Karina Lafayette – November 2021
The world tried very hard to make me ashamed of myself. It labelled me all kinds of ways in order to put me back in my place. I’ve been called every insult in the book, as much as I’ve been called “nice”, “pretty”, “beautiful”, and “smart”. But if there is one word that seems to be weaponized the most, it’s also the word that ironically can be used as a synonym for powerful.
And that word is “witch”.
I remember the first time I got called a witch. I wouldn’t even describe myself as one necessarily, but someone sure did. I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom, meditating. There was a candle and incense atop my nightstand. During this time, I had started meditating and everything was making sense; Why I wasn’t happy; Why I felt out of control… Those problems had something in common. I grew up being abused. My mother barged into my room and saw what she thought I was doing. She yelled at me and told me to blow out the candle. It’s obvious she didn’t want me to undo the fears she instilled that made me her puppet from birth.
The second time I got called a witch, I was walking down the street with my dog. This was two summers ago. At that point, I was living in a shelter. A few months earlier, this very religious man had asked me about the triple moon tattoo on my inner arm, the tattoo that symbolizes the three stages of womanhood. While walking, this man came up to me and accused me of being a witch because of that tattoo. He went on to say, “I’ve dealt with women like you before. You’ve been harrassing me spiritually.”
For me that tattoo is 1) personal and 2) about reclaiming my femininity.
I had no idea what he was talking about, the same way I had no idea what my mother was talking about. All I know is both times, I didn’t allow myself to accept whatever delusions people tried to project on me. I was being wholeheartedly myself and it pissed them off.
Another time at work, one of my clients asked me innocently because of the way I was dressed. He’s someone I’ve known for a long time and I knew his intentions were pure, so I just smiled and told him, “I’m spiritual”.
Then there’s been those times where someone didn’t have to call me a witch. I just knew by the look on their face, that’s how they felt about me. Whether it’s because my hair and makeup were a bit too sexy, or because I said something in a way that commanded respect, the temptation to say it was there.
Because whether I explain myself, take on labels, reject labels, or ignore people’s opinions, it won’t change a thing. We’re going to think what we want about people, based on biases and expectations. One thing I do know, I believe in nature and personal choice. I also like to take insects that crawl into my home and put them in a jar, to release them back outside where they belong. And I don’t call myself anything other than my first name, Karina.
Studies over the years have literally proven that the people executed at the Salem Witch Trials weren’t witches. In the Middle Ages, the Church was known for spreading propaganda against the Cathars and other religious groups, by drawing images of them on broomsticks in order to skew public opinion. You would’ve been labelled a sinner just for not going to sermon on Sundays. Even in 2021, some women in India have been tortured, harrassed and accused of being witches when it comes to legal battles for home ownership. The concept of the witch has historically been used to disarm and opress people who threaten the balance of power, and has nothing to do with fairytales or religion. In the United States, Hillary Clinton was called a “witch” by conservatives, because they were threatened that a woman might be their next president.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Protestant, Buddist, Muslim, Atheist, or Pagan. At some point or another, as a woman, you get called a witch. It should be clear enough that the only time people get called witches, is when they do something that threatens others. Maybe your last boyfriend couldn’t believe his attraction toward you could be credited to hormones or love, so he convinced himself he was under some sort of spell. Maybe you made the wrong person angry by claiming a job promotion that they thought wasn’t well-earned. If a woman didn’t sleep her way somewhere, how could she possibly be qualified through her hard work alone, right? Maybe you wear a pendant around your neck that gets people’s tongues wagging. They might not call you a witch per say, but the way you carry yourself… the way you speak in confidence… the way you have the audacity to claim what’s rightfully yours without asking for their approval, that alone makes you a witch. Sure, they don’t actually say it like they did in the good ol’ days, but they think it.
So, let’s stop pretending that when they call you a witch, it’s because they actually believe you’re one of the Sanderson Sisters. ‘Cause that would be really cool.
But hold up a minute. We say that like it’s a bad thing. What is the meaning of the word “witch” anyway? ‘Someone who makes magic happen’. A magician. Nevermind, someone who creates their destiny instead of going with the motions. Here we are, throwing that word around as if wanting freewill makes you evil. What could be more deserving of an eyeroll, if you ask me? We see in movies, tv shows, and books, stories where protagonists are praised for following their “destiny”, meanwhile the villain is often someone who bends it. The one exception of course would be Harry Potter, but if you notice in the first part of the series, Harry gets called a “wizard”, and wizard sounds safer, more controlled, and most important- masculine. Apparently men can’t be witches. From The Hunger Games, to a whole slew of YA fiction, heroes are those who choose to follow whatever fate has in store for them, and listen without question. They give up the plans they once dreamed of, in order to save humanity. Sometimes, they’re not even able to dream, they’re born into a post-apocalyptic world that strips them of that right. What could be more noble than someone saving the world just because they have nothing else to lose? And if you notice, it’s rarely the rich kid in the story who becomes the hero in the first place. Oppressed people are always doing the heavy lifting, even fictionwise.
Yet somehow, the young woman who follows her own path and listens to the song in her heart, she’s the witch. The woman who wants nothing more but to see the world do better, and who tried to save it, she got called a witch after it refused to believe her prophecies. After so many times that she warned others about their conflicts, their need to be right all the time, and the ripple effects of pollution, she’s the witch just for choosing to walk away from being a martyr. Like the tarot reader she is, she dropped the Ten of Wands in favor of the Ace of Cups.
Well then, if choosing a life of passion, self-love and beauty makes me a witch, then by all means:
It’s a compliment.
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This article was originally published on Medium.