The W Word

When I was in my 20s, I was all about the W word. Witch, witch, witch. I had discovered my place in a magical world, and I went all in. There was not a closet that could hold my broomstick. I was out and proud. At work, on dates, everywhere. It even came up at a job interview once: How did you hear about this opportunity? I’m a witch, I cast a spell, and lo and behold, here I am. I got the job. Everything I did came from this identity. (And I can tell you some stories!)

In my 30s, the word began to melt away. My spiritual beliefs and practices were not wholly congruent with the word… and I eventually stopped using it. I used different words and phrases to attempt to describe the basis of my faith and the manner of my spiritual practice. Goddess spirituality. Women’s spirituality. Earth-based feminist spirituality. Alternative. Multi-faith. For a while, I settled on priestess.

But I never fit with the image the word priestess conjured. Where were my amulets and robes? I used to joke that I was more of an Ann Taylor kind of priestess. I’ve since traded in my tailored look for stretchy skirts that accommodate my still-squishy post-post-natal midsection. I suppose my post-baby body makes me look more like the flow-y priestess people presume. Indeed, my mummy tummy feels like more of a testimony to my goddess spirituality than any symbol or sigil could.

I’m well into my 40s now and the W word has been on my mind a lot recently. I see millennials on social media nonchalantly name themselves witches, and I remember my 20-something zeal. I binge-watched season 1 of “Good Girls Revolt” and was reconnected with the political necessity of the 70s women’s movement and the feminism that sparked the reclamation of the word witch. The W word is especially on my mind today, the day after Halloween, a co-opted pagan holiday, whose commercialized poster child is the pointy-hatted witch.

Halloween-time is considered an especially sacred time to honor our beloved ancestors. One of my beloved ancestors is the great-great-great-grandmother I met in a shamanic trance nearly 20 years ago. She was brewing up some herbal healing mojo in a black cauldron over the open hearth flame of the thatched cottage she shared with her “friend” — who was most certainly her wife in an era when such a thing was not named. Was she my part of my bloodline or an ancestor of spirit — who can say? History didn’t document herstory; it had a habit of burning at the stake what did not comply or conform.

The W word was used to justify a genocide against women in the form of witch trials. It was a powerful word then, and it’s powerful now to those who have reclaimed it. And it’s alienating to some people. The work-around to that conundrum is to say “witchy” instead of witch. “Witchy” invokes the magic, nature, and women’s mysteries without committing to an identity.

What is a witch anyway? An empowered healer woman? A spiritual feminist? Someone who collaborates with the unseen forces of nature to effect change? If that’s what a witch is, then I am still under its spell(ing).

If you're interested in cultivating your own witchy ways, request a brochure for my upcoming Wisdom Program. It's year-long journey for women who desire to develop their spiritual, transformative, and intuitive capacities. It's for women of all religious affiliations and those who claim none. Witches are welcome; as are women of all spiritual paths.