la noche de las brujas

The past decades have witnessed a rediscovery of the witchcraft tradition. Feminist historians have heard, and given voice to, the cries of women whose torture and deaths are recorded in Malleus Maleficarum (1484). Elizabeth Johnson's She Who Is offers a liturgy of remembrance for the victims of these medieval witch hunts.

Feminist spiritualities, nurtured by women such as Starhawk, have reconnected with pre-Christian pagan roots: honouring goddesses, forming covenants of support, dancing peace through the earth. Feminist Christian theologies have been enriched by such developments, particularly in the development of ecofeminist theology, the rise of Celtic spirituality, and the reappraisal of judgments against independent women and witches in the Bible.

What I appreciate about this re-entrance of the witch into Christian theology is that the witch is representative of all the dominant tradition fears: bodily cycles; heresy; independent, ageing and wise women; uncontrolled spiritualities; alternative communities and commitment; "deviant" sexuality. The New York's Village Halloween Parade* is a celebration of all that breaks through our morality and norms in queer, over-the-top abundance; fairies, witches, hags, fags and queens.

Once again tonight, the Con-spirando collective in Santiago de Chile will be celebrating la noche de las brujas with remembrance, resistance and a gran fiesta.

Ivone Gebara notes:
Witches and sorcerers are today symbols of resistance against a hegemonic and hierarchical system that impedes the proliferation of creative alternatives beyond money and competition. (Gebara 2002: 53)


Witches, she suggests, were not agents of death but defenders of life, practitioners of traditional herbal medicine, midwives, and carers of strays. While the discourse of the patriarchal church spoke of women's weakness and thus vulnerability to evil temptations, it was actually these women's alternative strength that threated, and continues to threaten, the powers-that-be.

Gebara celebrates that today there are still women (and men) who believe in alternative spiritual forces, in other ways of relating and trading that are not violent, competitive or destructive:
They are the heirs of those witches of the past who, with force and tenacity, saved many lives...The witches and sorcerers of the past live in a certain way in each of us, and they invite us to be in communion with nature and to the necessity of changing our behaviour in order to save life itself...¡vivan las brujas y hechiceras, amantes de la vida! (Gebara 2002:59-60)


Ivone Gebara (2002) "Brujas y hechiceras" in La sed de sentido Búsquedas ecofeministas en prose poética Montevideo: Doble Clic Editoras, pp. 53-60.

*to which, I confess, I did not go while living in NYC. I was not yet aware of the creative, defiant potential of this night, distracted by the commercialized, trick or treated, orange-plastic import that has swept across Britain, suffocating more ancient rituals and recordances.

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