Witchcraft is said to be the first feminist movement in world history. It has been demonized by the male-centric Christianity and the practice is often ridiculed even today. From a feminist’s gaze, witchcraft has empowered women as it gives them the power to be independent and self-reliant. All these years women who were strong or have stood against patriarchy have been associated with the devil and evil. The infamous witch hunt was started to target women who were easily labeled as witches. Modern-day witchcraft is non-pagan. Many women have started practicing it all around the world irrespective of the religion they were born in. There are no hard and fast rules. Today, being a witch is being a feminist with a touch of extra empowerment.
Harsh talks to Aakerschika Narayan Mishra, a modern-day witchcraft practitioner. She is 35, a single mother, and a successful witch. In her interview, she talks about witchcraft, her journey of becoming a witch, and busts some myths about the practice.
How would you define witchcraft? What is the essence of this practice and how is it different from other religions?
Witchcraft is considered a religion because it’s practiced by a community of people. It often involves paganism. However, for me, it is more about a way of living than a religion because there are sects of witchcraft that totally rely on path works and spiritual power rather than pagan rituals. It is something very personal because it’s practiced by each person in their own unique ways. Every witch has a different approach and maybe even different principles. There are some who totally shun the use of props & sacrifices. They focus more on their imagination and path work. It is a personal spiritual practice.
Practicing witchcraft is like trying to see beyond what your eyes perceive, it is trying to find the sacred in the world around you, especially in nature. A lot of practitioners work with plant and animal spirits. It is very different from other religions because it is not as restricting as others. There are no rules, no enforced lifestyle, no gender disparities, or gender-specific roles. It gives you the freedom to be who you are and to follow your own path without any reservations. In fact, it even gives you the freedom to follow the religion you were born in while being a witch. No other religion would allow this.
How was your journey of becoming a witch? What difficulties you faced and what have you learned all these years of practice?
Being a witch is the most important part of my life and it touches everything I do. I have felt spirits and energies ever since I was a child. My mother also played a major role in what I am. I come from a staunch Hindu family so my mother made it a point that I read all the Hindu scriptures like the Vedas (my first few spells were the ones I read in the Atharva Veda), Puranas, Upanishads and itihasa. She always told me Hinduism today has been diluted with patriarchy and caste discrimination and has lost its true essence. She was the one to nudge me on to the road of finding my own identity and this is when I started reading on witchcraft. I could relate to it because it was very similar to what I had been reading in Atharva Veda.
I also always had very strong hunches. I would warn people of a coming misfortune which would later come to happen. A lot of people told me to stop predicting and that I had a “Kali zuban” or an evil eye. This had a huge impact on me as a kid, I became very introverted and mostly kept to myself. This is when my mother encouraged me into learning how to read tarot. I started reading tarot when I was 14. I found my first mentor when I was 19, this was a tarot reader I met when I was in Germany. She was the one to hand me the ropes on both cartomancy and earth magick. This is where it all started. I started meeting and interacting with other witches and Wiccans, and gathered more information on the craft along the way. Today I am 35, a single mother of a 6-year-old, and a proud witch.
Some people hold animosity towards me just because I am a witch, others are skeptical of me. I have been in toxic relationships where people would end up blaming me for anything bad that would happen to them, but practicing witchcraft has made me very level headed and immune to the Criticism. It has given me the ability to find my true self and embrace it.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that witchcraft was the first feminist movement in history. The practice has quite a brutal history both in the Western and in Asia nations. How do you think that this practice has changed through all these years and how has it empowered women across the world?
It is believed that the concept of witchcraft dates back to thousands of years ago since the time humans worshipped deities. Greek mythology speaks of Hecate, who was a witch and the goddess of magic and astrology. Hinduism also worships many goddesses, some of which were related to Tantra, like kali. Many of these religions and cultures were said to be matriarchal. Some historians hold the opinion that the Aryans were a matriarchal race. In fact, it is said that Hindu women had the right to marry any man of their own liking, or could have relations with more than one man in the pre Mahabharat era. When we see the sculptures in Khajuraho temples, we see women seeking pleasure in sexual activity. It shows how free the culture really was. It is said that India was a rare country where polyandry was practiced. Unfortunately, as time passed, these religions were overshadowed by patriarchy which took away any freedom which women had the right to practice.
The downfall of paganism in European countries started with the rise of male-centric Christianity. In order to convert the European pagans to Christianity, paganism was labelled as witchcraft. It was looked down upon and people practicing it were perceived as evil, worshippers of satan, bringing forth ill on people around them. Women who were considered weak were an easy target. Any powerful woman was demonized as a witch. Witches were deemed as women who were morally corrupt and the infamous witch hunt began. The irony was that Christianity itself was based on Jesus performing miracles. What was it if not magick? Even now some churches and priests offer miracle cures and exorcism. Therefore, it is safe to say that magick is deeply rooted in every religion.
Things started changing for witches in 20 century, as women fought together for their rights. They started seeing witches as wise, powerful, and cunning women.
Witchcraft has always and will empower women. A lot of women now work as professional witches, Wiccans & fortune tellers. It has become a source of income for a lot of women. Some own apothecaries, magick shops, witch supply stores, some work as healers and there are many who practice cartomancy, cleromancy, astrology, etc. Some witches even teach witchcraft and have their own YouTube channels. These women are self-dependent and proud of their craft and follow a religion that believes in gender equality.
In reference to the above question, witchcraft is highly dominated by women practitioners. Can men take interest in the practice and learn magic or is it only meant for women?
Yes, of course, they can. In fact, men played a big role in the revival of the tarot. Aleister Crawley the creator of the Thoth system of tarot was a very well known witch. The Rider Waite system is a product of the hard work of Dr. Arthur Edward Waite who was a well-known practitioner of occult sciences. Damon Brand, Henry Archer, Adam Blackthorne are few of the very famous male witches.
There are different deities and ancestors who are worshipped in Wicca. Are there any restrictions that one has to worship deities from a certain region? How can one evoke and choose their primary deity?
No, there are no restrictions on which deity you worship. Wicca focuses on pagan witchcraft. Since Wicca is more to do with polytheism, you have the freedom to choose and worship the deity you can relate to the most. Whether they worship one deity or more is totally up to the witch. There are various different ways to invoke a deity or any spirit bodies like demons or angels. It can be through path work or rituals. Some lean more towards rituals, sacrifices, magick circles, altars, etc, while others invoke using pathwork, which has more to do with imagination and mind and spiritual power. Choosing a deity is again a very personal thing. Most people would choose a deity/deities they feel drawn towards the most.
How do you think the pop culture around the world has affected the image of the practice?
What you watch on TV isn’t even close to what happens in practical witchcraft. Witches are grossly misrepresented on TV. What they show is to create excitement and a feeling of adventure. If the portrayal of witchcraft is accurate they would lose that. They should actually study or maybe put some research in witchcraft to make the portrayal more accurate.
Is it true that there is something known as black magic and white magic? If yes, then how are they different?
Yes, there is but then there are two sides to every coin. My personal belief is that Witchcraft isn’t just back or white, there are many different shades, hues, and colors to it. Each has its own. However, witches who practice white magic work more with healing and protection magick, while those who practice black magick work more with hexes and curses.
How is modern witchcraft different from the kind of witchcraft practiced back in medieval times?
The biggest difference I see is a kinder and more practical approach.
What are some myths about witchcraft which you would like to burst?
Witches are different from magicians or illusionists, stage magick is not witchcraft. There are no live sacrifices involved in witchcraft. Witches are not evil, and no we don’t worship Satan.
Any tips for beginners?
Don’t think about whether you can do it or not. Having second thought will only create hurdles in your way. Just delve into it headfirst with confidence and you will be amazed at what you finally become
How are crystals and herbs used for healing?
It’s a long list so I will give you a gist of it. Crystal and herbs can be used in various types of healing spells, they can be used to make elixirs for healing, herbs can be burned and used for cleaning, Crystal can be used to open chakra points. There are various crystal healing courses one could go for.
Can a person, without getting into witchcraft, learn reading tarot?
Please note that the magazine doesn’t endorse any views shared in the interview.
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