It is Halloween in many countries. There will be little girls in witches’ outfits/custumes shouting “boo” and trying to frighten people. These little girls are not aware of the important role that ‘witches’ played in female history.
The Healing Witches
Women by nature are healers. In medieval times, they could be relied on to cure humans and animals with their knowledge of herbs. These skills were not welcomed by males having “medical” knowledge and the Christian church never wanted females to have any power. If these women healers failed to save a human or animal, it was easy for superstitious minds to accuse them of being in league with the devil.
The propaganda of medieval times was fear. Add symbols – the broom and cauldron and a black cat and this produced more fear and a reason or excuse to try female healers as witches.
In 1320 the Christian church in Rome declared witchcraft to be a heresy. This gave official sanction to killing witches in order to ‘save their souls.’ It was thought that torture would take away their sins because under such pain, many women would lie and state that they were witches.
A Text Book for Murder
Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for Hammer of Witches) gave examples of tests to prove a person was a witch.
- cut the witch (they don’t bleed). If a blunt instrument was used, she did not bleed.
- Dunking: Throw a woman into a pond, stream or well.
If she floated (which she would) it was thought that the water representing the water of Baptism rejected her.
If they sunk – they were innocent. Their death would remove superstition from family members.
In Memory of ‘Witches.”
Before the Halloween celebrations, I would like to ask you to pause and think of our sisters – wonderful intelligent women whose compassion made them take the risk
of healing and thereby being accused of witchcraft.