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Author Topic: Feminism and witchcraft  (Read 882 times)

River at Night

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Feminism and witchcraft
« on: November 18, 2012, 11:21:32 pm »
I'm re-reading Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon" and came across a statement that got me wondering about others' experiences. It's in the chapter about feminist witches, pages 213-214 of the 2006 ebook edition:

   "Women have strong positions in almost all the Neo-Pagan religions discussed in this book, not only Witchcraft.* This chapter concentrates on Witchcraft because most feminists do not seem to be interested in other Neo-Pagan religions."

I realize that she didn't edit this chapter the way she did the others, and maybe this was a true statement at the time of the original edition, but I personally have not found that to be the case. I've known plenty of feminists in other pagan traditions.

Has anyone found this statement to be accurate/inaccurate? I'm wondering whether it's true/was true at the time, or whether Adler's own experiences as a feminist witch led her into greater contact with other feminist witches and she drew her conclusions from that bias.

*For those not familiar with the book or who haven't read it in ages, Adler defines Witchcraft mainly as Wicca/Wiccish/NROOGD-type religion, generally coven-based and oriented around the worship of a single goddess and (but not always) god.

Sage

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Re: Feminism and witchcraft
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2012, 11:29:49 pm »
Quote from: River at Night;81569
I'm re-reading Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon" and came across a statement that got me wondering about others' experiences. It's in the chapter about feminist witches, pages 213-214 of the 2006 ebook edition:

 
It depends on what she means by "feminist" and "witch."

If this did escape her 2006 update, then "feminist" is gonna be talking about, more than likely, 2nd wave feminism - the kind Margot herself was/is involved with in 1979, when the book was first published. (Same year as the first version of Starhawk's The Spiral Dance if that gives you more context.)

And if she's playing loose with the term "witch," then it might mean "Wiccan" or "kinda Wiccan" or "Dianic Wiccan" or "magical booby-Goddess worship."

I'm a feminist, and I think I'm kinda a witch. Sometimes. I'm really lazy about it. My feminism informs my worldviews first, my religions second. I'm a third-wave feminist, which if I recall, Adler did not really address in the 2006 update. (I used it in my thesis on gender issues in Neo-Paganism last year, and I read the "Feminism and the Craft" section like eight times.)

But when I say witch I do not in any way mean "Wiccan" or "worshiper of THE GODDESS." In fact, it is because I'm a feminist - a genderfluid, queer, 3rd wave feminist - that I found most of that kind of "witchcraft" totally lacking and unhelpful, especially when it came to gender essentialism and other things.

Currently in the middle of a sinus infection and a bit loopy, so I'm crossing my fingers that this made sense.
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yewberry

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Re: Feminism and witchcraft
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2012, 04:08:43 pm »
Quote from: Sage;81570
If this did escape her 2006 update, then "feminist" is gonna be talking about, more than likely, 2nd wave feminism - the kind Margot herself was/is involved with in 1979, when the book was first published. (Same year as the first version of Starhawk's The Spiral Dance if that gives you more context.)

 
I (strongly) suspect this is the case.  And I kind of wonder if not editing this section was an oversight or if she still believes this is the case because she still mostly only associates with second-wave feminists her own age.

I also suspect she's talking about "Trad- and Sorta-Wicca", not other forms of witchcraft (religious or otherwise).

I base my suspicions on her own expertise and focus over the years.  She just doesn't do a whole lot of writing on other pagan religions.

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Re: Feminism and witchcraft
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2012, 07:44:50 pm »
Quote from: River at Night;81569
I'm re-reading Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon" and came across a statement that got me wondering about others' experiences. It's in the chapter about feminist witches, pages 213-214 of the 2006 ebook edition:

   "Women have strong positions in almost all the Neo-Pagan religions discussed in this book, not only Witchcraft.* This chapter concentrates on Witchcraft because most feminists do not seem to be interested in other Neo-Pagan religions."

I realize that she didn't edit this chapter the way she did the others, and maybe this was a true statement at the time of the original edition, but I personally have not found that to be the case. I've known plenty of feminists in other pagan traditions.

Has anyone found this statement to be accurate/inaccurate? I'm wondering whether it's true/was true at the time, or whether Adler's own experiences as a feminist witch led her into greater contact with other feminist witches and she drew her conclusions from that bias.

*For those not familiar with the book or who haven't read it in ages, Adler defines Witchcraft mainly as Wicca/Wiccish/NROOGD-type religion, generally coven-based and oriented around the worship of a single goddess and (but not always) god.

 
It might be a question of just what she means by "feminist" - I suspect she was thinking primarily of women who are activists for the feminist cause, rather than of all the many people who espouse a feminist worldview.  The latter were (and are) likely to be less visibly feminist in explictly-pagan contexts, because, while their feminism very likely informs their paganism (and vice-versa), they're probably not treating their paganism as a form of feminist activism.  That relative invisibility was even more pronounced back in the '70s and '80s when the Women's Spirituality movement was a major player in Pagandom.  Similarly, the high profile and vitality of the WS movement would tend to draw women who were particularly passionate about feminism, who might otherwise have chosen a different pagan religion/path.

She's clearly not just talking about the WS movement; she wasn't as much part of that as a lot of people think - she's a Gardnerian (and Unitarian Universalist).  But OTOH, Pagandom itself was, by and large, pretty Wiccish by today's standards - everybody and their familiar was borrowing from Wiccan structures, and many things that, in those days, were seen as definitely not Wicca, would nowadays be perceived as Wicca-derived/Wicca-inspired (including the nascent cultural-polytheism strands, that were beginning to reject the "Wicca with grapevines/horned helmets/knotwork/shamrocks/etc" approach and would eventually become reconstructionism).  So possibly one way to try to figure out just what she meant would be to look at what, elsewhere in the book, she's counting as "other neoPagan religions".

I suspect it's poor wording as much as anything.  Passionate feminists drawn to WS aren't necessarily not interested in other paths, they're just more interested in WS.  And there've always been feminists all over Pagandom - though neoPagan religious Witchcraft is the only strand, AFAIR, that developed a cohesive explicitly-feminist variant.  I think she's really talking about that, and about the way that the figure of the witch, as a symbol of feminine power and how it's feared in a patriarchal paradigm, tended to draw those who wanted their paganism to directly challenge those paradigms, rather than about an actual absence of feminists in other neoPagan religions.

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River at Night

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Re: Feminism and witchcraft
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2012, 05:16:19 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;81689
It might be a question of just what she means by "feminist" - I suspect she was thinking primarily of women who are activists for the feminist cause, rather than of all the many people who espouse a feminist worldview.  The latter were (and are) likely to be less visibly feminist in explictly-pagan contexts, because, while their feminism very likely informs their paganism (and vice-versa), they're probably not treating their paganism as a form of feminist activism.  That relative invisibility was even more pronounced back in the '70s and '80s when the Women's Spirituality movement was a major player in Pagandom.  Similarly, the high profile and vitality of the WS movement would tend to draw women who were particularly passionate about feminism, who might otherwise have chosen a different pagan religion/path.

 
This is a good point. She does bring up the WS movement during the chapter, and as Sage said, since the chapter wasn't updated from the 1979 version, Adler probably was talking about second wave feminists who (the visible ones, at least) seem to be Witches more often than otherwise. I hadn't really considered that she may have been focusing primarily on feminist activists in particular, but that does reflect the chapter pretty accurately.

I just thought it was interesting and wondered how much/if things had changed since then, for the most part.

Sage

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Re: Feminism and witchcraft
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2012, 08:14:43 am »
Quote from: River at Night;81726
This is a good point. She does bring up the WS movement during the chapter, and as Sage said, since the chapter wasn't updated from the 1979 version,


IIRC though, she left the actual chapter more or less intact and added a section at the end that was essentially "This is what I think now/these are my thoughts on how things have changed since then." I could actually find my own copy but it's allllll the way over on the other bookshelf...
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

-Canticle of Trials 1:10

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Friday Otherfaith Blogging: last updated 2/27
Join the Emboatening Crew over on Kiva! Emboatening the boatless since Opet 2013.

Nyktelios

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Re: Feminism and witchcraft
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2012, 09:54:39 pm »
Quote from: River at Night;81569
I'm re-reading Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon" and came across a statement that got me wondering about others' experiences. It's in the chapter about feminist witches, pages 213-214 of the 2006 ebook edition:

   "Women have strong positions in almost all the Neo-Pagan religions discussed in this book, not only Witchcraft.* This chapter concentrates on Witchcraft because most feminists do not seem to be interested in other Neo-Pagan religions."

I realize that she didn't edit this chapter the way she did the others, and maybe this was a true statement at the time of the original edition, but I personally have not found that to be the case. I've known plenty of feminists in other pagan traditions.

Has anyone found this statement to be accurate/inaccurate? I'm wondering whether it's true/was true at the time, or whether Adler's own experiences as a feminist witch led her into greater contact with other feminist witches and she drew her conclusions from that bias.

*For those not familiar with the book or who haven't read it in ages, Adler defines Witchcraft mainly as Wicca/Wiccish/NROOGD-type religion, generally coven-based and oriented around the worship of a single goddess and (but not always) god.


It may have been the case in the late '70s when the book was written when there were so few other pagan traditions. That said, she may have a point, considering how militantly patriarchal some of the source cultures of modern pagan religions are. I have come across feminists in other pagan religions, but in my experience they do tend to be less common than in witchcraft. I think any non-mainstream movement tends to attract more open-minded people (generally speaking), so I'm sure a lot of different types of pagans have feminist leanings.

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