TWH – Singer and songwriter Beyoncé is the latest star to be accused of Witchcraft. News stories published by online media sources and tabloids explain that former drummer Kimberly Thompson is suing the singer for using “extreme Witchcraft” to control her and her finances. The reports also state that the ex-band member claims that Beyoncé used dark magic to stage a campaign of harassment against her.Beyoncé has not made a public statement in response, and Thompson was denied the requested restraining order. However, now Beyoncé joins a long list of other female performers who have been accused of Witchcraft for one reason or another.
Over the years, Katy Perry has been tagged as a Witch. One of the most notorious occasions was in 2017, during a court battle with a group of nuns over converting an old convent into a home. The 8 acre property served as a retreat for the group, but was reportedly owned by a local archbishop. One nun reportedly said, ““I’m sorry but I am just not into witchcraft and I am just not into people who are into witchcraft. It disturbs me, and that was our mother house and our retreat house and it’s sacred ground.”
Perry won the case and was able to purchase the land.
Madonna is another singer who has been called a Witch over her many years of performing. In a candid 2016 speech on sexism in the music industry, she said, “I was called a whore and a witch.” Her speech goes on to discuss what women performers are allowed to do and what they aren’t.
“You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness and do not — do not, I repeat — share your own sexual fantasies with the world,” she said.
And, at one point she speaks to Beyoncé and other younger performers, warning that one thing you can’t do is age. She called aging a sin because they won’t play your songs.
The accusations of Witchcraft in all three cases are all reinforcements of Madonna’s point. Witch has been used as a slur against powerful, educated, and elderly women for centuries. Whether or not the three women practice some form of modern Witchcraft is irrelevant. The word itself is being used by the accusers to suggest that the singers are evil and dangerous.
While the artists mentioned above, including Beyoncé and Madonna, live primarily in a world where the consequences of being called a Witch are mitigated by their privilege, power, and location, the consequences for women in other parts of the world are more sobering, even deadly. In those cases, elderly women, especially those who are alone or own property, are the most likely to be labeled a witch and, in some cultures, are the most in danger of being killed for that reason.
According to one report on Tanzania, the number of accusations goes up when an area suffers a ‘shock,’ such as natural disaster or famine. Older women are blamed, and often killed.
In these cultures, the use of the word creates a dire situation for women, one that is extremely complicated and is trapped in a web of cultural expectations, illiteracy, economic structures, religious and folk beliefs, and politics. A number of international human rights organizations and some governments are trying to end what they call an epidemic of violence done in the name of Witchcraft.
As noted earlier, witchcraft accusations have different consequences and are used differently across cultures and countries. In the U.S., such accusations are more commonly used publicly against strong and powerful women, such as Madonna, Beyoncé, Perry, and, in politics, Hillary Clinton. These women are handed a proverbial big capital W to wear around town.
Whether Beyoncé or the others practice Witchcraft is not the point, as noted. They may; they may not. In these cases, the word is simply being used as a slur suggesting an intent to commit an evil act. Beyoncé is being accused of Witchcraft by someone who has or believes she has reportedly suffered in some way at the singer’s hands. The word is being weaponized.
Public reactions to the reports of accusations against famous women are always varied. Most mainstream readers treat such accusations as fodder for tabloids, ignore it or see the word simply as a substitute “bitch.” One twitter user said for example: “The
#Beyonce witchcraft rumors are more entertaining than any music she’s put out in the last decade.”
Whether a fan of the singer or not, the most common reactions dismiss the accusation or simply play along with the idea for fun. Some fans are simply shrugging their shoulders as if to asl ‘does it matter?’ Others are mocking the drummer for making what they believe to be a silly accusation.
Still others, including those who appear to be from conservative or evangelical Christian backgrounds, are convinced that the story is true and that the singer is evil. For example, a twitter user wrote, “I believe that Beyonce is Doing witchcraft heavily just look at her eyes. You can tell she’s a soulless being.”
The Pagan community, however, has an entirely different reaction. One Wild Hunt reader and practicing Witch jokingly said, “Yes! I knew she was one of us.” Still others are irritated by the media coverage and the use of the word Witch in a way that perpetuates the negative stereotypes of modern practice.
While the word witch is derogatory in many of the world’s circles, it certainly isn’t derogatory everywhere. The apparent malleability of the word, as is flows through different cultural contexts, creates tension and often misunderstandings between people. However, the essence of the word actually doesn’t change at all with regard to women; it remains the same as it moves from circle to circle. It is the reaction to that singular meaning that actually changes.
Witch is and has always been synonymous with a self-empowered, independent woman.