I Had a Few Words With The Bad Witch and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?

Hamlet: Words, words, words.

I finally got around to watching What the #$*! Do We Know!? the other day.[1] It articulated much of what I try teaching my apprentices in terms of Quantum Physics, Magick, and “reality.” So, I wasn’t surprised by much of the stuff in this film. But one thing was new; I had never heard of the experiments being conducted by researcher, Dr. Masaru Emoto, chief of the Hado Institute in Tokyo.[2]

Emoto created some experiments on water that validate the influences human consciousness and “intent” has on physical reality; though you and I would likely simply call it “Magick” (duh), this phenomenon has come to be known as the ‘Hado’ effect. Emoto describes it as follows: “Hado is the intrinsic vibration pattern at the atomic level in all matter, the smallest unit of energy. Its basis is the energy of human consciousness.”  Dontcha just love it when they use scientific words to define those things we’ve been talking about forever?

Here’s what happened.  Emoto took some water and directed various thoughts and feelings “at” it. Then he froze the water.  When he “sent loving thoughts and feelings to the water,” the water froze into stunning and highly-organized crystals; however, when he directed negative energy into the water, there were either no crystals at all or there were disorganized and unappealing formations. Surprised? Neither was I. Invoking positive energy causes an equal and corollary reaction.

Momma’s church. The view from her “hill.”

Last weekend I went to an early Beltane ritual where a Reiki Master charged crystals and performed a ritual ending in participants “planting” charged crystals in damaged or ravaged places on Earth.[3]  I have my quartz and I intend to plant it on farms in North Alabama where, a year ago last Friday, tornados ripped through my families’ communities (*literally* just barely missing the homes of my parents and my sister and her family). We do this sort of thing; we call it Chi, Ki, Prana, Life-force. So this part is not a shocker for TBW.

But, the next part is what – ridiculous as it seems – blew my mind. In following experiments, Emoto did nothing more than write a word on a label and place that label on the water container before freezing it. Guess what happened. Same thing. No shit. Why am I surprised? It’s simple sigil Magick in a laboratory in Japan. I know. It’s not that the thing happened that’s got my head twisted, but that I’m starting to think about a lot of possible implications that I never thought about before.[4]

For instance . . .

This got me to thinking about t-shirts. Does the shirt we wear effect the 60-70% of our watery bodies? What about the water vapor on the planet around us? Does wearing a “Bad Witch” t-shirt make one internalize the sentiment? What if the sentiment is intentionally ironic? What matters more – the words or the intent?

Tell me then about tattoos? Huh? How does that work?

I always thought of these things in a psychosocial framework which is influenced by hegemonic values. i.e: I wear my ΠΒΦ t-shirt as part of my external and manifest identity – I want you to see this shirt and think of me in a certain way: as a sorority girl and all of the attendant meanings attached to “Greekness” in a college town like mine (family connections and affluence and certain social values) and more specifically as a member of Pi Beta Phi, and the meaning attached to a nationally respected sorority with a “secretive” past (more money, rigorous study habits, particular aspirations, and less likely to be a “sorostitute” than other girls in other shirts with other attendant meanings).[5] I know you will “read” my t-shirt and I choose to identify myself with its “message.” I have, perhaps, internalized this part of my identity to the point where I no longer imagine myself as making conscious choices about what my shirt says about me. After all, t-shirts do not appear in a cultural vacuum, but, rather, express a cultural engagement with values, attitudes, and concerns of the majority.[6]

But what does the symbol *ΠΒΦ* do to the water in my body? And therefore my body itself? And my brain? And my being? Anything at all? Do I have to be frozen for it to matter? Is freezing water like a wave collapsing into particles when observed? (Holy crap, I’ve talked myself into another “wave collapse” conversation.) In Emoto’s experiments, no one had to look at the labels in order for the crystals to have formed. No one knew which water would receive which label. Emoto did not “invoke” the water with positive/negative emotions. It was merely the presence of the word that caused the change.

I understand this in terms of sigil Magick. I really do. When we have intent. When we invoke, when we purposefully change the energy waves around us, when we charge an item or a bath or a meal with our intent. But I don’t get it in terms of daily, banal, t-shirt-y-ness. Does wearing a shirt that says “Love” affect our physical beings aside from our psychological states and psychosocial perceptions? I would tend to say no – but does Emoto’s experiment suggest that I’m wrong?

Am I having a duh moment? Was this something everybody already figured out and I’m just now stepping in it like a pile of horse pie that everyone else saw laying in the road?

This got me to thinking along another line. A personal line. Once, after a really strange and inexplicably dramatic pitfall in my life, I – understandably – hit a low spot. Not long before I started blogging in earnest. One of the things I did during that time was to take my eyeliner pencil and write all of the negative things said about me and to me on my mirror. Still in my dissertation-mindset, I had the re-appropriation and empowerment of terms like “queer,” “bitch,” and “nigga” on my mind. Using the kind of “magic” the rest of the world still believes in, as I found strategies to positively cope with each term written on my mirror, I would erase it. From Halloween to Mother’s Day the next year, I’m not sure I ever saw my face through anything but a smudge. I thought I had “gotten over” all of that years ago. But now, I’m starting to wonder about a few lingering “side effects” of that low-spot are related to the way I “banished” those words. Have those words “frozen” in me?

This leads to a whole ‘nother conversation about emotional addiction. Part of What the #$*! Do We Know!? looks into the theory that we are addicted to our own emotions (here it is on the YouTubes: http://youtu.be/6BkI8LD24y0). Realizing the chemistry behind emotions – “nerves that fire together, wire together” – can give us the key to changing our (capital *I*) Identity. Like any other addiction, in order to satisfy our biochemical cravings, we have to supply more and more of the neuropeptides that create a cellular response.[7]In other words, we have to keep “ramping it up” in order to feel “satisfied.” But if we could change our cellular reactions we could change our Selves. Could we change our cellular reactions by doing something as simple as writing words on our bodies? This

My arm (leftmost) and the arms of several co-workers on TWLOHA Day, Auburn, 2010.

made me think about To Write Love On Her Arms.

Every year on November 13th , I hand my daughters colored Sharpies, hold out my arms, and say, “Go for it.” They each take an arm and draw entangled hearts and write the word “LOVE” up and down their momma’s blighted wrists. To Write Love On Her Arms (both the foundation and the short story) is about taking the broken in body and spirit, the addicted, and the self-mutilating and covering them in love. In his (admittedly Christocentric) retelling of the experience which inspired the TWLOHA movement, Jamie tells about Renee, who has carved “FUCK UP” on her own body with a razor blade: “she is ours to love . . . . [and we are] coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.” I imagine Renee’s scars and the scars of so many like her. And then I imagine them with LOVE written over them.

And thinking about Renee’s scars made me think about my sister’s (very recent) double-mastectomy and her terror at removing the bandages for the first time to “see” – and suddenly I can’t breathe. I had put all of my energy into thinking about doctors and hospitals and medical outcomes that I forgot to think about being. I forgot to think about t-shirts. Not Susan Koman pink things, just t-shirts in general. And what she will look like when she wears her bathrobe and what she will be invoking when she sinks her body into a tub of water for the first time. Hoping it won’t be “GROSS” and “UGLY,” I urgently want to grab my big sister like I did in the days after those tornadoes left her living and I want to write “BEAUTIFUL” and “ALIVE” all over her.[8]

And I want to write things on me too.

Does this kind of sigil Magick work in real terms? Sure we change based on our imagination of our Self. We internalize what we see. But is there more to it?

Anybody up for an experiment?[9]

I suggest:

  • “Charge” a Sharpie or an eyeliner or something.
    • Better yet – don’t – I like the idea of a “control group” of sorts.
  • Write a word on your body.
    • Better yet – have a trusted companion write a word where you can’t see it – for the “control group” – or is that just a “variable group”?
    • Make a secret sigil if you must (yet another variable group), but I’d like to see what happens with a readable language.
  • Do this at different parts of the day.
  • Tell me what happens.

Blessings, Quarks, and 93,

The Bad Witch

PS – Look! More Quarks!


[1] Writ: Matthew Hoffman, William Arntz, et al. Dir: William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, et al. Perf: Marlee Matlin, Elaine Hendrix and John Ross Bowie. Medula Films and Captured Light. 2004. Netflix.

The terms are basic and the metaphors are concrete rather than abstract and theoretical as most QP documentaries can be. If QP is hard for you to wrap you head around, I recommend it.

[2] I don’t know what to do with his name. I would call him Dr. Marsura, but the film calls him “Mister Emoto.” Seems all kinds of wrong.

[3] I have my own paradoxical feelings about taking quartz from the Earth, charging it, and then sending it back “with healing energy.” But that’s not a topic for today.

[4] And I keep remembering that, while the universe – especially the Milky Way – probably has plenty of water vapor to speak of and likely has liquid and frozen water (especially on Saturn’s moon), Earth is made up of over 70% water and that we are about 60% water (and the human brain is 70% water at that). If emotion can change water, and we and our planet are mostly water . . . I know – but – it’s – still – I’m . . . . I think I’m just having a weird day.

[5] While I may belong to a number of fraternal organizations, TBW is not a college-based sorority member.

[6] I can choose not to wear a Pi Beta Phi t-shirt and don a Bad Witch t-shirt instead. Alas, I will not subvert said values – I will merely uphold them from the outside. For exteriority confirms that there is an interiority to subvert. Dammit.

[7] According to the film’s scientific talking-heads, the cell is the smallest unit of consciousness in the human being. Ironically, this is something one of my dissertation committee members and I have discussed at length. She has written a book about Rhetoric and cellular production. I painted her a picture of mitochondria when I defended my dissertation. We are toooootal geeks.

[8] But, in the end, I may just get her a t-shirt after all. She hits.

[9] If there wasn’t s’much paperwork involved in human testing, I’d experiment at school.

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.)

**THAT’S NOT A VAGINA!!**

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.