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Witches in the 21st century: A story of feminist resistance and struggle

On October 20, a group of witches met in Brooklyn to cast a curse on the Supreme Court's new judge, Brett Kavanaugh

Witches in the 21st century: A story of feminist resistance and struggle

On Saturday, October 20, covens and witch collectives cast a curse against Brett Kavanaugh, the new judge of the US Supreme Court, nominated by President Donald Trump.

Leer en español: Las brujas en el siglo XXI: una historia de resistencia y lucha feminista

According to The Independent, the owners of Catland, a witchcraft store in Brooklyn and the witches' meeting point, said the curse was an act of resistance and resilience following the controversy generated by the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. The curse was broadcast live on Facebook and Instagram and was also addressed to all rapists, as well as the patriarchal system that encourages, rewards and protects them.

Witchcraft: between reality and fiction

Black dress, pointy hat, green skin, broom in hand and evil laughter is the image that comes to mind when evoking the word witch. The witch is a myth that has gone down in history as an icon of evil and terror in films, literature, and legends. An image that borders on reality and fiction.

However, since the 70s feminism has deconstructed this very Halloween concept, denouncing the hidden reality behind the image of the witch: the genocide of 9 million independent and wise women murdered in Europe and the United States during the 16th and 17th century. According to Silvia Federici, author of the book Caliban and the Witch, these women were persecuted with the argument that they were witches.

Who were the women stigmatized as witches?

The so-called witches in medieval times were healers, spiritual guides, artisans, women with knowledge about birth and abortive methods. They were independent and sexually liberated women.

However, for the governments of the time or those who exercised power, the witches were all those women who despite holding peasant communities challenged the patriarchal order and the fertile seeds of now known capitalism. The witches were those women who owned their bodies. This according to Anne Llewellyn Barstow, writer of the book Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts.

The decrease in the productive population density resulting from the Black Death demanded to increase productivity through the increase of the population, to regenerate the process of capital accumulation. This meant that the unbreakable union between the Church and the State should have absolute control of the lands and sexed bodies of women, through morality.

The role of women was minimized to their biological function of reproduction, thus demonizing any sexual or non-sexual activity that was not aimed at increasing the population. This is a situation that gave way to the Witch Hunt. According to A New History of the European Witch Hunts, that intensified the State control over the women's body, motherhood, and their social role.

The rebels were persecuted, tortured, raped and finally sentenced to death in moral trials in which their voice had no place.

The leaders of the communities or spiritual leaders were executed in public squares as terror policies to intimidate the population. The ideal victims of the hunt were widowed, single or elderly women, economically independent women, often women with property and who escaped the yoke of patriarchy and the Catholic Church.

The witch hunt was undoubtedly an essential element to establish the modern capitalist system, anchored to the slave trade and the conquest of America. This is because it established the foundational social relations of modern States, that is, the relationship between women and men, and between women and the State.

Since then, witchcraft was relegated to the clandestinity. At the same time, becoming a weapon of resistance, a countercurrent tool and a voice for women's liberation.

Witchcraft as a political rebellion

Witchcraft went to the lines of organized political struggle in 1968 when a radical left feminist guerrilla called W.I.T.C.H. (Women Inspired to Tell their Collective History) went into action using spells as weapons. These turned out to be more dangerous than the bombs.

"Witches of W.I.T.C.H. carried out boycotts, manifestos, the occupation of newsrooms, protests in front of Wall Street, writings and press conferences," says El Diario de España. For the members of W.I.T.C.H., it was enough to repeat three times in a row "I am a witch" to become one. For them, witchcraft was a strategy of subversion and not mere mythology, explains the same media.

According to a statement written by Anita Hoffman, Nancy Kurshan and Sharon Krebs, members of the collective, the history hides that "the liberation of women began with witches and gypsies because they are the oldest guerrillas and fighters of the resistance, the first pro-abortion practitioners and distributors of contraceptive herbs."

For them, identity as a coven, that is, as a group of witches, was a feminist identity. So they even resorted to the stereotyped iconography of witches with a pointed hat and broom as a uniform that presented them to society as witches. 50 years later, witchcraft is still a political rebellion and the case of the witches who mobilized against Kavanaugh is an example of this.

Witches go beyond the stereotyped image used on Halloween to scare children. Witches walk among us every day. However, words like "feminazis", "radicals" and "misfits" are used to continue chasing and hunting women.

The witch hunt continues because witchcraft is rebellion, witchcraft is power, witchcraft is resistance. Witchcraft today continues to shake the patriarchal system.

 

LatinAmerican Post | Ana Gabriela Martínez del Angel

Translated from "Las brujas en el siglo XXI: una historia de resistencia y lucha feminista"

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