Journeying with the Witches: Disrupting the Stasis
The last month of this year has been quite ecstatic for me, for I have had a series of intense encounters with creative women, who seem to be undeniably unleashing magical energies, as each strives to challenge and transform the world.
It is extremely difficult to describe let alone work with such energies…
The initial set of adjectives failed to discern the energy that I sensed and experienced in these women. It took me a couple of weeks to realize that the lens used by me were typically ‘masculine’ — I would be desperately clinging on to text/adjectives such as ‘change agents’, ‘warriors’ and ‘strategic thinkers’ — none of these really captured the essence of these women. Worse still, I seem to be editing out their feminine quintessence by resorting to signifying and attributing masculine traits of power, courage, and dynamic action. Clearly this process was more akin to a cleansing as opposed to engaging with the experience.
This led me back to the magical world of Jungian Archetypes…
It was Jung who introduced the notion of Archetypes — terming these as foundational forces that flow throughout the universe or the collective unconscious and which manifest in all of us. As bundles of energy, the archetypes are also nonrational, and quite primal — quite different from the constructs and frameworks currently used to map people — the latter become easy to define, describe, but also end up containing if not labelling the person or the phenomena.
My musings and my experiences led me to the mysterious archetype of the Witch, and this blog celebrates the Witch within.
Theme 1: The Witch as the Edge Dweller
To begin with, the witch is the edge dweller — far away from the socialized world of do’s and must’s. It thus becomes important to paint the many facets of the context first before engaging with the witch.
In today’s context where India and many parts of the world are embedded in a capitalistic world where the markets seductively open their doors and wares to the homo-economicus, enthralling the latter’s self-esteem and perhaps fragile self-worth, the witch resists!
This resistance often takes the form of a deeper connection with nature, and this anchorage to being the edge-dweller, is not to be taken literally alone — symbolically, the edge or the fringe stands for the divide between the socialised self and the wildly ‘feminine’/ primal self. This edge often becomes the playground of rebelling against the worldly ways, going beyond the objective positivists constructs of reality, and portals into an unseen and unacknowledged world that only haunts us in our dreams.
The Witch often becomes the guardian as well as the gatekeeper of this edge — unscrupulously ‘hexing’ and damning the unprepared loafer, and generously offering ‘strange’ gifts to the authentic seeker; for example the Baba Yaga is the monstrous child eater as well as the enigmatic mother.
As an archetype in us, I found the story of Julia Hill as extremely poignant and evocative about the energies of the Witch as it fights the civilized world:
Tale 1: The Tale of Julia Lorraine Hill
Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill was an environmentalist who in 1997, decided to live on 180-feet platform above the ground, on a redwood tree for more than 2 years (738 days) to prevent loggers from Pacific Lumber Company from cutting down trees more than 1500 years old. This decision to live on ‘Luna’ the tree emerged out of a traumatic and near fatal car crash because of a drunken driver, and where she took a year of intensive healing to regain the ability to talk and walk. I quote her words:
“As I recovered, I realized that my whole life had been out of balance … I had graduated high school at 16, and had been working nonstop since then, first as a waitress, then as a restaurant manager. I had been obsessed by my career, success, and material things. The crash woke me up to the importance of the moment, and doing whatever I could to make a positive impact on the future. The steering wheel in my head, both figuratively and literally, steered me in a new direction in my life.”
Having written many books, Hill was arrested in 2002 in Ecuador while protesting a proposed oil pipe-line passing through a virgin forest of rare birds. While she was released and deported many days later, the President G Noboa had commented — “The little gringos have been arrested including the ‘old cockatoo’ who climbs trees”.
Julia carries on to be an activist till date.
Theme 2: The Witch as the Shamanic Healer
Healing is the core of the this archetype, where the witch is seen to be as the one who crafts spells and potions that heal not just the body and the mind, but also the soul. The Witch unlike the Magician (another Jungian archetype) has access to more primal and natural resources — her potions and her spells and her charms appear to be more intuitive and mysterious as opposed to the engineered and structured solutions the Magician offers.
The witch is the shaman for she offers ‘wild’ healing from the ‘green’ world. In her blog ‘keepingherkeys.com’, Dr. Cyndi Brannen, a psychologist and a teacher, speaks of witchcraft medicine that is ‘wild medicine — uncontrollable, suppresses the ruling order, it is an anarchy, and scares people.’
The Green Knight — a tale of Sir Gawain adapted from a 14th century poem, is perhaps an excellent resource to work with wild healing from witchcraft as an theme.
Tale 2: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Green Knight, a beautiful film released this year in July — and a must see for movie fans, speaks of the witches led by Morgan Le Fey, who create, through magical rituals, the spells to summon the Green Knight into the court of King Arthur. The Green Knight is a monstrous and mysterious tree like entity, who in turn triggers a transformational journey for a lost, pitiful, and cowardly beast of the protagonist– Sir Gawain, and in many ways ends it.
Sir Gawain is Le Fey’s profligate son, and King Arthur’s nephew — used to a life of wealth, status, arrogance, and whoring, and worse still without any vestiges of courage. It is Le Fay and the witches that offer a ‘potential’ yet anarchic cure — which is violent, disruptive, and provocative. The film is brilliant and extremely poignant as it takes the viewer deeper into the ethereal world of masculine and feminine energies, where these conflict and conflate.
Theme 3: The Witch versus the masculine forces that structure and constrain us
The witch is an extremely popular symbol today and perhaps more so, as the facet of anima that fuels the wild green world, nature, and environment, and that is threatened by the Magician — another archetype that represents the dynamic masculine forces of science and technology .
In most myths and the offerings of Netflix, the masculine magician seek to control if not dismember the witch, and it is this struggle that humanity witnesses today — on the fronts of sustainability, climate, environment etc.
Let me offer the story of Rajkranti — a woman I recently encountered in rural Bihar, living a few miles west of Patna, the State capital.
Tale 3: The Narrative of Rajkranti
Rajkranti, borne to a poor family, was married off at an early age — while she was extremely fond of education, she could not study beyond high school. Marriage led to children, and as a young mother she soon realised that she could hardly afford minimal schooling for her children. The school for example demanded a capitation fee — a one-time princely sum of Rs. 20,000 (USD 275) for the admission of her first son, sums of money which she did not have.
All Rajkrantii had was perhaps a hectare of land. Her husband was employed with a firm that led to a hand to mouth living. Rajkranti did some very interesting things in the last 18 months.
· She begged her father-in-law to dig up a large and deep pit on one part of the land, and which was subsequently filled up with water. The pit or the pond was now used for breeding and rearing of fish. She claims that YouTube videos offered her this insight, as the nascent pisciculture became a success and offered her significant money.
· Rajkranti soon realised that it was useful to also invest into poultry farming, a kind of backward integration for the shit of the birds was useful to feed the fish and cut her running costs. Over 9 months, an initial investment into 6–8 chicken transformed into setting up large sheds, with hundreds of roosters and hens. Business was roaring. She again claims that she learnt how to make the chicken-sheds or the feed from YouTube videos. The local experts state that her sheds are cleanest and well maintained.
· In the past 6 months, she has enlarged her poultry offerings and included the rearing of Ducks and Quails.
· Soon she was able to persuade her husband to leave his employer and become a partner in a business. Of course this meant fighting against caste and class accusations.
· She attracted media and dedicated her site as a model site for others to learn from, to emulate, and to revolutionize a way of life.
Classical lens of looking at Rajkranti’s immense success would have been through the lens of entrepreneurism, stressing on her competencies of opportunism, innovation, and tenacity. Integrated backyard poultry and fishing projects are being tried in most parts of this country, but success stories have been few and far.
But when I met Rajkranti, I sensed an inner glow that radiated within her — this went beyond material success she was enjoying. This was the ‘shine’ of a woman, who had discovered an inner freedom as she intuitively listened to the witch inside, unmindful of the constraints around her.
Rajkranti was not the opportunist entrepreneur but the instinctual witch who seemed to be in touch with nature and its offerings. I did not hear her much on business numbers, yields, processes, business logic, market attractiveness, strategy et al — I heard her speak of her battle against a society that sought to imprison her with status, cast and social identity and how she yearned to break free.
Theme 4: The Witch and Misogyny / Toxic Masculinity
As a man, with my own struggles with patriarchy and hypermasculinity, I often wonder how can misogyny be really battled with if not defeated outright. I sense that misogyny can’t be fought on an equal footing — a she warrior vis-à-vis a male warrior. My hopes lie in the power of the witch archetype.
The witch as an archetypal energy represents a feminine force that remains mysterious and primal — an anima that cannot be controlled nor subjugated by masculinity. The greater the emphasis on control of the feminine by the misogynists and patriarchs, the more disruptive and intense is the latter.
The hope lies in the Witch (anima) connecting to the primal Animus / male force — that completes the witch or makes her a whole… it is this purusha-prakarti (masculine-feminine) dance that my hopes lie in.
Journeying with the Witches
Over the years, I have been working on several masculine archetypes in my consulting. Largely catering to corporate clients, I end up reinforcing classical masculine leadership archetypes of Kings, Warriors, Magicians and Lovers through narrative structures and ‘heroic’ journeys.
But the last few weeks has also meant encountering the witches — within Others, and even Self — an experience of freedom, and an impetus in facing inner fears as well as healing. It does mean denying the warrior within, and perhaps thriving on the Fool inside — but all this to no avail unless I surrender to this aspect of dynamic feminine.
2021 ends for me but it also marks a different awareness inside for me, and I wish similar journeys and thresholds to each of you.
The trigger for writing this blog is my cousin-sister, who is based thousands of miles away in the heartland of Switzerland, and who makes me believe in my own blogging.
Happy new year! And here is to 2022!!
The EUM Lens and the Witch
This section is devoted to the EUM Community.
How would you fathom the nature of archetypal energies of the Witch that energize a person through her or his EUM profile.
My sensing is that the Witch archetype can be gleaned through — Low UBP, High USD, Low UBP, Low UPA, and high UDS, I am unable to come to a stance vis-à-vis UMI scores.
Based on my recent dialogue with an old classmate and now a friend on her EUM profile, I feel that UMI would govern the nature of healing proffered by the Witch. A high USD with low UMI would indicate a more selfish and manipulative witch and a high USD and high UMI may mean more Shamanic witch.
What do you say?