A witch is a wise woman, a healer, a wortcunner (herbalist), a grandmother, a bonesetter, a mid-wife. She is a cunning woman — one who knows. She is a woman who understands the powers of the changing seasons and the phases of celestial bodies. She is the woman in your village who will come to your home when you are ailing with a cauldron of herbal tea and sit with her loving and healing hand on your back while you drink it.
A witch is part shaman, part psychologist. She understands not only how to choose the right root for the cure, but what must be healed at the root to make a person whole: a broken heart; an angry liver; lungs full of grief; etc.
These women honed their wisdom and craft not through some dark sorcery, but through quiet lives filled with careful study and communion with the natural world, and they passed down their wisdom in lineages that spanned millennia.
Witches not only facilitated wellness and healing, they advised and assisted in all aspects of life effected by the Turning of the Seasonal Wheel. They knew the right time to plant a seed and the particular moment to cut a leaf or harvest a root for optimum potency. They were effective, humble, and dedicated servants of their communities.
And what did they receive for this service? Gratitude? Accolades? Tragically, no.
For their service to humanity these wise healing women were killed by the millions. (Please read that word again: millions.)
They were tortured on racks, eviscerated, drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, boiled alive in pots, and drowned in rivers and in barrels. They were raped and defiled in ways no one should ever have to think about never mind experience. When they hung these poor women, they did so with a short rope because it was not enough just to kill them, they had to torture them first, and a short rope does not snap the neck, it strangles.
This is patriarchy; this is femicide; this is the destruction of the living legacy of the power of women at its most diabolical.
And the more powerful these women were, the more successful their healing graces, the better they served their communities, the greater the chance that they would be taken to the slaughter because success was seen as proof that they must have powers that “come from the devil.”
When things went wrong, they were also blamed. When a child failed to thrive, a cow quit giving milk, or when a person died despite the best efforts of a healing woman, people in their grief (and need for a scapegoat), and powerful men looking for an excuse to take them down, went after these women often burning their homes and taking their lives.
And that, is true evil, to use superstition and fear to crush powerful women to dust. Because, even to this day, a powerful woman, standing in her wisdom and strength is something that many will simply not abide.
As religions grew in power and as a male-only chemical based medical system came into dominance, the demonization and slaughter of these wortcunners, midwives and village healers became a genocide. So many died we will never know the full numbers. Because of their “evil” most were dumped in pauper’s graves and their families were left to mourn in isolation.
But today the goddess is rising and we witches are rising strong with her. Today women are beginning to come back to their rightful places of power and with them they bring circles instead of hierarchies. They bring not only cures, but deep healing. For in our creative and generative power, women stand in symbol and purpose as Mother Nature to all living things on our planet. I pray each day that together we guide a better world into being.
Today herbal medicine, methods of hands-on healing, biodynamic and organic farming —all the realms of witches— are becoming widespread again and women are leading the way.
But, you may ask, What of magick? Aren’t witches magick? And the answer is, Yes! Yes we are. Because magick is just another form of mindfulness. To know how to be still, to meditate, to listen to messages spoken by the wind, to hear the voice of a tender spring shoot, to feel the pulse and rhythm of life at its deepest levels: this is the magick of the witch. This is my magick and I feel it running deep in my courage bones every moment of my life.
So, I stand proudly before you today and every day of my life on the graves of my slaughtered sisters to take back this word, witch. To retrieve it from its place as hate speech, and elevate it to a word of power in its true meaning.
I stand up to honor them and in order to make sure that hate, fear and patriarchy never again try to wipe us from the face of the earth.
My name is Teal, and I am a witch.
Please share, and by whatever name you call yourself, live your wild, and stand in your power.
This piece is by guest blogger Teal Chimblo Fyrberg.
You can find more of Teal’s writing at wildteal.com