Reclaiming The Witch Within Me
I have been called a Witch for many years, sometimes as a compliment, sometimes as an insult, sometimes in fear, sometimes in awe and sometimes in an almost questioning way. In fact, I have often been asked if I am a Witch. When I started my Reiki training over 20 years ago I was called a Witch and now look at Reiki, it’s considered a mainstream holistic therapy being taught in college. My thoughts on how Reiki is taught we’ll save for another day, today let’s stick with the Witch.
My question to you today is when you hear the word Witch what do you think? What do you know about the history of Witches? How do you view someone who calls themselves a Witch? OK so that’s more than just one question. But it is food for thought.
Witches were the wise women, the healers, the women (though not all were women some were men) who knew the medicine of the plants, knew what to gather, when and why. Herbalists aren’t called Witches, they are also considered pretty mainstream for want of a better word yet essentially that’s what they are, they are working with our sacred plants, using their medicine. There is a growing trend for foraging, when I was a girl, we didn’t forage we went blackberrying, it’s just something that we did, we picked the wild fruits. I know that I was lucky in that my mum picked many flowers, berries, leaves essentially to make wine but she was working with the plants and their seasons and cycles, no one considered her a Witch for making her own brew. So where does one become another? Where is the line drawn and more importantly who decides? Many of us were taught as a child to rub a dock leaf on a stinging nettle sting did, we ever consider where that knowledge came from? Why were we told if we picked dandelions, we’d wet the bed? Why did we pull the petals off poor innocent daisies to see whether “he loves me, loves me not?” Did we ever stop to think about where all this came from?
Living in the part of Yorkshire that I do I often go about my travels with Pendle Hill in my sights. The Pendle Witches, it seems that everyone has heard of them but what do we actually know about them? Mother Shipton her cave is a tourist destination too. Why are we drawn to these places?
Over the years I’ve toyed with the idea of coming out as a Witch and have decided that now is the time to do it! Why? Primarily the work that I’ve been doing this year. I’ve attended two Sacred Art Classes with Imelda Almqvist on Healing the Witch Wound; I’ve learnt all about Spirit Dolls from Sacred Familiar. Language is important, words shift, and change, ideas and perceptions shift and change, as I said earlier, I was considered a Witch for learning more about Reiki, now it’s part of being a Holistic Therapist. There is a big shift happening, as there should be about misappropriation of words/names, for example the use of words such as Shamanism, which have become so mainstream, without taking into account context, or more importantly cultural appropriation. I see all around me a rise in the use of Cacao, Cacao Ceremonies popping up everywhere. I’m all for it if you are aware of what you are doing, why you are doing it and understanding the roots, the history. But all of this brings big questions for me such as why do we use Californian Sage here in the UK when we have our own sacred herbs growing all around us? If you look at our history mugwort, rosemary and our own home-grown sage to name but a few have been used for cleansing and clearing spaces. Why not spend time with our own ancestors and see what they can teach us?
Back to Shamanism, I trained in what is known as Core Shamanism with The Sacred Trust who at the time were affiliated with Michael Harner who brought Core Shamanism to the Western World he was an anthropologist who undertook field research into different cultures and “Harner professes to describe common elements of "shamanic" practice found among indigenous people world-wide, having stripped those elements of specific cultural content so as to render them "accessible" to contemporary Western spiritual seekers” (Foundation for Shamanic Studies. "Michael Harner Biography". Foundation for Shamanic Studies. The Foundation for Shamanic Studies. Retrieved 10 September 2015.) Over time his work has been seen to have faults or cracks by many critics and I too found it was no longer resonating with me as it once had. Don’t get me wrong, it was invaluable training and learning for me however, I too was shifting and changing so when I had the opportunity to attend an Introduction to Seidr with Imelda Almqvist (http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/) I felt this resonated so much more with who I am, where I came from, my ancestral roots and my spiritual home. I then went onto her in-depth two year training in which rather than using the term Shamanism Imelda refers to The Northern Tradition and Norse Cosmology which is what it is. The Norse Gods certainly didn’t call themselves Shamans. During our studies we explored the many different names for the healers, the wise women and men. I was fascinated. Taking me back to who am I? What am I? I am a Wise Woman who works in the other worlds, let’s not forget that this too was an important part of all that Witches did, they worked out of real time Harner coined the phrased Non Ordinary Reality. Communicating with beings in other worlds, the spirit world, the land itself. Stop and think about plants, house plants for example how many people talk to their plants? I remember when there was a thing about talking to your plants to keep them happy and healthy, but how often have you stopped to listen to their reply? More studying I’m currently doing – Conversations with Plants Coaching with Carol Day (https://www.thecentreforcreativevision.com/). Witches were feared for their ability to work out of time, feared for the knowledge, gifts and skills that they had, passed down through the ages, we carry these gifts in our blood, in our DNA if only we stop to listen. Our ancestors known and unknown can teach us so much. How often now do you read or hear of people collecting moon water? Working with the moon, following the waxing and waning of the moon has become popular once more, planting by the moon. None of this is new. But do you know why you’re collecting that moon water or what you’re going to do with it? I collect moon water, I drink it, I make rune potions with it, I use if for my plant dye brews. I currently have some nettles brewing in the Full Moon water some for dyeing and some for essences to drop on my tongue. As many of you know my element really is water, I immerse myself in it at any given opportunity, use it within my healing work and so much more so it stands to reason that I must call myself a Water Witch and I will proudly do so.
Back to Witches it’s a little known fact that children were also often persecuted for being Witches, a child simply found carrying a doll, could be persecuted, making dolls is a craft that has been passed down through the ages from the Grandmothers, they carry healing, spells, magical bundles (https://www.sacredfamiliar.com/) It wasn’t only the women that were jailed.
Many of us will have had ancestors who were the Witches, we will carry the Witch wound, some of us will know it and some of us won’t. From a journey that I did last night I was told very clearly that it’s not only the wound within ourselves and our ancestral fields that needs healing it’s also the wounds that the land carries, the buildings that were used to jail the persecuted the land where they were hung, places they were unceremoniously buried. The wound runs deep and ripples out yet together we can heal this wound. Together as Witches we can come out, together we can once more reclaim the word Witch in all its glory.
Well as ever my blog didn’t turn out quite as I expected it too, I was going to give you more history on Witches how the name came about and all sorts, but I hope you enjoy the inner workings of my mind.
My final thoughts and words are the one thing that I have really taken away from my recent readings, studies is that we are to stop undervaluing who we are, what we do, with a little phrases of “Witchy ways” “I’m the weird one”, I was aware of this before that I was undervaluing what I do, who I am, finding playful, acceptable ways of describing my “weird behaviour” but this has to stop, and again a message I received loud and clear in my journeying last night was that healing can be found in honouring ourselves and honouring each other. I also took away the importance of the quality of how we educate others and hope by reading this you too will give more thought to the word Witch what it means to you and that you’ll now use it wisely.
I’ll finish by sharing a poem with you that I wrote after the first Witch Wound Sacred Art Class, it can also be found in the latest edition of Pagan Pages (https://paganpages.org/emagazine/). The paintings within this blog are also from my Witch Wound Series of creativity and can be purchased as postcards.
Healing The Witch Wound
Hagal shines brightly
The rune of the Witch
The rune of the Hag
She rebirths herself again and again
I stand as Hagal
I stand hand in hand with Freyja
I will fly across the night sky
I will gather the souls of the dead
I will gather the souls of the lost ones
I will hold them
I will nurture them
I will stand side by side with all those
Executed, persecuted, ridiculed and jailed
Women, children and men
I will stand by them
I will declare my love for them
I will declare the truth for each and every one of them
We will stand by the fire
We will stand by the stake
And not be afraid
We will walk into the cell
Knowing that door will no longer close upon us
Together we will open cell doors
Unlock all shackles
Together we will teach the old ways
It won’t be me alone for they will stand with me
They will teach me the old ways
And I will teach you
We will teach the ways of the plants
We will teach the ways of the secrets of the stones
We will teach the magic of the water
The water is to be embraced
Not to be feared
The water will hold us and float us
Together we will float down the river
Leaving a trace of truth behind us
Leaving our knowledge along the way
Gathering the plants, the rocks
Talking to the spirits of each and everyone
Knowing that together we begin to make
The world safe for the Witches
Together we will stand tall and proud
With you at my side
Your hand in mine
I will stand tall
And proudly declare
I am a Water Witch!