Q&A: Monica Bodirsky, a practising witch, on Canada’s newly repealed witchcraft ban
BY COURTNEY SHEA | JUNE 22, 2017
Photograph by George Rabuzin
Last week, updates to the criminal code repealed a law that made it illegal to practise (or pretend to practise) witchcraft in Canada. The change came just in time for yesterday’s summer solstice, an important day on the Pagan calendar. Monica Bodirsky is a practising Toronto witch, artist and OCAD prof who spoke with Toronto Life about what it means to see her lifestyle legalized, how she feels about fashion witches and why—for the last time—she is no friend of the devil.
What does the decriminalization of witchcraft mean to you as a witch?
It means a lot in principle. [Our government] has finally gotten to addressing a very outdated and archaic law. By bringing this law to the forefront and saying it is outdated, I feel, like a lot of people I know, somewhat vindicated. Just the thought of something being illegal is enough to make some people feel guilty or like they’re doing something wrong. We’ve been freed up not to have any baggage about practising. Not that I have [any baggage]—I’m not that young any more.
Why do you think such an outdated law stuck around for so long?
People may have interpreted the law as overtly Christian and against devil worship. I never read it that way. My understanding is that its intent was to stop folks from getting conned by people posing as witches—people who would fool others into thinking that they had curses thrown on them and then charge exorbitant amounts to have the curses removed.
So people committing fraud, which remains illegal.
Yes. Fraud is fraud, period. That’s what the fraud squad is for.
Do you subscribe to any particular style of witchcraft?
I don’t follow Gardnerian or Alexandrian Wicca philosophies, which are connected to a religion—there is a church of Wicca in Canada. I practise an earth-based spirituality. My connection is directly to the elements and the earth and nature. A big part of my witch practice is to be a steward for our environment because we are doing such extreme damage. It’s also about reclaiming a word that was once used to put down older women who may have been different or no longer considered beautiful, or held knowledge that people found frightening. And it’s about the right use of intent—taking responsibility for yourself and your actions and the right use of power.
So far, it sounds like you’re an environmentalist slash feminist slash amateur Oprah.
The spirituality is where people get stuck. They’re fine with feminism and environmentalism, but when you start talking about energy, intent, spellcraft, practical magic, then you start losing people. It’s like you’ve suddenly gone from being rational to “You’ve lost your mind.”
Maybe it’s because as kids we often learn about witches in the same context as monsters and goblins, and those bad guy associations stick.
Right. And this is where feminism comes into play for me. Women and power is an uncomfortable mix historically. When you look at certain films, you see women who are empowered and who are going to use that power for evil. That stereotype is so pervasive.
Learn more about our Wickedly Divine Parlour this year! Read this BlogTO link
This live interview occurred on Monday, August 29th from 2 - 3 pm EST, while I was still participating in the Awakening residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island.
I had a great time speaking with Betty Jane about the cards, the ritual process of making art and a bit about how I view life.
Please enjoy her insightful questions and a few of my spontaneous and sometimes odd answers!