Friday, February 29, 2008
What does it mean to be a Witch - Part Two
"To reclaim the word witch is to reclaim our right as women to be powerful" Starhawk: Spiral Dance
Here we have one of the single most important features for me when it comes to neo paganism.
I grew up in a family which was governed by a strict christian code. We attended church maybe 4 times a week, the women or 'Sisters' were subordinate to the men (Brethren). Sisters took no part in any of the services and were not allowed to speak, they also had to cover their heads with hats or veils. To have an uncovered head was considered blasphemy as God was the head of Jesus, Jesus was the head of the Church and Man was the head of the woman. Sisters are allowed to play the organ, teach in sunday school and organise any catering. A few slipped through onto committees such as choosing the topics for bible class but it was rare (and daring!) I have had bible study classes in my home where I was expected to wear a head covering because one Brother was in attendance. That also meant that I had to keep silence.
Women were encouraged to keep house and raise children to ensure future generations continued on the straight and narrow. Careers were frowned on. Outward adorning was frowned on. Most things were frowned on. Clothing had to cover the body properly, and too much flesh on display would bring swift rebuke from a senior Sister. After all, Eve was the originator of sin, she persuaded her husband to eat from the tree and only through childbirth would womankind redeem for her sin. "In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children".
Sexuality was repressed. No sex before marriage, no divorce, no marriage to anyone not of the same faith. Mortifying sin in the flesh was the ultimate objective and as women were sin personified then they had to be even more supressed and repressed.
Wicca, witchcraft, paganism ... call it what you will is the most wonderful opposite to all of that vile wickedness. It redresses the balance. Women are no longer evil but the embodiment of Goddess, to be revered, celebrated and enjoyed. The Goddess .... symbol of the divine feminine brings power to women downtrodden by a patriachal heirachy.
Being a witch means that sexuality is sacred. Sex is allowed, it is activly encouraged ... it is a natural expression of the soul. To deny our bodies and our sexuality is not required.
In most major religions the preists, prophets, gurus, buddhas etc are male. In paganism it can be either, but is predominantly female. I act as priestess at my coven rituals. Each time I do, I want to shout aloud with joy - I can express my spirituality, I can speak, I can sing, I can conduct the ceremony. It is so liberating and empowering. I have spent my life being taught to submit to male authority and masculine perceptions. Being a witch means that being female is an ADVANTAGE!
The Goddess is vitally important for women - and for me. In Goddess, as a woman, I see myself as divine, my body as sacred, the changing phases of my life as holy - and not to be feared. Maiden, mother and Crone - all carry power and wonder. The qualities of aggression, anger, the power to nurture and create as well as destroy are encouraged and validated.
So what about the men that embrace the path? Men are tragically oppressed in patriachal religion. The oppression is more subtle than for women, but still they are encouraged to emulate spiritual perfection and destroy their 'base animal' nature. This puts men at war with themselves and hence that war gets projected outwards in behaviour. Paganism allows men to connect with symbols of divinity that show more humanity; that are at ease with sexuality - they dance, they create, they are free to play and express.
"All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals" - a quote from the Charge of the Goddess. The sensual pleasure of the body and mind are expressed freely and are seen as an expression of the life force. Therefore they are sacred within the guiding principle of love. (Its no wonder the controling church/state tried to supress witchcraft. We cant have people being happy now, can we - and finding out they can be at ease with themselves).
Pleasure is part of the ethos. Fear of judgement is removed.
After so much constraint, and so much indoctrination about the sinful nature of being a woman - to be a witch is like bursting from an underground coffin into the bright, clear air. I can breathe, I can feel, I can dance with the sheer joy of being alive. I can luxuriate in the knowledge that to be a woman is a good thing, not just good - FANTASTIC!