The Reclamation of Witchcraft and Women’s CirclesJan 15, 2023
Circles have served as powerful metaphors and ceremonial constructs since the dawn of humankind. They are potent symbols for eternity, wholeness, transformation, and the cyclical nature of life. By nature, circles link people together for a common cause. From the rings exchanged at wedding ceremonies to gatherings around a campfire, circles represent unity. For thousands of years, people would come together for storytelling, honoring gods & goddesses, feasting, celebrating, planning, and so much more.
Circles have also been linked to the divine feminine as they represent pregnancy, seasons, life-force, and the moon. This was respected and revered in many ancient cultures. Women would come together in sacred circles to honor their menstrual cycles and lunar phases. Ann Landaas Smith, founder and director of Circle Connections said “Ladies-only circles, too, have been taking place for ages, all around the world. Many were directly tied to menstruation and the moon cycles. There are menstrual hut and moon lodge traditions all over the world that date back to 800 CE and in some places are still practiced today,” says Smith. “The red tent [menstrual tradition] and moon lodges grew in popularity as a sacred space for women and girls to affirm their spirituality and sexuality”, she continues.
Unfortunately, as colonization and the patriarchy took over, many of these traditions were lost. Women’s gifts were no longer valued the same way, and sacred circles of medicine chants, healing arts, and deep contemplations were reduced to gossip, competition, and small talk. Female leaders, healers, and spiritualists were persecuted all over the world. With the rise of witch trials in the west, women lost themselves to fear and conformity. The way of the feminine was amiss, and it is only in recent years that reclamation has started to take place.
The word “witch” is derived from the Old English word wiċċa (male) or wiċċe (female). The most common definition of this word is ‘one who is believed to have magical power (especially a woman) ’. However, it actually comes from the Scots-English meaning for ‘wise people’. Though there is trauma, wounding, and pain around the word ‘witch’, many women are beginning to reclaim it as a symbol of feminine wisdom, strength, power, and rebellion. Finally, we are beginning to sit in ceremony once more so we can honor the magic of the feminine, and the cycles and seasons of life.
Sitting with sisters in a sacred circle is an act of remembrance. We don’t just remember the old ways and traditions, but also who we are. We hold the power of the divine feminine within us - the creative force that gifts us with life itself (whether that’s a child, garden, business, or project). We are deeply connected nature’s cycles and seasons. We each possess unique gifts, talents, and knowledge that enrich the world, and unite us together for a common cause.
Sitting in a sacred circle is the vehicle through which we return home to ourselves, as our sisters mirror us back to ourselves when we lose our way.