Flying through the sky on a broomstick…
It’s dark out and she’s wearing a pointy hat. You might even imagine her huddling over a cauldron, cooking a magical potion that could destroy a person. She’s evil. This fearsome being has carved out a fairytale in nearly every culture in the world. For centuries, this is what witches have been seen as- wicked and out to get you. Today, it’s the stereotype.
The word Witch comes from the word “Wicca” which means “Wise One.” They were healers who relied on homeopathic treatments and often worked with herbs. To many, they were the doctors. But they were now considered to be something of the abnormal- creatures to be feared.
Here are some strange witch trial tests that took place in the past…
Probably the most famous of them all, the swimming test was used against accused witches to test wether or not they were what people suspected. They’d be stripped, tied up and pushed into a body of water to see if they sank or stayed afloat, with sinking deeming their innocence and staying afloat proving that they were practicing witchcraft.
Suspected witches would have rope tied around their waist to hoist them back up incase their body sank, however, death in these circumstances wasn’t uncommon.
Another way witches were thought to be discovered was through the allocation of “Witch Marks”. Witch Hunters would have suspects stripped in public and examined for marks they believed were attained when a witch made a pact with Satan.
It was common for the simplest of birthmarks to be labelled the Mark of the Devil.
People believed that witches were unable to recite scripture out loud so suspected witches were forced to recite passages from the Bible. Even a single mistake during revision would signify to Witch Hunters that the suspected may be evil.
The Witch Cake was a type of dessert made with mixing a ‘victim’ of witchcrafts urine with rye meal and ashes into a cake. The cake was then fed to the animal familiars of witches with the thought that the animal would fall under its “Spell” and reveal the name of the witch at charge.
Meet Todays Wise Ones…
“The other side is the one doing all the work, they are the vessels the info comes through.” -The Smudge Twins
Right now we are very much in that domain and in that world right now cause theres a major shift in plant based herbology, healing, and adaptations. -Stolbie Sisters
Magic As a Pathway To Lost Identity
Lindsay describes being a black woman and being disconnected to her personal identity. She discusses how as a member of the African diaspora, she doesn’t know where she came from which is common about African communities.
“I recognize that as a Black woman, I was intrinsically disconnected from my ancestry. So I had to kind of figure out this in between and I decided to look into the ancestry of the Tayeno or Arowac, those were the original indigenous settlers of these lands.”
Lindsay explains how the Bahamas was completely eradicated of the Tayeno people so she decided to look into this ancestry as a way of honouring their spirit. When she began to look into this ancestry, she started to look at spiritual practices that her ancestors used and came across Obaya. However, this practice was illegal back in her hometown of Bahamas and so it proved to be difficult to get people to speak to her about it. This is where she decided to learn about the practice through dance.
“Another hat that I wear is that I’m a Burlesque dancer and one of the special things that I did in 2019 is I did an act that was actually referencing obaya and it was performed in the Vancouver International Burlesque festival.”
“The idea of that was I wanted to take this emblem of true Bahamas identity with the arist of the song being an Obaya practitioner. I wanted to be posessed by the same spirit as the man who sang this song.”
Lindsay’s performance features her dressed in white claiming space through the expression of dance.
“That was one of the biggest moments for me bringing my racial and ethnic identity to my craft.”
What Has Changed? The Rise of Spiritual Capitalism
Today, witches are not burned nor killed. Rather, their practices and rituals have actually been making their way into mainstream society and companies are taking advantage of that. Despite the common stereotype that depicts witches in a negative light, spirituality is monetized more than ever. Multi-million cosmetics store Sephora has attempted to join in on the trend before it failed. “Starter witch kits” that included a bundle of sage, a rose quartz crystal, and a deck of tarot cards hit their shelves. It didn’t take long before witches took to social media to share their outrage. Instagram is now a huge platform for bloggers, influencers, and companies. This company sells a $250 amethyst string that helps one “overcome addictions and protects in stressful situations.” Many who claim they are spiritual teachers have also offered services through social media in hopes to attract those feeling helpless.
But where does one draw the line between true spirituality that focuses on helping others and spirituality aimed at capitalizing on the misfortunes of others?
According to the Smudge Twins, if the service is asking you to work from a place of self-empowerment and not fear, then you can trust it.
“We’re coming to you and teaching you how to ground yourself, how to clear yourself, how to protect yourself, so you can empower yourself.”
What do they have in common that makes them considered Witches then?
If you are questioning whether or not you’re a witch, you are a witch.
Turns out, it’s not very difficult to join the club. You don’t have to have magical powers, you don’t have to be psychic, and you don’t have to be mixing potions day and night. You only have to question it.
As a team, we fully acknowledge the sensitivity of the topic we chose to cover. Spirituality is very personal and private for some but we felt compelled to break the often false stereotypes placed on those in touch with their spirituality. Some of the content gathered was not included in the project as our participants did not want to share certain private information.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the footage and information shared was acquired through online platforms. This may have reduced the quality of the videos shared.