The Urban Indian Witch
Gone are the days when a witch meant a cruel, old woman who wore a pointy hat, pointy shoes, flew around town on a broomstick and brewed poisonous potions and tricked people into drinking them. Over the years, witchcraft has evolved from being a taboo-ed practice to a faith, a healing, a culture, almost a fad. And witches, over the years, have evolved from being that creepy woman who lived in that haunted house, all by herself, to an educated woman who, for all we know, must be the one sitting next to us in the local train, or living in the adjacent apartment. The witch of today uses Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about her faith and attract more and more people to follow it.
But this of course, is the urban Indian witch. The plight of witches in rural India is very sad. Every year, hundreds of women from remote villages, especially in Orissa, Assam, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh are tortured, raped, paraded naked and also, in some cases murdered for practicing witchcraft.
In India, witchcraft dates right back to the Iron Age. The Atharva Veda is a collection of spells and charms that were used to harm the enemy or win the heart of a loved one. But the urban Indian witch seldom follows this traditional form. The urban Indian witch follows the ‘Wiccan’ faith. Wicca is a modern religion based on the reconstruction of an ancient European religion. It is also known as ‘the craft of the wise’. Wicca is about an intense love and worship of the elements of nature. People of all faiths, religions and backgrounds are welcome to study, join and become a part of this faith, say its practitioners.
Rev. Swati Prakash, also known as Lady Astra is the head of the ‘Global Wiccan Tradition’. ‘Global Wicca’ is the first Wiccan tradition to originate in India. Based in Bandra, Mumbai, she teaches enthusiastic students about the Wiccan religion and culture. Rev. Swati Prakash owns ‘Magick’- India’s first Wiccan temple and store. Located in Bandra, this store offers the buyer various products like energized gemstones, books, incenses, talismans, energized oils, tarot card kits, services like Tarot reading and also courses in Tarot reading and Wiccan studies. Apart from that, Rev. Swati Prakash also blogs, manages a Facebook page and tweets her views, ideas and about the events organized by ‘The Global Wiccan Tradition’ where they conduct healings and encourage people to learn more about the Wiccan faith.
Just like Rev. Swati Prakash, Sangeeta Krishnan is another Wiccan who promotes and practices witchcraft in Mumbai. She holds monthly rituals at various venues across the city, one of them being the Gateway of India, where she, along with her followers and students, honors The Sun, The Moon and The Earth. They caste group spells and celebrate Wiccan festivals like the Esbats (changing phases of the Moon) and the Sabbats (turning of the year) among many others. Sangeeta Krishnan started a group called ‘Astralhub’, where followers of the Wiccan faith and all those who are interested to know more about it have conversations on various topics ranging from the Wiccan faith, Astrology, Tarot reading, Healing and many more. This group, apart from its monthly meetings, interacts with each other over the internet so as to include people from cities other than Mumbai in their discussions.
Wicca comes with some ethics that every Wiccan has to follow. The Wiccan faith is strictly anti black magic. The Wiccans are staunch believers of Karma. Thus, the ground rule of Wicca is not to cause any kind of harm to anyone. Also, for the Wiccan, nothing comes easy and quick. Patience and complete faith in oneself and one’s prayers are required to achieve one’s goal.
However, in spite of the fact that these witches practice Wicca amidst an urban, educated crowd, there is still a terrible stigma that is attached to the word ‘witch’. Witches like Sangeeta Krishnan and Rev. Swati Prakash are constantly dispelling the myths like flying broomsticks, the relation between witches and the devil etc. These modern day, urban Indian witches are very similar to ‘Athena’ from Paulo Coehlo’s ‘The Witch of Portobello’- just like you and me, but with some strong faiths and an extremely powerful sixth sense.
Ipshita Roy Chakraverti, a leading Indian Wiccan, also known as ‘the lady in black and silver’ once quoted, “we believe that nothing is inanimate. So tap that energy. Use it. Sensitize yourself to Nature’s hidden gifts. Make it work for you. Sometimes you feel life is one dull day following another. But it’s not so if you know how to bring the magic back. Yes, you can make magic happen in your life in simple ways.”
Picture courtesy: http://www.globalwicca.com/globalwicca.htm
Ipshita Roy Chakraverti’s quote courtesy:http://www.lifepositive.com/spirit/traditional-paths/wicca/ipsita.asp