I’ve been seeing quite a few posts on Facebook lately that talk about ‘women’s wisdom’, and the idea that all women have something of a witch inside them. That notion feels right to me; any woman who has children (be they born to her or only close to her heart) has an innate sense of them – sometimes reaching far beyond what science would consider reasonable – and yet she KNOWS when her child needs her. This sense too can be applied to her partner or spouse, siblings or even close friends – many of us have either experienced it firsthand or know of a woman who has. I don’t think that this applies only to women, of course; many men are very sensitive to the vibrations or cosmic twinges or whatever it is that makes your spidey-senses tingle. That intuition is there, if only we care to listen to it.
It’s more than just an awareness of your kindred though; it’s the connection to the moon, and the cycles of life that are inborn in women that connect us to each other and to the earth. I’ve been spending some time contemplating these connections and it’s led to some interesting thought experiments! Since I’ve been exploring Germanic paganism more of late, and I came across the witte wieven which are (depending on which source you’re looking at), either the spirits of the ‘wise women’ of a village, or the women themselves. It could also be referring to folklore and elven healers, but in the historical context, I tend to think of them more as the wise women or healers… the witches, if you will.
Witte wieven in modern Dutch literally translates to “white women”, but originally meant “wise women” in dialects of Dutch Low Saxon. Historically, the witte wieven are thought to be wise female herbalists and medicine healers who took care of people’s physical and mental ailments. It was said they had the talent for prophecy and looking into the future. They had a high status in the communities, and so when they died ceremonies were held at their grave sites to honour them. According to mythology, their spirits remained on earth, and they became living spirits (or elven beings) that either helped or hindered people who encountered them. They tended to reside in the burial sites or other sacred places. It was thought that mist on a gravehill was the spirit of the wise woman appearing, and people would bring them offerings and ask for help.
My interest in my Germanic roots, and the arrival of Spring has brought all of this together. Spring is the time of year that I start checking the medicine cabinet and preparing for fall and winter, so I thought it was interesting and appropriate that I look to the witte wieven, in my case, my maternal ancestors, to help me with that task this year. The connection of the witte weiven to traditional folk healing (so-called ‘white witches’) is an easy one to make, and so I thought it quite appropriate!
I’ll be making another post on what’s in my medicine cabinet, so be sure to check back for that!