Jason's got up another very good post, and, you know, I've just got to say:
I likely missed some important point, but I never thought -- nor was it ever a key tenant of my religion -- that every person burned for being a witch -- and I neither know nor care about the exact number, but let's just stipulate that the number was, well, far above "too many" ok? -- was "really" a "witch," but I do think that being a woman could get you burned as a witch, especially if you were too smart, too difficult, too unwilling to remarry and make your property some man's property, too willing to ask difficult questions, too able to move between the veils, too lucky, too good at healing the sick in an era when male "doctors" were claiming the role of healer for their own, too sexual, not sexual enough, too big for your britches. And I believe that there was a liminal point when being a believer in the pre-xian religion and being burned as a witch were both awfully well-correlated phenomena. And I've always thought that my identification as a witch was a small way to stand against that evil, that part of what I do by "being" a witch is to take a stand beside those women burned for being too difficult. It's not a lot; it's just what I can do every day. It's just a daily reminder to me of how close I am to, well, to being fired, run out of my neighborhood, beaten, disliked, disbarred, burned. And it's just what has made organic sense to me ever since the day that I learned that those burned were more likely to have vaginas and those lighting the fire were more likely to have penises.
And, in reality, the mythic truth, itself, was far more important to me (sorry, Mr. Hutton) than any specific number of female bodies burned, than the actual truth of some once-upon-a-time-Bachofen-specific-economic-model society based upon the matriarchal clans around which primates evolved into hominids, than some historical village that met specific political measuring points, than some man's nice story about being initiated by a naked woman or what was always his obvious need to be scourged. In reality, I agreed with Monique Wittig when she wrote:
There was a time
when you were not a slave,
remember that you walked alone,
full of laughter,
you bathed bare-bellied.
You may have lost all recollection of it,
You say there are not words to describe it,
you say it does not exist.
make an effort to remember,
or, failing that,
Call me crazy.
I read all those early works and took from them life-changing metaphorical truths and never really cared if the actual numbers were or were not off by a factor of ten. One burned woman was too many in my nutty cosmology. One old man "initiated" by a naked woman scourging him was far less important to me than the chance to honor nature, to recognize the divine feminine, to celebrate on the holidays when my foremothers celebrated, to connect with my landbase as those old women connected with theirs, to see the same cycle in the changing year as they saw, long ago.
I never thought that worship of the ancient gods and Goddesses was transmitted unchanged down from my ancient Scandinavian many-times-great-grandmother to the 1970s, nor from the ancient Picts in my linage directly to Uncle Gerald and then to me, but I do think that I worship the same forces in nature and some of the same gods and Goddesses as did those ancient women and as did many of my genetic and spiritual forebears in old Europe. I doubt that any of them were Dianic witch lawyers who blogged on the world wide web. That doesn't stop me from drawing strength every single day from honoring them whenever I call the powers of Earth.
Kali on a croissant, I don't worship or do magic today the same way that I did twenty years ago, six years ago, a year ago, a few months ago. One of the things that drew me to Paganism and witchcraft was the chance to create my own rituals, to do my own magic based upon the needs of the moment, to engage with a religion and, in fact, with Goddesses, that could grow with me as I grew. And, hey, guess what? The Catholicism that I practiced in 1969, at a Folk Mass, was unlike anything that my Confirmation Saint, Saint Germain, ever knew in 1580. And what that lovely shepherdess knew was a whole lot different from what the first apostles knew in first century Turkey. Yet, oddly, no one, including modern xians, suggests that modern xianity is somehow flawed because xianity has evolved from its first century roots. Well, they were men doing the evolving, so that's ok, no need to call them silly.
I was always willing to see Uncle Gerald, and Aunt Doreen, and everything published by Lewellyn, and all the nonsense that Hecate puts out on her blog as human, and therefore flawed; fleshy, and therefore sacred, portals for myth and truth and magic to enter the modern world and was always willing to regard what they said as I regard creation myths: a way for deeper truths to be discussed and transmitted without getting tangled up in "mundane" facts.
Am I all broke up because some of the people burned in Europe as witches were good xians? Is Paganism useless to me because no one has proven that some societies were "matriarchial enough"? Am I about to abandon witchcraft because it turns out that ceremonial magic has made inroads into my daily practice? Hell, no. I'm the many-times-great-granddaughter of an incredibly mean old broad who crossed much of the frozen ground of Scandanavia with bare feet and bad toenails, shaking a rattling gourd the whole way, calling upon whatever name the Mother Goddess had in that snowy land, and keeping her family warm with incantations and instructions to chew on dried herbs. I spit on your historical correctness. Hand me that gourd full of fermented whatever. Do it now. I'm asking you nicely. The first time.
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