Firefox, LaSara. Sexy Witch. Llewellyn, 2005. Paperback, 314 pages.
Sexy Witch is first and foremost a workbook. LaSara Firefox is a talented author who wants to entice the reader into finding and creating her own path of self-discovery. Firefox encourages readers, individually or in groups, to work through the seven chapters, taking at least a week for each, with activities during the week and a ritual symbolizing the steps along the path at the end of each week. A final, culminating ritual is a strong statement of self-empowerment, building on the process of reconceptualization of oneself as woman and as witch.
I found that the book worked well for me as a solitary, and I imagine it would also be very powerful for the right group of women working together. It requires a great deal of openness, though, so this is not a book to start with for a newly-formed group! Each chapter has a mix of reading material and activities, including journaling, visualization, mind-mapping and freewriting, art projects, and self-explorations such as potentially cross-dressing and exploring one’s nude body and genitals. The writing is unabashedly feminist and pro-sex, with the tone of a friendly chat over coffee. Firefox avoids the trap of pedantic harangues about feminist thought and values, and also eschews the sickeningly-sweet tone adopted by some authors trying to over-romanticize women’s bodies, experiences, and worth. Instead of loading the reader down with feminist theory, she continually challenges the reader to investigate her own definitions, experiences, and all-too-often unspoken assumptions and evaluations. Aware that such investigation is not always comfortable, Firefox reminds readers that “No one’s watching you, so it’s okay to let yourself get a little uncomfortable.” (57)
The first four chapters are about turning inward and self-examination, which is the most potentially uncomfortable part of this work. Starting with a chapter on our relationships to our bodies, Firefox proceeds through self-worth, then women’s relationship with and awareness of their genitals, so that the pivotal fourth chapter is about the entire complex of masturbation, menstruation, and birthing. From there, the fifth chapter starts explicitly rebuilding a new worldview, with the senses, the next chapter invites women to make their own myths and world-stories to support their new claim on power, and the final chapter focuses on the experience of self-initiation as a claiming of the reconstructed worldview. As Firefox writes, “For many of us, the transformational aspect of these celebrations [transitions in our lives] has been downplayed, if recognized at all.” (122) The work of this book is making a space to create and then honor the transformation of claiming oneself as a sexy witch.
The chapters themselves take up only about half the book; the second half is two complete sets of rituals, one for solitaries, and one for circles. The outlines and discussion of ritual are thorough, well-presented, and easily adapted. Firefox includes a comprehensive discussion of the steps in ritual, plus her own “Witch’s Banishing Ritual,” an adaptation of the Golden Dawn Ceremonial Magick Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.
I can’t emphasize enough that this is a workbook – from beginning to end, it is made to be worked with. Just picking it up and reading it may be useful, even transformative, but it won’t get the full value of the carefully-designed steps Firefox has laid out. The workings of this book, as a whole, constitute a kind of drawn-out initiatory process, taking place over seven weeks – or more, should the reader wish to go more slowly. The entire arc of the book follows a traditional kind of thought about initiation as a descent into the deep, dark, unknown, and a claiming of the power found there while the initiate works her way back out from that womb/symbolic death into a new life. This is not like one of Starhawk’s works where the exercises may be done individually, pulled out and reassembled in a new order of the reader’s choice, picked up and put down at will. I don’t mean that the book is regimented, but each cluster of related topics and activities is tightly-knit, and they are in a specific order in relationship to the other chapters for good reason. If there’s a time that you’re going to put aside your embarrassment (finger painting? really?) and just try it (oh, I know what I’ll write about that journal prompt…), this is it. You may surprise yourself. You may be deeper than you know – and having a guide like this into those deep, dark places is invaluable.
The body-centric work in this book could be an invaluable tool for women who are coming to Witchcraft or Paganism from an experience of religion that denigrates, or at least deemphasizes, the body. I believe that Paganism and all earth-based religions need to put the body and the physical experience of the world in the center of their beliefs and practices; simply adding the Goddess to a preexisting pantheon isn’t the same thing as truly valuing the here and now, the natural world. Firefox calls our bodies “the point of interface where the individual meets up with the rest of creation.” (12) If you’re going to do that meeting-up, you have to know yourself first.
This book is an excellent example of the kind of magic that seems, on a superficial glance, to be nothing more than dressed-up psychology. The power of these rituals is not the power to take away your PMS, or make your breasts bigger, or cause sexual harassers to find themselves restrained by an invisible force from patting you on the butt. This magic is what Phyllis Curotte describes as witch-crafting, where the witch is crafting herself. Firefox says that we “build ourselves into more accurate representations of our core values.” (109) It’s the magic that comes from exploring the dark, finding your own ideas and assumptions, making them real and obvious so that you can choose to keep them, or change them, or throw them away entirely for a new set of rules that you write yourself. This is the magic of working with one’s mind, one’s body, and it’s a lot more than “just” psychology – it’s the power to recreate the self, and that is enough to change the world. Try it – you may be surprised.