I'm willing to bet that there are very few of us who call ourselves "witch" who haven't imagined it. The angry crowd, the knock at the door, the rough hands, the rope, the calm and completely self-satisfied torture, the moment when we'll say anything, even name others, the pyre, the choking, the blistering skin, the end. I know that I did, that I sometimes still do, that I occasionally wonder if it's worth it to be willing to name myself what I am. When the nights are long and dark and ungentle, when sickness stalks the land, when economic times are tough, it seems even easier to allow ourselves to slip into that sick half memory/half night terror/half rational fear. We may say, "Never again, the burning times," but in an odd way, they're in the "DNA" of our religion, in the psychic "DNA" of every witch.
Sometimes, too, I wonder how it must have been -- how it must be -- for those who don't consider themselves a witch at all. Is it even worse for the pious old woman whose land is just that desirable or who made the mistake of demanding a fair price for her cow? When they call her a witch and she honestly protests that she's nothing of the kind, is it more terrifying because it seems so impossible, or less terrifying because she at least doesn't have that sense that she's been waiting for this, all along?
Of course, there's no answer. And, of course, however horrible we imagine it to be, it was -- it is -- actually worse. Throughout the world today, and especially on the continent of Africa, evangelical xians and others are still torturing and killing others -- mostly women and children (gee, there's a surprise!) -- for the crime of witchcraft. As was probably true during the Inquisition, many of those accused are likely not at all involved in any form of magic or witchcraft. It doesn't matter. It never mattered. When they start burning people for being witches, we real witches are likely to burn.
As we move now into the Solstice, a sacred time for witches, a time when, here in this Hemisphere, Mother Earth turns away from the darkness and begins to move, more and more, into the light, perhaps you could spare some magical protection for those who are persecuted? Someday, I hope, some young woman will realize that she's a witch and will only celebrate that fact, not fear it. Let this Solstice be the beginning of the end of the persecution.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."