Halloween has recently passed, and for some of us it is one of the holy days, halfway between fall and winter here, halfway between spring and summer, south of the equator. As once again I hear the usual annual laughter and see the ugly characterization of witches each year at this time, I remember my foremothers. It was not so long ago that many of my ancestresses from Europe were tortured and burned as witches.
I have studied about them, documented most fully by women older than me who did not want what happened to be forgotten, and to point to the ways that women are still persecuted if we look too strong, or speak out about the treatment of women to our next generation of women, our girls. And through the pain I feel such joy in knowing how many strong, unstoppable World Pulse sisters are changing the lives of girls by taking our messages that we are being suppressed because of the world we see is possible, in place, never lost in cultures, in communities that have leadership by the women and girls.
The persecution of witches in my own heritage went on for centuries. There are arguments about the numbers. We do know that at first it was the wise women who met with women in the woods or who lived in the woods and knew herbs and tinctures that healed, strong leaders, who were thrown on fires or beaten to death. Soon it became any woman accused of breaking some rule, or having any power, or being too outspoken. Women were pressured to report other women even if they were innocent, to save their own lives.
Men and boys were taught over generations that it was men who were to have certain privileges, to have control over women, to keep most if not all money, property or currency in the hands of men. Outspoken women were forced to wear metal helmets locked over their heads with spikes going into their tongues. It is estimated that 9 million women were tortured and murdered in Europe at this time. One is too many.
This war against women, still obvious as we live constantly faced with physical, psychological and sexual violence, as we are punished for speaking, as we challenge why our world is dominated by men and why women's ideas and accomplishments continue to be hidden and stolen. Why girls are still expected to be subservient. Why girls are being given the message not to trust old women, especially not women who hold onto and speak about our natural power. Each year as Halloween comes and goes I welcome a day that goes back in time, or forward in time to a different calendar and a time in which women were and are again respected and free.
Now Halloween is a day in which more and more of us know this information, and we have embraced the celebrations that are earth-based, respectful of Mother Nature. As we meet and speak together we honour our ancestresses. We are the daughters of the women who were burned as witches. We are the daughters of those brave enough to speak out before us. We are the sisters who together are here to change the world. We are the women here to listen to the stories of any woman being accused of being a witch today, here to honour her, to undo the mockery and fly together, not one of us ugly, all of us beautiful and full of purpose on Halloween, one of our holy days.
For a look at the work of Max Dashu, who is a longtime member of World Pulse but with little time to post, here is a link to her work. She has been documenting for half a century. She proves what we know in our bones.