Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The "Witches and Wicked Bodies" exhibition and thoughts on how the witch's body depicted in art, how that affects persecution and feeds into the popular imagination

'Before vampires swooped into popular culture and satiated our appetite for sexualized supernatural characters, there was a time when witches, witchcraft and general feminine maleficium held a prominent place in our hearts...'

So starts the article as published via the Huffington Post very recently.  How do we view women and femininity through the witch as a seductress or hag, so tied to her body and how it expresses her?  Why are the most raw and wild aspects of femininity expressed through the female witch's form & clothing?  Is there more to it than just the "bad girl" image, or is it a part of our collective unconscious that celebrates woman being wild and free?  Is she anarchy on a broomstick or just the woman that everyone wants to roam free but may not feel comfortable coming out of the broom closet...  Or just loving her body?

Witches both male and female are taught to honor the earth, their own cycles which tie in with those of the universe and to adore their body as a representation of the divine.  In embracing our nature in its purest form that make us great role models as feminists and for showing others the power of having full confidence in how your body expresses itself and being in tune with your body's needs.  If we feel comfortable in either a solitary ritual or with our coven, we go skyclad, meaning to be clad only by the sky, or in layman's terms: naked.

I will, however, lean towards the stereotype that all witches are women - purely because the majority of depictions of witches in art feature women.

That natural self expression in the face of 'civilised' society as we know it is seen as 'wild' and thus is misinterpreted as an act of exhibitionism with the aim to seduce.  And yet on the other end of the spectrum we have the aged hag and nothing inbetween: these images rarely depict a women of middle age.  Rarely do these stereotypical images of witches feature their own children or the daily activities which make up our spiritual lives and thus the witch is generally depicted as a lone wolf and renegade wench with no family of her own with an insatiable desire for sex or death...  

Or are they society's 'punishments' for taking that path portrayed via the olde version of the media: art?  Are those facets seen in art the qualities those of a women who has been shunned from society: no family, no friends, no regard for the moral fibre of others which all result from her being a "slut" because she is proud of her body and proud of her divine and natural self?  Is that where the stereotypes of the witch really stem from as we see her develop from a beautiful young seductress but never see the years inbetween as a woman on her path?  At one point she was a harlot with a beautiful plump body and the next she's depicted 50 years later missing one eye and cackling.

You'll notice that I went from talking about the divine body to the slut in a very short space of time.  What I wonder is: is the label of "slut" only handed down to witches because of the 'new' standards that Christianity brought to society?  Was the control over the seductress a way to aid people towards the new religion by punishing those who dare express their sexuality openly by controlling society using guilt and the image of the lone witch, forever alone to ward off women from expressing their true wild nature?  If we hate the slut so much and are scared of the old wild hag, then why are we fascinated with her?  Is she so removed from reality and into the popular imagination that she's now a novelty for our entertainment?...  It would seem so.

It is the belief of many that the fashion in which the witch has been depicted over the last 500 years has taken her away from being the healer, the seer, midwife and comfort of a community to someone to be afraid of, to despise for being a "slut" who leads people to ruin and for being the killer of children, crops and fortune.  We once lived in communities who were in touch with their wild side via and thanks to the local witches and shamans who opened doors for people.

Everybody is a sexual being - of all ages and of each gender, just at various stages of their personal development and sexuality.  

Our contemporary practice of honouring the earth as we do ourselves, of loving our bodies and expressing the Divine through our form and clothing makes us role models for all men and women who need to reconnect. 

We reconnect through dance, exercise, meditation, prana, asana, eating good food, feeling the strength in our bodies, being skyclad in ritual and absorbing the elements at different times of the year, rather than running and hiding from it.  We use the body during ritual as a vessel or conduit for the divine to channel through with dancing, meditation, Sufi drum breath, chakra tones, trance, dreams, astral travel and many other techniques to help us raise energy and access the Divine. As the Buddhists engage with mindfulness, we engage with all of nature and the Web of Wyrd through our bodies. 

As witches, we should be proud of that and truly own the healthy and rewarding path that we walk today.

Blessed Be,

)O( Elspeth.