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A Witch's Manifesto

I HAVE WONDERED for two decades when the happy day will arrive: before every large gathering of women, a woman steps out and leads a prayer to the Goddess. After all, when five men gather together, a sixth will commonly bless them and make them feel like God's gifts to humanity!

I have been an activist for twenty years and a witch for much longer. I have grown old trying to convince and teach feminist and mainstream women that spirituality and reverence for the Goddess would only enhance their labors and, in fact, fuel them when they feel depleted by too much political work. Resource/energy management, I argued, is a spiritual skill.

There remains a large schism between so-called political feminists and spiritual feminists. It is an imaginary difference that exists mostly in the minds of political feminists; the spiritualists know that politics and spirituality go hand in hand, historically reinforcing each other.

When I first joined the women's movement I was just divorced, a prime candidate for a life-changing experience. I thought, "If I can't become myself somehow, I don't want to go on." I already considered myself a witch, one of a Hungarian family line involved in herbology and healing that goes back to 1270. But being a witch helps you very little if you have no understanding of what is happening to you, historically, as a woman.

Within two weeks of my arrival in Los Angeles in 1967, I went to my first Women's Liberation march. I joined the staff at the Women's Center and started raising my consciousness about feminist issues. At that point, a curious thing happened. All my memories about the old religion came back to me. Suddenly, it was easy to put the two aspects of my life together. I said to my friends in the women's movement, "Look, you have a political analysis, but you don't have a cosmology. You can't have a revolution without cosmology." So I told them about earUer religions and witch-burning and how the Goddess is everywhere. They gave me a very cool reception at first, but they allowed me to follow through with my first Sabbat because I was a staffer and had earned my stripes as an activist. The first Sabbat I had, I told the six friends who came, ^'I know enough to begin it. The rest of it, we have to invent."

The more I struggled with the two parts of my life as an independent woman, the more convinced I became that feminism lacked its altogether natural, inherent, matching cosmology: that of the Goddess. No powerful movement can hold the minds of millions without stories, theologies, lore, ritual, and blessings.

But women have depended more on facts and logic, and a sense of injustice, to fight for our civil rights. In a way we fought back like men, which is something women were misled to believe is the way to win: if only we could show them that we are not emotional creatures, then they would let us have our bodies and our human rights. Only rarely do we allow women to raise the energy of our demonstrations with symbols of the Goddess; we rarely use ritual to give drama and effectiveness to our political activities. How much better it could have been if we had marched together on those many marches of the past, shaking rattles in our hands to the rhythm of our steps! How much more awesome half a million women would have appeared, marching on Washington carrying a huge statue of the Great Mother!

If I had my way, I would inject a large dose of art, music, street theater, ritual, and movement to lend more emotional impact and power to public demonstrations. But nobody asks a witch to design symbology for the women's movement.

In fact, the feminist witch is odd woman out. We have been on the fringe for a hundred years Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founder of the American suffrage movement, was thrown out of her own organization for publishing a feminist commentary on the Bible called "The Women's Bible." (After all, previous translators had been rewarded for interpreting the work to suit their employers' fancies, and no biblical translator ever met Christ.) Her sister suffragists thought they were radical enough demanding the right to vote; to bring God (and the other Christian god, the Devil) into question was going dangerously too far. Feminist spiritualists such as Victoria WoodhuU, the first woman to run for president, were treated as anomalies of womanhood even by their own sisters.

It is not much different today. Feminist papers in Europe as well as the US pride themselves on not giving attention to matters of the spirit too flakey, not significant or political enough. Yet we are significant; we are a psychic strike force for women!

I have not found it easy to convince even lesbian activists of the importance of woman-identified spirituality. All you would know about lesbians from the San Francisco Bay Times is that they do nightclub acts, they sing, they have babies, and they demonstrate vigorously when fighting for AIDS funding and help. You would never know from reading this lesbian newspaper that the San Francisco Bay Area is the hub of a growing Goddess movement, that more books on related topics are sold here than anywhere else, and that most teachers who are also bestselling authors of such books live here. Spirituality conferences, large rituals, and even theater are not covered because they are "not priority."

How about the other movements afoot these days intended to make the world a better, saner, happier place? The "new age" movement grew from the spirit's hunger, but without being politically informed it ended up male-identified and male-dominated. The new white gurus, the self-help boys, market spirituality like a precious middle-class commodity, and help themselves to witchcraft's wisdom for information, rituals, and chants then cut out the Goddess and turn the wisdom into self-help exercises. Most women who support these sanitized versions of witchcraft never know they are partaking of their own gelded culture for a high fee. The personal is political.

New-age male leaders don't generally talk about women as a group (we are all the same, they intone) because they are afraid that their main support system, the ladies, will wake up from their guided meditations (it's my karma, I choose my misfortune, etc.) and dump male-oriented spirituality. They even caution against feminist spiritualists as unhappy harpies who've lost their femininity by losing interest in male leadership.

Neopagans (though some are men who truly love and worship the Goddess) are not very happy about women as a group either. Once, at a Pan-Pagan festival, I asked the women to join me for an all-female circle in the woods just to expose them to what pure female energy feels like. I looked back to see a small, forlorn group of men left sitting on the lawn, waiting for the women to return and it was indeed a small group, because all these spiritual events, both alternative and mainstream, are composed and supported by 85 percent women. It is awesome to imagine the day when we will put our boundless energies towards our own needs and happiness!

We need some visible political allies. The only ones I see on the horizon have barely arrived: the greens. I met the greens at tree-planting rituals, which is something that witches traditionally do to celebrate the birth of a baby. The greens thought that was neat! But some witches active in Earth First! reported resistance to forming a circle and holding hands as witches do to create a power vortex. However, the resisters softened when they saw how prayers thus rendered produce results.

The root of all this mistrust is that we don't trust women with any kind of power especially spiritual power, because women might be too good at it. Why should we? Women have been out of power for so long, what can they know anyway?

But women do know a cooperative power a power from within, not over a power that can give, sustain, or take life. As the majority of the labor force of our species, women know the power of hard work. And women know psychic power the power we have almost allowed to slip away.

So who are the friends of the Goddess? Somebody out there is buying our books, reading them ferociously, doing rituals from them, gathering with others in small groups to worship under the moon. I lecture around the world. I was recently invited as the only woman spiritualist honoring the Great Goddess to an East-West gathering in Germany. Five thousand people filled the stadium in Potsdam. When I asked the women to stand up and be honored, many of them cried; in their experience no one had ever honored women as a group before. This made me sad and impatient.

I am now fifty-one years old. I started these teachings at thirty. I worry, will there be another sixty-year fallout like we had after we finally got the vote? The new generation would then have the extra burden of reinventing the wheel rather than inheriting a body of work and taking it from there.

Now time is up. I am convinced that no matter how great the backlash, it will just make the Goddess within wake up all the more strongly. We are still our own worst enemies women hating women as well as men hating women. Goddess-centered spirituality can help cure that.

My European ancestors and yours risked the Iiiquisition's stakes and racks to keep alive a body of knowledge about power and healing. My generation of witches is making this wisdom accessible to those who seek a spiritual foundation for political work. The Goddess is alive. Find out how to meet her and you will discover how she can help us shape the future.