Part 1 was posted yesterday. You can read it here.
Though becoming a witch has been a lifelong, gradual process during which I have enacted and developed many rituals, if I had to choose one moment to mark the time I entered my full witchy power, this would be it. This ritual was the first time in my life that I had been thrown entirely on my own resources as a witch, to craft a ritual that was necessary for my survival and that I had no idea how to obtain in any other way. With this ritual I saved my own life, both in a spiritual sense and on a more literal level, since living with such misery and anger would surely have debilitated my physical health.
A friend who is a therapist tells me that she feels many of the women in her practice who are most troubled carry unresolved grief from abortions, and that therapy doesn’t seem to be addressing it. I used to wonder why, as a person who has successfully used many kinds of therapy, I didn’t seek out therapy after my abortion (although a fabulous book by a therapist, Peace After Abortion, truly was helpful). My sense of it now is that I was suffering, not from a wound within my separate self, but instead, from a more raw and basic need that had to be satisfied outside myself, with others: the simple hunger for the spiritual nurturing of communal ritual at one of the most profound moments of my life, the moment when I encountered not only the blood mystery of birth, not only the blood mystery of death, but both of them combined, together, at once.
I hope that my ritual here will be of help to others who are in the same position, and not only for individuals on the personal level, but also for women collectively, on the political level. I firmly believe that in order for us to claim our matricultural power once more and help the human species re-emerge from the death-cult of patriarchy, we will need to make complete peace with our power over life and death. We will need to disentangle our Goddess-given right to manage our own pregnancies from whatever guilt and shame patriarchal religion has tried to pile onto female bodies. We will need to reclaim female-centered spirituality, with its embrace of the physical world, reverence for the sensual, and understanding of the sacred aspects of both life and death. And we will need to embrace the power of ritual that women have always used to move ourselves spiritually and to make our mysteries whole.
The current abortion “debate,” with its obsessing over certain circumstances (incest, rape, life of the mother, age of the fetus) that supposedly make abortion more “acceptable”— in the eyes of a patriarchal moral system based on a punitive, hierarchical monotheistic religion—is trying desperately to fill the spiritual vacuum. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. Those who get stuck arguing about the morality of abortion based on “when life begins” are scared to face one indisputable fact: women have power over life and death. It comes with the territory. Abortion is always a life-death decision, however many weeks along. No matter when life begins, women have always and will always have powers to stop it. Period. (And speaking of periods, most women have been dealing with our power over life and death every month since puberty, and most of us, thank the Goddess, know how to use our power over life and death with love and with wisdom)
Mainstream feminism—still shackled to the idea of monotheistic patriarchal religion as the only plausible spiritual path—has so far framed abortion rights strictly as a secular experience, forcing those who want to experience their abortions in spiritual terms to choose between a patriarchal religion’s spiritual guilt or a strictly secular approach to the act of abortion. But there is a third way: a spiritual path centered on the Divine Feminine. Combining birth, love, and death, abortion is potentially as spiritual an experience as one could imagine. Because the Goddess encompasses both life and death (unlike the transcendent male God), the Goddess can provide a spiritual context for abortion without guilt, shame, or judgement. On the path of the witch and in the sight of the Goddess, as hinted at in my long-ago postcard, it truly is possible to experience a sacred approach to abortion.
Here is the poem I wrote to express my sense of abortion as a sacred act shared by mother and baby, in the sight of the Goddess. Here is the poem I wrote to express my sense of abortion as a sacred act shared by mother and baby, in the sight of the Goddess.
AN ABORTION DAY SPELL FOR TWO VOICES
(To be spoken aloud three times: One stanza for the mother, one stanza for the
baby, and one for both together.)
And I turn your blood back to the earth.
I am life, you are death, and we kiss
Through the fire that is my freedom’s birth.
By the womb of our love’s endlessness,
As you turn my blood back to the earth,
I am death, you are life. And we kiss
Till we move through the deep, giving forth
To the web of our love-woven bliss,
Through the fire that is our freedom’s birth.
Annie Finch is an award-winning poet whose writings embody and explore the matrix of poetry, magic, and matricultures. Her books include six books of poetry, most recently Spells: New and Selected Poems, as well as books and essays on poetry, meter, feminism, and witchcraft; verse plays; a poetry textbook; and nine anthologies including Choice Words, a landmark collection of literature on abortion. Annie teaches workshops and retreats on Poetry Witcheryfor poets, witches, and everyone in between. She earned her Ph.D from Stanford University and has performed and lectured widely at universities including Berkeley, Harvard, and Oxford and women’s conferences and spiritual venues including Emerging Women and Deepak Chopra’s Homespace. Sign up for Annie’s Spellsletter, full of news and inspiration, at anniefinch.net.