Five Questions With....


Pam Grossman

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Waking the Witch:
5 Questions with Pam Grossman

TWPT: What were some of the main goals that were foundational to what you you wanted to accomplish with the publication of
Waking the Witch?

PG:  This book was born very much out of the spirit of making the thing I wish already existed. There are so many wonderful witch books out there, but I found that most of them tend to focus on one aspect of the archetype, such as the witch hunts, or visual representation of witches in fine art or pop culture, or the practice of witchcraft. But I was looking for something that explored the iconography of the witch over all, especially in regards to how it is tied up with society's feelings about female power. And so I set off to write the book I wanted to read. It was a challenge to weave together all of these different strands, as I was pulling from history, contemporary culture, and a bit of my own personal story too. But it's how I've been able to make the most sense of why we both love and fear witches so much, and why they are deeply meaningful to so many people, including me. 

TWPT:  Tell me about the title of your book Waking the Witch. What does it signify and why is there an awakening needed? 

PG:  Well the title was inspired in part by the Kate Bush song of the same name. But the phrase is originally derived from a rather ghastly practice of sleep deprivation torture that was employed during the witch hunts to get the accused to "confess." So the multiple meanings resonated with me a lot. It takes a dreadful bit of history and resignifies it as a positive clarion call for transformation. For myself and many others, witches symbolize everything that is outside white straight cis patriarchal norms. General speaking, witches represent otherness - of identity, certainly, but also of alternative, often subversive ways of being. They are associated with nature, magic, instinct, intuition, the feminine, and embracing shadow alongside the light. And I believe we need that expanded, more holistic point of view to build a better world. As say at the end of every episode of my podcast, The Witch Wave: Witches are the future. 

TWPT:  Who do you see as the audience who will benefit the most from reading Waking the Witch?  

PG:  I suppose the obvious answer is anyone who identifies as somehow different or "other," especially those on the feminine end of the spectrum. But honestly I think there's something in the book for everyone. If you are interested in issues of power, gender, culture, the imagination, politics, spirituality, and so on, you'll get something out of it I should hope. 

TWPT:  What did you learn about Witchcraft through the research you did for this book and the subsequent writing of it that you didn’t know before you started the project? 

PG:  Oh, I learned so much! But the one that comes to mind is how witches - as we've come to identify them - were not actually originally mentioned in the Bible until later English translations. The Witch of Endor, for example, was originally referred in Hebrew as a ba’alat ob, which translates roughly to “mistress of the ob,” - an ob being some sort of vessel or pit that would house a familiar or other ghostly entities. So she was certainly communicating with the dead, according to her famous story. But the moniker "witch" didn't get given to her until the 16th century or so. 

TWPT:  What does the witch archetype have to say to the women of the 21st century? 

PG:  One of the things I love about the archetype is that it is multi-faceted and multi-layered. Though witches have traditionally been considered malevolent, we've seen them reclaimed and reframed as sympathetic - even aspirational - beings with every wave of feminism, beginning in the mid-19th century. That's why in the book I write "show me your witches, and I'll show you your feelings about women," because the way we think about witches often reflects our feelings about female power in general. It's no accident that as women and femmes have gained more freedom and autonomy, there have been far more positive depictions of witches in our culture. If you are taught to see feminine power as a threat, your witches will show that, and they will be threatening and villainous. But if empowered, emancipated women are valued, then your witches will be too.