On Witches and Woman Hatred

Tamarack Verrall
Posted November 6, 2019 from Canada

Halloween is always bittersweet for me. My own traditions recognize this time of year as the halfway point between autumn and winter, in many traditions as night grows longer and darkness increases, a time in which we remember our ancestors. From the time I was a girl I have wondered why women in particular are portrayed as laughable ugly old witches, to be both feared and ridiculed. As a young adult I dug deeper as did other women, and we shared stories gathered about “The Burning Times” widespread in Europe, when millions of women were tortured, drowned, thrown onto fires, outcast, accused by religious organizations, governments and individual men of being dangerous to the community.

I held onto tiny bits of information, that women knew herbs, were midwives, sought out as healers, and that medicine began to be taken over by men. I learned that it had happened over centuries and spread to North and South America and other parts of the world by men travelling from Europe. The extent and viciousness of the tortures and murders of women have been somewhat known for some time, largely with no mention in history books. Women speaking about it were seen as biased trouble makers. The cruelty, the magnitude of what took place geographically and over centuries, and the reasoning behind it, is still largely hidden. 

This Halloween I decided to look to a woman in the US, Max Dashu, who has spent decades researching and documenting visual and written evidence both of a time before this period of persecution of women, and this period of extreme and widespread violence. I wanted to more fully understand why women began to be persecuted, and how it is connected to us being still so disrespectfully and violently treated today.

So I took an online course led by Max which brought me to a new level of understanding of the length of time and details of the witch persecutions, the many countries involved, the reasoning, and how the violence, subjugation and injustices against women and girls today is directly connected to the persecution of women as witches between the 11th century and now. And that this is tied as well to the betrayal of people with disabilities, people in poverty and men considered not "manly" enough, so often subjected to the same treatment. I especially wanted to understand more about the “witch burning times” given the news from some of you World Pulse sisters that women are still being accused of being witches, violated, ostracized, pushed out to “Witch Camps”, murdered, and how in my own country the taunt of “witch” so common when a man doesn’t like what a woman is saying. This word “witch” is still effectively silencing women, reinforcing the disconnecting from women whose voices are considered too loud. The annual tradition of laughing at old women witch caricatures every Halloween keeps it alive.

We get glimpses into our history, but so much has been twisted or hidden in interpretation. This is why I cherish the story-telling here on World Pulse that comes from our own experiences, and this is why I felt it so important to finally take the time to explore the suppressed histories that Max has spent so many years researching for us all. Max by the way is very aware of all of what is going on here, and plans to be sending more information herself. She sends a big hello, and also these links below, for any who want to explore more.

I want the persecution of women as witches to stop. From the forcing women into witch camps, robbed of their homes and life work, to the behind closed doors slurs and beatings. This presumption passed on through generations, that men are “naturally born to lead”, have a right to be boss, a right to dominate women, a right to money and property only in their names, to the work that pays, to the choice of who they marry, to the right to beat, sexually violate, psychologically dominate women and girls, and to be the dominant leaders of governments and religious institutions - this has to stop. This is a continuation of the 1100’s to 1800’s during which the persecution and murdering of women as witches was developed and in full sadistic action.

I understand better now how and why the taunt of “witch” is still used effectively to silence women. The cruelty during those years involved banishment, throwing on fires, throwing into water to drown, torturing in torture chambers, holding captive in “witch towers”, enclosing women’s heads in metal frames that literally held our tongues by metal clamps, enclosing us in cages with metal spikes, and all manner of sexual violence, in the name of taking control of our wicked sexual energy. This irrational fear of women’s sexuality is still seen in the punishing of women leaving the house at all, the accusations of being sexually loose to be walking in the street alone, to be wearing what we want, to be living independent lives. Floods, droughts, losses and anything that goes wrong with men’s lives are all too often still blamed on us. It is horrible to look at, but I felt it important to understand, as it is this same treatment of women that we are working to stop from happening today. Still rampant is the silencing and ridiculing of our voices, the dismissal of old women, the betrayal of people living in poverty, of people with disabilities, of men considered not “manly”, the control of medicine, the control of who owns land, property and money. We are expected still to remain silent as we continue to witness or experience the ongoing lack of justice for women being beaten up, controlled, sexually assaulted, murdered, confined by individual men in homes, or attacked on the street. We are expected to remain silent despite the ongoing ridiculing of our sexuality through how we are dressed or where we are, held responsible for being raped, remain silent despite the uncontrolled sharing of photos and videos of our naked bodies online, the videos of women and girls being raped, the mistrust and punishment for being unmarried, for being unaccompanied in public, and especially if we dare to speak out. 

We are living with the vestiges of these persecution times, held in place by governments, justice courts, religions, news sources, literature, schools, online sites continuing to actively discriminate against women and girls or to not intervene, continuing to support and even glamorize male control. I am looking at the long history of the violent oppression of women and girls, shaking off the notion that any of this is acceptable at all and this ongoing excuse that “change takes time”, an excuse that has been repeated for centuries. I continue to shake off the accusation of being “too radical” by speaking out about old and new forms of harming and silencing women and girls. 

Let’s scrutinize where this ridiculing and silencing, this violence and suppression of women’s leadership is coming from by challenging those promoting the cover up and the excuses. Let’s continue to work together for change in our lifetime. There is no excuse for a world in which we are threatened for even speaking out that a woman has been harmed or murdered. It is a lie that it was always this way, and a lie that it is this way everywhere. My hope lies in the work we are doing here, connecting with each other through World Pulse. My hope lies in women like Max Dashu who has dedicated her life to prove that it was not always this way.

Links to some sites of the Suppressed Histories website by Max Dashu:

Reign of the Demonologists (on torture and sexist demonology) http://www.suppressedhistories.net/secrethistory/demonologists.html

The Politics of Witchcraft Studies is kind of scholarly, but look at the end, under the header "Sexual Politics of the Witch Hunts".

https://www.suppressedhistories.net/secrethistory/witchpolitics.html

In this one, see the sections "Village Witchcraft Dynamics" and also "Sexual Politics of the Witch Hunts https://www.suppressedhistories.net/secrethistory/briggs.html

Colonial Hunts in South America (on the targeting of African Diasporic as well Indigenous people:

https:// www.suppressedhistories.net/secrethistory/colhuntsouth.html

Also from Suppressed Histories Archives Facebook page: Witch hunts and misogyny, 1600-1782

https://www.facebook.com/notes/suppressed-histories-archives/witch- hunts-and-misogyny-1600-1782/2770730896290554/

On decolonizing and cultural recovery: https://www.facebook.com/notes/ suppressed-histories-archives/interview-in-vjesti%C4%8Dja-rivija-serbia/ 2509371242426522/

On Muhumusa and the Ugandan oracles of Nyabinghi, prophetic women who fought colonial powers; https://www.facebook.com/notes/suppressed- histories-archives/muhumusa-revolutionary-oracle-of-nyabingi-uganda/ 2514967335200246/

Max Dashu Suppressed Histories Archives http://www.suppressedhistories.net

Daily image posts at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Suppressed-Histories-Archives/33366152832...

 

This story was submitted in response to Share On Any Topic.

Comments 35

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Anita Shrestha
Nov 06
Nov 06

Dear Sister
Thank you for sharing

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 06
Nov 06

Hi Anita,
It means a lot knowing you have read it and send your greeting.

Jill Langhus
Nov 06
Nov 06

Hello Beloved Tam,

Wow! This is such an amazing, thought-provoking post! I have to admit it's one of my favorites. I think you're on to something here for sure, how women are still being persecuted as witches, that it's keeping us silent in so many places and ways, and how also our sexual power seems to still be so threatening to a lot of men, and possibly women, too. I do hope that Max joins World Pulse. She's such a powerhouse, too. Thanks for sharing your amazing post and all of Max's post/story links, too. I'm sure there's a wealth of information to go through there, too. I'm so glad that at least one woman is working very hard to unearth/recover all the history that others have tried so desperately to destroy. This will surely be a huge part of the healing process for girls and women to reclaim their power, joy and peace. I'm really looking forward to seeing more posts on this topic on what you uncover and also how very ancient stereotypes are affecting us all.

I hope you're doing well, and taking care of yourself, dear!?

XX

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 06
Nov 06

Dear Jill,
Thank you so much for the wonderful support. I still hold my breath each time I press that button to publish something new, hoping it will touch someone in the way I meant it to. I am truly encouraged that you see these connections too. Max took the time for my endless questions and to line up these links, and we continue to talk about what can be done to strengthen the work of World Pulse sisters here, exposing this form of woman hatred and supporting the women currently being so badly treated and under attack.
I am well, thanks for asking. There is just so much I want to do!

Jill Langhus
Nov 06
Nov 06

Hello there:-)

You're very welcome! Yes, I know what you mean about holding your breath...ha:-)

Yes, I do. I was actually told that I was a good witch in a previous lifetime. I'm totally intrigued by witches.... past and present. I've always been fascinated by them.

Max is definitely and truly a blessing, as are you.

Glad to hear you're doing well:-) Yes, I hear you, and can definitely relate.

Hope you have a great week, dear! Don't take on too much, please:-)

XX

lizzymark
Nov 06
Nov 06

Thanks for shearing sister

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 06
Nov 06

Thanks Lizzy, I want to see the day that no woman or girl is so badly treated. It is never deserved.

lizzymark
Nov 06
Nov 06

Together we as we keep doing what we do we will get there.

Lisbeth
Nov 06
Nov 06

Dear Aunty Tamarack,
Please how are you doing now? I hope your health is improved greatly. Also as regards your Dad's health, I hope he is doing very well too? We have missed your post a little and Bam you came out with this.
I also wonder many times why too, but I find no answer. Then I came to see it as a western culture because in our type of world it's not entertain.

It's sad but when I was in Europe, it was a highly patronize festival. My question is why should women too want to tag themselves as witches? Is it a title that make them stand out or have confidence during their depressed mood!
If I get the interpretation of a witch, it's evil, mysterious, scary, dark, merciless, and above all wicked. Those women and young ladies who patronize this festival, are they agreeing to the fact that this is who there are?
I think women are created loving, peace Makers, merciful and empathetic. Women are not wicked and evil.

Thanks for sharing! It's indeed a thought provoking post. :-) I hope you have a wonderful day and remember to always take care of yourself.
Hugs

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 07
Nov 07

Dear Lisbeth,
Thank you for your support and for taking the time to describe what can look like an embracing of these stereotypes that were and still are the words associated with "witches". I am really glad to explain why there are gatherings of women who have daringly reclaimed the word and use it personally to say to the world that we are the daughters of the witches that were burned, in other words that women who were and are called witches are, yes, the "loving, peace makers, merciful and empathetic" women we are, just as those millions of foremothers accused of being witches were innocent too, and just as women labeled as witches today are, as well. Women gather as witches to take back the gatherings, the meetings as women to share information, to reclaim our knowledge of and our closeness to nature and our healing abilities. The women in Europe are especially aware and intent on reclaiming this word and honouring their foremothers, as they live on the very land on which more than 9 million women were killed. So reclaiming the word, as many of us in North America do as well, is to undo the lies and to create a safe sisterhood for all women still being labeled witch and/or having their power as a woman undermined. Not everyone chooses to reclaim the word, instead taking the road of making it clear that there is no such thing as a "witch", and in the horrible meaning that has been associated with the word, this is also true. No matter which road we choose, we need to work together against this horrendous treatment of women everywhere.
With love in sisterhood,
Tam

Lisbeth
Nov 07
Nov 07

Thanks for the explanation. However I hope you are doing well physically? My warm regards and have a great coming weekend. Hugs

Max (female!)
Nov 09
Nov 09

Lisbeth, you're right that women are not evil. What we are dealing with in European culture is a long historical legacy of demonizing the wisewomen. This is the reason for reclaiming the name "witch," which originally had nothing to do with devils or harming people. It is actually a way to overturn the lies by directly contradicting the slander of women, and exposing what the persecutions were about, that Tam has written about here. I go into this in more depth in my book Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk religion. www.veleda.net

Lisbeth
Nov 10
Nov 10

Dear Max,
Will try and look at your book. Thanks for commenting.
Regards

Tarke Edith
Nov 07
Nov 07

Hello Tam
How are you ma ,it's been long l haven get to you
I appreciate you story dear and thank you for sharing.
Have a bless day dear .

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 07
Nov 07

Hi Edith,
How good to get your message. I am so glad that this story touched you. We are undoing these myths together in so many ways.
Sending a hug across the ocean.

Rachyrae
Nov 07
Nov 07

Wow. This is so informative. I have learnt so much in a short while. Thank you so much for sharing this invaluable info.

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 07
Nov 07

Hi Racheal,
I am so glad that you found this informative. It is the information from World Pulse sisters that this accusation of women being dangerous witches is still happening, and of the horribly disrespectful treatment, that got me looking deeper into how long this has been going on and how critical that we put a stop to it together.

Ekitah
Nov 07
Nov 07

Hello Tamarack!
Thanks for sharing this great knowledge. I am happy with worldpulse because I keep learning every day.

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 07
Nov 07

Dear Ekitah,
Thank you so much. I too am so happy to have found World Pulse to be able to learn so much from sisters here, and to be creating connections.

KATEMIRI
Nov 07
Nov 07

Wow! This is an amazing post

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 07
Nov 07

Thanks so much Kate, you encourage me to keep going.

ANJ ANA
Nov 08
Nov 08

My dear Tam,
Thank you so much for this very informative article.
I am recalling my childhood time. None of the children were allowed to talk/visit one of the old women in my neighborhood, she was accused of witchcraft and said to have harmed too many people including my mother. The restriction made me more interested and I started to go to her without anyone's notice. I have seen her in extreme sorrow, full of tears and isolated all the time, deprived of food and care of her extended family member. I was the only person to visit her all the time offering some part of my snacks and pocket money. I never saw her thinking and talking about bad to others. Once I asked her that if you are a witch (powerful) then why are you so sad, why don't you harm to others who hate you? She replied to me ''my fate is witch, I could not give birth to any single child in my life and now my husband is dead. So people hate me and accuse me of being a witch, I don't know what is witchcraft. I don't want to hate or curse anyone because I know the pain of being hatred''. Her reply made me more sad and helpless. yet, she always encourages me to be empathetic and be kind to everyone. One day she died in her own bed.
Still, now, i read the news of accusing of witches, who were socially punished with putting human feces in their mouth, physically bitten, burnt, humiliated and even murdered despite of the abolition of the witchcraft by the government a century ago. Most of the accused women are from poor, socially deprived, so-called '' untouchable people'', economically low and physically weak and vulnerable.
My dear Tam, you made me nostalgic. I still feel so sorry being helpless to the old granny.
But in fact, I wanted to and still want to be a witch, really:- a powerful witch that can encourage all vulnerable women to powerful and make the world realize that no women can hurt or think of bad to anyone.

Love and regards,
Anjana

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 08
Nov 08

My dear Anjana,
Your story here touched me so deeply. I read it when I woke and have been thinking of you all day. I wrote this to know the thoughts of my World Pulse sisters on this form of woman hatred, and to bring some information on what has taken place to strengthen our work to stop where it is still happening. Knowing that you defied community and visited this woman, so horrifically treated, gave her respect and love, and now bring her gentle words here for us all to know - this is so beautiful, that you shared this with us all. You have honoured her in memory and taught us how generous in spirit she was despite her treatment. When we tap into our true abilities as women we are indeed powerful. How amazing that we are now working together through our beloved World Pulse. I hope that we will all find ways to reach the women who are being isolated and in danger as "witches".
Love to you,
Tam

ANJ ANA
Nov 08
Nov 08

My dear Tam,
Thank you for your love and warm reply. Its so good to know that you keep me in your mind for a whole day, how sweet of you my dear.
Sure, we can work together and find ways to overcome and I would be more than happy to be part of it.
In my personal review, this is happening because of the inequality in power games and weaker people are dominated and targeted all the time. So let's work for equality, which will result in the empowerment of women. Once the women are socially, economically empowered no one can harm/accuse any of the women/girls.
Love you too my dearest Tam and thank you so much for this important article, I can feel your efforts to make it this much resourceful. We would like to read you more and benefited from your rich experiences. As Jill said, I would also like to have Max on board in this great platform World Pulse if possible.
love and hugs,
anjana

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 09
Nov 09

Dear Anjana,
I so agree that those in powerful positions who have created this system in which so few have the resources needed for survival, are actively supporting this ongoing exclusion, including isolation, torture and murder of those seen as a threat.
It warms my heart that you would like to see more from me. This Encouraging that we do on World Pulse really works.
Max has been aware of World Pulse for some time, in fact has been a member since 1980! She is very busy with her work to bring forward the hidden history of women and there is so much wonderful information on her site: https://www.suppressedhistories.net. She is trying to carve out some time these days to post here on World Pulse! She also posts regularly on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/max.dashu.
love and a big hug back to you,
Tam

ANJ ANA
Nov 09
Nov 09

Dearest Tam
Thank you again fore more information. Surely, i will follow her in FB.
Hope you are having a good weekend.
Love and hugs,
anjana

Max (female!)
Nov 09
Nov 09

Dear Anj Ana,
I think your caring must have been a bright spot for that old woman's suffering. Thank you for taking the risk to sneak away and see her. As a child, it is so difficult; what else could you have done? Your story resonates with me because I have read so many similar accounts from the European witch persecutions, of the same shunning and isolation inflicted on women solely because they were old, without husbands or children, sometimes disabled. Someday we will succeed in overturning these oppressions.
best,
Max

Nov 09
Nov 09
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
ANJ ANA
Nov 09
Nov 09

Dear Max,
Thank you so much for staying and resonating with me. Its so good to see your comment. I am really very impressed with your hard work and would like to contribute as best of my knowledge, if required.
Definitely, it was a daring step for me to see old granny at that time, when witches were portrayed as very harmful, sucking the blood of a human, burning their own fore finger and sacrificing their eldest son or husband to get a degree of witchcraft. Still the pictures of the witches in the temple fascinates me, as they are presented as powerful with bringing their husband as a dog with lace in his neck and broom as the tail. Even I saw the elder family members rub their ear before they talk about accused witches as therer was a belief that witches can travel every where and sit besides the ears and will harm if someone talks about them.
But may be my mother was also very compassionate towards that old granny at that time but she also couldn't help her openly because of the restriction in the family to see/talk her. I have inherited the empathy and kindness from my mother, that made me to see/ talk her the old granny and offer small things as possible and it was a open secret between us. Later on i concluded that she cannot harm to anyone and she is not witch. All i remember is i was very sad about granny and her islolated conditions.
Surely, i am also looking forward to succeed in oeverturnign these oppressions against poor women.
In solidarity with wholeheart,
anjana

Sus
Nov 09
Nov 09

Thank you Tamarack for sharing.
I find I want read everything I come across to find our Herstory
to find how and why we have gotten to this place
And I search for wise words and stories

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 09
Nov 09

Dear Sus,
A big welcome to World Pulse! Here we are all able to share such important news with each other. When I found World Pulse I felt I had finally found the sisters, the stories, the sharing of information and the collaboration that I had always hoped to find. And we are both in Canada. Maybe we will meet in person, share stories.

Sus
Nov 10
Nov 10

thank you for the warm welcome
Canada is a big place, and small at the same time!
so, yes!
we may meet up and chat!

Spiritedsoul
Nov 09
Nov 09

Dear Tam,
Thank you so much for sharing, very interesting, and said though to read. Learning more about this oppression, and had to work against it, will help things move forward, and women will one-day be seen as equals.
I look forward to reading more posts from you.
Hugs,
Jess.

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 10
Nov 10

Hi Jess,
Thanks for your encouraging words. I agree it is tough to look at, but so important to understand this worldwide oppression of women and girls historically, and the gruesome treatment of so many women still happening. I am full of hope now that I have discovered through World Pulse how many of us are working to change this.
Hugs back,
Tam

IjeomaSO
Nov 12
Nov 12

Your message is quite inspirational to say the least. Considering your age and the time you put in to get this highly sensitive issue in the environment penned down is quite motivational. I have been spurred to lend my voice no matter the constraint. Sadly, we live in a society where women are considered the least mostly in Africa. Thank you.