So… Miss Sugar has a post on Being The Other as a witch (in the sense of magical-practitioner/spell-crafter rather than in the sense of someone who practices Wicca). This has got me thinking about queerness again and about how “witch” is tied up with “sexually deviant woman” in much the same ways as “slut” and “dyke”. See… I do magic. Sometimes I even do it professionally, as folks who have commissioned jewelry from me will know. I’m a spell-crafter, as well as an arts-and-crafter, if you will. ;-) I’m also a femme dyke and a professional naked person and, as such, I’ve got some personal freedoms tied up with the human rights of (and denial there-of, and the resulting tacit encouragement of violence against) sexworkers. I live in a neighbourhood where multiple people make their living – in an official, “I’ve got signage in my front windows” capacity – as diviners and fortune tellers and umpteen others do so in a more casual/unofficial way (myself included).
My neighbourhood is full of (a) racialized and/or immigrant/new-comer people, (b) kinky, poly dykes, (c) broke-ass, working-poor, fixed-income, and otherwise economically-screwed people, (d) sexworkers in various fields & on various career paths, and (e) folks who are some or all of the above at the same time. It’s a neighbourhood that is full of Othered People, is what I’m getting at. If you’ve ever read “Baseball Magic” (or Mama Fortuna’s blog, for that matter), you’ll know that people turn to spell-craft and divination and similar when they can’t control their situation through more mundane means. No surprises, then, that neighbourhoods where marginalized people tend to live also tend to be neighbourhoods where witchcraft flourishes (relatively speaking, at least) as a trade.
It’s also not surprising, being as we live in The Patriarchy, that women who know-damn-well that they possess personal and sexual agency and don’t act like good, little, self-policing Stepford Wives competing for men’s attention, are (a) scary as fuck to said Patriarchy, and (b) Othered all the heck because of it.
Witch has always been a word leveled, like a threat, against “sexually deviant” (too pretty, too ugly, too wanted, too wanting, too available, not available enough…) women. So has “dyke”. So have “slut” and “whore”. We are all related.
Glamour is a tool of the vamp, the femme fatale, the witch as beautiful seductress. Femininity is art/artifice/artificial, set up in our cultural narrative as lie in order to make masculinity look “natural” and “honest” next to us.
This shows up everywhere from the damn Maleus Malificarum to the fairy tale witch who is set up as “woman gone wrong” with her stealing/eating of children, her house on chicken-legs or made of questionable-yet-alluring materials, her seducing of men away from their wives, her dangerous beauty; to relatively recent pop-culture icons like: the spooky, short-skirt-wearing, self-identified “weirdo” girls in The Craft; Jilly the “bad girl” in Practical Magic – who was totally comfortable using her power to her own advantage and who was also kinky, promiscuous, and generally “wayward”, right alongside her “good girl” sister Sally’s status as a witch being an open secret “she’s… different” whose “coming out” is commented upon by her co-workers – two characters who, in different ways, ping dyke buttons on their own; Willow Rosenberg who, as she grew in her power and her comfort there-with, also came out as a dyke and took a trip down her own “wayward”, stand-in-for-recreational-drug-use, path; and Lisle Von Rhuman (Death Becomes Her), the seductive, sensual, dominant, sorceress who holds the secret to eternal life and perpetual youth.
Goddess Spirituality, labrys pendants, and similar iconography have had a few surges in popularity as a means of flagging dyke to women who might want to hook up with you – the late 70s and early/mid 90s being two that I can think of myself. (Starhawk definitely had a hand, intentionally or not, in that one. Morning Glory Zell, too, for that matter – bi, poly, and pagan both of them).
Slut, dyke, and witch are all set up as “home-wreckers” in various ways, and thus contrasted to the “home-maker” status of idealized/expected/“respectable” (safe) womanhood.
Whore, Slut, Femme, Dyke… Witch.
Witches are transgressors.
We are Circe, every one of us.
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