I Calls It Like I Sees It (Heads up: This one gets graphic)

The Bad Witch loves a good metaphor as much as the next literati, but only if it is a good metaphor. Metaphors that don’t see themselves through indicate either a lack of insight into the issue at hand or a speaker who just likes to hear themselves talk – and sometimes a level of rhetorical mendaciousness: an attempt to draw a connection between “what is true” and “what I’d like you to believe was true.” All of which piss me off. [1]

Some of my favorite things are parable and parody (well-done only, thank you). As a matter of fact, I sat with a writer friend who had been imitated in print and, therefore, imitated the imitator. It was all very post-postmod, the definition of which – heck, the existence of which – we cannot agree. We were discussing the cathartic nature of mimetic writing, something I intend to try out the next time I get feisty. Representing one thing as another and representing one’s self as ‘alternative’ is healthy – but only if the representation reveals truth rather than distorting or masking truth.

Which brings me to vaginas.

Now, TBW’s psyche is a scary place, to be sure. I cannot play word association games. As a grad student, I sat in a Boston hotel with two other grad students (PCA/ACA National Conference) and we were slap-happy tired but couldn’t sleep. We tried playing word games with the lights out. Get that tired and suddenly anything is a good idea. We were a hot mess. One girl was very visual. So visual that she couldn’t make linguistic leaps. If I said “cold,” she ‘saw’ “C-O-L-D” with icicles hanging from each letter. One girl was a binary thinker. If I said “cold,” she said “hot.” No pause. Me, on the other hand – I make four or five cognitive leaps in my brain before landing on a linguistic signifier. You say “cold,” I’m likely to think “winter-snow-snowpants-eiderdown” and immediately say “duck.”

Which brings me back to vaginas.

As soon as I finished the semester – meaning I finished preparing, aka: everything left to teach I could do in my sleep – I started reading Brandy Williams’ Woman Magician.[2]

The description of the book sounded eerily like the theory book TBW’s been putting together (you know, in my free time).  So, as a good researcher, I read the thing before I went off and accidentally duplicated it. No worries. Williams’ treatment is much overdue. The book was soundly footed and logical. And when I say overdue, I mean that two ways. No disparagement to Williams, the theory she uses is dated. But to a lay audience (meaning no PhD in gender studies), it’s a damn-fine place to start. And it’s good for TBW too. You see, it didn’t occur to me to start with Lacan and Irigaray. I would have jumped in at Butler, Bordo, Gross, Braidotti, and likely a little Spivak (just to aggravate everyone). Thus, leaving a giant hole where Lacan and Irigaray should have been.

Which brings me back to vaginas.

One of the problems I have with the language we use to discuss female genitalia is that it truly serves to undermine our power as women and as Witches. And, I know, that’s the point. The whole idea is to, as Kristeva would say, “defile” that which was “sacred” and make it an “abjection” which may retain its power but only as an object of horror (Kristeva Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982).[3]

I was on Facebook and my friend had posted THIS LINK  (not for the squeamish) of the “11 Best/Worst Vagina Tattoos Of All Time.”

And it got me thinking.  (This is a tirade to which I typical subject my friends and family, but I thought I’d share it with you.)


No man, unless he’s an OB/GYN or a serial killer who dismembers his victims’ reproductive system, *sees* a vagina. It is the Freaudian “unseen.” The Lacanian horrible “lack.” Irigaray gets it (likely because she has one) that the multiplicity of women’s sex organs is confounding to the binary ontology which supports a patriarchal (misogynistic, predominantly) system. (The Sex Which is Not One. Trans. Catherine Porter and Caroline Burke. New York: Cornell University Press, 1985.)

This is the kind of stuff we talk about in gender theory, but it’s not the kind of thing we talk about in Witchcraft. Sure we have all sorts of “Mother Goddess” niceties . But that implies that our *wombs* are the sacred. What of women who choose (or don’t choose) not to reproduce? Do we only worship The Mother? (And perhaps The Maiden because she still has “potential”?) What of The Chrone? Seems she only gets lip-service.

We have a concept of “reclamation of the female divine”; this is all good. But I don’t feel like it’s enough. I certainly don’t want to go into an enclosure and be seperated from men, but there has to be some way to engage in a patriarchal culture and retain a sense of female sexual power without getting into a muddle where female sexual power is just a (false) metaphor for male power.

Think on’t: in practical life (ladies), what do you call your whoo-ha?

Not your womb. That’s where the baby grows.

Not your va-j. That’s where the penis goes (and why it gets top billing).

Not your “Mound of Venus.” That’s not even close.

The whole thing. The whole enchilada.

Clitoris, labia minora, labia majora, and skin (don’t forget; that’s an organ too). Vaginas get all of the attention. And everybody feels so proud when they remember“clitoris.” But even the clitoris has a g-zillion parts to it: corpus cavernosum, glans clitoris, clitoral crura, vestibular bulbs. And it’s huge. It’s not this cute little shrunken-penis-button, it’s a complicated structure that is like an iceberg – what

The Yellow Angelic Looking Part

you can see is pretty amazing but what you can’t see is where the magic lies.

So, my charge to my sister-Witches is to come up with a better name. Not a cutesy-euphemism, either.[4]

My charge to my brother-Witches is to think about your part in the game. No one’s blaming you, obvs. But if you don’t already, take Aretha Franklin’s advice and “Think.”

To the magi in my life, I wonder what you all think about gender in Magic. Athames, Wands, Rods, Swords, Staffs. Give me a ring and a chalice (or a distaff, a-ha) any day.

When we perform The Star Ruby, I’m sure you have no problem valorizing your phalle. But even if I were to exalt my ketis, that’s not exactly right, now is it?[5] (Granted the Thelemic ritual is much more empowering for women than any of the Golden Dawn rituals, but still, something is “off.”) I do not want my ketis (limited as that term is) to be a phalle. Never did. Never will.

It’s a false-metaphor. One of those metaphors that serves only to draw a connection between “what is true” and “what I’d like you to believe was true.” Which, in short, makes it a lie. Do we want to keep lying to ourselves?

IMHO, the way we talk about female sexuality in a post Freudian world has leached into our magical lexicon and created a phallogocentric imagining of female anatomy. We see it in medical practice, we see it in psychological studies (the very fact that we do not see “medicine” and “psychology” as one and the same is phallogocentric), we see it in fashion, we see it everywhere. We aren’t surprised by it, we say, “Yup. Damned patriarchy.” But what about our magic? Do we want to see it in our magic?

Or do we want to keep drawing false parallels?

How does our relationship with gender affect the way we “work”?

To all of us, I call for a way to revere the female body that does not use metaphors that don’t see themselves through to the end.

[1] Recently, TBW has been allegorized as a wolf in the hen house. See, this is what I’m talking about. Does a wolf-in-hens-clothing (P.S. TBD does not pose as a somebody’s hen, ever) pack her bags and walk – no, run – away if her true intent is to eat Southern fried chicken? Cluck, no! To this, all I can say is, “May all of our extended metaphors live to see us through.”

[2] Product summary: “For generations, women have had to channel their strength and power into the role of muse, priestess, or earth mother—and always in the shadow of male magicians. This groundbreaking book shatters outdated notions of the Western magical tradition and presents a new paradigm that celebrates and empowers the woman magician.

“Drawing on thirty years of study and personal experience, Brandy Williams boldly revisions metaphysics from a female perspective. She introduces a new Magia Femina—a female-centered exploration of tradition, history, philosophy, science, culture, theology, and magic—and shares unique wisdom on how to live authentically as a woman and as a dedicated practitioner of her craft.

“Williams discusses women’s roles in magic and philosophy throughout history as well as issues of gender, sexuality, feminism, cultural identity, God as divine feminine, the Qabbalah, and the evolution of such magical systems as the Golden Dawn and modern Witchcraft.

“Offering a complete and workable ritual system based on Egyptian cosmology, The Woman Magician invites you to become a practicing member of the Sisters of Seshat, the first all-female initiatory magical order since the French Revolution. Experience powerful hands-on individual and group initiatory rituals, and help launch this new order into the greater world.”

[3] Cut-and-Pasted from my, no kidding, 26 page Works Cited section of The Bad Dissertation.

[4] It may not surprise a’one of ya, but I have no problem saying all of those words related to female genitalia that are intended for the deepest disparagements. Making certain “c-words” taboo gives them too much power. Fling them around, I say.

[5] I do have to admit that “Suck my dick” is a likely retort to anyone who annoys TBW with their stupidity. I’ve learned a lot about gender from G.I. Jane.

27 comments on “I Calls It Like I Sees It (Heads up: This one gets graphic)

  1. Lady Ishara says:

    OMG’s…you are frickin hilarous!! I am rather partial to the terms “Yoni” and “Punani”. I once attended a Yoni Puja. It was a most moving and deeply spiritual ritual based upon the Hindu practice. Unfortunately, I don’t have time right now to leave all the commentary that this blog entry has generated in my mind. I’ll come back when I have more time and have had more time to think upon all of it.

    • But even Punani is a euphemism. It’s hard to revere a flower.

      Yoni is closer to what I’m talking about in its abstraction of Devi (what we want the divine feminine to stand for but can’t quite seem to get at in the West – a false metaphor for us?) and it’s representation of the force of Shakti. (And sort of because it considers the vagina AND the uterus – but we are back to the vag/uterus-only problem; the Yoni’s relationship is to the Lingam. What of all the “other” others in female sexuality and sexual empowerment?)

      And why do I have to go to another religion/continent/language? I want to have this concept in *my* religion and *my* language. See?

      • Lady Ishara says:

        I completely understand your need to put it in your language. I am not sure that a singular word in our language exists, even as a metaphor, that can genuinely encompass the depth of meaning you are seeking. Most of the words in the English language that have been created or assigned to describe female genitalia and sexuality are slang terms, and are not very flattering. I can say that I have come to accept a few of those that I found unacceptable in my younger days. You know, expanding one’s vocabulary in the bedroom and all….lol.
        I find myself returning to the word “Yoni”, because even in another language, the sense of the meaning of it best fits the way I feel about female parts and sexuality. The Yoni Puja I attended was profound to my perception, though I had long used the term “yoni”. The ritual put it all in a different context for me.
        My Beloved and I had attended a day long succession of workshops in Sacred Sexuality, and the attendees were invited to the Yoni Puja as the conclusion to the event. The ritual was held at a private residence. The house was set up for the party that was to take place afterward. Candles and incense lit…food and libation was at the ready. People mingled together as we waited for the ritual to begin. We were called to a room off the main part of the house and seated, audience style. There was a chair and two small tables on either side of it on one end of the room. Vessels of various types were sitting on the table with substances in them that were then unknown to us.
        The hostess also served as the narrator for the ritual. She began by telling us about the ritual format, and explained the outline and particular etiquette expected. Then she began the ritual. She spoke about the yoni…of birth, and pleasure, of hurt and healing. This ritual was an opportunity to revere, make peace, to heal from emotional/spiritual pain, from shame, etc.. and to address the Feminine Divine in whatever way each individual needed. We were told that when the time came, we could approach the Sacred Yoni and speak aloud if we chose to. The only taboo, was to not touch the yoni in any way. There was a long narrative that traversed every area a participant might need to experience. It was very poignant and inspiring, creating a very contemplative atmosphere among the attendees.
        The Sacred Priestess entered the room with two male attendees. She was wearing a plain white mask over her face. One of those masks that looks like porcelain with no adornment..only milky white marginalized facial features, and eye holes. Along with the mask, she wore a long flowing hooded robe that revealed nothing past her neck. She walked slowly, silently, and purposefully toward the chair at the end of the room, her attendants followed and took up positions near each of the tables. When she reached the chair, she turned to survey the audience for a moment seemingly making eye contact with everyone there. Then she sat down in the chair, scooted her bottom to the edge of the seat, and opened her robe, at the same time opening wide her legs to reveal the Sacred Yoni. Momentary silence was broken by the narration of our host. She went on to describe the actions of the attendants. First, they placed a large glass bowl on the floor underneath the Yoni. There were red glass stones in the bottom of it. The kind of stones used in floral arrangements. In the next part of the ritual, the attendants took up the bowls and pitchers individually and poured the contents over the Yoni so that all of the liquids ran off into the large bowl below. The fluids are symbolic. As I remember, they were water, milk, honey, and oil. The narrative described the symbology as the action ensued.

        Sorry, I have to leave this hanging for a bit. I have to take care of lunch right now…lol…I’ll finish after lunch.

      • You are a domestic goddess, aren’t you 🙂

        When I was up North, I read Diamante’s novel, The Red Tent, and suggested it to my group. The leader assigned it and then brought us to a “Red Tent” event. It sounds very similar to a Yoni Puja, but more Westernized. Now there are Red Tent Temples popping up everywhere and I would love to bring one to our hometown (http://theredtent.net/). I had contacted them a year or so ago but never followed up. Something to put on my short-list, yes?

      • Lady Ishara says:

        You should connect with Inara who is earning her masters in sex therapy and whose path of divine service is what I would call neo-quadishtu. She is the preceptor of The Temple of the Red Lotus, located in the Atlanta area. She is the Prs who offered the sacred sexuality workshops and was the Prs for the Yoni Puja. I really like her a lot. She also has a list group called CLASS USA. There is a link to it on her main web site, I’m sure.

      • Lady Ishara says:

        I just checked her web site, and it’s down for construction. 😦 The url is: http://www.templeredlotus.com
        BB )O(

      • Lady Ishara says:

        I have been to many festivals where there was a Red Tent set up. It seems to be pretty popular, but I have not attended any activities offered through them, primarily because I normally am working at festivals. Part of my training and work as a Prs is deeply connected with Women’s Mysteries. I have facilitated Rites of Passage for all phases…Menarche, Blood Mysteries and Magick, Pregnancy/Birthing, Sacred Sexuality…all of it! 🙂

      • Lady Ishara says:

        (Part 2)

        I’d like to share this link to a blog about the Yoni Puja in it’s many forms —

        Now I will continue….

        I forgot to add the 5th substance – yogurt. Each of the substances represent an element. Quoted from the above blog: “Earth is represented by yogurt, the element Water by actual water, Fire by honey, Air by milk; and Ether is represented by one or another type of edible oil.”

        After the pouring of the libations over the yoni, the large bowl that had collected the fluids was put up on one of the tables at the Prs’s side. It was then that the attendees were invited to approach and offer and receive what ever was needed. Everyone watched and listened thoughtfully while waiting for their turn. When it was time to make my own journey to the yoni, I felt very empowered both as a woman and as a Priestess. I felt I had nothing to heal from concerning females, yoni’s, or anything else connected to that, so my focus was purely devotional and full of reverence. When I arrived ‘center stage’ as it were, I got down on my knees in front of her…this faceless, silent priestess…this yogini who offered her own sacred vessel for the puja. I immediately went into the gesticulation of blessing – both hands palms outward toward her. I gazed upon this yoni and felt the connection to my own, to my Mother, Grandmothers, my Daughter, Sisters, Ancestresses… to womankind, to the Goddess Herself. I thought about the part in the Charge of the Goddess, where it says, “All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”. I spoke: Blessed, *is* the Yoni — Sacred Gateway…the Bridge between the realm of Spirit, and the realm of Physical Manifestation…I honor The Holy Well of Creation, the Axis Mundi, the Matrix of Life. I offer love, gratitude, and reverence to the Divine Feminine for all that I AM. I made eye contact with the Prs. She whispered a blessing to me as I got back on my feet, placed my palms together in front of my heart, and returned to my chair. After all had made their way to the yoni and back again, the narrator closed the ritual, gave thanks, and gave each of us a stone from the bowl with the stones and energized fluids from the ritual.

        If you think about it, even if some of the words we use are not from the language we commonly speak, don’t those words ‘become’ part of our language *because we use them*? Aren’t most of the words of the English language rooted in older languages? So what does it matter if we adopt a word here or there? Or — if you cannot find a suitable word or metaphor, then why not create one? 🙂

        Love and Blessings,
        Lady Ishara )O( <— ever notice how the Triple Moon symbol is like a stylized yoni? 😀

      • Lady Ishara says:

        By the way….the tattoo link was quite interesting….shocking and funny all at the same time. I only saw the pics. Were some of those temporary?
        All I can say is “OUCH!!!!” and “No F’ing Way!!!” :-O

      • I do not know these people, silly. I think some of them looked “fake” or like body paint. Who knows, people ink some weird shit on their bods.

  2. JoeMD says:

    Wow. My brain hurts after reading your entry. Not because it was long or boring – it was neither – but rather because I think your brain functions on a mugh higher plain than mine. Of what I understood I see your point. I’d never actually though of how those terms can deface a woman’s relation with the Goddess or their own divine standing. It’s an interesting post which I’ll re-read once I’m home to try and wrap my head around properly.

    P.S. It’s Joseph Strange from FB here. ^_^

    • Hey, Joe. Yea, it’s sticky. About a year ago, I started having trouble using phallic tools and had a “revelation” that I haven’t worked through yet. Ironically, I am a gender (feminist) theorist and college teacher as my day job. I think, write, teach about how language compromises and, indeed, “defaces” women’s relation with everything. I cut my magical teeth on Gerda Learner. How is it that it took this long for me to demand that language “fit” my magical (embodied) experience?

      Last night while giving The Bad Husband a rundown of this convo, he said, “The trouble is that you are using male language.” He learned that answer in the dissertation years and tosses it out whenever he wants a marital cookie. I fall for it every time. 🙂

  3. polyphanes says:

    A euphemism might be a not-bad choice, just saying. After all, in Latin, “penis” means “tail” and “vagina” means “sheath”, neither of which were actually used for that kind of meaning when it came to the body, but which were adopted as standard medical terms anyway.

    Granted that, as a guy who likes guys, I have no direct or even first-hand account of the female organs down yonder (FODY) beyond my mother’s some two decades ago, from a more abstract or even magical point of view, the penis is something that emits only. The wand exacts one’s will into the world, the dagger divides and parts and enters the grail. They’re entirely extroverted. The FODY receive, sure, as represented by the grail, but they also produce as well, sometimes without the use of the phallus (Mary, the mother of Shakyamuni Buddha, etc.). In that case, the FODY is both introverted and extroverted, so it’s going to be more complex. “Hose” was something that came to mind, but that’s not quite right either; sure, it takes in and produces as well, but it only produces if there’s an input, and there wasn’t always a phallic input with some well-known blessed women before.

    http://xkcd.com/387/ comes to mind, surprisingly, but “factory” is a high-level term. Why not, after all? If you want a single word to represent a hugely complex system with multiple parts and multiple functions, you’re going to have to simplify things down.

    As for the penis, yeah, it’s mostly there in plain sight as opposed to the internals of the FODY, but don’t oversimplify the thing as well. Corpus cavernosum, corpus spongiosum, vas deferens, infundibuliform fascia, and so on. There’s still hidden things to its own complex system, but it’s more “out there” instead of “in there”. It’s got simpler and fewer functions than the FODY, too, but whoever said men were complex creatures?

  4. Gavin, on FB, very astutely added (hope he don’ mind I slapped it up here): “What to call ‘it’, the whole package? As you say in your blog, Yoni gets there. A Western equivalent, with its divine associations, might be a concept drawn directly from Gnosticism – ‘the Depth’. Which feeds into your iceberg metaphor. (Yes, despite the unambiguous warning in your post, I use the term… because that is how you used the image. :-)) An excellent and thought-provoking piece, however.”

    My reply was: “Thanks. Yoni’s about what I’m getting at. But, like I said to Lady Ishara, I want it in *my* language and *my* religion (can you hear me whine?). I like “the Depth” better because it’s in my language and in my terms. But, again, that gets too close to Lacanian “Lack” and “Elsewhere” of female jouissance as “suffering.” Maybe my problem is that I’m trying to make a male lexicon suit a female experience. Poop.”

    Gavin: To put it on its head, that ‘Lack’ is also all-nourishing. The source of potential and possibility. Even theoretical physicists are starting to see this people who’ve used only the left hemisphere of their brains for most of their careers. Yes, it is a male lexicon that constructs things in those terms, but I feel it is also the difficulty that the human brain has with privatives.”

    But I’ve had some thoughts since yesterday. Given Sugarmuffin P’s comment that she’s a “a hugely complex system with multiple parts and multiple functions,” I think the conglomerate Kristevian “matrix” is not a bad idea – if only we could remove all of the “mater” baggage that goes along with it. Crapola. Can someone build me a time machine so’s I can murdalize Descartes and put Leibniz in charge of Enlightenment ontology? Thanks.

    P – “whoever said men were complex creatures?” First off, I didn’t intend to shortchange y’all’s junk. So, sorry. Of course it’s all wonderfully made as well. But it also gets a lot of press.

    Secondly, you are channeling one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard someone say (given the situation, I suppose): “Angela. Stop. Men are very simple creatures.” He also said, “I find schoolbusses exotic. You are exotic, like a schoolbus.” To me, the last comment seems to cancel out the first. Men are as complex as women, y’all just dance to a different tune. And, because you have the sheet music, it seems simple to you. (Wanna read my dissertation on Cold War Era Masculinity?)

    I love talking about whoo-has on the internets with magic folk!

    • polyphanes says:

      “Depth” makes it sound almost Lovecraftian, and I don’t think that’s the kindest thing to do to your vagoo.

      • Like vagina-dentata except with Cthulu-esque tentacles? I want one!
        As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I said “ate” Johnny Depp at the end of Pirates 2. Now I think “Release the Kraken!” should become part of bedroom lingo. There’s actually a little rant that goes with that – Krakens and Tamagotchies and Chupacabras (oh, my). Another day, perhaps.

  5. polyphanes says:

    No offense was taken at the peen jokes. I mean, it’s pretty simple to understand: peen inflates, peen is rubbed, peen is happy, peen deflates. And no, I know firsthand just how complex/screwed/confusing men can be. We’ve got different roles and different goals, and that’s probably the big thing.

    Besides, even talking about gender kinda irks me nowadays, after getting so close with trans/intersex friends of mine. It’s like, how do you represent a gender continuum with so many tools? Nongendered ceremonial magic should eventually be considered as a valid path, but it’s gonna take some hard thinking about it to make it work as a system.

  6. Non-gendered? Hmmmmm. I don’t think I like that idea. It sounds too much like erasure. Cyborg-magic (a la Haraway). Now that I could get behind.

    In the end, it’s not really a “word” or a “name” I’m looking for. Hells, I could call my vaj “Dave” as long as it felt empowering and had a recognized signifier on the altar. I’m looking for the place of the female divine to be (IMO, rightly) positioned as a sexual (rather than reproductive) force. I hate to say it but The Bad Husband’s right, “The problem is that you are trying to do this with male language.”

    The Discordian in me wants to go with “Kraken.”

    • Lady Ishara says:

      LOL…Kraken….I like that for reasons I probably should not share on your blog. Suffice it to say, a ‘Kraken attack’ would be viewed as something desirable. )O(

  7. […] blog. I was going to call this one, “The C Word,” and ask you to have a looksie here at “I Calls It Like I Sees It” (a Lacanian dialogue about the physicality of the female […]

  8. […] there’s the best of all C words – which I may have already worn thin, I mean, um – what do I […]

  9. […] on all day about what I do and don’t venerate in The Star Ruby and how I tackle “O, Phalle!” (And why I feel the need to rewrite everything I was taught after 2002.) But it doesn’t occur to me to be really detailed. Until today that […]

  10. […] some hymeneal (hmmm, hymnal?) membrane when I clearly articulated my thoughts about the word “vagina.” It had been—dare I say it—pricking at me for a while. And much like really good sex, once I […]

  11. […] If you don’t know how my brain works—look here.  It’s mostly about vaginas, so it’s fun to read anyhow. Don’t skip the comments […]

  12. […] word xiphoid means “sword-shaped” and it reminds me of the conversation I had over at The Bad Witch Files concerning the adoration of one’s “phalle.” Just like I have no xiphoid process, I also have […]

  13. […] helix and the xiphoid I calls it like I sees it Origins of the word […]

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