Witch Hunt? Well... If You Insist!

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Amidst the hell of what one may call 2017, Woody Allen decided to warn of “a witch hunt atmosphere,” thereby silencing women who are victims of sexual assault and harassment. What his ego and fear left out was the very essence of witchcraft and its history. Because instead of men being hunted for objectively wrong acts that are proven/backed by experiences, women were hunted for simply having a low social position or BEING A WOMAN. So no, you don’t have the right to warn us of this. It isn’t the same for you–a rich, white, male. In fact,

I’d argue witches were amongst some of the women to first experience resistance against the patriarchy.

 Depiction of the Salem Witch trials by Joseph E. Baker, published 1892

Depiction of the Salem Witch trials by Joseph E. Baker, published 1892

I am not a psychologist and do not have the knowledge to diagnose someone experiencing emotional turmoil. But Woody Allen’s remarks, and MANY remarks made by men in the wake of women’s voices being heard, might suggest a sense of paranoia. Very similar to colonial America’s most notorious case of paranoia, the Salem witchcraft trials of 1962. The kind of women who didn’t receive due process and victims of this paranoia were women like Sarah Good (a homeless beggar), Sarah Osbourne (a rare church goer) and Tituba (a Native American slave). In other words, these women who did not fit into the social norms of that era were punished for it. Ultimately, because men and powerful Puritan doctrines were threatened by them.

The idea of being a witch can be seen as a very empowering notion, but by Puritanical views, were the Devil’s work. Many witches were healers and “wise women.” Anne Theriault for The Establishment writes “ To grow your own kitchen herbs and have some knowledge of herb lore are powerful in the sense that the ability to provide for yourself — even on a small scale — is a type of power.” In a historical context, women who practiced witchcraft resisted the Puritanical and patriarchal views of their role in society. They created a space to be powerful instead of powerless. Whether it was in magic or healing, these women obtained a sense of authority in their own right while resisting norms in 17th century America.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Women are using the idea and imagery of the witch as a way of establishing assertion in the face of male dominance. In “Broad City,” for example, Abbi Jacobsin and Ilana Glazer use witchcraft as means to protest Trump’s presidency. Lindy West, columnist for the New York Times actually responded to Woody Allen’s remarks saying “Sure, if you insist, it’s a witch hunt. I’m a witch and I’m hunting you.” Even more, the idea of Black Girl Magic stimulates a sense of empowerment. Black women represent magic because of the ways in which they’ve overcome systematic and institutionalized oppression. Specifically, Maya Thirkill writes to Black women for Fresh U:

“It is important that you understand your mission as a natural born alchemist. You must take what you have been given and create the best most valuable product possible, whether that be transforming scraps into a gourmet meal or creating beautiful colloquialisms out of English. Both of which will be appropriated and your mission is to continue making the best of that as well. This may sound like a challenging never-ending job and that is correct. However, alchemy has also been associated with magic.”

Practicing alchemy, witchcraft and magic figuratively mean turning situations around for the best outcome. If that is so, women have been doing this for centuries and it is time we use these ideas as terms of empowerment. Women are using their voice, bodies, minds as ingredients for the potion of equality and liberation.

WORDS: GEORGIE DE MATTOS