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.