5 min read

“The Power of Radical Kindness” — Witch at NeoAncients Review

The witch has held a place firmly in our imagination for centuries - from whispered warnings in folklore to pop-culture driven heights.
“The Power of Radical Kindness” — Witch at NeoAncients Review

Review: Witch by Emma Kernahan

Of all the events in the Pop Up Stroud: Neo-Ancients weekend, the appearance by the team behind the recent BBC radio series ‘Witch’ (Tatum Swithenbank, Emma Kathryn and Lucy Dearlove) was one of the fastest to sell out, and continues to be perhaps the most discussed beyond the limits of the event and of Stroud itself.

Witch - Introducing Witch - BBC Sounds
India Rakusen finds out what it means to call yourself a witch today.

The witch has held a place firmly in our imagination for centuries - from whispered warnings in folklore to pop-culture driven heights. Over thirteen episodes (of course!) presented by India Rakusen, this series explores what it means to be a witch now, linking history, land rights, political power, death, misogyny and magical thinking.

Once you see the connections, you can’t unsee them, and it was no surprise that in a time of precarity and change, this programme had already spread like a word of mouth wildfire, among women in particular.

This year I have watched it pop up across my hidden landscape of whatsapp chats and facebook groups like - well - magic.

That might have explained why there was such a distinct atmosphere when I arrived, the room full of people who knew or at least recognised each other, living in a small town as we do.

Under the watchful eye of the art of Daisy Rickman, Lucy Wright and Nick Philips, the room rippled with nods, waves and smiles, the expectant rustle of notebooks.

Such was the draw of that single word - ‘Witch’ that this had turned out to be half university lecture, half tiny rock concert. 

Either way, everybody there meant business. Someone sitting in front of me leaned over to a friend ‘How do you find out who all the witches in Stroud are?’ she said, partly to the room. ‘You organise this, and they all show up!’ Over the laughter, somebody squeezed along the packed row to find the last empty seat. ‘I’ve been summoned’ she said, and shoved her Aldi bag for life under her chair.

Just like the series, the event was warm and open, creating something that felt more like a gathering than an audience.

Like the series, or like witchcraft itself, it deftly occupied the space between light and dark, magic and science, humorous and radical, leaving you questioning whether there is really any divide there at all.

The chat wove through discussion of recent Beltane celebrations, ritual in daily life, the ways we understand death and our ability to grieve in modern life, to the wild injustice of witch trials.

Silvia Federici interviewed by Tulika Bose

The fact that we still refer to them glibly, even jokingly, as witch trials, when so few of those involved were or are actually witches, gives an insight into how little we really acknowledge this as a horrifying miscarriage of justice, and how tight the grip of those same political systems are, even today.

Still, the tone was never less than friendly and familiar - even as the ideas were never less than subversive. Beneath it all lay a gleeful and steely sense of joy.

By the end of the discussion, it was hard to avoid seeing the power that lies in rejecting dogma (there are as many ways to be a witch as there are witches), in playing with time itself and discarding the idea that our worth is measured by productivity.

What is Crip Time?
The term crip time is used by some disability theorists and advocates to describe disabled individuals’ unique relationship to time. We review what this means for accessibility.

And the power of that most radical thing - kindness and connection: to yourself, to others, to the natural world.

For now, capitalism and our current political systems still cast a spell over all of our lives.

But during this remarkable hour, a submerged truth became visible: that with just a very small change, a few of the right words at the right moment, even the most powerful spells can be broken.

I very much hope the Witch team keep gathering for more events - who knows what they’ll summon if they do.

Emma Kernahan is a member of Dialect Writers and Stroud Association of Mythical Entities. Emma shares her cultural commentary and love of place on instagram as @crappyliving.

About — Dialect
Stroud Association of Mythical Entities
Absolute legends!