I didn't know if I'd be back in town in time to post but I made it! Today is Halloween and I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the TRUTH about witches before Bonella takes the floor for her evil roast later today:
The Truth About Witchcraft
Why Witches Are Considered Evil
By Bruce Jenvey
Author of Angela’s Coven
Please note, Angela’s Coven is NOT a book for ‘Pointyhats and Wannabes’ as Angela herself would say. This is based on Witchcraft as it was practiced in the dark ages. There are NO magic wands, no pointy hats, no spellbooks and no magic words. It’s chemistry, herbology, natural cures and what we would today call ‘home remedies.’ However, there was a time when these were very dangerous practices.
There’s a bit of history here, and while I personally LOVE history, I know there are others that don’t, so I promise to make it brief and as absolutely interesting and fascinating as I can. Now, while I tell you about this, picture yourself in this time, stuck in these unreasonable ruts created by people (yes, mostly men) who know far less than you do. It will frustrate you beyond belief!
When the Roman Empire collapsed near the end of the 3rd century, it left a tremendous power vacuum. After hundreds of years of authoritarian rule, suddenly, there was no one in charge. There were barbarians, disease, robber barons… it was literally the Dark Ages and it took a thousand years for us to lace some form of civilization back together (and we are STILL working on it!) In this dark and lawless time, the only organization that survived and had any kind of influence was the Roman Catholic Church. (Remember, the Roman Empire changed from Pagan Gods to Christianity around the year 300 under Constantine.) In a very short period of time, the Church began to call all the shots and set their own rules for society. And that’s the rub!
Back in those days, most of the healthcare givers (Healers) were Midwives. These were often older widows in small villages trying to support themselves and had learned about herbal cures and natural medicines from their mothers and grandmothers. They could not only deliver your baby, but they could treat festering wounds and unknown diseases.
Now, remember, there was a lot of fear in these times, if the barbarians didn’t get you, the plague or some form of it probably would! So the Church helped organize, and supported the training of what we have come to call DOCTORS. Now, to be a Doctor in this age meant not only a degree in medicine, but one in theology, too. It was required. And that meant compliance with the laws of the Church, especially those concerning decency. So Doctors literally had their hands tied. It also meant that you were most definitely a MAN. Higher education for a woman? Get real!
Doctors Vs Midwives
If you were sick enough to need a doctor, this probably meant you were bed-ridden and he would have to come to you. Under the laws of the Church, to gaze at you in your bed was not decent! So, as was the practice, the patient was in bed surrounded by bed curtains and would extend ONE ARM out from under the covers and between the curtains. THIS was all the Doctor got to examine. Your hand and your forearm… AND any treatment he provided he had to do in the same way which led to the practices of blood-letting and attaching leaches. That was about all they could do.
But Midwives were women. They were allowed behind the bed curtains and they could see things the Doctor never got to see like: “OMG! You have an arrow sticking out of your shoulder! That’s your problem! Here, I have some herbal salve that will draw out the infection.”
It didn’t take long for word to get around that if you were really sick or hurt, your odds of survival were MUCH better if you called a Midwife rather than a Doctor. This pissed off the men and they went to the Church asking to somehow level the playing field. In its infinite wisdom, the Church’s choice was not to allow more in-depth patient contact, but instead, to label Midwives as Witches, evil beings who were in league with the Devil. (Many lived on the fringe of the society and were still Pagans or Druids anyway.) If you allowed yourself to be treated by a Midwife, terrible things could happen to you now, and it could jeopardize your spot in the afterlife. I’m certain this was best for everyone and made all feel a lot better!
Keep An Eye On Those Witches!
Midwives (Witches) were often accused of killing babies among other atrocities. But remember, this was a time of high infant mortality. In reality, many considered it an act of kindness to quickly bury a stillborn child in the woods to spare the mother the agony, and this was something the midwife often did. “She killed our baby!” “Where is it?” “She… ate it!” (hence, the Hansel and Gretel fairytale). Or, “I saw her, she carried the baby as she flew off on her broom!” (Notice that so many women had brooms close at hand. Suspicious, eh?) “She must have taken it to some secret ritual in the forest where they did terrible things to the poor soul… probably naked and most likely involving public sex acts!” (Or anything else terrible the Church could think up… I think they were just wishful thinkers, myself!)
Things went downhill for the Midwives (Witches) from this point forward and it wasn’t long before they were being burned at the stake, drowned in lakes, or just hung in the town square. There was a book in circulation even in the early Renaissance Era that guided Witch Hunters in proper, Church-Approved procedures. One of the first directives was never to ask a woman IF she was a witch as certainly she would deny it. Instead, ask a woman HOW LONG she had been a witch! This was considered far more productive and saved a lot of time determining guilt. There was no way, once accused, that a woman had any hope of proving her innocence.
There was an instance of a town in what is now Germany, I believe it was the 1400s, when the Church Inquisitors came to town (they often roamed like a circuit court). They set up for an investigation that became trials and when they were done, every last female, EVERY FEMALE in town, regardless of age, had been hung! Then, the Inquisitors packed up and moved on confident they had done the right thing and saved these now, very lonely men.
Obviously, this drove the practices of herbology and natural healing underground (“Are you a witch?” “Not ME!”), where it has stayed for many, many years only now starting to resurface in this ‘dawn of new enlightenment’ we have endured since the 1960s. But the Witch is still a cultural icon we tend to celebrate at Halloween.
My Kinda Witchcraft, Reprise:
This is why, in MY books, The Cabbottown Witch Novels and Angela’s Coven, there are no magic wands, no pointy hats, no mystical spells or magic words… well… that anyone admits to anyway! I have taken the basic premise, mixed in a little of the strange and the bizarre that I have had the good fortune to experience, and then made a very important assumption: What if, while out of the public view, this skill, this science, continued to evolve and advance? What then might be possible? How would it be viewed?
Think of it this way: The very first time you saw a DVD player, did you think it was an impressive technical breakthrough? Or did you consider it the work of the Devil himself and try to burn the Best Buy guy at the stake?
So, as you celebrate this Halloween season, remember that green-skinned old ladies with warts and missing teeth who laugh in madly hysterical cackles, are only stereotypes some man wanted you to believe. The truth is, witches were the first healers and capable of what appeared then, to be magical miracles. They were, the most powerful women there could be. They are still among us today, the question is, who are they now? And what have they been up to?
Bruce Jenvey is the author of Angela’s Coven published by MuseItUp Publishing and available where ever quality E-Books are sold. You can also visit the author’s webpage at www.covenbooks.com.