Posts tagged witches
“There is a tradition of linguistic purism in Icelandic, and neologisms are frequently created from pre-existing words. Tölva (“computer”) is a portmanteau of tala (“digit; number”) and völva (“oracle or seeress”).”
Anonymous asked: Do you have some recommendations for like, five or so non-fiction books that you consider to be seminal? Maybe a sentence or two about each of them. Thank you.
idk what seminal means in this context? like seminal for leftist theory? I don’t know if I necessarily believe that reading “foundational” works is more helpful than reading later, descendent works; also I’ve probably been influenced more by excerpts, conversations, essays, and fiction than by actual non-fiction/theory books I’ve read cover to cover, I read a lot more fiction than anything else
having said that, off the top of my head, the five non-fiction books that have influenced me the most could be:
caliban and the witch by silvia federici. federici argues that witch-hunts are part of the process of alienating women’s labour under capitalism, and that we see them when societies are in the (inevitably violent) transition to capitalism, e.g mid-millenium Europe, the colonisation of the Americas, much of sub-saharan africa today.
the color of violence edited by the INCITE! collective, which is a series of great, awesome, nuanced essays about the theory and practice of ending violence against women of colour. it talks a lot about the collusion of white feminisms with racist state institutions and the limits of state-based strategies aimed at ending violence against women. it’s incredibly important reading for anybody who is interested in theorising the state.
this bridge called my back edited by cherríe moraga and gloria anzaldúa, an actually-foundational text in intersectional/women of colour-centred feminism, sadly out of print but you can download most chapters at the link.
the history of sexuality vol. 1 by michel foucault, which was really important to me in clarifying the reasons for my discomfort with the centrality of confessional narratives to a lot of feminist discourses (i.e. that there’s not enough acknowledgement that the confession shapes, rather than simply describes, subjectivities, and that the demand to confess is a form of domination)
the making of the english working class by e.p. thompson, which is another book about the early stages of the rise of capitalism, very detailed, full of interesting stories. this one didn’t have a single unified takeaway message for me like the others, and it’s interesting partly because of that. it goes into so much detail, shows that there were a lot of revolutionary platforms in the past that are strikingly different to what we see today, that there were a lot of ways things could have gone and we should remember that because otherwise we forget that history is contingent, and get trapped in unexamined ideas of what the world is like.
you can download all of those at the links above, except The Color of Violence, which I kind of want you to buy.
In this episode of Sabrina, her class goes to Salem to do witch trial reenactments and the whole thing is really traumatic for her as an actual witch, especially when she has to read descriptions of historical “witches” being murdered and tortured. It’s complicated on a lot of levels. Like, roleplay-type social studies lessons are almost always useless. The teachers who force kids to “experience” what it was really like for “historical actors” in this really meaningless, superficial way pretty much always assume that no student has any personal stake in that history and they’re almost always wrong. I know the Salem Witch Trials are a really weak example, but forcing girls, students of color, disabled kids, etc. (or in this case, lol, witches) to “experience” what it “felt like” to be persecuted as women, people of color, or disabled people is at best pedagogically useless and at worst totally freaking damaging and unsafe.
You might have heard about the elementary teacher who made a black student participate in a slave auction role play. My eighth grade history teacher made students carry all their books around the track in order to simulate the Trail of Tears. Aside from being, again, completely useless in teaching anything, it’s completely demeaning to actual struggles and experienced violence and, like, could be triggering and upsetting to some kids.
Anyway, it’s stupid but this episode really unsettled me!
I’m so into your Sabrina the Teenage Witch blogging, it’s probably my favourite teen show. this is one of the most interesting episodes. I just really love the framing of “imagine if you were really a witch!” “lolsob”. Sabrina, of course, can’t reveal to any of her classmates that she’s a witch, or explain why she’s so upset.
SPOILERS OR WHATEVER: The task is that the teachers give the students cards with “villager” or “witch” on them and tell them that they can’t tell anyone what their card says because it would ruin the exercise. Sabrina shoves hers into her bag without looking at it. The other students become convinced that she is the “witch” and get really caught up in the roleplay of the witch-hunt in a way that upsets her greatly. She tries to find her card to prove her innocence but she can’t. At the end of the day, the teachers reveal that all the cards said villager; it’s a powerful lesson about rumour-mongering! Sabrina finally finds her card; it says “witch.”
If you’ve ever had to pretend that a hypothetical doesn’t describe your life exactly, or have aspects of your identity acknowledged only as malicious lies that can be told about someone, how terrible, you can relate to Sabrina here. It’s honest-to-god dark.
western cosmic shit in the southern hemisphere
I think reading a lot of woo-woo pagan-type books as a kid (we had a lot around, my parents are ex-hippies) and getting really into them and then always having to be like “…nah” when they would talk about the mystical symbolism of the flooding rains of February or whatever is a big factor in my “pfft, what is nature, what is its transcendence, all nature is culture” approach to the natural environment
like I’m obviously not saying a felt connection between the natural environment and your spirituality is necessarily colonial, but it’s inarguably the case that the way a lot of white pagans operate is Eurocentric
also in my super-limited understanding the way Indigenous peoples tend to conceptualise the natural environment is much less invested in the nature-culture binary, a conceptualisation that is often misrepresented as some kind of strong Indigenous connection with a transcendent Nature, or closeness to Nature… when it’s actually more like a lack of investment in ideas of transcendent nature that is tainted by and separate from rather than constitutive of humanity. Not because all Indigenous people can be lumped together, but because that whole Romantic Wilderness thing is a triple-A grade Western Enlightenment mentality thing