These are bold claims. Even for a witch.
But here is why they are true.
History has been harsh to women. The present is also harsh to women. It has also been harsh to Wicca. It still is harsh to Wicca.
But what is Wicca?
Wicca is a highly unorganised and non-institutionalised religion that follows old beliefs – beliefs older than most religions – which blend a unique mixture of worldwide pagan belief systems into one that is accessible to anyone. An adherent of this faith is known as a witch.
Again, these witches do not wear conical hats. They do not fly on broomsticks. And they are not evil. They do not worship Satan.
There. I said it. Because despite what organised religions and pop culture media may tell you, this is a real belief system which Wiccan High Priestess Ipsita Roy Chakraverti describes as offensive to no religion. She claims that it simply separates the inherent good and evil within each of us. Indeed, Wiccans do not go out trying to convert people. Nor do they cast spells on people (at least not in the fantastical sense of the word).
But I shall not go into the details of what Wicca is. Rather, I will put this here.
See, the struggle of the witch is fundamentally tied to the struggle of the woman.
Chakraverti, a witch, claims that witchcraft was the first feminist movement in history. Here is why I think she is right.
As the picture above claims, the witch trials of the early modern period have been somewhat romanticised by the modern pop culture. Indeed, it has turned the centuries old struggle of women into nothing more than a gimmick. The struggle is centuries old. I can guarantee that witch trials have taken place every single year since the infamous ones took place in Europe and North America. Accused witches continue to be lynched and murdered in many other ways to this day.
This struggle is tied to women because the victims have almost exclusively been women. Women who have sought a life that is not defined by a man. In those days those women were the midwifes, the healers, the herbalists, and even women who just lived alone or in seclusion. Today, these women are the same women. Women who seek to throw down the shackles imposed on them by a religiously entrenched patriarchal society.
These women, these victims, they are the real feminists.
And society has not been fair to them. They have murdered them. They have oppressed them. They have branded them witches. They have branded them outcasts. Society has maligned the name of a witch. It has attached taboos to that title that even women like Chakraverti are attacked by religious groups and men.
I spoke about this issue at a Young Historian’s Conference in 2014. The evidence is damning. There is a multitude of content that supports the view that innocent women, perhaps even adherents of the old ways of Wicca, were murdered by men guided by their religion, guided by their society, and guided by governments and other men acting as proponents of this theory of evil. There was even a guide written for the identification and disposal of a witch. Malleus Maleficarum.
And today, the destruction continues. Women continue to be marginalised. Witches continue to be the victims of hate and murder. And feminism, a movement of emancipation that evolved centuries ago in the small acts of freedom that women sought, has continued to be suffocated by patriarchy, by laws, by lawmakers and politicians, by workplaces, by families and society, and by religion.
And so the struggle of the witch and the women remain indefinitely intwined. A women for seeking her freedom. And a witch for being a women and expressing her freedom. And the screams of those women and witches suppressed for centuries go unheard. Maybe it is time to separate the witch from the women. Maybe it is time for them both to flourish.