On Halloween 1968, a group of black clad women, sporting pointy hats and clutching broomsticks made their way to Wall Street in order to perform a Hex on the financial heart of capitalism. The next day, the Dow Jones fell dramatically – the witches’ work complete. The group in question were the radical socialist movement W.I.T.C.H, aka the Women’s International Terrorist Group from Hell. This would be the first of many mischievous forms of direct action conducted by the group, and thus the coven was born.
Today, as we are both facing an occult revival and political shitstorm, something is brewing in the air – the resurrection of this politically playful but threatening group. At the Portland Women’s March in February, witches were spotted, faces masked and wielding banners such as ‘Witches For Black Lives,’ ‘White Silence is Violence,’ and ‘Trans Women are Women. Now, just a few months later, apparitions of the W.I.T.C.H are manifesting across the globe.
The original W.I.T.C.H were formed in New York in the 1960s, aiming to dismantle patriarchy and initiate radical social change in the US. Their tactics were playful and theatrical, injecting a much needed sense of humor into the political landscape.
“WITCH is an all-woman Everything. It’s theater, revolution, magic, terror, joy, garlic flowers, spells. It’s an awareness that witches and gypsies were the original guerrillas and resistance fighters against oppression – particularly the oppression of women – down through the ages. Witches have always been women who dared to be: groovy, courageous, aggressive, intelligent, nonconformist, explorative, curious, independent, sexually liberated, revolutionary. (This possibly explains why nine million of them have been burned.)”
– WITCH Manifesto, 1968
From sabotaging beauty pageants, super gluing doors of banks, releasing white mice at Bridal Fairs, to pouring liquid cement into the plumbing of Playboy club houses, the actions of W.I.T.C.H were sensational and mischievous, often being viewed as youthful hooliganism.
However, by using gendered language and an exclusive notion of the Witch, their manifesto and actions often worked to strengthen the foundations of White Patriarchy that they were supposedly challenging. Their 21st century counterparts, however, are working to make amends to this legacy, promoting a more inclusive notion of the witch that is both queer and inter-sectional.
Forming in the wake of Trump’s election, the Portland based group WITCH PDX wish to ‘dismantle white supremacist patriarchy through protest, performance art and the power of the witch.’ They ensure to practice their Craft in complete anonymity, in order to create a decentralised coven which reduces the role of the ego, that can instead act fluidly, summoning itself in a flash and protecting vulnerable members – something which was not so important to the original group in 1968.
‘We believe that femininity belongs to all genders and we’re against policing gender identity. If everybody was engaging with the feminine, and engaging with the empowerment of witchcraft – whatever that may mean to you – the world would be in a much better place.
Roughly half of our members are queer and many don’t identify within the gender binary. As anyone who’s ever read a mainstream book on witchcraft knows, there’s a lot of heteronormativity and gender essentialism that can be uncomfortable to witches who aren’t straight and cisgender. We want to encourage people to think about these concepts in a different and more inclusive way.’
Alongside their underlying wish to smash the patriarchy, they see that their aims cuts across gendered, cultural, sexual and class based divides, because ‘sexism can’t be separated from other forms of oppression – they all originate from one heteronormative cisnormative white supremacist patriarchal system.’ Consequently, they support trans activism, indigenous rights, religious freedom, sex workers and freedom of movement, as well as undermine the idea that the figure of the WITCH is exclusively European, white and female.
Furthermore, the modern day witches are social media savvy, being active on IG and Twitter, where you can admire the powerful images of them in full costume attending rallies and protests, as well as spreading the news of other causes they align with. They’ve also recently created a zine which is free to print and distribute whether your witchy fingers wish the spread the magic.
The result is a powerfully seductive activist group that has captured the attention of thousands around the globe. And the best part is that covens are springing up everywhere. Only a few months after spreading their magical manifesto, W.I.T.C.H has spread to Denver, San Diego, Seattle, Mexico City, Ciudad Juarez and Sweden.
If you wish to start your own coven the rules are simple:
- You must be anonymous
- You must be intersectional
- You must differentiate your group with the name of your city.
So what are you waiting for? Start your local coven today, and let the mischief begin!
W.I.T.C.H. PDX: Portland Brings Back The Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell
Wicked W.I.T.C.H: The 60s Feminist Protestors Who Hexed Patriarchy
Sabbat Magazine – Crone Issue, 2017
A Tribe Called W.I.T.C.H