There is Power in the Witch

Wednesday Letter #22

I was given my first Tarot deck in the 90s. I lost interest pretty quickly—like most teenage girls going through an occult phase—but now I’m in my 30s, I find myself drawn to Tarot again. 

A quick look at my social media feeds tells me I am not alone. From Tarot to crystals and astrology to ritual baths, the season of the witch has gone mainstream.

In her 2016 essay for The Establishment, Anne Theriault explores the power dynamic involved with witchcraft and why women are drawn to beliefs which allow them to connect with and reclaim their power. Theriault says of modern uses of the terms witch or witchy “Beneath all that glossy packaging hums the same idea that has tantalised girls for millennia: the fact that to be a witch is to be a woman with power in a world where women are often otherwise powerless.”

But why is the witch powerful? Because, at her heart, a witch is a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid of doing the work involved in building the life she knows she deserves. Even when society tells her to do only what she is told. 

To be a witch is also political. There are “resistance witches” who cast binding spells on Donald Trump. Homemade “Witches for Repeal” and “Witches for Abortion” placards were a regular occurance at pro-choice protests and rallies in the run up to last year’s referendum.

In her book Witch, Lisa Lister describes the witch as representing “the part of each of us that has been censored, ignored, punished and demonised. And it’s a part that wants - no, needs - to be accessed and fully expressed.” This fits with witchcraft’s role in feminist and social justice spaces. If you seek to ensure marginalised people have less rights, we will fight back. We will show you that we are powerful and should be feared. 

It’s not difficult to see why the witch resonates. 

For many people witchcraft is a spiritual practise tied to their Pagan, Neo-Pagan or Wiccan religion. For others, myself included, there is no religion involved. I use Tarot as a form of self-care.

Ritual and spellwork remains a deeply personal practice regardless of the belief system underpinning it. Yet, if your social media timelines are anything like mine, it is a practice people are increasingly comfortable talking about.

Why?

The short answer, Tarot cards and crystals make for good photos. The long answer is more complex—no surprise there!—but I suspect there is an element of screwing with the patriarchy involved.

Who knows what’s next for pop culture representations of the witch, but it is clear witchcraft shows no signs of returning to the shadows.

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