What Being a Witch Really Means for Women.
In the spiritual and wellness worlds, especially among women, there’s a shared history and collective memory of hundreds of years of persecution for witchcraft and the horrors that resulted thereof: burnings at the stake, drownings, torture.
There’s a lovely quote that goes around, and it’s something like ‘We are the granddaughters of the witches you couldn’t burn’.
We know that for centuries, many (primarily) women were hunted for quotas, punished, killed and tortured on suspicion of witchcraft. This could be things as simple as having a garden of herbs that grew particularly well or having a baby that died suddenly or being kind to animals.
In nonlinear timeframes or reincarnation beliefs, many current spiritual/holistic practitioners identify themselves as these accused witches.
It is because of this history that as women now, it is important that we celebrate and express our freedom to create, heal, love and connect without fear, whether it is owning our own small business in any field, dressing the way we want to, choosing our sexual and relationship partners or actively practicing spiritually.
However, something that I never see mentioned is this: for these hundreds of years of witch trials, many millions of (mostly) women, escaped — by choosing to, being encouraged to, or being forced to — blame and accuse other women of witchcraft.
If you were a woman who was rich or had a good family or husband, and you were accused of witchery, you were literally encouraged to point the finger at another woman to take the blame instead of you, so that witch-hunting quotas could still be fulfilled.
Women who couldn’t defend themselves, who were considered weak or ugly or who were disadvantaged through poverty or loss were the easiest for other women to target in order to save themselves.
And so that is what women did. And what we know, factually, is that the women who did end up being burned, tortured and killed for witchcraft were primarily old, poor, disabled women or women of color. Hundreds of stories talk about women literally offering up their brown-skinned maids or their poor neighbors or their crippled sisters to be punished for witchcraft to save themselves.
So when we talk about our collective spiritual history as modern witches, we must not forget that is also what happened.
I know a lot of people don’t get why certain witchy or spiritual practitioners such as myself harp on so much about politics, racism, social justice or other non-spiritual issues as much as they do tarot or meditation or the zodiac.
It’s because we can see this happening again in our modern world. Where in our own fight to survive and succeed, we throw other women under the bus to be punished for us. And once again, the women who are judged, othered, shamed, enslaved, punished, discriminated against or oppressed are poor, old, differently-abled women and women of color.
Put simply: you cannot call yourself a witch, a bruja or a spiritual healer if you aren’t, in all of your daily choices, ensuring that other women with lesser privilege aren’t being elevated and kept safe too.
If the political rights, social justice and safety of marginalized women are not a huge part of your spiritual practice, you’re simply perpetuating exactly what happened for hundreds of years of witch-hunting across the world by using your own privilege to save your ass and punish someone else’s.
We are all incarnated here, at this time, to change things. If you believe in reincarnation, we are the reincarnated souls of the women who weren’t burned but also those who were. Just like those women of yore, you may feel that in order for you to be safe, attractive, loved or successful, you need to do things that perpetuate other women’s suffering. And that’s understandable. You may feel afraid.
You may be brainwashed to think that feminism means man-hating.
But know that there is no collective healing of what I call the witchcraft wound until we change the outcome of that story. We, as women, must extend whatever privilege we have to listen and care for marginalized women, even if it’s uncomfortable or means ordering less products on Amazon or buying less fast fashion.
Our collective history is that of women who were forced or chose to sacrifice each other in order to survive.
Imagine the changes that can happen in this world when all of the women who were affected by centuries of punishment for simply being creative, caring or healing band together, and not just advocate for their own safety and success, but that of others too. When space is provided at the table for those other than the privileged, thin, white and attractive.
When we stop aiming for exclusivity and start aiming for inclusivity.
Being at home, with limited money but more influence over our time right now, is a beautiful opportunity to start collectively healing that witchcraft wound together. Be mindful about the ethics of whom you spend your money with. Really assess the authenticity and equality of the people you follow online.
Don’t be afraid to ask businesses or gurus what they do in order to be accessible to marginalized women (it can be as simple as offering payment plans).
Being a witch or a healer isn’t about the amount of herbs in your garden or the crystals on your window sill. It’s about protecting, healing and supporting each other in truth. It’s about choosing to no longer fight to be one of those who were privileged to survive, but to fight so that no other has to suffer for us.
We are all responsible. We all have power to extend to those who have none. We are safe enough to elevate others.
May all witches, accused witches, or women who haven’t yet discovered their inner witch, be made safe and well.
Kelsey Avalon is a Maori writer, spiritual counselor and life coach. She is committed to decolonization of the wellness industry, and is an advocate for trauma recovery, body neutrality, environmental sustainability and intersectional feminism. A practising witch, professional astrologer and tarot reader, Kelsey writes at The Korero, and is based between the UK and Australia.