Once upon a time, there were two Witches. One was a Feminist Witch and the other was a Traditionalist Witch. And, although both of them were deeply religious, they had rather different ideas about what their religion meant. The Feminist Witch tended to believe that Witchcraft was a religion especially suited to women because the image of the Goddess was empowering and a strong weapon against patriarchal tyranny. And there was distrust in the heart of the Feminist Witch for the Traditionalist Witch because, from the Feminist perspective, the Traditionalist Witch seemed subversive and a threat to “the Cause”.
The Traditionalist Witch tended to believe that Witchcraft was a religion for both men and women because anything less would be divisive. And although the Goddess was worshipped, care was taken to give equal stress to the God-force in nature, the Horned One. And there was distrust in the heart of the Traditionalist Witch for the Feminist Witch because, from the Traditionalist viewpoint, the Feminist Witch seemed like a late-comer and a threat to “Tradition”. These two Witches lived in the same community but each belonged to a different Coven, so they did not often run into one another. Strange to say, the few times they did meet, they felt an odd sort of mutual attraction, at least on the physical level. But both recognized the folly of this attraction, for their ideologies were worlds apart, and nothing, it seemed, could ever bridge them.
Then one year the community decided to hold a Grand Coven, and all the Covens in the area were invited to attend. After the rituals, the singing, the magicks, the feasting, the poetry, and dancing were concluded, all retired to their tents and sleeping bags. All but these two. For they were troubled by their differences and couldn’t sleep. They alone remained sitting by the campfire while all others around them dreamed. And before long, they began to talk about their differing views of the Goddess. And, since they were both relatively inexperienced Witches, they soon began to argue about what was the “true” image of the Goddess.
“Describe your image of the Goddess to me,” challenged the Feminist Witch. The Traditionalist Witch smiled, sighed, and said in a rapt voice, “She is the embodiment of all loveliness. The quintessence of feminine beauty. I picture her with silver-blond hair like moonlight, rich and thick, falling down around her soft shoulders. She has the voluptuous young body of a maiden in her prime, and her clothes are the most seductive, gossamer thin and clinging to her willowy frame. I see her dancing like a young elfin nymph in a moonlit glade, the dance of a temple priestess. And she calls to her lover, the Horned One, in a voice that is gentle and soft and sweet, and as musical as a silver bell frosted with ice. She is Aphrodite, goddess of sensual love. And her lover comes in answer to her call, for she is destined to become the Great Mother. That is how I see the Goddess.”
The Feminist Witch hooted with laughter and said, “Your Goddess is a Cosmic Barbie Doll! The Jungian archetype of a cheer-leader! She is all glitter and no substance. Where is her strength? Her power? I see the Goddess very differently. To me, she is the embodiment of strength and courage and wisdom. A living symbol of the collective power of women everywhere. I picture her with hair as black as a moonless night, cropped short for ease of care on the field of battle. She has the muscular body of a woman at the peak of health and fitness. And her clothes are the most practical and sensible, not slinky cocktail dresses. She does not paint her face or perfume her hair or shave her legs to please men’s vanities. Nor does she do pornographic dances to attract a man to her. For when she calls to a male, in a voice that is strong and defiant, it will be to do battle with the repressive masculine ego. She is Artemis the huntress, and it is fatal for any man to cast a leering glance in her direction. For, although she may be the many-breasted Mother, she is also the dark Crone of wisdom, who destroys the old order. That is how I see the Goddess.”
Now the Traditionalist Witch hooted with laughter and said, “Your Goddess is the antithesis of all that is feminine! She is Yahweh hiding behind a feminine mask! Don’t forget that it was his followers who burned Witches at the stake for the “sin” of having “painted faces”. After all, Witches with their knowledge of herbs were the ones who developed the art of cosmetics. So what of beauty? What of love and desire?”
And so the argument raged, until the sound of their voices awakened a Coven Elder who was sleeping nearby. The Elder looked from the Feminist Witch to the Traditionalist Witch and back again, saying nothing for a long moment. Then the Elder suggested that both Witches go into the woods apart from one another and there, by magick and meditation, that each seek a “true” vision of the Goddess. This they both agreed to do.
After a time of invocations, there was a moment of perfect stillness. Then a glimmer of light could be seen in the forest, a light shaded deepest green by the dense foliage. Both Witches ran toward the source of the radiance. To their wonder and amazement, they discovered the Goddess had appeared in a clearing directly between them, so that neither Witch could see the other. And the Traditionalist Witch yelled “What did I tell you!” at the same instant the Feminist Witch yelled “You see, I was right!” and so neither Witch heard the other.
To the Feminist Witch, the Goddess seemed to be a shining matrix of power and strength, with courage and energy flowing outward. The Goddess seemed to be holding out her arms to embrace the Feminist Witch, as a comrade in arms. To the Traditionalist Witch, the Goddess seemed to be the zenith of feminine beauty, lightly playing a harp and singing a siren song of seduction. Energy seemed to flow towards her. And she seemed to hold out her arms to the Traditionalist Witch, invitingly.
From opposite sides of the clearing, the Witches ran toward the figure of the Goddess they both loved so well, desiring to be held in the ecstasy of that divine embrace. But just before they reached her, the apparition vanished. And the two Witches were startled to find themselves embracing each other.
And then they both heard the voice of the Goddess. And, oddly enough, it sounded exactly the same to both of them. It sounded like laughter.
By Mike Nichols