In some corners of society, there exists a palpable fear. An unease that simmers beneath the surface, threatening to erupt at any moment. It’s the fear of the empowered woman. 

The fear of her strength and her resilience.

The fear of her unwavering resolve to challenge the systems of oppression that have built walls around the radical self expression she embodies.

For centuries, empowered women have been painted by collective fear as dangerous creatures. Scapegoated as a way of control and subjected to witch hunts - victims of a system designed to suppress their voices and diminish their power. 

From the horrifying days of the witch hunts to the present day, women who dare to rise above societal expectations, who refuse to be confined to narrow roles and limited aspirations, have been met with resistance, ridicule and repression.

But amidst the shadows, there is light - a beacon of hope that pierces through the darkness. 

It is the visibility of women, their unapologetic taking up of space, using their voices and sharing their stories, that empowers. For every woman who refuses to be silenced, who won’t be moved in the face of adversity or fear based false accusations, who embraces her own power and agency, is a testament to the resilience of all of the women who have gone before her and done the same. 

To be visible as an empowered woman is to defy the forces of fear and oppression. To challenge the narratives that seek to diminish our worth and undermine our potential. 

It’s a radical act of self-love and self-acceptance, a declaration of our self-expression being seen, just as we are.

The history of witch hunts

The witch hunts of the early modern period stand as a devastating chapter in history. One fuelled by gender discrimination, misogyny and the insidious grip of patriarchy. 

At the heart of these atrocities lay a deep-seated fear of women's autonomy. Their connection to nature, their bodies and the power they held as keepers of ancient wisdom. A period in history that changed the course for women and one we’re still fighting to overcome today. 

During the witch hunts, countless women, often healers, herbalists and midwives, were accused of witchcraft and subjected to brutal trials, torture and execution. Behind these accusations lurked a pervasive belief that women who possessed knowledge of herbs, healing and the natural world were somehow in relationship with the devil.

In truth, these women were the caretakers of their communities. Offering solace and support to other women in times of need.

But why were empowered women targeted with such ferocity? 

The answer lies in the misogynistic and patriarchal structures that sought to control and dominate every aspect of women's lives. 

It became a way for men to justify stripping women of their land, their autonomy and their dignity, all methods in the playbook of patriarchal societies that seek to assert their power and maintain the status quo.

‘Witch’ has been steeped in negative connotations throughout history, serving as a powerful tool of social control and gender oppression. Its construction as a pejorative term reflects the deep-seated fear and suspicion directed towards women who dared to defy societal norms and assert their autonomy.

At its insidious core, the narrative that was ascribed to the word ‘witch’ created a social construct that’s survived for hundreds of years because it’s intertwined with misogyny and patriarchal systems that only maintain power and control through oppression. 

In a world where women were expected to adhere to rigid gender roles and submit to male authority, those who challenged the status quo posed a threat to the established order. 

They were witches.

Why is ‘witch’ entwined with negativity?

‘Witch’ became a catch-all label for empowered women who deviated from societal expectations. Whether through acts of nonconformity, independence or resistance to male dominance. Women who possessed knowledge of herbal medicine, practised midwifery or birth control, or expressed unconventional beliefs were often targeted as witches. Their actions viewed as subversive and dangerous.

You can clearly see that the meaning of the word ‘witch’ was also deeply rooted in misogyny, reflecting broader attitudes towards women as inherently inferior and morally corrupt. The stereotype of the witch as wanting to inflict harm on others, the fear mongering about supernatural threats served to demonise women and justify their persecution.

Throughout history, ‘witch’ has been weaponised to silence and marginalise women. Relegating them to the fringes of society and subjecting them to violence and persecution. 

The witch hunts of the early modern period stand as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences of this demonisation. Women were accused, tortured and executed in the name of eradicating supposed witchcraft.

But the witch hunts weren’t merely about persecuting individuals; they were about subjugating an entire gender. Women were forced into a state of dependence on men. Their roles reduced to little more than vessels for childbirth and labour. Any hint of independence, any whisper of defiance, was swiftly persecuted.

How witch hunts still haunt us today

In many countries, witchcraft is illegal and witch hunts occur, with gender discrimination and misogyny persisting in various forms around the world. 

The fear of women's power, their connection to nature and their ability to challenge the status quo remains deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. 

Worse still, it’s often perpetuated by women on women, because so much work needs to be done to heal the witch wound and internalised misogyny and patriarchy.

Illuminating modern day witch hunts - an age old pattern 

There’s a real danger that history will repeat itself when persecution is based on perceived or subjective fear. That overwhelms the collective thinking, rather than it being grounded in objective truths. 

Once the narrative of fear is established, when an event occurs that triggers this fear, the social construct has already been built. Giving those hunting for someone to blame or project their fear onto, a scapegoat. Usually someone from a marginalised group in society. 

It’s this pattern we see that’s still perpetuated here in the UK. Fuelled and used as a tactic by media and politicians as a way of controlling the narrative and social construct. It’s a slow but steady creep that fans the fires of fear and leads to the perpetuation of systems of oppression. 

If you’re wondering what I mean by this, let’s take a walk through a small segment of many, many examples of how this pattern of behaviour that fuelled the witch hunt is abundant in society today.

Remember the ingredients: ‘constructing fear’ + ‘trigger event’ = scapegoating marginalised group

1. Victim blaming:

This diverts the focus away from the perpetrator of harm. Implying that the victim somehow brought the abuse or injustice upon themselves, instilling fear of speaking out and seeking justice.

2. Slut shaming:

Fear of a woman celebrating her own expression of sexuality leads to slut shaming, perpetuating the notion that women should adhere to narrow standards of purity and modesty.

3. Outspoken women:

Often speaking the truth and challenging oppressive systems, outspoken women are perceived as threats to the status quo. Inciting fear among those who benefit from maintaining power dynamics.

4. Social media shaming:

Targeting those who speak from an awakened place, attempting to silence dissenting voices and maintain existing power structures through fear of public humiliation and ostracisation.

5. Attacking women who have abortions:

Women who exercise autonomy over their reproductive rights continue to face vilification and stigmatisation. Perpetuating fear and shame around reproductive health choices.

6. Cancel culture:

This can occur based on false truths to remove individuals challenging the status quo. Instilling fear of public condemnation and professional ruin for speaking out against prevailing narratives.

7. Being different:

Fear of the unknown prompts discrimination against individuals who don’t conform to social norms. Perpetuating marginalisation and exclusion of diverse perspectives and identities.

8. Not having children:

Misogyny pressures women to fulfil traditional gender roles. Emboldening people to pass judgement about women choosing paths outside societal expectations of motherhood.

9. Discrimination:

Systemic prejudices instil fear and perpetuate discrimination against marginalised communities, maintaining power dynamics rooted in oppression and exclusion.

11. Working as a Mum:

Fear of judgement and societal pressure to balance or prioritise either caregiving roles or professional aspirations perpetuates gender inequalities. Limiting women's economic independence and opportunities.

12. Body and plant-based healing:

Women offering nature-based healing modalities face scepticism and dismissal, as their practices challenge dominant paradigms and power structures.

13. Climate crisis activism:

Fear by those in power of systemic change away from fossil fuels and disruption to the income from exploiting the planet leads to the vilification and suppression of climate activists. Undermining efforts to address urgent environmental challenges.

14. Women being gaslit by medicine:

Women's health concerns are often dismissed or minimised by medical professionals, perpetuating fear and eroding trust in healthcare systems.

15. Spirituality:

Fear of alternative belief systems and challenges to religious orthodoxy leads to the stigmatisation and marginalisation of spiritual practices. Restricting freedom of expression and exploration of faith.

16. Changing laws around protest:

Legislation aimed at stifling dissent and protest limits individuals' ability to challenge oppressive systems. Fostering a culture of fear and complacency in the face of injustice. 

So as we confront the social construct of witch, we’re challenging the systems of power and oppression that underpin it and have historically marginalised and persecuted those who identify as one. 

By interrogating our assumptions and dismantling misogynistic and patriarchal structures, we can strive towards a more equitable and inclusive society. One where women are valued, respected and free to express their true selves without fear of persecution.

Even in the face of darkness there is hope

Women are reclaiming their voices, their power and their rightful place in society. Together, we’re challenging patriarchal norms, dismantling oppressive systems and forging a new path towards equality and liberation.

As we reflect on the horrors of the witch hunts, let us remember the resilience of those who came before us. The women who refused to be silenced. Who stood tall in the face of persecution and fought for a world where all beings are valued and respected.

May their courage inspire us to continue the work of dismantling patriarchy. Of uprooting misogyny and of creating a future where every person - regardless of gender - can live freely. Authentically and in harmony with each other and the natural world.

In a world where power can only thrive when built on division and discord, the visibility of women is a powerful force for unity and solidarity. It’s a reminder that we aren’t alone. That our struggles, our triumphs and our dreams are shared by women everywhere, across time and space.

So let us stand together. Shoulder to shoulder, as empowered women - in defiance of fear, in defiance of scapegoating and in defiance of the patterns of witch hunts that seek to extinguish our light. 

Our visibility isn’t just a stand against oppression - it’s a beacon of hope. A testament to the strength of the human spirit and a rallying cry for a more just and equitable world. There is something magickal stirring in me, to create a space for sisterhood, community and connection and I’d love for you to join the newsletter so you can be the first to know about this as it starts to unfurl.  

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