Once upon a time, Wise women were revered. They lived in thatched cottages deep within the woods tending their herbs, gardens, animals, milking their cow or goat, gathering nuts and berries from the forest, talking to tress and gazing at the moon. They also lead battles and nations.
Intuitive, disciplined and patient, Wise women were sought after for healing illness, birthing babies and holding the hands of those dying and journeying to Summerland. They eased humans passing in this mortal life and the next.
How do we go from this scenario to black pointy hats and brooms? How do we go to punishment for speaking out against abortion in Utah? Killed for not being modest and covering their heads in Iran? Skiing in long skirts because the Mennonite Elders deemed it so?
Women are still being burned in subtle ways, and the witchcraft trials are still with us. Just look at the gender of all the world leaders and politicians.
Baba Yaga might be considered the greatest witch of all for she follows only her own rules. The essence of the Slavic Baba Yaga is an archetype in many cultures and many stories, and symbolizes the unpredictable and untamable nature of the female spirit, of Mother Earth, and the relationship of women to the wild.
Interestingly, the word witch is derived from Wicca-to bend. So, women, connected to nature by their cycles, knew how to bend herbs, commune with animals, bleed without dying and lead with awareness.
Baba Yaga is a reminder that freedom lies a little beyond the border of social norms, and that we can learn as much from the dark as the light. For Baba Yaga’s house walks on chicken legs!
Baba Yaga may hide herself in the woods, but she is watching, and she is remembering. She can be feared because she is independent, and she is content and happy with her chicken leg house!
“Are you a witch?” he asked.
For a moment, the wind stopped blowing and my breath was caught in my chest as I looked at this suitor, my neighbor who asked me this question.
“If I was then my ex-husband would have been a toad,” I quipped. He laughed but his eyes held mine.
“Well, are you?”
“No,” I said quickly though the answer was most assuredly, yes.
How many generations of women have been asked the same question by men, knowing that if they were suspect, and the question raised, they were doomed regardless of the outcome?
In my rural Virginia town, I do not attend church, have lived alone without a full-time man for over 16 years, manage my farm and hike and ride my horses up and down the mountains without fear. So, independence makes me suspect.
This was true in the Salem Witch Trials. Lone women alone were targeted, and outspoken women were targeted. Martha Carrier was one of them. She was widowed, running her farm and telling her neighbor who was surveying the property line between them, “I’m going to stick to you as close as bark does to a tree.” Next thing you know, her neighbor comes down with corpuscles of the groin, cattle die, and he and his wife attest it is because of Martha, who owned some pretty desirable land next to them, and had no husband or son to protect her.
Before she was hung, her last words were, “I am not a witch.” Cotton Mather called her a rampant hag.
A culture that fears, accuses, marginalizes and kills women is doomed. Matriarchal cultures, like the Cherokee and the Celts, seemed to understand the connection of women to the cycles of the moon, their symbolism to the earth and life. Mother nature.
The witch trials, which started in Europe during the Age of Discovery, colonialism and destruction of indigenous populations in the New World, perhaps were some phallic push to erase women and all things and people connected to the earth.
Eve, the seductress, Mahsa Amini, killed in the custody of the Islam morality police, the former old order Mennonite girl in my freshman class, confessing that her family left the religion because of the sexual misconduct and abuse of women, are reminders that misogyny is still with us but also women who say NO!
Yet, the earth is on fire, coral reefs are dying, drought and famine plague the entire world as Hamas, the Taliban, American political representatives, those spineless men, torture women and children, and feed their egos, rape the earth and crush humanity.
It is my belief, that there is a land like Tir Na Nog, where the forests flourish, the warriors engage in battles of poetry and an enormous tree at the center of the land gives nourishment and life to all. There is a path across the sea called the Plain of Honey. It is the golden path made by the sun on the ocean, and to travel to Tir Na Nog is to travel “far over the green meadows of the waters where the horses of Lir have their pastures.” There are no witches in this place, just women who smile knowgly, are revered, and if feared, are also honored.
If you’d prefer a different perspective, how about THE AUTUMN QUEEN, A FABLE.
Have you ever wondered about the mythology of the witch with the black hat and Halloween? While maybe not being asked if you are a witch, have you experienced men questioning your independence? Can standing up for one injustice towards women, also save our planet?