’, but that an existing member was unwilling to releal their participation in the project to me. When I pressed for further explanation (as in my mind, the need for unity within a movement outweighs personal preferences about who we’d like to hang out with), I felt shut down and disillusioned. Though this group professed to value free speech, they seemed unwilling to listen or respond in a kindly manner. To me, this was personal. Gobsmacked and angry that I’d been told to go found my own chapter (some sisterhood, I thought), I channeled that frustration into a poem, transmuting my frustration into the golden thread of creativity. To let all that negativity go, I burnt the poem, releasing my hurt and making room for better things.
This experience reminded me that like mystical traditions blurring the lines between history and folklore, everyone on the political left seems to have their own version of what it all means as well. The takeaway was that I don’t need to align with every version of the feminist witch wave, that I can take the middle way and still advance the cause and my own work. I chalk it up to another example of ‘when life gives you lemons’, so I’m choosing to transmute that shit to gold.