Feminist Craft – Susan Harper
Introduction: Witchcraft Has Always Been Political
“I don’t know…I just don’t like to mix politics with my religion.”
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this over the nearly three decades I’ve been practicing Witchcraft and moving in Witchy and Pagan communities. This type of conversation has definitely wrapped up in the four years I’ve been working on this book, four years which encompass the Trump presidency in the United States, Brexit in the United Kingdom, the rise of White supremacist and nationalist movements around the globe, and so much else that has shaken the geopolitical sphere. The rise of a visible Witchcraft-based resistance to Donald Trump in the US, led largely by women and people of color, has amplified the discussions of the intersection of politics and religion within a lot of Witchy and Pagan communities in the United States as well. Even in the immediate aftermath of Trump, conversations about witchcraft as activism are happening alongside conversations of more conventional Witchcraft topics.
My response is always the same. You cannot extricate witchcraft from politics, because Witchcraft has always been political.
Politics, as any anthropologist (including me) will tell you, is about far more than parties, elections, and voting systems. Politics at its heart is about power -- who has it, who doesn’t have it, how it’s distributed, and who gets to have access to it.
Witchcraft, as any anthropologist (including me) will tell you, is about far more than potions, spells, and incantations. Witchcraft at its heart is about power -- the power to influence reality, to exercise control over systems, to shape the world. While witchcraft looks different depending on cultural context, in every known society where witchcraft is found, it is about the ability to exercise power outside of the societally ordained power structure. Even in societies where witchcraft is considered to be universally evil, being suspected of being or known to be a witch conveys power on a person.
To claim the label of Witch is to claim power.
Witchcraft has always been, and will always be, political.
For me personally, my Witchcraft is informed by feminist politics.
I am an anthropologist by training, and as such I always like to start by defining my terms.
Feminism is the idea that there is no such thing as a lesser person, that all people deserve equality and dignity regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, class, or any other status.
I came up through what was euphemistically known as the “Women’s Spirituality” movement of the 1980s and 1990s, and early on appreciated the clearly articulated link between the plight of the Earth and the plight of women. While my feminist politics have evolved quite a bit from those early days -- more on that later in the pages that follow -- from the beginning I found the idea of using Witchcraft to heal our planet, work changes in the global power structure, recover from the damage patriarchy does to women and girls, and create a most just and equitable world. It’s a work in progress, a mission we might never fulfill, but one in which I still believe deeply.
The relationships I was encouraged to form with other women in the context of Women’s Spirituality of Goddess Spirituality have been some of the most healing and empowering in my life. Learning to see the Sacred as embodied in a feminine form, quite a departure from my Church of Christ upbringing, was a paradigm shifter for me. To be able to see the Divine in the images of Goddesses from across time and across cultures, and then to begin to see that Sacredness in other women, was perhaps the biggest gamechanger for me in terms of my spirituality and my politics. And so was realizing that other women could see the Sacred in me, were encouraging me to find the Goddess in myself. Being encouraged to find the Sacred in myself as a woman and to see the sacredness in other women around me was a vital first step to healing the layers of personal and societal -- even generational -- trauma I carried, and I believe at my core that one of the ways we begin to recover from patriarchy is to find the Sacred within ourselves and do it without denying the Sacred within others.
It has been said that whenever women gather in circles, the world heals a little more. That healing, both personal and universal, is at the heart of my Craft. And I extend that healing to work to heal the planet and all that call Her home, to address injustice, to cast our spells and put our bodies on the line for justice and equity, to put our energies toward the better world we want. As we heal ourselves, weheal each other and the world around us -- and that is an amazing claiming of power.
If what I’ve written above intrigues you, appeals to you, or gives you feelings, then this book is for you. As I complete this manuscript in the spring and summer of 2021, global forces are at work that are filling many of us with worry, fear, and a sense of powerlessness. At the same time, we are seeing a resurgence in the interest in and the practice of witchcraft in various forms, of witchcraft as a form of resistance to the gathering clouds of political and climate catastrophe that loom on the horizon. The pages that follow are not intended to be prescriptive, to lay out a definitive or end-all and be-all of practice Feminist Witchcraft. Instead, they are an invitation for you to explore ways to (re)politicize your witchcraft practice, to form circles of support and power and resistance, and to step into your power.
As I say (quoting Starhawk) as I cast ritual circle, we stand in a place between the worlds. What is between the worlds can change the worlds. And what can change the worlds is us.
To be continued...
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