The Modern Witch

“Womanhood
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

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Feminism is Not Fun

Feminism is not fun. It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s complex and hard and it pisses people off

—  Andi Zeisler, founder of Bitch Magazine, on what Beyoncé’s feminism means to the movement as a whole. (via The Guardian)

No one likes a feminist, except maybe other feminists. Everyone thinks we enjoy the exhaustion and alienation that comes with trying every day to be brave enough to examine not only society but ourselves as well. They think we love to ruin everyone’s fun. They think we live to make the world feel bad.

Being a feminist is hard, and trust me, we know it would be easier, and more fun if we weren’t.

It would be more fun to laugh along and not have to see the look on their faces when my coworkers realize I am “one of those girls who can’t take a joke.”

It would be easier to accept everything I have been taught about the way women ought to look and behave. It’d be easier to snub the “sluts” and to speak only when spoken to.

It would be easier not to be constantly questioning my actions and beliefs, and later kicking myself later for reinforcing a stereotype or perpetuating harmful ideas.

It would be easier to agree that all feminists are simply victims of abuse who hate men and have chosen to become lesbians. It would definitely be easier if I weren’t a lesbian myself.

It’d be more fun to enjoy the attention from the men who are too pushy, the ones who are only being nice. The ones who think it a compliment to want my girlfriend and me as if we were a prize.

I would be easier if I had never hoped for equality, or to be taken seriously, or to be seen a whole person rather than just a “thing” to be taken in and fantasized about later.

It would be more fun to be able to go out with my friends and not have to watch the people around me, or watch my drink, or watch my friends, or make sure they are watching me.

It would be easier not to have to worry about what I might do if a man were to catch me alone and how I might handle the justice system doing nothing about it after the fact.

It would be a lot more fun and a lot easier if I weren’t a feminist, maybe? Or maybe it would only be trading one set of problems for another. Maybe I would only pretend to be happier, or maybe I would lie to myself until I believed it so I wouldn’t have to face the truth that in this world, life for every woman is hard, whether she’s a feminist or not.

But fun or not fun, feminism is necessary. We need it so that, maybe, one day, women everywhere will have it a little easier, and maybe then we can all start having a little more fun.

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Featured image via Ben Seidelman

Defunding Planned Parenthood Isn’t Pro-Life

I woke up to breaking news this morning that Senate Republicans have voted to defund Planned Parenthood. More accurately, they voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and included in that bill was a a provision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood too. Worse they rejected two amendments to this bill that would have increased, or at least left alone the funding. They have wanted to get rid of Planned Parenthood for a long time and with this vote they knew what they were doing.

Except what they are doing is completely idiotic. For one, Planned Parenthood provides much more than just abortions, and two, defunding Planned Parenthood does nothing to stop abortions. Duh!

Attacking an organization that provides critical care for millions of Americans, and in fact provides high quality care. I for one strongly support Planned Parenthood and the work that it is doing. In my view instead of trying to defund Planned Parenthood, we should be expanding funding so that every woman in this country gets the healthcare that she needs. Mr. President it is also my sincere hope that people throughout this country including my colleagues here in the Senate and across the Capitol and the House understand that bitter vitriolic rhetoric can have serious unintended consequences. Now is not the time to continue a witch hunt for an organization that provides critical healthcare services.

– Bernie Sanders

Here’s a little story about me. When I was very young, I had a scare, a condom broke. I freaked out thinking that this is when my life was going to be ruined. I was going to get pregnant, I would have to quit school, and become a mom before I could even get a job that doing more than stocking shelves or flipping burgers. Lucky for me there was a Planned Parenthood right by my school.

I went there feeling ashamed and afraid. I remember the woman at the counter asking me what was wrong but I couldn’t speak. I remember her motioning for me to come to an exam room so I could have privacy and tell her what happened. I don’t remember much of the conversation but I remember I felt like she cared. I remember that I was given Plan-B and sent home with free birth control and condoms, and a better understanding of how to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. I remember that when I left I didn’t feel scared or ashamed.

I left knowing that if I needed anything else there was a place  could go.

Many people are saying that defunding Planned Parenthood is okay because there are plenty of other clinics that women can be treated at but this reeks of bullshit. Not only is the information they are providing on what alternative clinics there are misleading (Most of these clinics don’t even have an OB-GYN on staff!) they fail to mention that a lot of community clinics do not even accept medicaid. Nearly half of Planned Parenthood’s patients are on Medicaid, where will they go?

What I really don’t understand though it why should women have to go anywhere else. You already have an organization committed to providing quality care without judgement so why move away from that?

Now to the meat of the problem with Planned Parenthood, abortions. I won’t get into the merits of either side of the pro-choice/pro-life debate but I will say I am pro-choice. The reasons this doesn’t matter to the debate about Planned Parenthood’s federal funding are:

  1. Abortions are legal in this country and defunding planned parenthood does not change that.
  2. Any federal funding Planned Parenthood receives is not actually used to provide abortions because the law already says they can’t do that!
  3. And abortions are not the primary service Planned Parenthood provides, not even close.
planned-parenthood-services
Planned Parenthood’s Financial Year 2013-2014 annual report via Washington Post’s “How Planned Parenthood actually uses it’s federal funding

 

So logically, when you take away federal funding that is not being used for abortions what you are really doing is taking away funding for services like cancer screening and prevention and birth control. And when you say that women can just go somewhere else even though these clinics already provide excellent services and are set up accept medicaid you sound like this is a personal grudge, or a religious one, rather than for the benefit of women’s health care.

Not caring about women’s health is not pro-life.

I firmly believe that because of what Planned Parenthood did for me that day a later abortion was actually prevented. I may not have become pregnant that time with out without them but the education (and birth control) I got prevented me from getting pregnant after that. I don’t know if any other clinic would have provided that kind of care, and for free!

The president has threatened to veto this bill if/when it hits his desk and I sincerely hope he does. I see acts like this from the GOP as an attack on women’s healthcare choices. Planned Parenthood has helped countless women across the country, including me, and I will always stand with them.

The Worst Parts of Having My Period

It’s that magically crappy time of the month again and I am feeling especially unhappy about it. I decided I needed to rant so I wrote a post full of complaints about my period. It helped.

1. My face breaks out like I’m 15 years old again.

This starts before my period even begins. In fact it is how I know I can expect to be very miserable very soon. My first reaction is denial though. Maybe I just need to wash my pillow case, or maybe I just touched my face too much the day before. Maybe it isn’t my period at all.

But nothing I do makes my face look better and then I know, shark week is coming. My hormones are completely in control at this point and all I can do is hope my face doesn’t get too bad and that it will end soon.

2. I have PMS before I realize I have PMS.

One thing that sucks about becoming a ball of anger and sensitivity is that you don’t realize it is happening at first. It happens slowly and builds over a couple of days so at first you just think everyone around you is being harsh and stupid. By the time you do realize that it was you all along you have committed enough acts of bitchiness to add a good amount of guilt to my already overwhelming feelings.

I hate when I have to go back and apologize for the things my hormones made me do.

3. I feel a lot of opposite feelings at the same time.

I want to go somewhere, but I want to stay in bed. I’m hungry but food sounds gross. I want salty foods and sweet foods. I need a hug but human touch is uncomfortable. I want someone to help me feel better but everything everyone does is annoying as hell. Nothing is right and nothing is good enough. I end up frustrated and choosing to just go to sleep rather than deal with these feelings anymore.

I feel bad for my poor girlfriend. Nothing she does makes me feel better but I still want her to fix it.

4. ALL period management solutions suck

Pads are the worst. They feel like diapers and they move, bunch, and stick to me and my underwear in weird ways. They are horrible. Tampons are better but can still feel uncomfortable if I fuck up and insert them incorrectly. You would think this wouldn’t still be happening after 15 years of periods but it does sometimes. And it’s pretty painful if you have to remove them right after inserting.

I switched to using Softcups but those can have issues too. It’s like sometimes my lady parts change shape and position and the cups just don’t fit. This is a horribly uncomfortable situation.

5. The Blood!

It’s everywhere! And despite the pads and tampons and cups it’s messy. It’s in my underwear, it’s in my jeans, it’s on my sheets, the toilet seat, my hands, and the bathroom rug. I spend the first few days of my period just worrying about leaking on to everything around me. When it happens (not if) I feel horrible and disgusting like this is somehow my fault. The shame is intense.

One of the great things about being a lesbian is that my girlfriend isn’t freaked out by the sight of my blood on something. Then again I do spend more on period accessories than straight couples so there are pros and cons.

6. I am a horrible feminist because I hate my period.

I know I know, my body is magical and it’s doing it’s magical, life giving thing. I should appreciate the process and feel grateful I was born with the ability to give life. I should honor my menstrual cycle. I should be embracing the energy that comes during this “moon time” and blah, blah, blah! I’m sorry but this sucks and pretending it doesn’t doesn’t make it suck less.

Yeah I can appreciate the process from a scientific/biological perspective but the emotional side of me can only see how unfair and uncomfortable this whole thing is. I do not appreciate this at all. I do not feel more creative and my intuition does not feel heightened. I feel like I have lost control of my body and all I can think about it how unfair, uncomfortable, and inconvenient it all is.

Sorry not sorry.

I believe that deep down all women hate their periods and it is our God-given right to complain about it as much as we want. Let loose in the comments if you need to :)

P.S. DO NOT comment telling me you don’t want to hear about periods. I don’t need that crap right now.

Original image via https://flic.kr/p/a4dVsz