Just in time for the Winter Solstice, I have landed deep in a supremely un-ironic rekindling of my teen witch phase, rocking giant crystals and tall black boots to every holiday party, and casting spells in the moonlight. This season, I'm celebrating Witchmas.
Long before Christ's big birthday party took over December, humans celebrated the time of year when it is darkest and coldest. Mistletoe, holly, oranges, and evergreen — along with sitting around a fireplace, drinking heavily — are just a few of the many iconic seasonal traditions shaped by Pagan and Wiccan religions that predate Christianity. The winter solstice, which on Dec. 22 marked the rebirth of the sun and the beginning of longer days, is a time to reflect and relish in everything that we do have, and rekindle our hope for when the light returns.
I was raised by a witch; she sometimes uses the word Pagan, but I have come to understand that her beliefs are more an amalgamation of Native folklore, Arthurian legend, and old wives' tales. Throwing salt over her shoulder whenever she spilled some, using sage and sweetgrass to cleanse our home of evil spirits, and cutting my hair only on a new moon were practices that always struck me as just weird mom stuff, not witch wisdom.
Then, in my teenage years, I became curious about my own relationship with the occult. My best friend and I bought candles and incense at Santa Cruz boutiques, scared ourselves silly with a Ouija board, and eventually got pretty good at reading each other's tarot cards. We cast spells hoping to make the teenage boys we worshipped fall in love with us, and while the effectiveness of our endeavors were medium at best, through those rituals and explorations we forged a deep bond of sisterhood and friendship that created a magic of its own. Our little coven of two got us through the trials of our adolescence.
During a time of disempowerment, like middle school or middle age, it's attractive to think that there is some kind of practice, some kind of witchcraft or sorcery that one can use to access power.
Now that I'm a whore, I have rekindled my crush on the occult, perhaps in hopes that I can exercise some kind of supernatural control over the forces of violence and stigma that plague my community. I'm not alone in my rekindled witch identity.
"It's no coincidence that today, a lot of the writers I publish ... identify as both witches and sex workers and see these two identities inextricably linked," says witch scholar Kristen Korvette of slutist.com. "Since The Burning Times, the fear of female sexuality, power, and knowledge has driven the persecution of women deemed 'witches,' and there is no figure who embodies that fear more than the whore."
In a capitalist patriarchal society, women who have the power to make men give them money through their own mysterious magic is a terrifying proposition that threatens to dismantle everything.
Devaluing powerful female archetypes reminds us that women are only allowed to be powerful if they are also evil. Those that dare to tread outside the expectations of their sex have been often been punished.
"Accusations of witchcraft were once used to police female behavior (and still are in a staggering number of countries around the world)," Korvette says.
The persecution of the whore is an extension of the devaluation of female autonomy and power. Korvette points out that, long ago, many whores were also healers and midwives, and therefore had access to "the forbidden knowledge of reproduction and the body that the Church strove to keep in the hands of the male elite — not to mention a thorough understanding of the 'spells' that seduction requires."
Historically, whores and witches held the secrets of the creation of life, the ultimate power. We do have powers that are nothing short of supernatural, you see. I see it in the way I can make someone feel like there is no one else on the planet, and how my gut always senses danger before my brain does.
I feel it in the way my best friend always knows what I'm thinking, and how my mother is always right.
So this solstice, light a candle and say a prayer for the witches and the whores out there. Our power is nothing short of a Witchmas miracle.