Monday, 18 November 2019

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Review: Witch by Lisa Lister

Witch by Lisa Lister

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Witch by Lisa Lister

Published: 9th May 2017 | Publisher: Hay House UK | Cover Designer: Leanne Siu Anastasi | Source: Bought
Lisa Lister's Website

A witch is a wise woman, a healer. Yet for so long the word “witch” has had negative connotations. In this book, third generation hereditary witch Lisa Lister explains the history behind witchcraft, why identifying as a healer in past centuries led women to be burned at the stake, and why the witch is reawakening in women across the world today.

All women are witches, and when they connect to source, trust their intuition, and use their magic, they can make medicine to heal themselves and the world. This book is a re-telling of Herstory, an overview of the different schools of witchcraft and the core principles and practices within them. Discover ancient wisdom made relevant for modern witches:

The wheel of the year, the sabbats, the cycles of the moon.
Tools to enhance your intuition, including oracle cards and dowsing, so that you can make decisions quickly and comfortably.
Understanding the ancient use of the word “medicine”.
How to work with herbs, crystals, and power animals so that you have support in your spiritual work.
How to build and use a home altar to focus your intentions and align you with seasonal cycles, the moon cycles, and your own intentions for growth.
Cleanse, purify, and create sacred space.
Work with the elements to achieve deep connection with the world around you.

In addition, Lisa teaches personal, hands-on rituals and spells from her family lineage of gypsy witch magic to help you heal, manifest, and rediscover your powers. Above all, Lisa shows that we really are “the granddaughters of the witches that they couldn't burn”.
From Goodreads.

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Trigger Warnings: This book is transphobic, shames those who medicate/control their menstrual cycle, and erases asexual people.

I picked Witch by Lisa Lister up because I thought it sounded interesting. What I got was not only an author whose voice and ideas I didn't gel with, but also an incredibly transphobic book that's problematic in a lot of other ways, too.

Witch is part self-help book, part manifesto, and part (a very small part) witchcraft guide, and looks at the intersection of witchcraft and feminism. But an awful lot of it was Lister sharing her own beliefs, which, in general, is fine, but she tries to push her opinions and beliefs on the reader. She's very preachy and pushy, and it just wasn't a fun read - especially as her beliefs were a far cry from my own. She makes it clear that witches can choose their own paths, that we should questions everything, including her book, and we can also pick and choose from what she's written what works for us... and yet she writes her opinions as truth, as facts; yes, witches can choose their own path, and there are all these traditions, but there are certain specific things we must all do.

Lister talks a lot about and to you, the reader, and about your abilities as a witch and how to get there... but there isn't really much room for "you" in this book, because it's all about what Lister believes. She tells you what you should do and who you should be based on her own beliefs. There's no room for your own. It's almost like your own beliefs don't matter. And she uses her own spiritual experiences - messages from SHE (what she calls the Goddess/Devine Feminine), etc. - to guide the reader, which I also found really, really strange. This happened to her, not to me, so shouldn't shape the way I do things. Had I read this book before reading any others, I'm pretty sure I would have steered well clear of witchcraft.

She's extremely repetitive, and keeps coming back to the same ideas. I get that she's trying to hammer home her point, but the repetition - and all the times she capitalised words - got old for me very quickly. And to be quite honest, it felt pretty rambley to me. We need to connect with SHE, with the power in our wombs, and "remember" who we always were before the patriarchy made us forget, but she never tells us how we're supposed to do all these things we must do.

Now we get to the transphobia:

"I thought:
...I'll piss off the men for not addressing them as witches.

...I'll piss off the transgender community for not addressing them either.

Yet this is the work I do.

I do women's work, and I'm definitely not going to apologize for

That thought? That need to apologize? That's the very reason why I HAVE to write this book.

What I share is NOT intended to exclude others. But trying to be
all-inclusive would totally miss the point. It would feel like I was bypassing the particular story that I believe needs to be told[.]" (P xviii)

And she continues to talk to the witches reading - the witches who identify as women and who have wombs, ovaries and "pussies", and menstruate - though does talk about women who have gone through the menopause, she addresses them, too. She's very cis-woman centric, and no-one else gets a look in. She puts so much focus on those reproductive organs, as the source of a witch's power, again and again. It all just made me so very uncomfortable. Her message is about the oppression of cis-women due to the patriarchy - and us reclaiming our power and our witch - but neglects to discuss (or maybe doesn't even think about, or chooses to ignore) how the patriarchy also affects trans and non-binary people, too.

Lister also judges and shames anyone who uses medication related to their periods, or those who control them with contraceptives. Because out periods are where our magic is based and it's how we connect to SHE! Our periods have power and can deliver messages! How can you connect to SHE or receive your messages if you're controlling them, or taking medication for period pain, or other related issues? What really gets me is how she, at the very least, had endometriosis, and still she thinks you shouldn't medicate - even if there are health reasons. I personally suffer with severe period pain, and after trial and error with my doctor, I am now on the contraceptive pill, because I need to be. I can't afford to have four days off work every month. I can't function when waking up in the night crying, or walking across the room one second, and curled into a ball on the floor the next, because I'm in agony. And then there's transphobia again, because some people who have periods are not women, and might have issues with bleeding every month. To try and convince those with periods that they should just let them be is disgusting, really.

And if that wasn't bad enough, she goes on to tell us that during our pre-menstrual and menstrual times, we should be at home resting. Not at work. Our bodies require us to rest, but we are forcing ourselves to work, and work, and work, on the patriarchy's time line. We should not be working for those two weeks at all. And what about those who can't afford to have two weeks off work each month? No even considering the fact that stating you won't be at work for two weeks a month is going to lead to you losing your job. It's so bloody unrealistic to think that can and should do this, and comes from such a place of privilege.

Lister also makes a connection between being a woman and being a sexual being, which erases asexual people, too.

I also think it's important to note a few things that could be considered cultural appropriation. Lister prays to and invokes the Hindu goddess Kali Ma. In the section where she talks about cleansing, she mentions how various different traditions cleanse - including burning sage and palo santo, which is a Native American practice - and tell the reader to pick which feels good for them, and then talks about how she likes to burn sage, and also uses it to cleanse those who enter circle with her.

All in all, this book is pretty much a mess. It's so hugely problematic, and actually, for the most part, really unhelpful. Not just in the fact that it's not a "Witchcraft 101" book, as she calls them, but in that she keeps spouting all these ideas and her beliefs, but even for those who connected with what she's saying, she doesn't tell you how to do any of the things we're apparently supposed to. But even so, for all the ways Witch is massively problematic, I can't recommend this book to anyone.

You might also like:

Witchcraft Introductory Books Craft by Gabriela Herstik Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power by Pam Grossman

Over to you graphic

Have you read any real problematic books on witchcraft? What should I steer clear of? Let me know in the comments.

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