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‘My Inherent Feminine Wisdom’: Witchcraft and Academic Feminism

Posted on | October 10, 2016 | 2 Comments

“When I was a little girl, I instinctively knew that I was a Witch, without at the time identifying with this special word or know all that it entailed. … Like all children I was closely connected to the magical side of my nature. Later, as an adolescent, I began to realize that this intuitive, and quite potent, side of me was being slowly eroded by a world that discouraged feminine values, but gave special consideration to masculine priorities. Living in an environment so tacitly hostile to what I knew at heart was my inherent feminine wisdom only fueled my desire to cling to it. I turned to Witchcraft . . . in an attempt to give voice and context to abilities I did not want to be forced to give up.”
Laurie Cabot, The Witch in Every Woman: Reawakening the Magical Nature of the Feminine to Heal, Protect, Create, and Empower (1997)

In 1977, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis named Laurie Cabot the “Official Witch of Salem.” For four decades. Ms. Cabot (neé Mercedes Elizabeth Kearsey, born in Oklahoma in 1933), operated a witchcraft shop in Salem, and the Boston Globe reported that she “has taught witchcraft at Salem State College, Wellesley College, and Harvard.” She now presides as high priestess of the Cabot-Kent Hermetic Temple, “the first federally recognized Temple of Witchcraft in the history of Salem,” having been granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status by the Internal Revenue Service in 2010. (This was about the same time the IRS was deliberately harassing Tea Party groups, so that according to Obama’s IRS, the official rule seems to be “patriotism = bad, witchcraft = good.”)

‘Daughters of the Goddess’ author Wendy Griffin.

The belief that witchcraft represents “inherent feminine wisdom,” so that its practitioners are in demand as teachers at major universities, has been widely promoted by feminists. Professor Wendy Griffin taught for 26 years the Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at California State University-Long Beach. Professor Griffin’s “research examines the religious construction of gender, particularly as traditional representations are challenged in contemporary feminist Witchcraft and Goddess Spirituality.” Professor Griffin edited the 1999 anthology Daughters of the Goddess: Studies of Healing, Identity and Empowerment, in which she declared that devotees of neo-pagan witchcraft “are women involved in a new naming of reality”:

Healing the split between mind and body, feminist and Pagan, sexuality and spirituality, nature and human, and ancient and contemporary understandings of the Numinous is seen as healing the wounds believed to be inflicted by patriarchy. . .
“With each woman, each ritual today, Goddess spirituality contributes to the new reality that is taking form.

Professor Griffin’s 1995 article, “The Embodied Goddess: Feminist Witchcraft and Female Divinity” (included in the 2001 anthology Gender and Witchcraft), describes the connection between the feminist movement and the revival of witchcraft:

In November of 1971, Mary Daly led “hundreds” on an “Exodus from patriarchal religion” . . . by walking out at the conclusion of a sermon she delivered in the Harvard Memorial Church. A few months later, in 1972 in Los Angeles, the first coven of feminist witches which practiced “the Craft” as a religion began to meet under the guidance of Zsuzsanna Budapest. Within a few years, these witches were gathering with several hundred women in the mountains to celebrate their visions of female divinity in religious rituals.

Professor Griffin’s article is “based on four years of research which began when one of my students invited me to attend a religious ritual organized by her coven of feminist witches,” and she describes this group under the name “Coven of the Redwood Moon”:

Of the seven women who were members of the Coven of the Redwood Moon during the study, one was Chicana and another African American. . . .
Most of Redwood Moon’s witches did not attend or had not finished college and had working class jobs. In addition, the majority of the coven members tended to be lesbian, bisexual, or celibate. Only one was in a heterosexual marriage and none of them had children at home. . . .
Circle of the Redwood Moon is a radical feminist coven, and members are trained through reading assignments and discussions to do a radical feminist analysis of gender and power. Called “Dianics,” after the Roman Goddess Diana . . . They differ from most other neopagans in their feminist analysis, political activism, and in that most of them acknowledge only an autonomous female principal and reject the concept of a male divinity.

This is the kind of scholarship Women’s Studies produces — a university professor spending four years in a “radical feminist coven,” combining “analysis of gender and power” and “political activism” with neopagan beliefs, while celebrating “female divinity in religious rituals.” Professor Griffin interprets feminist witchcraft rituals as providing a “a celebratory vision of female power . . . rooted in strength and self-knowledge.” These rituals serve to “not only liberate female sexuality from concepts of sin, but actually celebrate the erotic,” in contrast to what Profess Griffin calls the “patriarchal religious oppression experienced by women.”

Some may dismiss this stuff as absurd, but Professor Griffin has a Ph.D., a pension from Cal State-Long Beach and is now Academic Dean at Cherry Hill Seminary, a 501(c)3 nonprofit which claims to be “the leading provider of education and practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and Nature-Based spiritualities.” Professor Griffin teaches a course there called “Voices of Gaia”:

If Gaia could speak, what would she be telling us? As Pagans, it could be argued that we have a unique bond with Her, with the anima mundi, the spirits of place, the wind, water, fire and air.

Witchcraft is treated as a legitimate subject by academic feminists. Women’s Studies professors Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee explain in their textbook Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions:

In the early twenty-first century, many women participate in revivals of ancient woman-centered religions. . . Wicca, or witchcraft . . . is a Goddess- and nature-oriented religion whose origins predate both Judaism and Christianity. Current Wiccan practice involves the celebration of the feminine, connection with nature, and the practice of healing. As Wiccan practitioner Starhawk suggests, witchcraft encourages women to be strong, confident, independent and to love the Goddess, the earth, and other human beings.

In a 2015 column for the Guardian, feminist Sady Doyle explained how young women use witchcraft as a “way to express feminist ambitions”:

Witchcraft — and the embrace of “magical” practices, like reading tarot cards — has recently experienced a resurgence of sorts among young, creative, politically engaged women. . . .
“To reclaim the word witch is to reclaim our right, as women, to be powerful,” wrote Starhawk, in her seminal 1979 book The Spiral Dance. “To be a witch is to identify with 9 million victims of bigotry and hatred and to take responsibility for shaping a world in which prejudice claims no more victims.”
Today, The Spiral Dance is in its third edition, and has sold over 300,000 copies. It is many people’s first introduction to Wicca, the earth-based spiritual movement that was created in the 1950s and has come to be a recognized religion around the world. It is also one of the most well known and comprehensive texts from a very particular moment in feminist history which until recently was largely unfashionable: the “women’s spirituality” movement, in which women radically rewrote existing religions, or simply made their own to be in line with the goals of women’s liberation.


Laurie Cabot, the Official Witch of Salem, is certainly supportive of “the goals of women’s liberation.” In her book The Witch in Every Woman, Cabot celebrates the “extraordinary power” of women’s sexuality:

What role does sex play in a woman’s life? A woman’s entire existence is sexual, her every move a sexual expression. . . . When it comes to sex, a modern woman must say to herself, “I am the Divine Goddess,” and “I am Sovereign.” Sex should come on her own terms and initiative. Sexuality is power, but female sexuality is extraordinary power.

Cabot goes on to explain that “we harbor many false ideas about women and sexuality . . . that are particularly devastating for women.” She writes of the “disparaging cultural attitudes” about sex and women, arguing that “we need to revamp our laws concerning marriage, divorce and the family in favor of a woman’s position,” thus to remove “the obstacles posed by a patriarchal society.” Cabot, who worked as a nightclub dancer in the 1950s and was divorced twice, trained her two daughters as witches.

“Jody Cabot, daughter of Salem’s Official Witch Laurie Cabot, was raised from birth as a psychic and Witch. She uses the ancient arts of Witchcraft as a metaphysical science.”

Her “metaphysical science” did not predict this 2009 event:

The daughter of Salem’s “official witch” is wanted on a warrant after defaulting in a court case in which she’s accused of stealing money from her mother, the Salem News reports.
Jody Cabot, 49, the daughter of Laurie Cabot, was supposed to appear in Salem District Court Sept. 21 for a status hearing in her case, which involves charges of larceny and forgery dating to 2007.

More background on that case:

Laurie Cabot had gone to police after learning that her daughter had deposited a $3,750 check drawn on her mother’s account and purported to have been signed by her. Laurie Cabot said she never signed any check to her daughter and added that she had been forced to deal with similar incidents in the past, according to a police report.
By the time Laurie Cabot’s bank rejected the check as forged, Jody Cabot had allegedly made $3,200 worth of purchases from Target’s Web site with the money, according to a police report.

Greed, you say? Well, back in 1997, there were such allegations in Salem:

Maria Guerriero, a Salem Wiccan high priestess, said she and [Laurie] Cabot had a falling-out over Cabot’s treatment of other witches who were trying to start businesses.
Cabot’s emphasis on commercial gain has created a competitive environment; and witches and pagans are having trouble separating business from spirituality, Guerriero said.
“Spirituality is something that can’t be sold,” she told the newspaper last week. “It’s like a witch war out here.” . . .
Janet Andrews of Wenham alleges that Cabot threatened to shoot her after Andrews tried to kick her out of her house in May. And Andrews plans to ask an Ipswich District Court judge next week to extend a restraining order against Cabot. . . .
Cabot also failed to file state income tax returns from 1991 through 1995, the newspaper reported.

Laurie Cabot’s “inherent feminine wisdom” might have gotten her a few college teaching gigs, but it didn’t help with local police in 2004:

While two officers were carrying out a court order . . . an angry Cabot put a hex on Sgt. James Walker, a patrol supervisor.
“Look me in the eyes,” Cabot said, according to police. “You are cursed for life.” Cabot then tried to place the same curse on Patrolman Timothy Salvo, police said, but he wouldn’t look her in the eyes.
“He’s a more veteran officer,” said Police Chief Robert St. Pierre.
Cabot did, however, place a general curse on all the law enforcement officers who came to her Essex Street apartment, a group that included two Essex County deputy sheriffs. “The rest of you are cursed, too,” she said.
Although Salem police have been cussed before, this is believed to be the first time they were cursed. No charges were filed against Cabot.
When contacted yesterday, Cabot did not deny the incident. She said she did it to protect a grandson who was being returned by court order to the custody of his father.

So, as Halloween approaches, you may wonder, “What’s up in Salem?”

Join Salem’s Official Witch, Laurie Cabot, as you learn to communicate with loved ones on the Other Side! High Priestess and Founder of the Cabot Tradition of Witchcraft, Laurie will guide you through the Other World help you to communicate with loved ones who have passed on.
Laurie will lecture on the Cabot Tradition concept of the Other World, sometimes called Summerland or Avalon. If you have been wondering, and maybe fearing, what happens to us when we die, this workshop is for you. Laurie will talk about passing on and what happens afterwards from a Witch’s perspective. This workshop is very reassuring for those who are frightened by death. When people learn about dying and what comes afterwards, and even communicate with loved ones who have undergone this process, people are much more accepting that that’s what we all do. Yes; you will die someday. Learn what Witches have always known about this inevitable process, and help to allay your fears of life’s greatest transition.
Using her psychic gifts, Laurie will demonstrate communication with the other side and help people to learn to communicate with and sense their own loved ones in spirit. Please bring something that belonged to someone who has passed on to strengthen the connection.

Yes, talking to the dead! Communicate with “the Other World” — and it will only cost you $75! Pardon my “disparaging cultural attitudes,” but isn’t this just a bunch of superstitious nonsense? Necromancy, astrology, tarot, global warming, multiculturalism, Keynesian economics . . .

OK, so maybe witchcraft isn’t the craziest thing feminists believe in.







2 Responses to “‘My Inherent Feminine Wisdom’: Witchcraft and Academic Feminism”

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    October 15th, 2016 @ 1:34 am

    […] Oct. 10: ‘My Inherent Feminine Wisdom’: Witchcraft and Academic Feminism […]

  2. News of the News (October 16th, 2016) | The Political Hat
    October 16th, 2016 @ 1:13 pm

    […] “My Inherent Feminine Wisdom”: Witchcraft and Academic Feminism In 1977, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis named Laurie Cabot the “Official Witch of Salem.” […]