The Witch: Is She Still Among Us?

naturalmedicine, writing

What being a witch means to me.

I remember when I read Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s Witches, Midwives, and Nurses (which you can find here). I was coming out of the dark age of my own upbringing. A Christian anti-pagan haze was lifting, and as I explored different histories and realized how the picture had come to be over millennia, I was both innervated and afraid.

I was afraid because out of my upbringing I had been told to fear the witch, the one who practices magic, who manipulates casting mysterious spells and conjuring the powers of the dark. Oddly enough, I had just met a woman who was to become a mentor of mine — and she was most definitely a type of witch. Whether “good” or “bad” I was going to find out.

Witches are known by many names. Also sorceress, healer, “old wife”, medicine woman, bruja, to name a few. Men can also be witches, wizards or magicians, but today I am focusing upon my journey and, specifically, some herstory.

As Ehrenreich and English write,

 The witch-hunts left a lasting effect: An aspect of the female has ever since been associated with the witch, and an aura of contamination has remained—especially around the midwife and other women healers.

Witch Hunts

I am coming late to the witch post party. In fact, the @naturalmedicine challenge has already ended and I haven’t had a chance to read most of the other posts. You can find them here. So I’m not sure who, if anyone, covered the witch hunts and the lasting scar that this has had over the psyche of women and also clouded future generation’s ideation of the witch & her role in society. Viscerally, however, at my gut, I have a feeling that to many when the word witch is spoken we think of a “bad woman” – she who is out to get us, do us harm or put a spell on us that goes way out of our, and perhaps her, control.

The extent of the witch-craze is startling: In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries there were thousands upon thousands of executions—usually live burnings at the stake—in Germany, Italy and other countries. In the mid-sixteenth century the terror spread to France, and finally to England. One writer has estimated the number of executions at an average of 600 a year for certain German cities—or two a day, “leaving out Sundays”. Nine-hundred witches were destroyed in a single year in the Wertzberg area, and 1000 in and around Como. At Toulouse, four-hundred were put to death in a day. In the Bishopric of Trier, in 1585, two villages were left with only one female inhabitant each. Many writers have estimated the total number killed to have been in the 7 millions. Women made up some 85 percent of those executed—old women, young women and children. (Source)

The violent history against those women (and men) who were dubbed witches is the cause of this bad connotation with the witch. The political, religious, medical and other reasons for the witch hunts are a post unto itself, but again I will direct you to the aforementioned book for further exploration.

Suffice it to say that the witch hunts have left a deep & lasting impression in our collective consciousness that we are only now starting to challenge, reclaim and bring the power of the word/meaning to the light of day. Women, especially, are stepping out of the shadows, resurrecting and knowing the powers within which led to their persecution generations ago.

 

Reclaim

As I researched all of this, paralleling with magical people I was meeting in my life (and my mentor turned out to be a very good witch,) I realized that we had all been sold a false bill. The witch, traditionally feared for her dark powers, is a shadow persona cast by the Christian church. Seeking to demonize the Other in their bid for ultimate control of the mind of the populace, the witch became the enemy. This combined with her “otherwordly” skills gained through connecting at a deep level with nature, herself, the spirit world, etc led to a mass killing and demonization of the witch.

People usually fear what they cannot explain, after all.

Yet, what I have seen since this period in my life is a resurgence of many who are disclosing this history and reclaiming for themselves what is a very potent path.

We carry the history in our DNA and yet we walk through the fire into the light of day.

For the witch was traditionally a healer, one connected to the herbs and healing ways, cycles of the moon, local place and its people, herself and powers within & beyond her.

It makes sense in a culture of control, domination and fear, when the ruling powers wanted to monopolize religion, medicine, even the process of birth, that this character, the witch, would stand in their way.

Magic

The etymology of the word Magic is *magh-.

 Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to be able, have power.” It forms all or part of: dismay; deus ex machina; may (v.1) “am able;” might (n.) “bodily strength, power;” main; machine; mechanic; mechanism; mechano-; mage; magi; magic.

Those who wanted to control the magic, or power, of the laypeople had to shut down the witch. A disempowered populace is easier to control.

Yet, as I mentioned earlier, many of us are breaking out of these age old shackles, tapping into our personal power that we innately hold and that connects us with the same power that puts leaves on trees in spring, causes the ocean’s tides, and propels the entire cycle of life. No one can ultimately control this only put blocks in the way towards the realization of us as one and the same.

We are connecting with nature and each other, learning the healing power of plants and of the power that moves through us. The witch is still among us and as the old characterization wears off, we clearly see that her potential lies in each of us.

To me, I consider many parts of myself a witch. Many activities that I take part in are perhaps similar to witch activities of old. Herbal craft, self exploration, gardening, honoring of cycles, celebration of womanhood and fostering a relationship with the natural world through connecting to and inhabiting a place.

Within each of us is a latent power that yearns to be wielded, a current that moves through and animates all of life that seeks on outlet to the sea of the source. We are not the source, rather a conduit for expression of limitless power. Let us all remember our blessed potential as humans inhabiting the Earthly sphere and celebrate the witch once more. 

 

Putting the Eco In Economics

Ecotrain, inspiration, writing

We’re all familiar with the concepts of economics and ecology, but how often are they combined? Eco economics is not a new concept; in fact it is the original form of economy.

 

Before a globalized industrialized economy, we were much more closely tied to the capacity of the immediate ecosystems. But we’ve strayed from the path and now, as in no other moment in time, it is absolutely imperative that we reintegrate the awareness that we live and are supported by a finite planet. It not only behooves us to ally with and rearrange our lives in relation to eco economics, but it is imperative for the very survival of *homo sapiens* and countless other species whose survival depends on our actions.

Energy Slaves

Since the industrial revolution (and indeed before in some cases) the capacity for human’s influence on the planet has increased at an alarming rate. With the advent of liquid refined petroleum, we could utilize the massive stored energy from sunlight from millions of years ago at a rate previously impossible.

We could simply extract a material that contained so much potential energy that our capacities to “get stuff done” grew in leaps and bounds. This ability allowed for previously unknown levels of exploitation of natural resources at a rate far more quickly than they were being reproduced.

Previously (and sadly still currently) the discrepancies between the “haves and the have-nots” are real and felt by us all. The bourgeois own the property and means of production while the proletarians or peasants do the work. Tenant farmers of serfs worked the land owned by people in positions of power and did so at times against their will. Human slavery was the ugly crutch that these systems relied upon.

With petroleum, all of that changed.

No longer were (as many) human slaves needed, for this liquid fuel in the form of gasoline or diesel enabled the enslavement of petroleum slaves. The physical workforce was no longer needed and so fewer people could affect larger areas of land and sea.

 

Ecosystem Limits

What this did was further disconnect us from natural cycles and the innate limitations of local ecosystems. All natural systems have a carrying capacity, an upper limit of growth, after which point the system culls or sheds the excess. Trees in an overcrowded forest get choked out and die, booms of animal populations lead to busts and heavy mast years are followed by lean harvests.

 

But this is not the case with our human economic system, which strives for infinite growth. With a system that is based upon non-renewable sources of energy (the very core of industrial society), it is by definition doomed to fail. The problem lies in the paradigm, upon which our entire economic system was founded: the belief that there is an infinite pool of resources to draw from to be extracted and manipulated. We humans are not living in accordance with Earth mandated limits. Operating under this false pretense is wreaking unimaginable havoc on many levels.

 

Humans have created a sick society that is propped up on this lie of infinite growth fueled by infinite resources. The economy that believes and in fact requires constant and rampant growth is one that is destined to fail.

 

To begin addressing how eco economics might play out, we must first grasp how ecology worked and at least entertain (if not embody) the Gaia theory that espouses that the Earth is a single self-regulating & living organism.

A body not unlike our own that communicates throughout a system of interconnected parts and feedback loops (much like our own aches and pains, joys and excesses.)

 

This reality runs counter to all the mechanistic understandings and beliefs that are brought to the table with industrial capitalism.

 

In nature, there are natural checks and balances.

There are shortages, illness and destructive forces of nature, but they occur as a natural balancing tool of any ecosystem. This is one element that is sorely lacking in our capitalistic driven economy. The free market will sort itself (or be bailed out- but where is the true cost of this bailing…) we are told, but where is the feedback for whether the foundation upon which all of this rests is sound or not?

 

The current model of privatizing profits and socializing costs is one where the many bear the cost while the few benefit. This is never the case in a natural ecosystem, but this excess and imbalance only takes place when fuelled by greed and fear of scarcity. This has allowed governments and banks to subsidize industries that don’t work! Without subsidies, the structure crumbles and the people have borne the environmental and financial cost of continuing to operate failing industries. This is NOT eco economics

 

Modeling an economy after billions of years of evolution seems wiser than one that is only a couple of hundred years old doesn’t it? The amazingly complex and interconnected web of life has proven effective and supporting life thus far, so why not learn a thing or two?

Wisdom from the Sun

The basis for terrestrial life is incoming energy in the form of solar energy. This is transformed into sugars through the magic of photosynthesis and creates the inputs needed to support life. This is said to occur at about 1% efficiency, meaning that the ecosystems operate with a 1% surplus. The sunlight turns into plant and algae tissue, which feeds the rest of the system. This is a great starting point for modeling our economy after. If we had our economic systems tied directly to real life, we simply could not grow beyond the carrying capacity for life.

Thus as a starting point for eco economics, the growth of any economic endeavor must be directly linked to an ecosystem’s potential to support that growth.

  B Corp

B corporations are making great strides to be more ethical and transparent in their business and this is a great step forward. Fair labor practices, healthier production methods and distribution of wealth are all great improvements. Still there is an undercurrent of constant growth required for business to continue. We must take lessons from past civilizations whose growth outstripped the carrying capacity of the Earth. The result was the destruction of vital resources like water and soil through deforestation, erosion and loss of biodiversity. Simply put, death follows in the wake of this destructive and short-sided acting.

Positive Movement

Moving forward there is great hope as many brilliant minds are working towards a healthier and more sustainable future. We cannot rely on governmental bodies or regulations to determine our direction– it is up to each and every one of us to make the necessary shifts to build momentum toward eco economics. Movements like Permaculture, restoration agriculture (pioneered by Mark Sheppard), the work by Paul Stamets, Vandana Shiva, Wynona LaDuke, Rowan White and countless others illuminate the future of eco economics.

 

We have the potential to turn this ship around and avoid disaster, if only we learn form the wisdom of nature. The fate of the next 7 generations lies in the decisions of us all. What decisions are you making today?

Can You Be A Writer If You Want To Be?

inspiration, writing

For anyone who has ever wondered if you’re a writer, I look at this way (these thoughts, by the way, are spurred on by a friend of mine who is a certified “artist” and whose father was a famous artist — as if we need that distinction for clout– and this can relate to other arts as well):

If you write, if you feel the creative flow moving through you, you are a writer.

We are taught from a young age that only the “best” make it in any given category. If, by third grade, you haven’t made it into the top 3 in your class, that’s likely not your path in life. It sends most of us down a crap shoot wondering what our skills or purpose in life could be. Many find a narrow path when indeed that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

 

Wild Violets

My partner is currently a “late onset hunter”.

Hunting season started last weekend and he has yet to get a deer. All year he poured over books about deer, strategizing hunting and studying the behavior of this gentle yet strong animal. Last year he ultimately got a deer with the help of a friend of ours who is a lifelong hunter, one who started to hunt at an early age.

I’m thankful I have a partner in this homesteading gig who believes he can learn new skills well into his life and isn’t held back by limiting beliefs. It’s one of the saddest things when I hear people say, “Well, I couldn’t do that, I’m not an X.” -or- ” I can’t do that, I’ve never done it before.” When we are kids we often aren’t limited by these types of thoughts as much as we are when we get older.

Though don’t we hear it all the time?

Sadly this is too true! We hear people’s limitations — and our own, all the damn time.

I’m no good at that, I could never try this, etc ad nauseam. Luckily, the universe can be gentle and kind and remind us that indeed “it is never too late” and if you have a passion, by all means, go at it with all you’ve got!!

 Coming back around to writing.

I often find I am “hit” with inspiration. It’s a common occurrence when I’m meditating – my brain comes up with the “best ideas” and sometimes they distract me til I take a moment to jot them down. Other times I’ll read something that inspires a thought train in me and still other times, writing prompts come about from dreams, when I’m taking a walk or when I’ve been ruminating on a subject for a while and I finally know the angle I want to write from.

 

If you want to be a writer, my best advice is to start.

To keep going.

 

To write in private embellishing your secret urges until you are self unconscious enough to share it.

I’ve thought about this many times when people share their hesitancies to make Vlogs and share their face on videos- what are we truly afraid of? Yes humans are notoriously, painfully judgmental, but at the end of the day *who cares?* I’d much rather be seen through the eyes of someone who has a compassionate heart than through, as ole Teddy has said many times, a critic who never enters the ring themselves.

What I admire most about my late-onset hunter partner is that even though he gets discouraged by not getting a deer the first few days of the season, he still wakes (us all) up at 5 AM to go out and try again. Though he may not know the culture of the gun ranges, he still goes and chats it up with people who likely have been shooting a gun as long as they have been chewing gum. We could all learn from this. About the art of not giving a damn what the crowds may say. About the skill of trying, trying again, until we’ve satisfied our own inner muse and they feel that the craft is ready to be shared in the light of day.