Witch-Please-Magic-Hexing-and-Witchcraft-in-Feminism

“Witch, Please!”: Magic, Hexing and Witchcraft in Feminism

“Witch, Please!”: Magic, Hexing and Witchcraft in Feminism

The witch lives between dark and daylight, the safely settled village and the wil writes: “It’s no coincidence that the reclamation of the witch as a symbol of female power and persecution started with the suffragettes, and later saw a renaissance in the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. (…) In this new age of sexist turmoil, it’s fitting she be resurrected once more to teach us, inspire us, and remind us how far we’ve come – and how much further we have to go.” So, when we examine the use of “Witchcraft” in our socio-political landscape, we can see Sollee’s words materialised. The Trump election, and the 2016 campaigns as a whole, seemed to prove a breaking point for many women, which continues to this day. The Witch emerged as a contemporary figure of resistance, thrown as a slur by Donald Trump himself, who angrily announced “WITCH HUNT” every time he felt demonised on Twitter. The crowds led by Trump to chant “lock her up” at his opposing candidate, Hilary Clinton, also held up a startling mirror to the rhetoric used at the time of the Witch Trials, too. Watching these chants break out over the floor at the Republican national convention, Rebecca Traister commented: “I was not the only person in the room to be reminded of 17th-century witch trials, the blustering magistrate and rowdy crowd condemning a woman to death for her crimes.” This demonization of women by men in power seemed to draw from every version of the stereotypical witch available. All at once, women in a position of power were seen as monstrous, horrific, angry, and ugly; each caricature routinely played out in order to disarm women’s agency within the political sphere. For example, in recent months, rightwing religious groups were accusing Democratic congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of belonging to “a coven of witches that casts spells on Trump 24 hours a day”.

The Witch Trials of 1692 saw the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women. Deemed dangerous, suspicious, meddling, and above all, witches. Burned, drowned, tortured and worse, these women were silenced and oppressed until the very end, and their stories are cemented in the early narratives of women’s suffrage. But how does witchcraft live on in modern feminism? What is it about the occult, the hexings, and the magic that continues to mystifies women young and old in the 21st century? And why is it’s resurgence tied to our political landscape? While the history of the witch trials are important, and something we’ll be touching on in later blog posts, we wanted to begin in the now, and how witchcraft lives on in various forms in modern feminism, and why it’s become almost symbolic of the suffrage that came before us.

Kristin J Sollee, author of Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive writes: “It’s no coincidence that the reclamation of the witch as a symbol of female power and persecution started with the suffragettes, and later saw a renaissance in the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. (…) In this new age of sexist turmoil, it’s fitting she be resurrected once more to teach us, inspire us, and remind us how far we’ve come – and how much further we have to go.” So, when we examine the use of “Witchcraft” in our socio-political landscape, we can see Sollee’s words materialised. The Trump election, and the 2016 campaigns as a whole, seemed to prove a breaking point for many women, which continues to this day. The Witch emerged as a contemporary figure of resistance, thrown as a slur by Donald Trump himself, who angrily announced “WITCH HUNT” every time he felt demonised on Twitter. The crowds led by Trump to chant “lock her up” at his opposing candidate, Hilary Clinton, also held up a startling mirror to the rhetoric used at the time of the Witch Trials, too. Watching these chants break out over the floor at the Republican national convention, Rebecca Traister commented: “I was not the only person in the room to be reminded of 17th-century witch trials, the blustering magistrate and rowdy crowd condemning a woman to death for her crimes.” This demonization of women by men in power seemed to draw from every version of the stereotypical witch available. All at once, women in a position of power were seen as monstrous, horrific, angry, and ugly; each caricature routinely played out in order to disarm women’s agency within the political sphere. For example, in recent months, right-wing religious groups were accusing Democratic congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of belonging to “a coven of witches that casts spells on Trump 24 hours a day”.

However, there is also much to be said when evaluating the place of the “Witch” in politics as a powerful, revered position. Writer Andi Zeisler spoke to Elle magazine ahead of the 2017 Women’s March, and announced: “This is the time for getting scary. We need to go full witch.” Reclaiming this title has, on the flip side, become a realm of empowerment for women making a statement within politics; even as simply as using it on banners for political protests, like “Hex the Patriarchy”. This secret, dark power to choose to worship something so opposite to patriarchal figures, to choose to rebel against the dominant narrative, was the power of the 21st century Witch. An, almost as a response to this popularisation of the word, the practice, and the actions, pop culture in 2018-19 provided every witch one could have possibly wished for. There were reboots of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Charmed, and Suspiria. It was almost as though, without knowing it, the general public, in response to the socio-political landscape, were mirroring the Manifesto of American campaign group WITCH, who stated: “Witches have always been women who dared to be: groovy, courageous, aggressive, intelligent, nonconformist, explorative, curious, independent, sexually liberated, revolutionary. (…) You are a witch by being female, untamed, angry, joyous and immortal.” What rings true throughout both the witch hunts and trials, and the 1990s wave of teen witches, is the idea that by coming together, women can become empowered, and use said power to overturn evil. Sollee sees this magical community building as a positive outlet for collective catharsis. “Regardless of whether you believe in magic or the collective consciousness or any of that, these mass hexings create community through shared intention,” she explains.

We will, of course, be following up on all of these historical and socio-political moments which have led to Witches being such a prevalent symbol and presence in modern feminism. For now, to conclude, it has to be said that the Witch has become someone to be feared by men, as every powerful woman has been. The identity of the witch embodies the potential for self-directed feminine power, and of course, agency and freedom; and when the patriarchy fears what it cannot control, it acts in a way to seek to silence. But, as Sollee states, “Their fear can become our power”.

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Comments 1

  1. Interesting article commentary, I’d not thought so clearly about this being a form of oppression that it certainly was. Must read up more on this topic myself to feel more educated.

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