Southern Witch: Exploring Pagan Beliefs and Practices in the Rural South

I’m a lifelong southerner. I’m also a witch. I assure you that it’s possible to be both. Paganism is alive and growing here in the land itself and in our folk traditions that have been passed down for generations. This blog explores the unique joys and challenges of being a witch and priestess of the Goddess in the Deep South, a place where the crossroads meet.

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Unleash the Furies: Fighting for Women's Sovereignty in the South

I have three strikes against me as a resident of southern Alabama—woman, witch, and feminist. Coping with the Bible Belt and being in politically hostile territory is nothing new, since I’ve been doing it all my life. I’ve leaned on the security of the First Amendment and Jefferson’s exhortations on maintaining a “wall of separation between church and State” when threatened with theocratic notions. I have believed in these foundational cornerstones of our nation, even if so many around me seemed to forget.   

Over the past few years, though, I’ve watched the extreme fundamentalists get bolder in their attempts to marry church and government, and it’s disturbing to say the least. The latest assault on women’s reproductive rights is exposing just how close we are to Gilead, the dystopian world that Margaret Atwood paints so vividly and chillingly in The Handmaid’s Tale

I question the psychological toll of living in a state where 25 men could make a sweeping decision that denies a woman the right to decide whether she will continue with a pregnancy, even if it is the result of rape or incest. I question how a female governor could sign such a bill into law, knowing full well the repercussions of her actions. I don’t have the luxury of drinking my morning coffee in a progressive state where women’s rights are still protected, shaking my head over the backwardness and ignorance erupting out of the South right now. I’m in the midst of it, right here on the front lines, and I’m furious.

My thoughts keep returning to my maternal grandmother who didn’t have a safe option for ending a pregnancy in 1939. Her father had died, and she was struggling to make ends meet with her mother and two sisters in the foothills of Appalachia. I will never know the circumstances of the birth, since my grandmother carried the secret of having borne a child out of wedlock to her grave. I suspect that she was raped, since the child’s father was never held accountable. She eventually married a soldier, my grandfather, and he raised the little girl as his own. The family maintained the secret until both my grandmother and my aunt had died. When I learned the truth, my heart shattered for all the years of pain and shame they endured.

There were other well-kept secrets that waited for me to be old enough to swallow them, dark legacies of abuse that seemed to travel through the bloodline. I often think of an aunt who was raped by her alcoholic husband, resulting in a daughter she didn’t want and was forced to carry. I think of that daughter, my first cousin, who was shamed repeatedly for having two illegitimate children. She committed suicide at 42.

There are many other stories I could relate of women whose lives were forever altered by unintended pregnancies in an era when abortions could not be obtained safely or legally. Given my own family history, it is no great wonder that I became an advocate for women's reproductive rights. I'm encouraged to see the national backlash against the bans. I can feel the seething hot rage of my maternal ancestral line, encouraging me to fight against misogyny, and fight I shall—for them and for future generations of women to have sovereignty over their bodies and their lives. 

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Jen is a pagan blogger, poet, Reiki practitioner, and aspiring massage therapist. Her passion is exploring and celebrating the Divine Feminine through art, shamanic ritual, and intuitive readings.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Tuesday, 21 May 2019

    Right after the Alabama Abortion Ban there was a column by Leonard Pitts in the local paper in which he described the Ban as "a pointed reminder that in the sphere of social change, victory is never permanent because the forces of regress never rest. The forces of progress must emulate them, must learn that there's no guarantee the battle won stays won. Not without ongoing vigilance, organization, and a commitment to vote, every single time." I make it a point to show up and vote in every primary and election. It frustrates and disappoints me when I see low voter turnout. To me that's just begging to be taken advantage of. Pitts ends his column saying "Victory is never permanent, it's true, But then, neither is defeat."

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