Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Witches and Feminism

Courtesy of Flickr user dawnzy58 at Creative Commons 3.0
While Christine O'Donnell was publicly denying allegations that she was a witch, I was remembering that traditionally, women accused of witchcraft were guilty until proven innocent.  And back in the day, nothing could have saved the Delawarean from a heaping helping of archaic Christian justice.  Even "dabbling" in witchcraft would have landed her in the middle of a New England-style-barbecue. 
Fast-forward to now, when caricatures of women once perceived as a serious threat are incorporated into a commercialized national holiday.  Perhaps the fear-factor surrounding these so-called witches is worth some consideration?  I mean, how did victims of religious hysteria evolve into staples of popular culture associated specifically with the this time of year

And what constitutes a witch anyway?  While some are old hags and some are sex-pots, all supposedly hate children.  And most seduce men, while hating them too.  They cook up potions instead of food.  They use their broomsticks to travel, instead of clean.  They dance in the woods, singing and cackling.  Just who do they think they are?  Feminists?

Strangely enough, the witches of the past share communal ground with feminism.  Many of the women tried for mystical wrong-doing were simply midwives and natural healers.  But pagan beliefs challenged patriarchal Christianity and so they were condemned.  

Certain facets of feminism continue to nod to witches--The Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, or W.I.T.C.H, was the clever name of a network of socialist feminists.  And Lilith; the controversial first woman and well-known feminist icon, is believed to be both a goddess and a witch.
So was "witchcraft" as we understand it ever real?  Or has it always been a stigmatization for  radical women who don’t conform to society’s rigid norms?  The matter is certainly up for debate.  But if witches were living next door, it would still be necessary for them to assimilate like Samantha-the-nose-wiggler, and convince the masses they're "just like us."  

What do you think-- are witches fact or fiction?  But more importantly, are they feminists?

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