Discover more from Senses and Symbols with Justice Bartlett
Why Women Turn to Witchcraft.
Exploring a Woman's Place in Spirituality.
What role does woman have in religion?
According to most mainstream religious traditions—not much of one.
As a woman, this religious exclusion is okay with me, beyond okay, really.
I find it tedious to fight to be included in the patriarchy’s structures, particularly the religious ones that are (as the majority of the patriarchal values), founded upon systemic psychopathy.
Besides, I would, quite frankly, rather be a witch.
Go beyond your instant association of hags with warted noses riding on brooms. Or, perhaps, go deeper. When we speak of witches, we often conjure images of what is rightfully recognized as the Crone.
The Crone is woman in her full power—spiritually.
She is a matriarch. She may have been a mother, she certainly would have passed through that phase of development. She was, inevitably, first a maiden. Maidenhood, with its ever-blooming youth, is society’s standard for acceptable womanhood. So if we do not think of the Crone when we think of witches, we may think of over-sexualized goth-girls fucking around with crystals and wearing weird clothes. And though that is fine and culturally cute—that is not what it means to be a witch.
The hag’s medicine is ancient, rooted, wise, and wild. It is nothing like that of the doe eyed fawning maiden that womanhood has, for too long, been standardized against.
What is often preached as piousness (in women) is a certain docility.
Most spiritual practices encourage soothing and calming of the system. Nearly all prayer and mediation is geared towards this neurological state.
Though this overall gentling may be good, useful, and beneficial in regards to the masculine’s search for enlightenment (as men do tend towards more domineering and aggressive behaviors), I wonder:
Does docility serve the feminine?
Women are often advised (religiously and socially, at least in prior generations), to be meek and obedient to their husbands. If we, women, take this advice to heart then we do not have much reason to stir our blood or our hands to anything greater than simple service to our families. Thereby, it would seem that any woman who found herself stirred—spiritually—would also be called to act outside of her prescribed station, therefore making her a heretic—but not a spiritual leader.
The word heretic comes from the Latin haeresis, which means: a school of thought or sect. So to be a heretic is to choose our thoughts (and practices). And it is the practice of witchcraft (not the philosophy), that makes it potent.
In order to step out of the role allotted to her by patriarchal, religious dogma—to become a person of elevated position in spiritual standing—a woman must, in essence, forsake the prescribed parameters (of said religions), and become a heretic or, to use the more colloquial term: a witch.
“Not a single woman has been accepted as a Christ, a buddha, a prophet—no. If a woman manages to get into religious matters she is called a witch.” ~Osho
Now, I do not put a lot of stock into what good ole Rajneesh (Osho) has to say. I am rather fond of his discourse on the word ‘fuck’ as it is one of my favorite words. And as he says, “It is one of the most interesting words in the English language today…” Versatile, truly. Check out the YouTube, if so inspired (fucking brilliant). But I digress.
Though Osho has a point, he is not entirely accurate.
“Mary (also Maryam, Mariam, and Meryem [Turkish]) is considered by Islam to be one of the preeminent women to have ever lived and is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an.” (More than in the canonical gospels.)
Buddhism is, yet, another predominantly male and rather misogynist infected religion, itself. (Look up allegations of sexual misconduct with a Buddhist teacher, Sakyong Mipham.) But they do recognize several female deities or buddhas.
“Tara is undoubtedly the most powerful female deity in the Buddhist pantheon. Her name means “star” in Sanskrit and she is believed to possess the ability to guide followers, like a star, on their spiritual path.”
In Nepali and Tibetan traditions, Tara (she has 5 different colors as attributes) is seen as a goddess, or buddha (rather than a bodhisattva). And to my way of thinking, as a semi-formed gnostic, she is yet another permutation of the Original Mother—Tiamat, the “deification of the primordial sea.”
Rajneesh (Osho), the (deceased) New Age Indian guru, was known for advocating for free love, was against marriage (especially for women) and (like many other male gurus, eg. Yogi Bahjan)—was not above fucking his disciples.
So though I care not so much for Osho, the above meme did get me thinking about women, witchcraft and spirituality. And, as a loosely identified pagan I still find myself wondering:
Why (still!) such derogatory association with witch?
The word witch is a smear campaign against the feminine and it has been effectively used to persecute, hunt, terrorize, torture, and keep us in our place for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
The Inquisition, an institution that was created to root out heresy and exterminate heretics, killed millions of people—mostly women. It existed in various forms from the 12th through the 19th century and to this day still exists, having undergone various rebrands (the most recent in 1965), as a branch of the Roman Catholic Church.
One might ask—as abortion abolishment seekers often do—”What if you murder the next president, or the man who cures cancer, or the next Christ?”
Uhh, how many women were murdered? How many healers, prophets, mothers, grandmothers, apothecaries, doulas, story-tellers, and potentially Christed ones? But it’s okay because they were just women and their practices, even more than their beliefs, had set them on the path to being consorts of Satan.
In 2021 the pope released “the decree, called "Spiritus Domini" (The Spirit of the Lord), (which) allows women to serve as readers and altar servers, as well as to assist priests during service or in administering Holy Communion.” Well, Hallelujah! Women can now officially hand out wine and wafers, just the position we have been yearning for. The pope, however went on to state “the priesthood remains a male-only path.”
Hmm, so it seems that our options—as women—in regards to spiritual matters (either from a more established religious ordinance or a New Age way), is to either get fucked into enlightenment by skeezy gurus or give up sex, family, marriage, and all bodily autonomy to become chattel for the Church.
Well that sucks! And this is why…
Witches enter stage left!
What rules or ordinances must a woman follow in order to be a witch? Well, there are none and it is maybe the one path to power (for women) that has not been polluted by the patriarchy.
Patriarchal religion, the Roman Catholic Church, specifically, has done its utmost to uproot our connection to the Mother of the World and prevent we, women, from not only worshipping Her, but from learning Her ways, Her rhythms, Her medicines, and Her cycles.
Being labeled a witch is the sure path to defamation for any powerful woman. Yet, paradoxically, and practiced with fortitude and sobriety, it is also one of the only paths that guarantees our actual liberation.
So let’s have a look and see:
Who amongst the fairer sex has been labeled a witch for daring beyond her prescribed station?
Joan of Arc: the young woman famously led the French forces (instructed by God, himself). She was, however, caught and tried for sorcery, wearing mens, clothes, and hearing the voice of God, among other things. And contrary to popular belief, it was a relapse into her renounced ways that finally led to her being burned at the steak. Now let’s not forget that the Catholic Church so cordially canonized her, posthumously.
Boudicca: (My ancestress) an Icenian Queen who went to war with the Romans for publicly raping her daughters. (Yeah, don’t fuck with my kin.) This fire runs through my blood. She tore shit up!
“She was very tall, the glance of her eye most fierce; her voice harsh. A great mass of the reddest hair fell down to her hips. Her appearance was terrifying.”
And I’m certain, that by her enemies, Boudicca would have been labeled a witch.
Mary Magdalen: Though by many accounts a priestess in her own right—and thought by some to be the one who Yeshua had intended to carry on his church (making her a Christed one, herself)—was labeled a redeemed whore, lest the messiah be seen to be consorting with a witch, which is exactly what she would have been.
Maybe the real reason that we see so few women as religious leaders is because our spiritual prowess is inextricable from that of the earth and we cannot, in embodied conscious, act as figureheads for institutions who are set on dishonoring and even subjugating Her innate wisdom or that of our own.
Our nature, as spiritual beings, is tied to the soil, our wombs, our blood, our bones, our hands, and the actual works that they do.
We women, we witches, are too damn busy with the practical work of embodiment—raising children, tending wounds, making food, making love, making homes, and making a difference in every blessed life we touch—to give a flying fuck if some church official can look beyond the dogmatized and stigmatized short-sightedness of its own patriarchal nose for five seconds to see us.
Perhaps enlightenment doesn’t mean the same thing to men as it does to women. Maybe we simply do not relate to the flying boy religions. What we women are yearning for is man to get is head out of the clouds and to join us here on the ground.
As much as we can say that women have been prohibited and excluded from holding certain religious tittles—maybe, just maybe, we don’t actually want them.
As women we need to be asking ourselves:
Given the choice of being sanctimonious or notorious, which will you choose?
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