By: Lauren Anderson
This weekend I found myself immersed in research for a two-woman show I’m writing with my dear friend and colleague, Amanda. The show is called “The Towering Women of Malkin” set to be performed at the end of March. It’s loosely based around Pendle Witch Trials of 1612.
Essentially, it’s England’s version of The Salem Witch trials.
The Malkin Tower was basically a barn, in Pendle Forrest, and was used as a meeting place for people. They could come together, share ideas, and relate to each other. The women and men that gathered there were outcasts, labeled “other” and set apart from society. And you know what that means back in 1612?
You guessed it! THEY MUST BE WITCHES.
It didn’t take long before twelve people were accused of murder, bewitching, and devil worship. One of the accused died in prison awaiting the trial. The other 10 were charged and hung. Only one walked away, but she was made an example of, and forced to travel around as a cautionary tale until she became a leper to society and died alone.
The show is about that story, but also the story of women just, you know, being women.
And how often throughout history women “just being women” were labeled witches because of lack of understanding or fear of their power. Or women that refused to be labeled or put in a box. Women choosing to live outside the scope of what was acceptable. Either by their own choice or by fate of poverty. Women deemed too ugly or deformed to marry. Women deemed too beautiful to be “wifely”.
Dang. They’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t right? These women couldn’t win.
Too beautiful or too ugly. Too loose or too bold. Too smart or too dumb.
Too much agency or not enough.
I was struck at just how much their story–albeit wild, antiquated and horrific– is still so relevant. The trials they went through, the baseless accusations, the ultimate fight for their life, is the same one women still navigate today just trying to walk to their car at night. Or posting a picture on social media. Or trying to go on a date.
Or choosing to marry or not
Or have a baby or not.
Or going to work or not.
Or what they wear or not.
Or. Or. Or…
I’m exhausted already, and I haven’t even gotten to my point
I guess all the research over the weekend got me really thinking about my experience as someone who identifies as a woman, and how grateful I am for spaces like Solcana. AKA the CrossFit equivalent to a modern day Malkin Tower. And how grateful I am that Solcana is filled to the brim with Thunder Witches.
Wha- What? What’s a Thunder Witch you may ask?
Weeelllllllllll. I’ll tell you.
In my research I also stumbled across some different versions and classifications of witchery that vary in authenticity, I’m sure. But the phrase that struck me and delighted me to no end, was when I read the definition of a Thunder Witch.
Because it just sounds so friggin’ BADASS, ya know?
Apparently, Thunder Witches are described as having a great ability to direct a very “thick” and focused current of energy towards whatever they desire.
And if you’ve ever had the chance to see anyone at my gym, no matter the gender(s) they ascribe, lift and dominate a couple hundred pounds, like it ‘taint no thang? Then you too, will feel like I do.
CLEARLY I AM IN THE PRESENCE OF A THUNDER WITCH.
The “research” goes on to say that Thunder Witches are known for being wise and fair, and can cast really powerful magic. And again, I find myself thinking about the people that cross the threshold of Solcana on the daily.
The wisdom I’ve gained by being at Solcana is immeasurable. And not just the actual physical practice, but patience, forgiveness, bravery, the list goes on! You name it, Solcana and the Thunder Witches that reside there have provided it.
But the Thunder Witch doesn’t stop there. Oh no. Out of all the types of witches, Thunder Witches are known to be able to push farther, go harder, and “break the chains” through use of wisdom, optimism, and force of will.
Now, if that doesn’t describe like 99% of the people I’ve encountered at Solcana, then I don’t know what. Cause seriously? I could use that same definition to also define the effort and attitude of nearly every WOD (workout of the day) I’ve been a part of.
BECAUSE WHEN THUNDER STRIKES ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
I’m clearly having some fun here, but I also kinda mean it. And what strikes me (pun intended!), is that in my research of the Malkin Tower witches, I discovered that even when they were charged wrongly of murder and evil misbehavior, the accused never officially confirmed or denied their actual status as witches.
Because it wasn’t important. And they knew that. Actual witches or just unmarried women who enjoyed having sex and could be considered healers, people are gonna believe what they want.
What was important was the community that they were a part of, and the commonwealth they created for each other that allowed for them to be who they truly are.
Which leads me back to the gym again. I was so scared before I started Solcana. For so long, I had all these notions about gyms. SURELY what I would find was an inferno of torture, body shame, and competition right? And honestly, there are probably some gyms like that out there. But what I found, and continue to find at Solcana is a sense of pride and community. An open door for the outcast.
A place for people that feel like they have no place.
An avenue into a magic realm of fitness at any size, any ability, any color, any gender.
And perhaps the first people in my entire life to call me an Athlete.
A coven of Thunder Witches, all bodies boldly grunting and giving their all greet me every time I walk through the door. Casting a spell on me with wisdom, optimism, and endless capacity to help break the chains of whatever holds us back.
Because even on a small level, I guess I seek the gym for salvation. Much like the villagers of Pendle, sought the strange witches at the tower. Salvation from just an awful thought, or even from feeling helpless. And it does it’s best to heal me.
Whether or not you choose to believe that Thunder Witches really reside there, it doesn’t matter. If confronted, most of them would probably never officially confirm or deny it anyway.
But chances are, when you meet a Thunder Witch, you’ll just somehow know.
They probably go to Solcana.
And who needs to ride a broom when you can boost a barbell?