is learning how to witch yourself
in slow motion.
When they say your name
like a curse,
say it back to them
like an incantation.
When they call you cold,
show them how you conjure fire.”
— Brenna Twohy
Every girl goes through a period of flirtation with witchcraft. Some more intense than others. Some only a passing curiosity, some a full-blown obsession. At some point, we all yearn for the ritual and religion, a place for women alone, and a promise of control.
I do not, nor have I ever, subscribed to any religion, but it has been a temptation in my more vulnerable years. I was never more vulnerable than when I was 17 years old. I was on the verge of the abyss of womanhood, barely understanding what that meant or where it might take me. In short, I was a typical teen. I was feeling and fearing the same as every other girl and so, found myself drawn to the mystical and the romantic.
My girlfriend and I would take buses to out-of-the-way stores where we browsed incense, herbs, tarot cards, and candles. We bought boxes covered in the images of the moon to hold all our trinkets and charms. We read books about goddesses and gemstones, the equinoxes, and planets falling into retrograde.
We never really wanted to cast spells or invoke the Gods, we just wanted some control. We wanted to banish all the things in life that were hurtful, stressful, confusing. We hope if we carried the right stones, quieted our minds, and asked the universe—at the right time and in just the right way—to find favor with us, everything would turn out ok.
We wanted to believe we weren’t such fragile things. We wanted to believe there was someone greater than us that we could call help. We wanted to believe there were great and beautiful goddesses, who understood our bodies, our struggles, looking down on us and smiling.
Approaching such possibility and power was scary, though. What we were searching for was tightly connected to our womanhood, our blood, and our ability to bring life. All of the parts of ourselves we feared. All the parts of us we knew men feared too. This country has a well-documented history of controlling women when it could and killing them when it couldn’t. Women seeking or exhibiting power outside of what could easily be explained, suppressed, or directed by men must be courting the devil and asking for death.
From Joan of Arc, to Margaret Jones, to Marie Laveau I wanted to be everything these women were accused of being. I wanted to be strong within myself, for myself, and I wanted to gain strength from other women who found power and peace with who they were too.
I wanted to have a place among nature and to feel the universe living through me.
That isn’t quite what I found.
I lost my love for witchcraft when I realized no amount of casting this or that spell during any time of the month or year, could stop the world from hating me for being a woman. It couldn’t even stop me from hating myself for the same reason.
I grew up and entered a workplace where I heard women put down and saw them isolated and shamed for being sluts or bitches. I saw women working against each other, accusing another of what she must know was in her too. I saw women working harder than the men and the men making just as much. I saw what I had always seen everywhere I looked and went, women living without any control over how they were seen, treated, or perceived. I saw women who had no control over what happened to their bodies or what went on in their minds. I saw women who were less than human in the eye of men and the eyes of one another. There was no great and powerful goddess looking down on all of us and finding favor.
I grew up, entered the real world, and learned that witches weren’t real. No women were loving themselves and connecting with the forces around them. I never saw a woman make a change in her life, or embrace any version of magic in herself.
I learned there was no place in this world where women are appreciated for being women and not condemned for not being men. I learned there was no place where women seek out the power and understanding of the company of other women. I learned we were all happy to go along, reenacting a subtle version of ever witch trial forever and ever.
I forgot about the moon, the equinoxes, the herbs, and charms and set about learning to navigate in a world that believed I was evil, or dirty, and told me so every day. I buried my need for connection to nature and forgot all about the practice that offered me a feeling of safety and possibility.
But I never gave up on the idea that there was something bigger in me, something beautiful and strong. I changed my world through hard work, observation, and persistence. I decided I would not be condemned for my stubbornness, my strangeness, or my sexuality. I decided that if I were accused, I would own it, and if they tried to drown me, I’d swim like hell and let them think what they wanted
I looked back and realized I had could fulfill the needs I had then, of a community, and strength, and acceptance through other means. It took faith, yes, and acceptance and humility in the face of what I could never understand and of what I could never defeat.
I learned a new kind of magic.
I became a modern witch.
I think all women have it in them to do and become the same. I think most have without realizing what they are.
There are new rituals, centered around self-care, creativity, and getting shit done. There are new spells we cast; we call them affirmations, and we say them to ourselves every morning when we rise and repeat them at night before we drift to sleep. We write manifestos and to-do list and have no doubt what we say will come to be. We spill our hearts in journals, poetry, and blog posts, and bare our souls to the universe and one another.
We demand space and the right to express our power without the control or guidance of men or masculinity. We find reasons for seeing ourselves as beautiful, not just for our bodies, but for our minds and spirits too. We use our strengths to work miracles and turn the world into a place where we are valued, represented, and listened to. A place we no longer have to feel afraid, confused, or hurt.
The modern girl takes note of who she is and makes no apologies for putting the internal first. She rejects consumerism for consumerism sake and only buys what helps her express herself and makes her feel powerful. She knows that ritual has its place in this world. She embraces routine and meditation because she knows they work. She remembers the stories of the women who came before her, she learns from them and honors them too.
She looks to the future, marks the changing season around her and inside herself too and makes the most of both. She is mindful and grateful for the world around her and is awed by the trees, the wind, the clouds and the life she takes the time to notice around her.
She holds bits of earth and rock and metal and knows that while may not bring about any good or bad energy they serve to connect her to what has deep under her feet, the Earth, mother to us all, who has existed long before any of us and will long after we are gone.
She remembers where she comes from, where she is going, and what can be accomplished with time and the power that exists in this world, and somewhere deep inside of her.
“Not all girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Some are made of witchcraft and wolf and a little bit of vice.”
— Nikita Gill
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Featured image via Unsplash