Waking the Witch: an empowering read by Pam Grossman

Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power by Pam Grossman, host of The Witch Wave podcast

Last night I finished Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power by Pam Grossman. Described as part memoire and part cultural analysis — this book delivers on both parts.

I’ll admit, part of me was hoping this would venture into the self discovery of waking my own inner witch, but despite this, it is still a strong book delving into the history of the Witch as an archetype as well as witchcraft in general through history. Grossman specifically touches subjects on the witch’s influence on art and music — as well as pop culture. One of the areas I specifically liked, was the cultural examination of women through the lens of The Witch.

I’ve long taken issue with this notion that a woman’s worth is exclusively tied to her ability to bare and raise children. The concept of the witch pushes back on this with the force of hellfire. It’s so pervasive, that it’s incorporated in part of witchcraft as well in this 3-fold image of the goddess (maiden, mother, crone). A woman who didn’t marry, who didn’t have children — especially after she reached “child baring age” — was and still is seen as unnatural and an aberration. Even prior to my hysterectomy or my diagnosis of endometriosis, I hated this view of women. Surely, something so grand and divine would have designed and made me for something so much more than having kids, right?

Anyway. The book is more than just pushing back on this limited view of women in society. I actually learned quite a bit about Pamela Colman Smith — the woman who conceptualized and illustrated the quintessential tarot deck, despite being left out of the name for so long: the Rider-Waite, now Smith-Waite. I cheered with her in her retelling of groups reclaiming the idea of the witch as a means of power over their oppressors, often in fun and tongue-in-cheek ways, though still extremely powerful.

I felt a sort of kinship with Grossman throughout the book. Maybe it’s because of our anthropological backgrounds, or that we’ve found a way to incorporate witchcraft with our faith. Maybe she tapped into feelings inside myself of powerlessness, of isolation… Yet she did so with a hammer of hope. There’s a place for me within this archetype of the witch. In this global coven of likeminded, like-experienced people. And that is extremely comforting.