Why the Witchs Wit label needs to change

In the last two years, I have reclaimed and embraced my life as an artist, and discovered in the process that the art I create is sacred. Part of my journey led me across the paths of other women artists who create sacred art and how they use it to heal culture and community. (See my thesis Unearthing My Mother: Women Artists Healing Culture Through Sacred Art, 2010.) If there was one thing I learned from my journey it is that images have the power to change culture.

This is one of the reasons I am so deeply offended by the use of the image that Lost Abbey used on their Witchs Wit beer label. The image, which I will not show here, is of a woman being burned at the stake and is meant to depict the Burning Times from the Middle Ages. The image is one of violence, repression, and hate. Women were brutally tortured, raped, and murdered for being midwives and healers.

To use an image of hate to sell a beer is despicable. To use that image and attempt to justify it with a back label that explains the excesses is ignorant of the power of imagery. There is no justification for images of violence, repression, and hate.

One of my friends has written that perhaps this piece of art should be viewed as a great piece of art - one that albeit provokes controversy as many great pieces of art have done in the past. While I acknowledge that art has had that role and likely will again, I must question the complacency that I sense beneath this response, and behind the responses from Lost Abbey in which they attempt to justify the use of the art on this beer label.

Is it really ok to use images of violence and hate on products to sell them? Is it really ok to propagate images that have the power of hate behind them for any reason? The numbers of women, children, and men murdered in the Burning Times even in the most conservative of estimates numbers in the hundreds of thousands. If we allow this image without protest, would we allow an image of slave in chains? A Jew in a gas chamber? These are violences on par with the Burning Times.

I believe we need to change our culture from one that obsesses on violence and hate to one that lives in connection and balance with our earth. Change it to a culture that says its not ok to bury a woman to her neck and stone her to death in front of her children. Change it to a culture that does not allow bullies to torment our children to the point of suicide. Change it to culture in which being named a witch does not mean you lose custody your children in a divorce.

Images have power. They stick in our minds. The Burning Times still echo in our culture today and Lost Abbey's use of this image is one example of that echo.

So, Lost Abbey, instead of showing a woman burning at the stake, why not show her being released and welcomed into the arms of her family? Why not show women healers from the middle ages being honored for their many contributions to culture?

CHANGE the image and you change the power behind the image.

ArticlesAnnette Wagner