The correlation of the feminine with nature, repressive for so long, can be a source of power.
In the last few months I have started to take root. It's a cliché, but it's literally what I'm doing. I spent the weekends turning tired old lawns into planting beds, piling up wood chips, straw and horse poop that I have collected from the meadows next door to make a rich soil to grow my lettuce and cabbage. curly. I've always loved gardening, but now more than ever, working with the soil has taken on an element of the spiritual.
As a teenager, like many white girls in the suburbs, I got into Wicca, that gentle nature-centered neo-pagan religion, loved by would-be witches around the world. Much later, in my early 20s, I revisited witchcraft, finding an unstructured feminine spirituality that helped me make sense of the world.
Like many other young women, I loved the joy of astrology and tarot, but what attracted me the most was the sense of communion with the natural world. Now, at a point of genuine global climate crisis, I am beginning to see how valuable nurturing that connection can be.
Women have always been associated with nature, usually to our detriment. A persistent and infuriating thorn in the side of feminism has been the persistent belief that women are inherently closer to the physical world, and to our animal bodies, than to men, who disqualify us from our right to further intellectual or cultural activities. of home.
Simone de Beauvoir wrote about it when she described women as "more enslaved to the species than to the male" thanks to the embodied reality of human reproduction; Anthropologist Sherry B Ortner wrote in 1974 that associating women with nature easily allows us to subjugate half the world's population, while confidently asserting that it is simply the natural way of things.
Everything is rubbish, of course; as Ortner put it, all humans have a physical body and a non-physical sense of mind. And we certainly cannot be limited by something as ephemeral as gender.
But I believe that this correlation of women with nature, which has been oppressive and restrictive for so long, can now be a source of power and unity for women concerned, as we all must be, about the future of our natural environment.
My favorite way to think of the witch is as a woman who draws strength from what she should subdue. When you think about it this way, a group of earth witches emerge among the women of Australian agriculture. Much of what we associate with the figure of the witch has to do with the knowledge that women have of the natural world: plants to eat and heal, solstices to plant and harvest, cycles of the world to establish the cycles of the home.
When I participate in the mulch to plant seedlings, or when I look for blackberries and wild brassica while I am walking the dog, I feel a connection to all the women who plant, cultivate and feed that have come before me.
And while many of the farmers I've spoken to would probably resist the idea of identifying themselves as a witch, the term draws on a long line of knowledge of women on earth.
Women in agriculture seem like the most logical heirs
Regenerative agriculture is a radical new approach that privileges soil health and holistic agriculture. In Australia, many more women participate in regenerative agricultural practices than in traditional agriculture, which is still dominated by men.
It may be tempting to attribute this indisputably to the notion that women are inherently more in tune with nature, but that is neither accurate nor helpful. The reality is that many women farmers take on the role of childcare and food preparation excessively, and this is what makes them experts in their field. They see the connections between land and food and human health. Living those connections feels like the most conscious, everyday kind of witchcraft.
It's easy to dismiss this kind of thinking as kumbaya nonsense, but that's in part because the drive is so ingrained in us to devalue all things feminine - in this case, something as objectively neutral and undeniably necessary as Earth. where we are.
For a long time, just as we have associated women with nature, we have encoded nature as feminine and, as we have done with all other things encoded as feminine, we have degraded, exploited and subdued it.
But taking the place of the witch - someone who values the feminine and defiantly claims the knowledge and power of the physical and the natural - shows how to completely reimagine our relationship with Earth and hopefully make changes to build. a better future.
• Sam George-Allen is the author of Witches: What Women Do Together