Every Woman Wants to Be a Witch
Everybody wants to be a witch. Well, every woman.
Oh come on, you with the 75 bottles of essential oil in your kitchen drawers. Don’t even try to argue with me.
This is how I know, if you were curious. The essential oil phenomenon is a dead giveaway. Those MLM companies packaged it brilliantly — just a few drops of “natural healing,” a teaspoon of “aromatherapy,” and a dash of “energetic properties,” and voila, you’ve awakened a deep, primal instinct in women.
This is what we do. This is who we are.
It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are — once upon a time ago, we all lived in tribal cultures, living off the land. We relied on the plant world for food and medicine.
This was very commonly the women’s domain: healing and medicine making. Even spiritual healing and nourishment. Back then, our jobs were considered important to our communities. Our knowledge of the earth and even our connection to the unseen world were respected.
There were all kinds of names for us, depending on our culture and language. One of those names, as we have come to recognize, is “witch.”
Granted, “witch” has a hazy history and was often used to mean “an ugly hag,” or to describe a woman who practiced black magic or was working in concert with the devil, but it originally comes from the Old English word wicce, which at one time meant “a female magician or sorceress.” And one of the origins of the word “sorcery” was the Latin word sortiarius, which means “one who influences fate or fortune.”
A person whose body can create and birth human life, a person who can heal another with a pouch full of herbs, a person who can pass down important spiritual lessons from one generation to another… Yeah, that sounds about right.
We influence fate and fortune.
It’s no wonder women are drawn to essential oils like ants to honey. We remember. Do you understand how important this is? We remember.
Some of us have been broom-carrying bitches for quite a while now. I was always drawn to witches as a child. I didn’t care if they were evil or good; I loved them all.
When I was about 10, I read one of my favorite books of all time: Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E. L. Konigsberg. The story follows Elizabeth as she befriends a strange young girl (Jennifer) who claims to be a witch. Throughout the story, Jennifer becomes a mentor, teaching Elizabeth how to become a witch through a very detailed process.
I literally followed all the instructions, writing down the schedule in my 1987 day calendar so I could be sure to stay on track. I was so excited to get to the end of the process and be able to call myself a true witch.
We really do want to step back into the power that we know resides within us.
When my sister began studying paganism in college, I grew interested in it as well. I was already practicing nature-centered spirituality, so this wasn’t a big leap for me.
By then, I had also begun studying herbalism, paying closer attention to the moon phases, and I loved creating prayer ceremonies to perform during the holidays.
Today, I’m still at it. Every spring and fall, I clean all my windows with vinegar, water, and lemon essential oil. I sprinkle cinnamon chips across the threshold of my front door. I painted runes on my fence.
I know who I am. I have always heard this call, this ancient memory that lives within me. I am still the same witch I always was.
It probably won’t surprise you to know that I believe in past lives. But not in the typical way. You know how some people will say they’re certain they were Cleopatra or Joan of Arc in a past life? I’m not that kind of “past life person” — I have no delusions of grandeur about being a famous historical figure. I don’t think the past life philosophy is meant to be that glamorous.
Nope, I am pretty sure I was a commoner. No one special at all, in any of my lives.
The funny thing is, I feel like I have a memory of one — or maybe two — of my past lives. I have always had very strong, traumatic memories of things that never happened to me in this life.
I feel certain that I was a woman who was accused of witchcraft and who was tortured and killed. I have physical memories of being suffocated — I think by pressing. I also have very strong memories of being strangled, or more probably, hanged.
But why do I care about this? I’m not one to spend a lot of time on the whole “past life regression” thing — we have enough problems in our current lives, after all.
But I care because it reminds me that women who were connected to their spirituality and who had an intimate knowledge of the natural world were feared. Feared so much, in fact, that they were put to death.
Every time I fantasize about walking through the woods in a cape and long dress to gather food and medicine, I think of this. Every time I spray my windows with lemon oil, I think of this. Every time I come in from my garden with my arms full of peppermint, chamomile, and yarrow, I think of this.
We have all collectively forgotten one essential thing in this life: Women are the most powerful beings in the world.
Every year at this time, we are bombarded with witch images, stories, and symbolism. I love it, except for one little caveat: We only embrace and celebrate this figure in the most shallow of ways.
Do we ever think about the actual history of witches? The fact that witch trials were prevalent for three centuries, culminating in the executions of 40,000–100,000 people, most of whom were women?
Or what about the ways women were subjugated, tortured, mutilated, or killed in other cultures?
Do we ever acknowledge how terrifying it is to think of how easily it once was to lose one’s life just because of one’s gender not so long ago? Or how we are still struggling with the same misogyny that fueled the witch hunts in the first place?
For this reason, even though I have strong criticisms of the MLM companies who have made essential oils so popular among women, I am glad to see women using them, waking up to this subtle call to re-embrace a heritage we almost forgot. Admittedly, most women aren’t doing it to make a political statement or because they want to reclaim their feminine power. But still…
I think many women really do want to be a witch — even if they can’t admit it. We really do want to remember our heritage. We really do want to reconnect with the earth (it is calling out so loudly to us right now). We really do want to step back into the power that we know resides within us.
“There’s a little witch in all of us,” Aunt Jet gently reminds her niece’s tentative, newfound coven-mates in the movie Practical Magic. And she’s right.
Thankfully, despite centuries of persecution, we are still here. And we aren’t going anywhere.