Learn how I found empowerment, became more confident and started to love myself unconditionally by reclaiming ancestral wisdom and embracing the word witch.
Concept: Me, in a small cottage, sitting in front of a wood stove, sipping tea. I look outside the window and see bees pollinating my expansive garden. My goats and chickens and cows are happy and safe. I feel confident with my choices and my future. I unconditionally and recklessly love myself. The local children believe I’m a witch.
-quote seen on Instagram, original source unknown.
If you’re a long time reader, you probably noticed that I’ve rebranded! Or, perhaps you are brand new, and in that case, welcome! This is my first post since the transition of my past works and despite not changing my topics of writing, you’ll likely observe a shift in the why of my writing.
So, in a way, this is like my first post. And I wanted to write about that. So, here’s an introduction to why I’m carving out a new space on the internet.
Let Me Tell You A Story:
In the past, I’ve struggled with lots of self-doubt and feelings that I wasn’t worthy. I believed that whatever I thought, knew or did wasn’t good enough. Like many women in our society, I thought had to be someone else or be something more in order to be deemed worthy.
But, several years ago, I started to experience a shift.
I started to know that I was enough. That my knowledge and what I did was important. That I was loved and whole, just the way I am.
And the cause of this shift? I started to tap into what I consider ancestral knowledge and practice skills of the old ways.
What is Ancestral Knowledge?
For me, my ancestral past comes from Northern European. For you, that might be something different. But all cultures, at one time, had a relationship to the earth, to the plants, to nature.
In the past, every woman knew the skills to take responsibility for her own and her household’s health and wellbeing. Every woman had to be something of an herbalist and a healer. She would grow a garden or search for weeds in the woods and kept drying herbs and flowers to make herbal infusions, oils, and teas.
These women also brewed wine and ale, preserved fruit, made jams and jellies, pickles and chutneys. Many also made inks, dyes, soaps, and knew how to work with fibers. This was the day-to-day knowledge that a child would learn from her mother or other female family members, along with the stories and folklore, healing potions, gardening, spinning, weaving, dyeing, animal husbandry, beekeeping, and cooking.
There were also those in the community who knew a little bit more; the village wise woman. The ones who healed people and the land in her community. Women who held ancient wisdom that was once passed down from mother to daughter, from crone to apprentice. A knowledge that formed the pattern of women’s lives for thousands of years, improved by a lifetime of study and the daily observation of the patterns of nature.
Different cultures had different names in different places, including handywomen, blessers, conjurers, herbs wives, snake doctors, and witches.
These are the skills that I like to call the old ways, the knowledge that our ancestors knew.
But woman’s knowledge has been derided and ignored for most of our history, just as it is true today in Western culture.
The Old Testament of the Bible first introduced the idea of witchcraft to the world in writing around 500 BCE. The 15th-century saw that any woman practicing fortune telling, midwifery, or herbalism could be executed as a witch, while male doctors, astrologers, and alchemists were left unscathed. Male university-trained doctors were sanctioned by the church, but if any woman was accused of practicing healing it was automatically assumed that she must have achieved any cure by witchcraft, and she was put to death.
No wonder we feel so poorly about ourselves, that we struggle with self-worth, that we feel we are not enough. Our knowledge has been demonized for centuries.
This is the knowledge that we must reclaim.
I started to feel the shift, started to love myself more and to know that I was enough when I began to be an active participant in my own life, and no waiting for someone else or something to show me that worth. To practice skills that allowed me to care for myself, to know myself, and to know my surroundings.
Embracing ancestral knowledge isn’t about removing or reversing our modern inventions, or sticking women “back in the kitchen.” It’s not giving up washing machines or modern medicine or computers. It’s to draw on the knowledge that has been obscured or lost by that innovation, and to integrate it into our world of today.
Inadventertantly, I realized, I’ve become a witch.
Perhaps not the one that modern culture depicts, the one practicing spells or riding on a broom, but a woman filled with knowledge. Or, at least, a seeker of knowledge.
Being a witch is an attitude or an approach to life. Labels, of course, are just that and can be good or bad, but I’ve always struggled with what to “call myself”. Am I a home maker? A gardener? An hebalist-in-training? No word ever seems to fit to encompass my passion for the earth, the energy I feel from it, and for my yearning for knowledge. But calling myself a witch, or a wise woman, resonates. I am a holder of knowledge. Knowledge of how to heal herself, how to take care of her family, how to tend a garden, how to understand the natural cycles and herself by observing and listening to the earth.
Which for me, makes me feel whole.
Like any grand journey, there is no end, just the winding path. This blog is just as much the story of my own path, as it is one to nurture others along the journey, too. It’s a journey to help women become the wise women we all have deep inside us. And in return, that path allows us to find empowerment within, and find a deep connection with nature and ourselves.