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Recently, two of my roommates and I got into witchcraft. I wonder how readers will respond to this sentence; I assume there will be some confusion, some questioning of the seriousness of the statement, and some judgment. Perhaps I am completely wrong – after all, “assuming makes and ass out of u and me” (an invaluable lesson I learned from my stepdad).

The point stands – there are certain preconceived notions associated with the term “witchcraft”. Throughout patriarchal history (i.e., after the fall of matrifocal societies), so called “witches” have been pursued, oppressed, and often killed.

The Salem Witch Trials serve as a prime and obvious example here. To crudely sum up that moment in time: an ostensible fear of satanic habits and practices led to a wave hysteria, which led to the death of about 150 (probably innocent) individuals, most of whom were women.

I believe that it was actually the fear of inexplicable phenomena and other-worldly talents that caused this wave of hysteria; this bona fide fear was camouflaged as a supposed “fear of satanic habits and practices”.

I have reasons for this belief. There exist “norms” in society – which can often be broken down into more specific labels – and anything outside of said “norms” is branded as “other” (see texts on post-colonialism and feminist analysis for further reading). It’s always been bad to be the “other”, and continues to be bad, although in less obvious ways. This is a very basic definition of hegemony. It’s a hidden power structure built by “norm-fitting” individuals to benefit themselves.

In the case of the Salem Witch Trials (or, at least, my take on the trials), possessing other-worldly talents and being connected to inexplicable phenomena led to an individual’s branding as “other.”  People with said talents and connections did not fit within the bounds of Western rationality. They were “other”; they were to be feared; they were “satanic.”

It seems to me that, instead of focusing their energy on rationality, these practitioners (men and women alike) focused their energy on intuition. “Intuition” – that ambiguous term that people throw around, but that no one really understands.

Perhaps intuition is something that touches the boundary of Divine and Human. That’s why it’s so incredible and intriguing. It is this unbelievably powerful thing that you can feel but cannot explain. Within our rationality-dominated Western culture, there is no room for the unknown; this inexplicability was (and remains) an issue.  

 

***

 

Throughout the course of my life, I’ve found myself drawn deeper into the concept of spirituality. I’ve explored spirituality in an intellectual sense, as well as explored my own spiritual path.

Last summer, I spent a lot of time Googling Wicca. After scanning a few websites, I settled on this seemingly authentic one. I read about Divination, moon phases, animal guides and magick.

What is Wicca? Per the website that I perused, it is “A modern Pagan religion with spiritual roots in the earliest expression of reverence for nature. Some major identifying motifs are: reverence for both the Goddess and God; acceptance of reincarnation and magick; ritual observance of astronomical and agricultural phenomena; and the use of magickal circles for ritual purposes.”

What is the difference between Wicca and witchcraft? After performing some basic research, it seems to me that Wicca is a religion or belief system, whereas witchcraft is a practice. Wicca and witchcraft are connected in some ways but diverge in other ways.  

A few weeks ago, I got back into my exploration of “witch-related” spirituality. While perusing Crazy Wisdom Bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor, I came across a book titled Goddess Wisdom written by a woman named Tanishka. Something drew me to it – perhaps intuition.

It’s been an incredibly female-empowering and spiritually awakening read. So far, I’ve learned that there used to exist Goddess-worshipping cultures (note: this is based on anthropological research that is sited in the book; there is plenty of evidence for the existence of these cultures). According to the book, these cultures were destroyed and suppressed starting around 1 C.E. There are all kinds of evidence for this destruction and suppression (e.g., the Salem Witch Trials).

There is a wonderfully provocative quote at the beginning of the book drawn from Laurence Gardner’s work:

 

“Because of the sexist conditioning of male-dominated society, the harmonious male-and-female spirit of all early tradition has been lost, so that veneration of the male deity is now called ‘religion’, whereas veneration of any female aspect is called a ‘cult’.” (p. 14)

 

That’s some crazy food for thought. And it fits snugly within the patriarchy.

The point of the book is that there is a feminine and a masculine energy in every being. Feminine energy is related to intuition, emotional maturity, and reflection, whereas masculine energy is related to rationality and discipline. Neither energy is better than the other, but both are better together. They create a whole.

Since Western culture is dominated by rationality, I contend (along with many others) that Western souls are dominated by masculine energy. As a Westerner, I am not immune to this.

After reading the fact-based, evidence-packed history lesson that opens Goddess Wisdom, I struggled to accept the teachings and practices outlined in the book. Tanishka introduces and explains the concepts of chakras, solar, lunar, and seasonal descents (which allow descenders to uncover every part of themselves – both good and bad – so that they may experience rebirth and wholeness), supernatural phenomena, the eight Sabbats, and much more. These are things that rationality cannot unpack.

Ultimately, I learned to let go – I suspended disbelief so that I might allow myself to grow spiritually. And I’m so glad that I did.

 

***

 

My two afore-mentioned roommates and I plan to continue exploring witchcraft (with caution). So far, we’ve worked with dream spells, Tarot cards, energy reading, and intuition meditations. We burn incense, light candles, and sit on blanket-covered floors, cross-legged. We guide each other through incantations, read each other passages from books or online, and encourage each other to believe. Together, with a little bit of Magick, we are unearthing our spirituality and our feminine energies.  

Images courtesy of: Lauren Weiss  

Lauren is a spiritual, sarcastic science-geek from just outside of Philadelphia, PA. She studies cellular & molecular biology with a minor in writing at the University of Michigan. She's been labeled an "old soul" but can also demonstrate a lack of adult-like qualities. When she's not furiously taking notes in a lecture hall or blogging, you might find her practicing yoga, being unproductive with her roommates, reading, drawing, or meditating. Or watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a big bag of popcorn in her lap. Or looking at pictures of her dogs and wishing that her parents would ship them to Ann Arbor.
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