How colourful and diverse politics has become! The Labour party appointed a transgender person, Munroe Bergdorf, as an adviser to the shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler. Ms Bergdorf met with criticism for some impolite remarks she made about “hairy lesbians” on social media. She resigned this week, citing “online abuse”. But we all say foolish things sometimes, so let that pass.
More significantly, Munroe Bergdorf has proclaimed that she practises witchcraft, enjoys full moon rituals and is a devotee of voodoo. She keeps “healing crystals” in her bedroom and apparently daubs herself in blood, holding a rubber unicorn’s head, for Hallowe’en. She embraces witchcraft because it is “female-centred”.
I have had some encounters with the witchcraft traditions within feminism, which were most instructive. This was the theological thinking behind what some called “goddess feminism”: the ancient deities were feminine because the fertility of the earth was worshipped. Women had power because they gave life, and men, for a long time, were not sure how this occurred. Menstrual blood was thus to be celebrated because it symbolised woman’s power to bring life into the world. This was why Indian women wear henna on their fingers and body: it’s a symbol of the potency of menstrual blood.
But according to witchcraft feminism, Judaeo-Christianity turned these values upside-down, invented patriarchy and made menstruation a matter of taboo. The witch-feminist was especially hostile to Judaism for its attitude towards menstruation as “unclean”, and introducing a time of “cleansing” post-menstruation.
All this is frightfully interesting, from an anthropological viewpoint, and the female figurines featured in the new BBC production of Civilisations attest to the early veneration of fertility.
However, I also came to see that witchcraft could be destructive and backward with its malign ideas that infants could be “changelings” swapped by evil spirits and that spells could be cast upon people because they were “unlucky”. Witchcraft is no laughing matter in Africa or Brazil, either.
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