Upcoming Paper for the 2015 Australian Anthropological Society (AAS) Conference

Witchcraft in south-eastern Australia: What it means to ‘come out of the broom closet’

This paper will examine the complex and nuanced reasons for how and why women disclose personal experiences and beliefs about witchcraft. Deriving from data collected in both formal and informal witchcraft rituals and social activities, this paper will explore the ways in which witches both mediate and adjust the transparency of their beliefs. This mediation can involve ‘coming out of the broom closet’, or being open about one’s witch status rather than secretive. It is an intangible and unnamed quality, in which being witch is integrated into their belief systems, consciousness and everyday practices; thus, it becomes how they live and who they are, that is: witch. This process of becoming and integration involves doing the deep work, which is described as the work one does over a lifetime. Deep work can include private and public rituals. Witches phenomenologically experience embodiment and bodily experiences through their participation in rituals. In rituals the boundaries between the self and the world become fluid. Analysing this through a phenomenological lens reveals how, in rituals, participants embody being witch through this fluidity. What I will demonstrate in this paper is how they disclose experiences ‘coming out of the broom closet’ as a spectrum, depending on how much they trust an individual or group and their correspondence of levels of understanding.

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