This and more such interesting views are provided by Ipsita Roy Chakraverti in her absorbing autobiography, Beloved Witch. Born into a family of academicians and diplomats, Ipsita’s initiation into the mysterious and powerful world of the Wiccans began when she was invited to join the Society for the Study of Ancient Cultures and Civlisations in Montreal, Canada where her father was posted at the time. There, in a chalet in the Lurentian mountains, Ipsita, in the company of like-minded women, made a study of the female principle as manifested in the various cultures of yore. Making rapid progress, Ipsita chose to study Wicca as she was determined to find out what exactly it was and why it had been branded ‘witchcraft’. And exactly why had the Mother Goddess, known by various names: Isis, Kali, Arinna, Ishtar, Tara, Ix Chel, Yemaya, Amaterasu Omikami, Kuan Yin, Inanna, Baba Yaga, Sheela Na Gig, Brigit, Medusa, Coatlicue, Hecate – turned into a witch?
One of the threads that runs strongly in the book is thus the ill-treatment meted out to strong, independent women over the centuries and at all places. In one of the most evocative passages of the book, Ipsita reasons that strong, independent women were branded witches as they refused to accept the patriarchal norms and sought to create their own space rather than meekly accepting the space laid down to them by society:
This abuse, mostly of women, – sadistic, gruesome and sexual started in the eleventh century in Europe. But it peaked during the bloody fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. That was the time when men dressed in the garb of the holy and the religious swooped down upon women they lusted after but hated because they could not have. Women, strong, beautiful, or independent minded were called witches so that they could be eliminated. Male bastions, however inadequate and impotent must be protected. Perversion and hypocrisy took shelter behind self-righteous piety and religious zeal.Witches were the consorts of the Devil, these men shouted, even as they probed and prodded the bodies of these wretched women with salacious saliva dripping from their lips.
During these four centuries in Europe alone an estimated eight million women were executed for witchcraft. It was said that they flew through the airs on brooms to attend Sabbats and had intercourse with the Devil and his kin. It was also said that if a woman was too beautiful, look no further. It was the Devil’s handiwork. If she spoke well, it was a satanic tongue which prompted her. If she showed a desire to expand her mind – it was with an evil purpose. (78)
And the abuse of women has not stopped till date, Ipsita continues. History somehow always repeats itself – or perhaps it is that the basest in human nature lives on. The men who tortured and burnt innocent women in medieval Europe, live on in other places, in different guises. Witch-hunting never stopped. It just took on a more deceptive mask… It prevails everywhere in the world where women stand up for themselves and what they believe in. It is there whenever women refuse to be the pawns or playthings of a callous society. (222-223)
For Ipsita, thus, Wicca is not merely a worship of the Goddess or being one with the Elements, it is also a form of revolt against an unjust and hypocritical order.
Besides women’s fight against oppression, the book also chronicles some fascinating details like the beliefs of the Red Indians, the legend of the thirteen crystal skulls, and the tragic story of Luciana. The tone of the book is narcissistic but it is nevertheless an engaging narrative of a stigmatised philosophy.
First Line: You know what reminds me of myself?
Title: Beloved Witch: An Autobiography
Author: Ipsita Roy Chakraverti
Publication Details: ND: Harper Collins, 2003
First Published: 2000
Other books read of the same author: None
A few new and used copies of the book are available @ Amazon. I was given this book by a cousin.
Submitted for the 2013 Witches and Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Also submitted for the following challenges: 52 Books in 52 Weeks, 2013 Genre Variety, 2013 TBR Pile, 2013 Women, Let Me Count the Ways, Mount TBR, Nerdy Non-Fiction, Out of the Box, What Countries have I Visited