It seems to me that they tried to hide me from myself. “They” being my parents, their church, the school, the culture. How they could identify me so quickly I do not know. Perhaps they did not really know themselves, but the panic that overwhelms and fills a person when their dogma is questioned, must have revealed to them something that they did not like.
Maybe it was my wild long hair that I refused to brush. Maybe it was my artistic left hand that seemed to create all on its own. Maybe the thing that tipped them off was the collection of books from the school library on ancient shamanic cultures, although I did not know the name for it yet. Maybe it was the rings stacked tall on every finger, in every color. Maybe it was all my talking to the plants or all the rock talismans in the closet. It could have also been my rebellious spirit. But what I do know is, they put up a fight to tame me. They knew just how to destroy, to stomp out, to kill all that was within me that wanted to be wild, to bleed, to remember. They knew because they had been doing it for thousands of years to women just like me.
It worked for a time. A very short time. I tried to contort myself into their molds. They disempowered me and cultivated fear around all the things that could lead me astray…. Feminist…….anarchist……witch. So I remained afraid. Until one day I dropped the heavy blanket of illusion they had placed around me and I finally felt lighter and freer to express and explore. I was no longer afraid of myself. I could reclaim what my blood and instinct already knew I was, what I had always been.
The most powerful word for me to reclaim was witch. This was a word that surrounded me with fear, for a long time. Growing up in a pretty strict evangelical Christian home this word was a big deal. Once, in elementary school, a friend wanted me to be a witch with her for Halloween. I wasn’t allowed to! A mythical, green faced, pointy hat, fairy tale witch was even too much for my parents! There were bible stories about witches. They were in communion with the devil and anyone who practiced divination was a sinner bound for hell. It took me a long time to realize that there was so much fear around this word simply because a long time ago women held power, Goddesses were revered, and folk people had their own traditions in tune with the earth’s cycles. To put it bluntly, people that threatened the power of the church and the need for land were rebranded and turned into threats of mythic proportion.
The word witch and willow are closely related. No wonder my first close relationship with something outside of another human was with a willow tree who I would talk to as a child (I cried when we moved from our first home, not for the house or the memories but because I was losing my relationship with my beloved willow). The willow tree is flexible, and like it, witches were women who could bend or twist the energies. Witches are wise women, herbalists, folk healers, and keepers of the old ways. Something I recently remembered made me smile with knowing. In high school, I would always choose to write my papers and homework out in long hand. Now I am not the most gifted speller, (don’t get me started on grammar) but I always would write witch instead of which. I remember consciously thinking while writing, why am I always doing that?! I know which witch is which! Strangely, it wasn’t until after I reclaimed the word witch for myself that this habit ended.
A witch is someone who follows the seasons and the ebb and flow of the moon. She is someone who deeply tends to the hearts of the ones around her, animals or human. She sees the sacred in life and death. She honors the fertility of the earth mother and the self. She is the keeper of old ancestral ways of knowing. She is weaving the red threads of her lineage back into her life’s tapestry. The sacred circle of wise women is expanding, as each of us remembers to remember. Each time you commune with the Forest, plant your dream seeds and intentions under the dark new moon, each time you make an offering of tea leaves to your flowers, or moon blood to the river, or whisper well wishes for your loved ones under full moonlight – remember, that you are apart of a beautiful, intricate, interconnected web. It is spun larger than we could ever know. It reaches through our blood to our ancestral grandmothers and through our wombs to our daughter’s daughters. Look closely at the women around you, so you may see them with new eyes, as the witches they may not yet know themselves to be.