|Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes|
I am a Witch. To be more specific, I am a Feminist Goddess-oriented Witch, which to me means that my feminism is combined with my spirituality, and my spirituality is part of my feminism.
I did not always identify myself as such. I was born and raised a Catholic. I was baptized, had my first communion and my confirmation. I played my guitar and sang at Folk Masses, for any of you who remember what those were. I taught Sunday School once for a year when the church was having trouble finding teachers. I was probably about 15.
I began to have my first feminist leanings at that age. I was at Mass with a couple of friends. The altar boys had not shown up. The priest (our “progressive” priest) picked me and my friend to be altar girls, since he knew we knew what to do. Remember, this was back in the 1970’s and it was a huge deal to have women, albeit young women, serving on the altar. When the service was over, we were called in to see the monsignor of the church. He was a big man, big of height and big of breadth. At the time, I didn’t realize it as I do now, but he used his size to intimidate, and intimidate he did. How dare we, females, dare to serve the lord. He yelled at us and dismissed us. I could, and can, only imagine what he said to the other priest. Not that it mattered because our progressive priest was gone within a week. This stayed with me. This incident made me realize that the Catholic church did not want me, a female; it also was the birth of a feminist.
Since the Goddess works in mysterious ways, it was around this same time that a book fell into my hands - how or by who I have no recollection. It was called “Diary of a Witch” by Sybil Leek. I was called by the Goddess; it just took me years to realize it that this was my sole path. In hindsight, I think I was a daughter of the Goddess before I was even born.
I was further introduced to what is now called “male privilege” at the age of 16, when I was sexually molested by an older male cousin. Then at 17, I was pulled into a car and driven to an isolated area where some man attempted to rape me. I say attempted because I was fortunate to get away when so many of us are unable to do so for a myriad of reasons. To this day, and I’m in my 50’s now, I still somehow believe that both of these incidents were my fault. Intellectually, I know better; they were and are the sole responsibility of the men involved. But that is how pervasive, how insidious our society and culture is with what it teaches women.
I came of age at the tale end of the hippie era and the re-birth of women’s lib. I longed to be just a couple of years older, but I learned enough. The feminism and the Goddess started to, very slowly, come together for me. I very easily called myself a feminist in my late teens and early 20’s. It was still another 10 years for me to 100% admit to myself that I belonged to the Goddess. I had started to study Wicca after the Sybil Leek book, and I never stopped, to this day. It took me awhile to fully commit myself as Catholic teachings run deep.
My Wicca studies began with very traditional Wicca; Goddess and consort God. However, It did not take me long to begin to work solely with the Goddess. It was, and is, the Goddess that makes me feel fulfilled.
As I was beginning to fully embrace the Goddess in my life, I was ever conscious of the role women played, or did not play, in society. I called myself a feminist, but in the world, it seemed that women were doing, if not great, better. We had birth control, we had the ability tochoose what was right for us and our own bodies. While we did not get equal pay, we were making inroads in fields that had been denied us for so long. My own personal choice was to stay home and raise my children, but I loved the fact that other women had these opportunities to do more, if they choose to.
While raising my children, I only kept half an eye on what was going on in the country, as my personal world was one that revolved around PTO, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, games, and concerts. I studied in spare moments and completed rituals when I could. Funny thing with kids, though — they grew up and the world started to come back to me in a clearer focus. Things had changed somewhat for women while I was in the throes of raising children. When did we stop moving forward? What happened to the ERA? When did the fight for control over our own bodies begin again? Why were we still not making the wages that men did in the same jobs? Why were we once again fighting for every small step? Rape and domestic violence has increased. Women are blamed for everything that happens to them and men are not responsible for anything because it is the woman’s fault. Young girls are being slut-shamed in schools where administrators deem their clothing too seductive and too tempting for the young men. States are attempting to close all of our women’s health clinics. Men with no knowledge of the act of creation, no knowledge of the workings of a woman’s body are telling us what we can and cannot do with our own selves.
World-wide, women are used as weapons of war, to be raped and discarded or used as shields; their bodies are mutilated by their tribes to subvert their sexuality; and young girls are murdered for trying to get an education. In one of the more ridiculous things I have heard recently, we are told to wear a new nail polish that will tell us if there are drugs in our drinks to help stop rape. Does it not occur to anyone except us that to stop rape, men need to stop raping?
The more news I read and watched, the sadder and angrier I became. I found myself turning to the Goddess more and more, asking how could this be. My spirituality was becoming my feminism and my feminism was becoming a part of my spirituality. To me, the Goddess was everything the world could and should be. She was all, She was Light and Dark, She was female and male, She was Creation and Destruction.
I started teaching and have continued todo so for the past 12 years. My teaching evolved into a very women-empowering experience for me, and I hope, for my students. My teaching became a way for me to share my beliefs without proselytizing. My coed yoga class became a women’s only class, a place for women to come and nurture themselves, get a brief respite from their daily life and learn Pranic energy for their own healing. My belly dance classes became a way to reach out to both younger and older women, to help them awaken that divine feminine within them; for most, it was the first time they had ever heard of the Goddess.
I have been accused of misandry, even by the man in my life. I do not hate men. But, I do hate the patriarchy. I do hate how women are treated in this country, and in this world. I hate a world where women are used and discarded. I hate a society where it is okay to rape and beat women. I hate a country where men attempt to make decisions for women regarding what is best for her, her body and her life. I hate the political culture of “power over”, instead of “power with”.
I hate lust for power, for greed, and ambition and those that have a great disdain for the ones they are supposed to represent. I hate a society that is based on the separation of church and state, but allows politicians to use religion to further their own agendas. I abhor a world that looks to war and domination, instead of peace.
I do not believe that individual males (necessarily) view the world be this way; however, I do believe that it is the patriarchy’s view of the world and of those who would keep it dominant. Feminism is not the hatred of men. It is not a wish for the world to return to a matriarchal women-rule. To me, feminism is a wish for all to live in peace and equality, with the people working together for the good of all, and the good of Mother Earth.
I have become, in my own way, a women’s rights advocate. I sign petitions, I use social media, I use my voice and my wallet. I try to teach others what feminism has taught me, but how can you teach when those around you don’t want to learn? How do you explain to men how it is to be a woman in this world, in this society, in this culture? How do you tell a woman, who refuses to see, what is actually going on around her? How do you teach what patriarchy is to those who do not even truly know what the word means.
I don’t pretend to know the answers but I do know that I will keep trying. I do know that the fight is not over. I do know that I am still, and always, a Feminist. I do know that I am still, and always, a Daughter of the Goddess.
A selection from the upcoming Girl God Anthology, Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak.
|Celeste Gurevich, Whatever Works Contributor|
Whatever Works is a unique collection of writing by feminists of diverse faiths from around the world. This anthology combines personal essays, poems and academic musings with the goal of sparking conversations among women of all faith backgrounds. Religion plays a key role in defining and maintaining value systems, and yet it is often disregarded within feminism itself. This book shares the stories of highly diverse women with the hope that we can find collective solutions to the global problems that plague women and girls living under patriarchy.
Available late March - pre-order here.