Ipsita Roy Chakraverti
Chairperson
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Press Articles

2012

Wiccan Woman on a Mission to Protect Women From Brutal Witch Hunts

Anjali Singh

News Blaze | Thursday , September 27 , 2012 |

For Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, the world of the paranormal and metaphysical is not some make-believe hocus pocus, or the stuff that scripts sensational television drama. It is her life's work. A popular Wicca, or witch in lay terms, she not only administers Wiccan ways of healing, but has also made it her mission to travel to remote villages across India, especially where innocent women are declared witches and then murdered, to dispel myths about "witchcraft". "Being a Wicca is very different from the conventional perceptions that people have of spell-spewing women, who are up to no good, bringing the scourge of disease, famines and loss on people and communities," she emphasises.

The daughter of a diplomat, Chakraverti spent her early years in Canada and the US. Her tryst with the world of the Wicca began when she was accepted into a select group of women called the Society for the Study of Ancient Cultures and Civilizations in London. She was with them for three years and finally chose to follow Wicca as her religion. In a news report she has commented, "It started as an academic curiosity. [...] Wicca includes both scientific facts and old lore. We studied Carl Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche because Wicca means studying various layers of the human mind."

She decided to come back to India in the late 1980s when she realised that women, particularly in rural Bengal, were being abused and tortured after they were declared to be 'dayans' and 'dakinis'. In her book, 'Beloved Witch', she reveals that she went to villages in Purulia, Bankura and Birbhum documenting such mishaps and motivating women, who were emotionally or physically battered by men, to take control of their lives. Says Chakraverti, "I am glad I came back to my roots. Purulia in West Bengal was one of the first places I had visited. A social welfare organisation had asked me to accompany them because there had been reports of witch-hunts from the region. I clearly remember that the temperature was soaring to 45 degrees Celsius; the roads were dry and dusty, with oxen cart tracks marking the white dust. On reaching one of the villages where the welfare organisation was conducting trainings in sewing and kantha embroidery, all I did for the first few days was to sit quietly among groups of women busy with their work. Then, even though their men folk continued to treat me suspiciously, the women started to talk to me about their daily lives. Days later, I gradually inquired about the witch-hunts and then some stunning facts came to light."

Chakraverti found out that there had been a young, beautiful widow in the village. After her husband's death, some local men started eyeing the family's property, which was now in her name. They got the perfect opportunity to grab this land when a man in the village deserted his wife. The miscreants not only accused the widow of witchcraft but also blamed her for seducing the man. As a punishment for her 'misdeeds', she was stripped, severely beaten and killed. Later, they even burnt her body. "When the men in the village discovered that I had come to know the reality behind the killing, they grew very threatening and hostile. Thankfully, the truth came out soon before the local administration and the culprits were punished. Eventually, with stricter policing and vigilance from the authorities, such incidents are getting somewhat reduced," she adds.

But Chakraverti also believes that not enough has been done to check such atrocities periodically unleashed on unsuspecting women, even as Wicca continues to be grossly misunderstood. Working overtime to change this reality is the Wiccan Brigade, which she and her daughter, Deepta, started in November 2006. "After many decades of doing Wiccan work in India, I realised there was a need to involve more like-minded people into the movement. There were many who wanted to know, learn and understand this religion. These were the people who believed in self-respect, dignity and in bringing back an ancient wisdom into the modern world. I launched the Wiccan Brigade from Kolkata and it has grown over the years. We have now formed a psychic investigations' wing that looks into reports of haunting and other paranormal activity. We blend science, magic and mysticism to conduct our investigations. Of course, we need much more awareness and activism to protect innocent women from falling prey to unscrupulous people wishing to use Wicca as their weapon," explains Chakraverti.

To ensure her message is carried to a wider audience, Chakraverti has also authored a couple of books - Beloved Witch came out in 2003 while Sacred Evil: Encounters With the Unknown, which chronicles nine case studies during her life as a Wiccan healer and gives explanations as to why those events happened, was released in 2006. In fact, 'Sacred Evil' has also been turned to a film starring popular actor Sarika. "These are great ways to catch people's attention. In our country, the film medium is very powerful and can deeply influence both rural and urban folk. As for the books, both of which are bestsellers, I know that they have had an impact on the youth. I have been invited to speak at numerous colleges and universities," she adds.

While the practice of accusing women of witchcraft is on the rise in India, this worrisome trend does not deter Chakraverti or her followers. "We understand that it will not be easy to battle an attitude which is ingrained in the Indian psyche at all levels of society. After all, it is the ideal way to keep women at a subservient level and to ensure that they have no standing in the home or at the workplace. However, I think it will help immensely if the youth can be educated and trained to understand the true Wicca. It is not that women are seen as advocates of the devil, but it is easier for them to be portrayed as such when a situation arises. Predictably, women who have no defence against such assaults are targeted," she explains.

Chakraverti sees a definite change in attitudes although it is slow. "Today, while the masses remain uninformed and superstitions are still strongly rooted, there is a section of people who are much more informed and eager to come forward and be part of the Wiccan Brigade. Students and young professionals, in particular, are looking at Wicca in a different light altogether. But then I come across incidents that can still take me by surprise. I remember a recent case in Uttar Pradesh where an educated, well-placed government officer posted in a rural district accused a woman in the village of practicing witchcraft in order to remove her from her coveted government post," she shares.

While her Wiccan movement is slowly proving to be an effective tool to protect women from brutal witch hunts, there is greater need for counselling of the victimised women so that they can raise their voices and fight for their rights. Of course, this cannot be done without government support and Chakraverti believes that the local administration can help in creating awareness and well as in eradicating superstition.

Says she, "If awareness can be built and superstition ended, everything else will follow. The government needs to shrug off its laid back attitude and take immediate action in complaints of witch-hunting. The time to stand by and watch women being lynched and called 'dayans' is over."

A spot of healing with ancient Egyptian chants of wicca brought the session to a close.

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Magic and music come together at the Wiccan Brigade’s session on hauntings

Karo Christine Kumar

The Telegraph, Calcutta, | Tuesday , September 18 , 2012 |

After a psychic expedition to the “haunted” Bhangarh fort in Rajasthan in January, the Calcutta-based Wiccan Brigade checked out the BNR Hotel in Puri, “which has a lot of history”, in June. On Saturday at ITC Sonar’s Pala banquet hall, the Brigade, led by Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, had assembled to provide “answers to some mysteries”.

“It is an afternoon of enchantment,” said the wiccan high priestess, as the lights dimmed and she began to read out from Beloved Witch, her much-acclaimed autobiography on witchcraft, a path “to which many come but few are chosen”.

The Brigade members, all dressed in black, then shared their findings from and experiences of the investigations carried out at the two places — dwelling on the factors contributing to a haunted place to the various forms of “manifestations”, and symptoms of visual disorientation and memory loss suffered by some in the course of the research.

“The work with hauntings is something that even well-known people in the past have acknowledged and talked about,” said Ipsita, referring to a project she wishes to take up in future — Thomas Alva Edison’s controversial “spirit machine”, believed to have been made by the scientist to “measure the human body that might scatter after death”. And you thought Edison only made the light bulb! Throwing more light on the Bhangarh and BNR trips, the Brigade displayed photographic evidence of “suggested spirit activity”, like orbs — or “balls of light with a consciousness” — citing theologian Michael Ledwith and NASA researcher Klaus Heinemann’s pioneering work in this field.

Bhangarh, which has remained deserted since a famine in 1783 wiped out life from the fort complex, is infamous as a place where no one dares set foot after sundown. Not surprising, since the Archaeological Survey of India bars visitors after 5pm and villagers often “abuse” a “powerful” place like Bhangarh by conducting various forms of witch-hunt and depossession rituals. “The dark corridors of the fort bear traces of dark magic that is practiced there now. We saw rituals being conducted in two rooms in the fort,” said a member.

At the BNR Hotel, Puri, the focus was on rooms 12 and 14 that are now kept under lock and key. The members captured on camera orbs, misty formations and psychic superimposition during two trips to the hotel. “I have seen the apparition of a young woman who was attached to room 14 and was very hostile to me,” recounted Ipsita, who had earlier documented her paranormal experiences at BNR in the story Trapped, which was turned into a telefilm by ETV Bangla last year.

But what exactly is the aim behind these psychic expeditions? “Apart from the adventure, it is to prove to society that there is another world out there. And that death is not the end of everything. In Britain, you have the SAGB (Spiritualist Association of Great Britain) but in India, everything is muddled in superstition. People take advantage of that and put in a lot of hocus-pocus. I have tried to take away the superstition and leave behind what is genuine,” she said.

Ending the enchanted afternoon on a musical note, Anjan Dutt took the stage with son Neel, guitarist Amyt Dutta and Deboprotim Baksi on drums. The songs chosen spoke of the spirit — from The Music of the Night from The Phantom of Opera to Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, Anjan’s own Jeremir Behala to What a Wonderful World that he dedicated to Ipsita. A spot of healing with ancient Egyptian chants of wicca brought the session to a close.

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Beyond the surreal

ANJALI SINGH

The Hindu, Calcutta, India September 4, 2012

A career Wicca, Ipsita Roy Chakraverti is on a mission to dispel myths surrounding witchcraft and save the lives of women victimised by superstition For Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, the world of the paranormal and metaphysical is not some make-believe hocus pocus, or the stuff that scripts sensational television drama. It is her life's work. A popular Wicca, or witch in lay terms, she not only administers Wiccan ways of healing, but has also made it her mission to travel to remote villages across India, especially where innocent women are declared witches and then murdered, to dispel myths about “witchcraft”.

“Being a Wicca is very different from the conventional perceptions that people have of spell-spewing women, who are up to no good, bringing the scourge of disease, famines and loss on people and communities,” she emphasises.

The daughter of a diplomat, Ms. Chakraverti spent her early years in Canada and the U.S. Her tryst with the world of the Wicca began when she was accepted into a select group of women called the Society for the Study of Ancient Cultures and Civilizations in London. She was with them for three years and finally chose to follow Wicca as her religion. In a news report, she has commented, “It started as an academic curiosity… Wicca includes both scientific facts and old lore. We studied Carl Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche because Wicca means studying various layers of the human mind.”

She decided to come back to India in the late 1980s when she realised that women, particularly in rural Bengal, were being abused and tortured after they were declared to be dayans and dakinis. In her book, Beloved Witch, she reveals that she went to villages in Purulia, Bankura and Birbhum documenting such mishaps and motivating women, who were emotionally or physically battered by men, to take control of their lives. Says Ms. Chakraverti, “I am glad I came back to my roots. Purulia in West Bengal was one of the first places I had visited. A social welfare organisation had asked me to accompany them because there had been reports of witch-hunts from the region. I clearly remember that the temperature was soaring to 45 degrees Celsius; the roads were dry and dusty, with oxen cart tracks marking the white dust. On reaching one of the villages where the welfare organisation was conducting trainings in sewing and kantha embroidery, all I did for the first few days was to sit quietly among groups of women busy with their work. Then, even though their men folk continued to treat me suspiciously, the women started to talk to me about their daily lives. Days later, I gradually inquired about the witch-hunts and then some stunning facts came to light.”

Ms. Chakraverti found out that there had been a young, beautiful widow in the village. After her husband's death, some local men started eyeing the family's property, which was now in her name. They got the perfect opportunity to grab this land when a man in the village deserted his wife. The miscreants not only accused the widow of witchcraft but also blamed her for seducing the man. As a punishment for her “misdeeds”, she was stripped, severely beaten and killed. Later, they even burnt her body. “When the men in the village discovered that I had come to know the reality behind the killing, they grew very threatening and hostile. Thankfully, the truth came out soon before the local administration and the culprits were punished. Eventually, with stricter policing and vigilance from the authorities, such incidents are getting somewhat reduced,” she adds.

Working overtime to change this reality is the Wiccan Brigade, which she and her daughter, Deepta, started in November 2006. “After many decades of doing Wiccan work in India, I realised there was a need to involve more like-minded people into the movement. There were many who wanted to know, learn and understand this religion. These were the people who believed in self-respect, dignity and in bringing back an ancient wisdom into the modern world. I launched the Wiccan Brigade from Kolkata and it has grown over the years. We have now formed a psychic investigations’ wing that looks into reports of haunting and other paranormal activity. We blend science, magic and mysticism to conduct our investigations. Of course, we need much more awareness and activism to protect innocent women from falling prey to unscrupulous people wishing to use Wicca as their weapon,” explains Ms. Chakraverti. She has also authored a couple of books — Beloved Witch came out in 2003 while Sacred Evil: Encounters With the Unknown, which chronicle nine case studies during her life as a Wiccan healer and gives explanations as to why those events happened, was released in 2006. In fact, Sacred Evil has also been turned to a film starring popular actor Sarika. While the practice of accusing women of witchcraft is on the rise in India, this worrisome trend does not deter Ms. Chakraverti or her followers. “We understand that it will not be easy to battle an attitude which is ingrained in the Indian psyche at all levels of society. After all, it is the ideal way to keep women at a subservient level and to ensure that they have no standing in the home or at the workplace. ” She sees a definite change in attitudes although it is slow. “Today, while the masses remain uninformed and superstitions are still strongly rooted, there is a section of people who are much more informed and eager to come forward and be part of the Wiccan Brigade. Students and young professionals, in particular, are looking at Wicca in a different light altogether. But then I come across incidents that can still take me by surprise. I remember a recent case in Uttar Pradesh where an educated, well-placed government officer posted in a rural district accused a woman in the village of practicing witchcraft in order to remove her from her coveted government post,” she shares. While her Wiccan movement is slowly proving to be an effective tool to protect women from brutal witch hunts, there is greater need for counselling of the victimised women so that they can raise their voices and fight for their rights. (Women's Feature Service)


2012

The Ghost Busters

JOYDEEP THAKUR

Hindustan Times, Calcutta, India July 2, 2012

For More details click here go to Page No 2


2012

Ipsita Roy Chakraverty is a Wiccan to reckon with. An author and social activist, Ipsita reveals her latest findings in the psychic and supernatural world.

The Bengal Post

Dated: 7th April, 2012

For More details click here go to Page No 17


2012

X factor: haunted fort to healing temple - Wiccan Brigade leads psychic research

RESHMI SENGUPTA

The Telegraph, Calcutta, India April 2, 2012

It’s a “ghost town” that Daniel Radcliffe wants to visit but before Harry Potter could weave his magic wand, Calcutta-based wiccan high priestess Ipsita Roy Chakraverti and her Wiccan Brigade members have conducted a psychic investigation of Rajasthan’s Bhangarh fort.

Deserted since 1783 when a famine wiped out life from this quaint little township near the Sariska wildlife sanctuary, Bhangarh is now a mass of ruins. The historical site supervised by the Archaeological Survey of India has made a name for being one of the country’s most haunted places, and hence is now a major tourist draw.

“There is very little difference between the psychic and superstition in our country. In this regard, the psychic investigation undertaken by the Wiccan Brigade is a pioneering effort. The idea behind the trip was to explore if imprints of past trauma can survive in the atmosphere and if it is possible to tap into them,” said Ipsita, at a Wiccan Brigade meet in Taj Bengal on Saturday.

“This is what TC Lethbridge (director of excavations for the Cambridge Antiquarian Society) had worked on. He has written about an electrical field that is created by trauma and which people can experience later on. Another objective of the trip was to explore the impact of earth energies on a place, for which we carried various equipment,” added the wiccan high priestess.

Members of the Brigade back from the Bhangarh trip shared their experiences and photographic material that “suggested spirit activity”. They also highlighted the fact that Bhangarh was being “misused” with villagers conducting “a form of witch-hunt and rituals with a negative purpose” within the fort compound.

If Bhangarh gave the goosebumps, the other half of the daylong meet was reserved for a spot of healing. The Konark Code, a 25-minute documentary on the Sun temple at Konark written and produced by Ipsita, was screened. It was first shown at the Nehru Centre in London in 2008.

Taken from Ipsita’s case files, the docu film made in 2007 takes a look at how the topography of Konark and the building components of the Sun temple make the land a “power spot”. Avijit Banerjee, the director of The Konark Code, has tried to marry myth and medicine in the film.

“It was a two-fold research on Konark. It began with the Puranas, which mention Lord Krishna’s son Samba being cured of leprosy there. Then there was our study into the medicinal properties of the temple building. The foundation of the temple is of laterite stone. Coupled with the salty seawater, the silica present in the sand and the humidity, it made for a very potent healing spot,” said Banerjee. “The more we researched the subject, the more I was convinced that Konark was once a hospital-like place.”

“Perhaps the key to the Konark code lies in the light of the sun and the sound of the sea,” said Ipsita, before inviting the audience to participate in a healing experiment with sound and rocks that she had sourced from the land of the Sun temple.