Not Just Cauldrons and Cats: Women’s Center Coordinator sheds new light on witches

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By Ponny White, whitepo@mnstate.edu

On a gloomy Halloween evening amid mortals, witches and batty professors, one feminist rose in the front of a dim lit room. With every gaze locked upon her, she debunked all the things people thought they knew about witches.

Dressed in all black—from her feather earrings to her painted nails—MSUM’s Women’s Center Coordinator Dana Bisignani commanded the room of predominantly female students. Her presentation was titled “Witches & Wild Women in Pop Culture.” The eye-catching presentation took audience members through the history of witchcraft, witches in pop culture, and then illustrated how witchcraft holds origin to feminism.

Usually when one thinks about witches, they go to the 17th century Salem witch trials, when early Puritans believed wild women possessed with evil powers were trying to enchant and destroy all civilization. Yet Bisignani, a self-proclaimed feminist, wasted no time stating that narrative is false.

Witches aren’t the evil, demonic beings history paints them to be. Rather, she argued, they may have been one of the earliest groups of feminists the world has known. She said witches have more to do with female positivity than they do with religious sanctions.

“Witch craft does not recognize the devil. That’s a Christian (Abrahamic) belief,” Bisignani said. “Witches actually believe that everything you put in the world comes back to you times three, so if you put bad (actions) into the world, a lot of shit is going to come back to you…most witches understand that.”

Bisignami followed up by sharing the word “witch” actually translates to “wise woman.” One of Bisignani’s slides went into detail about the origin of witchcraft and showed that witches were once viewed as healers or doctors who medicated and helped the sick back to health.

Bisignami brought this event to the university because she thought it was a fun thing to do in celebration of the spooky holiday, and because there’s a cauldron full of intersectionality within witchcraft that aligns well with feminism.

Recently, the conversation about witches is bubbling through the media from television roles modernizing witches in new adaptations of shows like “Charmed” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” to newsrooms politicizing witches: Huffington Post, along with other news outlets, published a story in October about New York witches who were planning a ceremony to hex the controversial Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh from doing any harm while in office.

Bisignani, who wore a button on her left shoulder that read “Hex the Patriarchy,” said witches have always been centered around social activism, with their efforts including racial equality and sexual reproductive justice. For witches, the goal is to create a network of empowered women. Second year MSUM social work major Aliyah Speikers says that’s exactly how she felt after witnessing the presentation.

“I felt empowered, even knowing it’s not my cultural background that witchcraft came from, I still felt connected to it in someway by just being a woman,” Speikers said. She shared that learning witchcraft isn’t about devil worship is an exciting eye opener for her. The 19-year-old feminist says she would love to learn more about witches and said others should learn too.

During the presentation, Bisignani shared that MSUM has ties to a group of self-proclaimed witches. According to Bisignani’s research, in 1963 sorority Pi Nu Phi advised by the honored Flora Frick was run by a group of campus witches. So, it could be said that witches are back.

 

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