First you must take her hand, not your own hand. You must extend your palm outside the familiar. By our very naming this is known. Spirit from breath, from necessary life, shared even beyond an unconscious exclusion, weaving from wefan, that most ancient art, to combine into a whole.
It is not enough to hold each other’s hands and call her name in a circle. These are the acts of frightened children, whose self-preservation will not allow the dark goddess in. There are two ways to be a container, a word invoked in safety, but one is to exclude. By the nature of magic a circle must close and open, both. Can you not have faith in the dark ones, the ancestors, the fringe to protect even while she comes in?
Your rituals, your letters, your words for well women, women of substance and freedom and power, women who are easily identified, economically secure, physically able to bring their bodies to an event in-person, these gestures to the common crowd are not an invitation for Sick Woman.
Sick Woman waits for you to ask for her words, her rituals, her letters, for you to extend offerings to her, acknowledging the value of women who wait on the edge of death, women who battle chronic pain, women who are unemployed, women who are caregivers, women who are mentally ill, women abused or neglected, women dying in transitions, transformations, these women live in the soul of Sick Woman. These women bring the wisdom of the other with her many voices, with her chorus of women contemporary society deems unwanted and unseen.
In extending an invitation to Sick Woman it is not about the known, the easily controlled. You invite the unknown, the unseen, you heal you heal you heal. US.
“The trauma of not being seen. Again – who is allowed in to the public sphere? Who is allowed to be visible?” –From Sick Woman Theory by Johanna Hedva
Second you must know to whom you speak. For the name of Sick Woman comes from ancient times, the pockmarked sage, the haegtessa, the hedge rider, the feared. In modern definition I call her name from the essay Sick Woman Theory by Johanna Hedva who says that Sick Woman is:
“…all of the “dysfunctional,” “dangerous” and “in danger,” “badly behaved,” “crazy,” “incurable,” “traumatized,” “disordered,” “diseased,” “chronic,” “uninsurable,” “wretched,” “undesirable” and altogether “dysfunctional” bodies belonging to women, people of color, poor, ill, neuro-atypical, differently abled, queer, trans, and genderfluid people, who have been historically pathologized, hospitalized, institutionalized, brutalized, rendered “unmanageable,” and therefore made culturally illegitimate and politically invisible.”
When you invoke the name of Sick Woman you invoke a multitude of names, ancestral names in the mass graves of colonialism, the bloodline traumas running deep in Sick Woman whose strength persists beyond legal, cultural, social, political, financial, emotional, spiritual systems that deny her presence, place, voice. When you invite Sick Woman you do so in a spirit of story change—no longer will we let our desire for self-preservation, protection, neuage comfort and joy plexiglass experiences for the majority…yes, the majority. The majority are contained in Sick Woman. The majority of our ancestors, the majority of the population, the majority are eldered, poor, disabled, unhoused, dysfunctional, dying, dead. If we are to reclaim, truly, the ancestral ways of partnership, skill and song we can only sing together. With Sick Woman boundaries are removed.
With Sick Woman we feel the completeness of love.
With Sick Woman we stand a chance.
With Sick Woman we open our arms to a future of, yes, interwovenness and patterned with complexity.
When you invoke the name Sick Woman you bring forward through the mists the Giantess, the ever-changing primordial beings from beyond time, the earliest weavers, the Nornir, the sacred grandmothers, the Disír, and lay out the knives for the Three in an ancient ritual of social-spiritual solidarity.
Would you know more?
Three: Sick Woman loves you.
She is your mother, your sister, your daughter. She longs to drink from the well of your creativity. Her intent is not to betray your trust. It is the work, always the work, to weave inclusion. Sick Woman cannot be asked to provide the labor as she is already engaged in the deeply magic task of BEING SEEN.
Sick Woman wishes to participate. To have you hear her name song, to glean the skills and teaching and love of the community, to experience even through time and netherspace some semblance of empowerment that transcends her limits. After all, photos and videos and writings are used for advertisement, for participation in the great capitalist game of charge and expose, why not for sharing with Sick Woman and her tribe?
“Forget safety, live where you fear to live, destroy your reputation, be notorious.” Said Rumi…Sick Woman is doing this already, every day. Thousands, millions, alone in rooms, in the silence of dis-ability, or age or dis-ease or dis-pairing sit within the folds of her robes, draw breath and sigh out a great spirit song: weave with us, weave with us, weave with us all along.
Four: Sick Woman is at your door.
She will come in whether you invite her or no. In the fairy stories it is always best to provide respite for a traveler, by the ancient laws of hospitality we lay out food and drink, prepare a warm place by the fire for the other. However she stinks, however inconvenient her breathy words and her too present truth telling, however she takes away from a personal wish for ease and a quiet night, she is divinity…as are we all. You could try to ignore her, pawn her onto someone else, claim there is no room at the fire this eve, Old Woman, Sick Woman.
But this is the challenge of coalition building, it always comes to a point where we have to let the other in, have to stretch our edges and our boundaries, have to say, yes. In order to change culture we must change the story. The story of a gathering that just allows those who can attend to participate is one version of the tale. But the story of a gathering that grows its aura and influence beyond the known, invites Sick Woman to the fire, listens and allows its community to be enriched by the Other, this is a potential for action, flex, and force of growth.
Sick Women have skills too, and Sick Women would like to learn. Sick Women miss out on shared experiences, are often financially and physically limited. Creating a space of Sick Women requires thought and engagement, not simply making room in rituals that already exist. Those actions are not for Sick Woman, they are for the unsick only. How can you value the work and worth of women who are invisible? If you choose to invite Sick Woman and her contemporaries, to widen the container (which is the very definition of inclusion), you will need to engage outside of the norm. How will you engage Sick Woman and her communities? How will the other be allowed to participate?
When the invisible is seen, the true circle is created. With Sick Woman only is authenticity possible. In this circle we reclaim the gifts of our ancestral communities, the gifts of otherness and edge that were once celebrated, the gifts of sharing and exchange, the gifts of sight and voice, the gifts that remove shame, the gifts that enrich, the gifts that honor, the gifts that weave, truly, new culture from the fabric of the whole.
A ritual of blessing, a spell of transformation, a prayer from the heart and womb.
In this and every effort may the balance be regained.
Here is a simple, positive example of inclusion and widening the container:
This author held a live writing workshop, but also linked to an online workshop presentation that anyone could attend for free, and also articles with writing exercises:
Here is a link to the essay I mention in the above spell. Johanna Hedva crafts a valuable and academic perspective on what it means to be chronically ill in this culture, but expands the definition of illness to include all marginalized peoples:
This essay on Coalition Building by activist Bernice Reagon Johnson is valuable for its exploration of inclusivity in creating cultural change through investigating the women’s movement and the civil rights movement:
Note: inclusion is the act of making a part of and the root of container is to stretch.