An Ode to Beloved Indian Witches

Indian witch reading a book

I was surprised when I learned Wicca is openly practised in India.

Till then, I had only read about it in blogs written by people in the U.S.

Witches are just like ordinary people, blending in seamlessly with society. They don’t ride broomsticks or cast spells on unsuspecting individuals. The real ones tell you not to use the universal energy for negative agendas – “It will hit you back,” they warn. This differs from the stereotypical witches in movies and television dramas, who are portrayed as evil and adept at spewing words of hatred.

As I went through articles and posts by real witches advocating for the principle of “Do no bad to others,” I couldn’t help but notice the similarity to the teachings of practitioners of more mainstream religions who promote similar values. I often wonder if we are all indeed praying collectively to the same energy. Even a book on atheism, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, does not negate the power of nature and its mystical ways.

Personally, it’s gratifying to know that we all are more united than we think we are – not divided by religion, caste, or community. We are one, all seeking the same things in life – hoping to be heard, protected, and blessed by a higher energy to navigate life more smoothly. The possibility that we must all be asking favors from the same being, using different names, is a heady feeling. It erases any semblance of boundaries. It assures you that humanity is above all. If more individuals shared this perspective, the divisive “us vs. them” mentality could diminish, allowing us to function from a unified standpoint.

I read about Ipsita Roy Chakraverti in a local newspaper. I was mindblown by the fact that a witch existed in India. Such things are usually kept secret in a conservative country like mine, but here was a woman who was unabashedly vocal about her practice and teachings. It was then I learned that Ipsita has authored many books on witchcraft. I decided to try “Beloved Witch” as curiosity got the better of me.

Ipsita is different from other witches in the sense that she does not shy away from promoting her powers. She’s not modest and understands her worth, which is why you often see her showering herself with compliments in the book.

I found it refreshing that Ipsita encourages you to use the all-encompassing universal energy for your own greedy benefits but warns you to be prepared for repercussions. She does not say, “Don’t do this.” Instead, she says, “Do it. But whatever happens after that is your responsibility.” So basically, she’s like a parent telling her young ones to seek adventure, giving them the liberty to learn from their own mistakes.

Now that I am done with my views on the subject, I am going to present some of my favorite thought-provoking quotes and anecdotes from Ipsita’s book. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

The earth is a great storehouse of energy. Merge with that source he told me, and you shall be whatever you wish to be.

She’ll flick some ash off from her cigarette (no, smoking is not permitted in the chalet, but she’ll sneak around the garden shed and wink at us). As the ash plops down and crumbles away, she’ll say, ‘That’s worldly fame for you. Fun while it lasts but don’t count on it to be around. Besides, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.’

The following quote is what I had blogged about previously. It was after writing the post that I read this book, so it was a pleasant surprise for me to see those thoughts come to life in print.

Somehow, eastern yoginis never ‘flew’ but western witches were supposed to ride the broom over hill and dale. I have often wondered about this. And this is what I have discovered. What did the broom symbolize? It stood for hearth and home to which a woman was tied by male domination. As she ‘flew’ away on it, it meant that she was breaking the bonds. It symbolized her freedom. It might as well have been a flying carpet.

Colourful stories abounded about how a long-suffering wife would fly away into the night on this piece of domestic bondage, while her husband slept snugly unaware in his bed. She would revel all night long under the moon and return only at dawn to sweep the hearth with the very broom which had carried her off to her secret trysts.

It has been said that witches were women who were never afraid to ‘fly’. Maybe that is why they had to be burnt.

Women, strong, beautiful or independent minded were called witches so that they could be eliminated. 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.

Of course, in my experience with thousands of women who have come to me for help, I would say that every strong woman is a witch and she is always hunted. It goes against the nature of most men to tolerate a woman they cannot dominate.

Witch-hunting is present not only in rural Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh. 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. Who is a witch? Or more important, what does she do? As she is a Wiccan, it would be fair to say that she practises Wicca or wiccecraefte or the skills of the wise. She was the original wise woman, the shaman, the healer, the counsellor, the lawyer, the stateswoman of her community. Her power became a threat to men, to organised religion — and hence the persecution, the witch-hunts and the slander.

‘Dr Radhakrishnan, do people in our country work best when they are shouted at or spoken to with sarcasm?’ I asked. He smiled that famous smile of his. Serene, indulgent and amused. ‘Yes, I think three hundred years of servitude have taken their toll. The Indian mind wants and needs love, compassion and understanding but has been weakened by fear. Hence it reacts the most quickly to harshness for that is what it fears. You see, our people have had to put up with so many masters, that even now we understand only the language of compulsion.’

Manifestation and visualization are concepts endorsed by a lot of people, including yours truly. As made clear from the following quote, it is practised in witchcraft as well.

Visualization of what you desire is an important part of every Wiccan ritual.

I hated the thought of my parents making a will because it implied that one day I would be on my own on this planet. And if I was capable of love, they were the only ones I did love. Wills also confirm the worst in human nature. It makes one realize that without legal documents and safeguards, people are vile, greedy and corrupt. There is something very sad in this realization.

‘I agree with Nietzsche about what the free spirit needs. It abhors habits and rules. Everything which goes on and on.’

‘But can marriage become stifling then?’ I asked her. ‘I suppose it can, to certain natures. Such a nature, even if it marries, needs space. You know, don’t you, that Nietzsche compared marriage to a spider’s web. Finally, the threads become traps. That is why, after a time, the spider stuck in the middle, painfully tears apart the mesh enclosing him, even though it will suffer from the wounds — because it must tear these threads off itself, away from its body, away from its soul. It must learn to hate where it used to love and vice versa.’

Wicca was not a dark and sinister practice, it was above board and publicly practised for anybody to check and experience. I proved it to the country. I also brought back the ancient science of quartz therapy to India. Wicca showed the way, once the path had been cleared.

Amongst the men, a very famous Wiccan was said to be none other than Robin Hood. He lived in the green woods, a lover of nature. He had around him a coven of twelve members, he being the thirteenth. He was certainly anti-establishment and fought against all forms of exploitation of the poor and helpless. He was also against organized religion. The woods were his church.

The power seekers wanted control in their own hands. Control over the populace, control over laws and governance. Those with independent, free thinking ways and minds, were a threat. Hence the persecution of Wiccans. Specially if they were women. They became the ‘evil witches’ who always tried to harm people, specially children. Folklore and fairy tales abounded equating witchery with wickedness.

What is wicked? Evil is so relative. What is wrong today, may not be considered so tomorrow. Besides right and wrong are such personal, individual things. I have always set my own standards, keeping only one thing in mind. I do not willingly and purposefully harm another in body, mind or spirit. I do not initiate mischief.

Life was the greatest school, the best laboratory for the most interesting experiments with the human species.Look at them, listen to them, mingle with them and learn.

So is there a heaven where you go if you have been ‘good’? I think we make our own heavens (and hells?) right here — and we continue living in them with those we want near, even after we pass on from our physical bodies.

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Photo by Bayram Musayev