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