I’ve long been a feminist. And my husband has long been totally supportive. But when I stepped into a serious and now life-long relationship with spirituality and all the power and possibility of unseen realms and other worlds, he was cautious. I remember sitting with him on the front porch and explaining the mystic dimensions that were opening for me. He listened for a while and then quietly said, “You know. They used to burn women like you.”
“Yes they did,” I responded, “but that was a long time ago.”
Recently in Ireland, I attended a presentation by Melissa Sihra, a professor and chair of the drama department at Trinity College Dublin. A remarkable woman and a troublesome woman by her own naming, Melissa spoke of how Lady Gregory was an enthusiastic supporter of wise women, witches, crones, and hags. Augusta Gregory lived in the community where we now have a cottage and many of her plays, written in the early 1900s, were remarkable commentaries on Ireland’s mystically powerful women.
In her presentation, Melissa commented that the witch hunts in England and the United States are now considered misogynistic massacres of women. The patriarchal persecution of the witch embodies a fear of women’s sexuality, a repression of women’s alternative healing practices, the abolition of abortion, the rejection of women who chose to live a single life, and the prohibition of women’s communities.
Our foresisters were the Great Hags whom the institutionally powerful but privately impotent patriarchs found too threatening for coexistence, and whom historians erase.
History has erased our stories. But now the patriarchy is again emboldened and it seems the persecution and the witch hunts have returned. It’s time to raise our voices and stand in our power. As a character in one of Lady Gregory’s plays said about the local wise woman character, “Sometimes singing and dancing she does be, and sometimes troublesome.”
It’s time to be troublesome.
In a few days I will join my elder spiritual sisters for our annual Hag Retreat. We will sing. We will dance. And I expect there will be troublesome brewing.
Judith – firstname.lastname@example.org