On Identifying with Witchy Feminism
By Lily Myers
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]“To[/dropcap] me, power is making things happen without asking for permission,” Beyonce told ELLE Magazine in a recent interview. When I read this quote, I laughed out of sheer recognition. Yep, that’s it, I thought. That’s why I’m a witch.
It started during a long, solitary summer, with an obsession with the moon, and a subsequent obsession with Diana, the Roman goddess of the moon and the hunt. This led to goddess mythology, which led to the Divine Feminine, which led to Paganism, which led to witchcraft, which led to Tarot and crystals and spell-work and meditation. But really, before all of this, it started with a need for power. Not power over others – that’s a version of power I’m not interested in – but rather, a need for my own personal power. A need for an immutable feeling of my own inherent power, that no one else could take away. No one else even needs to know it’s there. Only I do.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]O[/dropcap]ur world tells girls that we don’t have much power. Growing up, it’s hard to feel like the agents of our own lives. We’re repeatedly fed the message that we are objects, that we are only worthy if we fit into a narrow standard of sexualized beauty. We’re judged, catcalled, objectified, primped and prodded, told that we must make ourselves small and respectable. In the media, girls are portrayed as love interests, girlfriends, cheerleaders, sex objects; very rarely as complex, agentic protagonists. It’s easy to forget about our power, with all these forces acting upon us. By the time I was a teenager, I think I’d totally forgotten that I had any power of my own at all.
So when I discovered symbols and stories that showed me a uniquely female power, I was awestruck. It was totally new, totally enlivening. I read stories about Diana, the strong and solitary huntress. I read about the Divine Feminine, the notion of a uniquely feminine sacredness. I read about the moon, how our cycles mirror its monthly waning and waxing. I felt I’d discovered a great wisdom, a great mystery, an amazing new way of seeing the world that actually made me feel like a worthy part of the universe. It gave me a framework, for the first time, that allowed me to integrate myself into the world as a unique and sacred being – rather than critiquing and objectifying myself as I’d been taught to do for years.
This is why feminism and spirituality are inextricably linked for me. The excitement that I get from spirituality – working with the moon, the Tarot’s feminine archetypes, goddess mythology, and more – comes from how radically healing it is to revere the feminine as divine. It’s a whole new way of understanding ourselves. Along with mindfulness meditation, my spiritual practice allows me to see myself as a whole entire person, flawed and messy and beautiful and complete – and that, to me, has always been the goal of feminism as well: seeing women as whole entire humans. Not perfect, not inferior, just whole.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]A[/dropcap]s Beyonce said, power is the ability to make things happen without permission. To me, that’s also what magic is. Identifying as a witch means adopting a worldview in which I can work to make the changes I want. In which power stems from a source within me. No, I can’t make anything happen, of course; I can’t rig the election or make infinite money however badly I might want to. But the feeling of agency reminds me that I can co-create my reality, can work to manifest my goals – without permission.
Identifying as a witch is a way for me to grant myself this permission-less power. This is radical in a world that teaches girls to constantly seek outside validation. Seeking outside validation will always hinge our worth on someone else’s acceptance, and I just couldn’t live like that anymore. I choose instead to eschew the need for validation, and thus grant inherent worth to myself. For me, that’s what being a feminist is. In a world that won’t grant me power, I choose to grant it to myself.
This is why I’m enamored with the archetype of the witch. A witch is a woman who does not concern herself with fitting into society’s standards. A witch is a woman who plays by her own rules. A witch is a woman who is fully assured of her own power. When I need a reminder of this feeling, a reminder that I am this woman, I can tap into the archetype of the witch with imagery, incense, myth, Tarot, meditation, and other tools. They are part of a vital practice of self-love and growth.
Discovering this practice was fortuitous, but it wasn’t a fate that fell onto me. Becoming a witch was something I decided to do. (As Dumbledore so wisely said, “It is our choices that show us what we really are, far more than our abilities.”) And this, for me, is the true power of witchcraft. It is a choice, an identity one grants oneself. It is a source of power that is internal, and therefore cannot be taken away. It doesn’t matter if you think magic is “real” or not. The magic is the feeling I get, bright and radiating from within, when I engage in my spiritual practice or invoke the word “witch”. The magic is the choice to do so. The magic is the reverence for the feminine, in a world that constantly reduces and silences it. The magic is that I don’t need an outside source to validate me anymore. And that is true power.