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Please welcome guest blogger Kristen J. Sollee, founder of Slutist.com and author of Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive. This is part III in a IV series of excerpts from Kristen’s book. Read the last post on Which Suffragette Is Witch?.
Political Witch: Rebellion & Revolution
The idea of every woman as witch has its roots in the 19th century, but during the feminist explosion of the 1960s, the witch was revived and regaled as a potent symbol of feminist liberation. Just as the occult revival was permeating art and music, the witch —and the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell—was infiltrating politics.
Formed on Halloween in 1968, W.I.T.C.H. took guerrilla theater to the next level, drawing on fears of the wicked woman by fashioning themselves in her image. Dressed in Halloween-chic shifts and pointy black hats, and brandishing broomsticks with comedic air, W.I.T.C.H. members set their sights on capitalism and corporations as the engines driving sexism of the day. Some W.I.T.C.H.es would hex the New York Stock Exchange or don black veils to protest a bridal fair while chanting “Here come the slaves, off to their graves.” Others would fight back against office sexism at a telephone company, interrupt a Senate hearing on population control, or mail nail clippings and hair to a university that fired a radical feminist professor.
“Here come the slaves, off to their graves.”
By donning witch drag, W.I.T.C.H. lent the weight of history and mythology to their activism, and pushed witches into the national spotlight once more. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the witch’s prevalence in pop culture and politics would solidify her as a martyr mascot for the women’s movement. Writer Nora Ephron even invoked the witch in a 1972 article for Esquire when she analyzed the growing fractures within feminist leadership: “Betty [Friedan] as Wicked Witch of the West, Gloria [Steinem] as Ozma, Glinda, Dorothy, take your pick,” she wrote.
Although the original W.I.T.C.H. covens were short lived, their tradition survives in the 21st century, in new activist covens that have been announcing their presence as recently as the Women’s March.