witch GATHERINGS&WORSHIP / May 2014

WITCHES, HEALERS AND SPELL CASTERS FROM POLAND

Photography by Katarzyna Majak
Text by Dora Moutot

Today, some women still proclaim themselves to be truly witches of our time. Katarzyna Majak met with 27 women who identify themselves as contemporary witches, healers and women shaman throughout Poland. Through a beautiful and interesting reportage entitled “Women of Power”, she puts the spotlight on these women, opening the dialogue surrounding the meaning of the word “witch” and seeking to redeem the word’s original meaning. But what is really a witch?

In our Western culture, when we think of a “witch”, we think of Samantha from “Bewitched”, the Wicked Witch of the East in the “Wizard of Oz”, Roald Dahl’s 1983 book “The Witches”, the bad girls from “The Craft”, “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, Prue, Piper and Phoebe from “Charmed”…

The word “witch” evokes immediately a cliché. This one can have childish accents, with a big pointy hat and a crooked nose, comical accents such as a small moving nose or a magical cat, or more disturbing, mysterious and gothic tones. The witch seems to be a legend, a fictional character living solely in books and films, only surfacing in the media for the night of Halloween.

 

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Maria, a Healer and a Visionary.Belongs to the “tribal Elders” of the new times. Searches for truth and love, truth of love, inner truth. The search for the meaning of existence, sacredness of everyday life and roots has led her to teaching, knowledge and wisdom of the indigenous people, especially the first inhabitants of the American continent. When she started a personal process of healing she heard a call from Mother Earth. She is a Pipe Carrier for Poland. She participates in women’s circles, in which she serves as an Elder.
Natalia, an artist.An artist. At times a witch. She touches upon philosophy, magic and religion, and deconstructs her own physicality. Gains her strength from her surroundings, from nature. Uses the power of dreaming, myths, magic attributes, and ritual objects.

TO THE ORIGIN

 

The word “witch” is at the origins of quite a poetic word, meaning “wise woman”. “Witchcraft” literally means “knowledge of the wise women”, designating women who have acquired knowledge of spirituality, nature and sexuality via the feminine. The word then lost its meaning to the profit of a more pejorative connotation. The Middle Ages and its witch-hunts have left their marks.

 

 

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Bea,the One who Listens to the Woods, from Women of Power series. A witch, herbalist, spiritual healer. Full of wind. She lives next to a mountain and a ravens' nest. She listens to the forest, meditates, practices shamanism and reads cards. She travelled across Russia, Ukraine and Mongolia.
Paraskiewa, a Whisperer A Babka, a whisperer. Uses the power of prayers, spells, burns flax, pours wax – just like centuries ago, she ‘prays’ illnesses.

THE QUEST FOR AN ALTERNATIVE SPIRITUALITY

 

Katarzyna Majak casts her lens on women who practice an alternative spirituality in a country where 90% of the population is Catholic. These “witches” are simply strong women. They assert their “female powers” and nurture the matriarchal cult, using their female resources through sexuality, dignity, art, and nature, with the aim to help, heal and cultivate spiritual growth.

“I decided to call this reportage “Women of Power” because even though the word “witch” really means wise woman, it still carries a negative connation in Poland. So I decided to use a different term. The power here of course refers to inner power – beyond politics, governments, religions, media pressure, etc”, explains Katarzyna Majak.

 

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Kasia Emilia, the One who Is Tȟáȟča Wakan Winyan… The one who is...
Elwinga. A contemporary Druid.

Christianity arrived in Poland many centuries ago. It succeeded in eradicating practically all other forms of spirituality, such as paganism, shamanic traditions and witchcraft. But according to Katarzyna Majak, witches are now making a comeback in Poland thanks to a new interest for more “exotic” forms of spirituality.

Katarzyna Majak went to meet these Polish enchantresses all across the country, photographing women aged from 30 to 80 years old, who all practice different forms of spirituality.

“The women live all over the country – in both big cities and remote villages. I travelled around the country searching for them. In most cases I was led from one woman to another as some of them know each other”, explains Katarzyna.

 

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Maria in front of the palace of culture of Warsaw.

But at the start, Katarzyna’s meeting with these witches was led by her own personal quest as a woman in search of spirituality.

 “I was not very familiar with these types of women and spiritual beliefs before my project – I was brought up under communism in a Catholic family, and was never really shown other options. A witch to me was a scary character whose deformed image survived in fairy tales and movies. I came across the first project participants when I started looking for female wisdom out of the mainstream, when I felt there was something amiss around. I intuitively felt what the mainstream offers to women does not satisfy their deeper search. And without a doubt it coincided with my own spiritual breakthrough.”

 

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Anna. A whisperer. Heals and helps using the power of prayer.
Joanna, Leads Womens Circles and Ceremonies for Women. Has learnt a lot from Native Americans. She leads women’s circles, Full Moon Ceremony, taught by the Inka teachers and Ceremonies for an Unborn. She shares her experience and sees a great need to build solidarity among women, so that they finally find home withinthemselves, in their intuition, hearts and bodies. All of this work is done with respect and love towards men.

 A FUSION OF PRACTICES

 

The women photographed by Katarzyna all have their own different practices. Some of them are traditional healers making use of spells and prayers, fusing religion and superstitions originating from the Belo-Russian border.

Others have links within their family such as grandmothers who were visionaries or herbalists, and they seek to continue on these traditions into the present day. Some affirm to have preserved ancestral spiritual knowledge in their subconscious, inspiring them to travel to Peru, America and New Zealand, fusing these forms of knowledge with their own local Slavic traditions. The reportage also features Buddhists, Wiccans, Maoris, Asatrus and druids.

 “To be a witch means to be a woman of knowledge. Every woman has access to this aspect of herself. The women I photographed and interviewed for the book are more aware of the potential of this part of them-selves and have decided to cherish it.  Their scope of activity is broad – herbs, midwifery and healing to art, social activism, and the initiation of new religions”, comments Katarzyna.

 

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Katarzyna, a Herbal Healer Herb master. Researcher of secret and forgotten herb formulas. In her practice she uses a pre-war notebook of her grandfather – the herbalist Seweryn Wolf. She refers to herbs’ healing and magical properties. Believes herbs are woman’s secret allies in dealing with problems that cannot be solved in a conventional way.
Justyna, MA-URI. 
Has been part of MA-URI® since 2001, when the question, "Who am I and what is my direction?" brought an unexpected answer with the word "MA-URI”. She is a multimedia artist living in the wilderness of Nadnotecka,where she established "4 WINDS”,the first European MA-URI teaching house, based on traditional Maori meeting-houses.

Katarzyna explains that these women lead well-rounded lives with families and jobs but that they have also decided to proudly affirm themselves and “come out” as witches. Some of them have been practicing for years, or even generations, while others started more recently. Some make a living from their practice and others have kept it as a side-job.

Each woman has a different story and below each portrait photographed by Katarzyna, we discover the story hiding behind each face through a written account.

 “I asked each woman to choose the outfit they feel good in, which somehow defines them. Some serve as ceremonial outfits. There are also women who decided to dress casually. I also asked them to select their object of power – an object that is important to them and carry it while being photographed. While being photographed they had to stare directly into the camera in order to exert a healing effect on a potential viewer.”

 

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Vrede, Völva, prophétesse nordique. \
Asatru follower, works with runes and seiðr, a völva (a Nordic prophetess)

 

AESTHETIC OF THE CONTEMPORARY WITCH

 

It’s without surprise that Katarzyna revealed to me the title of her PHD thesis completed at the university of Poznan in Poland: a study of identity through dress exploring numerous contemporary photography projects. Just like us at The Other, Katarzyna is profoundly interested with what an allure both reveals and conceals. Thanks to her project, we can now refresh our ideas about contemporary witches’ style and aesthetics.

Katarzyna’s talented photography puts the spotlight on the aestheticism of the witches, but does not give us a clear or pragmatic idea of the practices of these women – perhaps not having enough space to distance herself from her own spiritual search.

 

➜ www.katarzynamajak.com

 

 

2 Responses to “WITCHES, HEALERS AND SPELL CASTERS FROM POLAND”

  1. dharmesh kewada abduallah abduallah says:

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    their expectations for love is very big increase my power size body muscles, very big, and sexual organs making them new and big
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  2. good day please help and protect me my name is ARNOLDRODOLF SARONG. my enemy is very powerfull she use red malong witchcraft casting, plotting deception and deceptive spirits against me. name. ELAINE RIZ…

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