In 1588, there were two villages in Trier, Germany who lost all but one woman in the witch trials, led by the Catholic archbishop of the diocese.
One woman left alive. Whole female lines lost.
A great book I’m reading (In Defence of Witches, Mona Chollet) tells the story of Madeleine Denas, who at seventy-seven was burned as a witch in Northern France, but her aunt, mother and daughter had already been executed. They thought witchcraft was hereditary (I’m sure it is).
Sometimes, when I’m watching our students learn energetic arts and shape their dreams, I think of those witches.
How extraordinary it is that now a group of women can gather to do their magic freely. And even wilder that they get to take those new intuitive gifts and create a business of value with them?
It feels like we’ve come a long way.
This freedom sits uneasily with me because we’re not all free yet. In Australia, on average one woman is murdered every week by her current or former partner. First Nations women in Australia are imprisoned at more than 20 times the rate of non-Indigenous women. Mahsa Amini was killed by the Iranian morality police for incorrectly wearing her hijab. Former Afghan female MP Mursal Nabizada was just shot dead in her Kabul home under the new Taliban rule.
The world still has a problem with women.
But also, women are choosing to take up space. Iranian women removed their headscarfs and protested the death of Mahasa Amini. At least 500 have died in those protests so far.
I wonder uneasily if I would have the same courage. Privilege makes you forget the taste of freedom. Also, I know my voice isn’t truly powerful unless I’m joining it to those who are fighting for theirs.
In contrast to women taking to the streets to protest violent regimes, learning embodied energetics seems a little frivolous. But maybe it has a place in the rebellion too.
Mona in her book spoke about the women who were being murdered for being witches:
“Some of the women accused were both sorceresses and healers. They cast or lifted spells, they brewed philtres and potions, but they also cared for the sick and injured, and helped women give birth. They were the only option available to most people suffering from ill health and had always been respected members of their communities, until their activities became associated with workings of the devil.”
Women aren’t targeted because they are weak but, on the contrary, because they have power.
The power of all things natural and unruly.
Is it any wonder that women-witches are depicted as scary hags who flew through the night sky and had power that could control the moon?
Because they wanted you to be afraid of the body that can create and birth and heal. Who can listen to the secrets of the Earth, who can love fiercely and laugh deeply.
Embodied power is dangerous to the status quo. It makes waves, not straight lines. It is as deep as is it high.
Religions, and later colonialism and capitalism, sought to bind the humming power of women who could stir creation into being. Institutions crave subservience. They don’t want you to know that you hold a Big Bang of potential inside you.
Across history, it has been the bodies of enslaved and colonised people, and especially women, that have been used as resources free to violate and free to exploit to accumulate capital for ruling classes (apropos another great book, Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – thanks Jenna Ward for gifting it to me!)
Women’s bodies have been used for this capital accumulation, not only in the bearing of children to produce the workers needed for growth, not only to work in factories for minimal wage, but also in the domestic labour she is expected to (still) do – without consideration and recognition in orthodox economic theories of value.
Exploiting a woman’s body, and the power she stores within it, is the same as when we deforest and pillage the Earth. The embodied power of earthly and feminine resources that were once wild and unfettered, is siphoned-off to feed the greed and stroke the ego of rich men.
The embodiment and energetic arts seek to reclaim that power and stoke it back into its full expression.
It’s one of the reasons I love teaching embodied energetics. Each time one of our students rekindles the memory of how to read and embody the field, the collective knowledge of that field grows, like its a living thing that can no longer be contained.
An unstoppable wave of creative power that reminds us who our children might be, who our forebears were and who we are. That power ripples through the field and hits me in the chest.
When a woman chooses to live differently, creates her thriving business or rekindles her mastery of the embodied energetic arts, she is putting a value on the things that are truly rich in this world. She is choosing to use her gifts to ignite others.
That will count in the future, when listening to your intuition is as common as chatting about the weather, when young girls become the leaders that heal the Earth, and humanity too.
We are on the edge of that new world now.
I sometimes come off our group teaching calls – where our students sing their own power, to life and map humble and grand visions for the future – and wonder what wild magic just entered the room. Suddenly we aren’t the ones weaving energy, the vast and immeasurable forces of creation are weaving us.
That’s when I remember the stories of the women and the witch, whose voices we stand for when we choose to use our own.