When a friend recently told me that the word witch actually means wise, I was jolted into tears.
All the negative connotations wrapped tightly around that word trembled, cracked, and dismantled. I could feel again what is at the root of it, what has been persecuted and in hiding in myself and others for so many years: feminine wisdom.
Also recently, I saw the word priestess with an image attached to it, and I instantly remembered a drawing I made as a child, one I truly loved at the time, as if it had been drawn through me, of a woman in her power, holding a glowing orb above her head–intuitive, mystical, wise, healing, strong, feminine.
And again the tears–the release, the recognition. Touching a base part of myself, ignored, buried, shamed, denied.
The embodied feminine. The goddess energy. The wise and earthy witch. The connected and sacred priestess.
I looked up the definition of priestess and found this wonderful description here which completely resonated with me.
I don’t know if my resonation with these identities is about recognizing what I experienced in past lives or simply tapping more deeply into the collective consciousness at this time in history when feminine energy is being called forth to rise from years of oppression and neglect to aid in healing and creating new ways of being together on planet earth.
But I feel the witch in me.
I feel the priestess.
I am her and she is me, these archetypes of magical and powerful femininity.
I am called to embody and experience her more and more.
Through dance, sensuality, sexuality, ritual, and sisterhood; through writing and using my voice, expressing my authentic self; through my connection with nature, the divine, my powerful ecstatic self; and through healing individually and aiding the healing of the collective.
These are all things I have always been in tune with and drawn towards but now I feel a deeper devotion to and acknowledgement of this part of myself.
It feels like a homecoming and at the same time, the beginning of a rich, wild journey.
How this will manifest through me, I don’t know. I just know I am becoming a more full expression of myself.
The other day, reflecting on all of this, I recognized the tightness I often feel in my throat/neck, and I contemplated the origins of this. I thought of all the women throughout time that had been hunted down and killed for being witches, for being wise and in tune, who were cast out and shamed and denied reverence as male-dominated organized religion colonized the globe.
And I realized this age-old fear was living in me now, this fear that if I express myself, if I stand in my power and my wisdom and my magic and my femininity, that I will be rejected and persecuted.
It was actually after I made a post recently on social media, a simple post, but one I felt was a vulnerable expression of myself and I felt afraid after I posted it. And I inquired within, “Why do I feel afraid? What is the worst that can happen? That someone could not like it? That someone could think negative thoughts about me after seeing it? Why would that matter to me? Why would someone else’s potential thoughts about me matter to me? It doesn’t matter what they think, what they think cannot hurt me!”
Up until this point in my emotional evolution journey, I have considered how I, personally, have evolved in this lifetime. Perhaps I have been a people pleaser, wanting to keep others comfortable or to be socially accepted and therefore I have shied away from expressing myself fully. Or perhaps there are ways that I have felt afraid to use my voice and draw boundaries because of childhood conditioning.
But this didn’t seem to apply here, as I contemplated my fear and shame after making my simple post. It wasn’t that I needed to comfort my inner child, little Teresa, and let her know it was safe to speak and be seen and celebrated. Although that is incredibly important too, the feelings of shame and fear that were surfacing for me at this moment felt older and more universal than that.
And that is when I realized that I was carrying a very old, unconscious fear from past generations or from the collective consciousness, from the history of oppressed feminine expression or something in my DNA. The fear that was triggered believed that my life would be in danger if I was exposed as a woman who was tapping into her own spiritual nature and wisdom outside of the realm of organized religion or the accepted norms.
That fear was latent in me and was acting as a protector, essentially guiding me to stay quiet and small so that I will not be found out, killed, hung in the town square as a demonstration to others to fall in line.
As I recognized this, the fear melted off of me and I was no longer anxious about how my post on social media would be received. It didn’t fucking matter! No one would come with their pitchforks and torches and hunt me down now!
It was a fascinating and cathartic revelation.
Here is a poem I wrote based on this discovery and this step in my healing journey:
Loosen the noose
loosen the fucking noose baby!
I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck
my face was purple
I couldn’t breathe
I couldn’t cry
my dad turned green
and almost fainted
my mom implored the doctors,
Will she be all right?
I have lived lives with the noose around my neck
The noose of fear,
the noose of doubt,
the noose like a collar, a choker
tugging at me
who is at the other end of the leash,
hooked to the choker,
holding me back
through this suffocation?
Perhaps I have lived lives
as a witch
I was hung on the gallows
for being too much
for being too myself
for being too in tune
for being too wise
for being too connected
for having my own contract with God Goddess Divine
that wasn’t controlled by the leash
of the church
so they put that noose on me around my neck
and kicked the block out
from under my feet
and I died for it.
And so the fear
the ghost of the noose
around my neck
lifetime after lifetime
holding me back
from being myself
from being in my magic
from being in my divine feminine goddess wholeness
priestess true nature
I see it now!
I feel the noose
for what it is and now
it turns into a vapor,
there is no material reality
to holding that fear any longer,
I am safe to be*
I am safe to use my power
I am safe to develop
my secret connection
to all that exists
the connection on my own terms that no one can take away
that no noose
can choke out of me
that no leash
can steer me away from.
I go into the bathroom now
create a make-shift ceremony space, light candles
I straddle the toilet ready to hurl
because this noose, it makes me sick.
I rub my neck
feel into it
the energetic noose there,
I feel choking in my throat,
like I need to vomit,
cough up this fear
vomit up this constraint,
this sick dark old blockage.
I feel the connection to my pussy
to my cervix
to my womb
to my creative life force
directly linked to my throat opening my voice
my spell making
my communicative power
the channel starts to open
the channel begins to clear
I dry heave
an energetic ball of old dark shocking constraining gook comes out
I cough it out
I hurl it up
I free my throat
I free the noose
It shatters from the depths of me.
I am a free woman
in a new life
in this body
will not be controlled or
contained or squeezed or strangled
I open up my channel
I let go of my fear
I unslip the noose
I shake myself free.
. . .
It is also important to point out that this is an ongoing process. Shedding the tension and restraint and shame and fear is not a one-off thing, but a continuing, spiraling unraveling and unfolding.
As a mother of three daughters, I also find this unraveling especially potent, as I am always encouraging them to use their voice and remain true to their rooted sense of self, so I know I need to model that to them too.
I truly believe we each, no matter what our gender, have a call to express ourselves fully from our Source energy within.
I hope we all can loosen our nooses, cultivate our inner sense of safety and wholeness, and discover new ways of letting our Full Selves pour through us, harmonizing more freely together.
. . .
*I want to acknowledge that my post comes at a time when a major slogan of the BLM movement is “I can’t Breathe” and when black and brown bodies still aren’t “safe to be” and are being lynched in the street and shot in their homes. Black people today still live with the very real threat of a noose around their neck and even while partaking in extremely simple, everyday activities, they are the victims of police brutality and white supremacist hatred and violence. Therefore, I want to acknowledge and recognize that my post is written solely from my perspective, based on my experience as a white, cis-gender woman, and the inherent privilege that comes with that.
Image: The Witch-Magic Circle by John Williams