The witch way! Bushwick writer explores feminism and occult accusations

The witch way! Bushwick writer explores feminism and occult accusations
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

This author is hex positive!

A Bushwick writer will spell out the historic connection between powerful women and accusations of broom-riding, spellcasting evil at a female-focused festival in Greenpoint this month. The author of “Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive,” will give a lecture titled “The History of Witch Feminism” on Dec. 10 as part of the Bust Craftacular, exploring how the term “witch” is used to vilify ambitious and successful women, and how the archetype can be used in the hunt for gender parity.

“The witch is an icon of both power and persecution, so it’s something to look at and say, ‘We’ve come this far, but there’s still a lot more to go,’ ” said Kristen Sollee. “She’s a beacon in black.”

In her book, released in June, Sollee explores the similarities between witch hunts of the past and present, and explains how the “witch” figure was both created and co-opted over time.

“It’s really the history of how the witch has been culturally inscribed as an icon of evil for the past 500 years,” said Sollee. “And also how the witch archetype has been harnessed by women and feminist folks since then.”

She wrote the book during the 2016 presidential election, when the reaction to Hillary Clinton exemplified the modern-day “witch hunts” that target women who dare to speak out against misogyny, Sollee said.

“I wanted to really address the rampant misogyny during the campaign and the return to misogynistic, puritanical, patriarchal values within the government in a really strong way,” she said. “It ties back into the same attitudes and behaviors that were prevalent during the witch hunts of the 1480s.”

Sollee became fascinated with witchcraft as a child, when her mother dabbled in the magical arts, and she incorporates elements of witchcraft into her own life, including paying attention to moon cycles and using oils, plants, and herbs as sources of empowerment. But women can reclaim the label without practicing magic, Sollee said — and so can men.

“We have to reclaim the witch as an icon of strength — a witch is for everyone,” she said. “And absolutely there are men who identify as witches, and non-binary folks, etcetera. I think reclaiming the witch as an archetype and as a symbol of strength only works for folks from oppressed groups, though.”

Sollee will be in starry company at her Sunday talk: writer Lindy West will present a lecture on “storytelling as activism” on Dec. 9, and actor and activist Amber Tamblyn will talk about “women and power.” The event will also include a craft fair and a musical festival featuring female-fronted bands Haybaby, New Myths, and Parrot Dream, among others.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcsh[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Curse the patriarchy: Kristen Sollee, standing in front of the altar in her Bushwick home, says that women can embrace the power of the witch archetype without practicing actual witchcraft.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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