episode 31. Witches: Society’s Scapegoat

When you think of witches, what comes to mind? If I had to guess I’d say you thought of halloween, potions, broomsticks, and big pointy hats. But the witches in this episode didn’t wear pointy hats, at least I don’t think so. They are your mom, your elderly neighbor, your best friend. Join us in this episode to learn who was considered a witch across time and cultures.  Then we will discuss the persecution of witches and why these women were targeted for centuries. In our exploration of witches we explore the connection between women, magic, and healing within history. From modern witchcraft to our favorite childhood books, magic is very much alive. But what does that mean for medicine today?

Feminist Corner:

The term witch was very obviously misogynistic, taking root around 500 years ago and stretching to today, but can you think of equivalent terms or perceptions of women today?

Do you believe in magic or magic in healing?

Listen to the episode, discuss these questions with friends and family, let us know what you think!

Show Notes:

Time to talk about something magical and ancient, but also natural and modern. That’s right, witches! But who even is a witch? Well it depends on the culture. If you asked some people they would say devil worshipers but other people would say they were just conveyors of energy. But a constant belief across the world was that they were people who brought harm on others, and the only way to end the harm was to hurt the source. The witch herself. 

Which led to witch trials across the world for three centuries! Women accused of witchcraft were put through completely unfair and painful trials and executions. But why were so many people accused? It comes down to a lot of reasons. One is the Malleus Maleficarum, a book that detailed who a witch was and why they should be killed. It was basically the manual of the witch trials, and it was a huge contributor to many women’s deaths. But in the end, it really was to control women. 

Around the same time, the medical field was growing and becoming an educated profession for men. Which meant women who had traditionally been practicing medicine for centuries, were no longer allowed in the field. And one way to get rid of these women was to claim their healing was based in magic, and therefore witchcraft. Whether you were a wise woman, a healer, or a midwife, a single mistake in our medical work could result in your death. Which discouraged women from entering the field and encouraged them to follow the rules. 

But what about today? Many alternative healing practices today could be viewed as magical at one point or another. Many magical healing practices focus on challenging energy from their god into the sick individuals, a practice used by many contemporary religious healers. Even well studied practices such as acupuncture could at once even be considered magical healing. But the question comes down to, do you believe in magical healing?

 

Sources:

5, Terri Kapsalis April. “Hysteria, Witches, and The Wandering Uterus: A Brief History.” Literary Hub, 12 Apr. 2019, https://lithub.com/hysteria-witches-and-the-wandering-uterus-a-brief-history/.

Carod-Artal, Francisco Javier, and Carolina Benigna Vázquez-Cabrera. “An Anthropological Study about Epilepsy in Native Tribes from Central and South America.” Epilepsia, 2007, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2006.01016.x.

“Feminist Interpretations of the Early Modern Witch Trials.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Dec. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_interpretations_of_the_Early_Modern_witch_trials.

Gendercide Watch: European Witch-Hunts, https://www.faculty.umb.edu/gary_zabel/Courses/Phil 281b/Philosophy of Magic/Arcana/Witchcraft and Grimoires/case_witchhunts.html.

“Great Goddess Hypothesis.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Oct. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Goddess_hypothesis.

History.com Editors. “History of Witches.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 12 Sept. 2017, https://www.history.com/topics/folklore/history-of-witches.

Whaley, Leigh. “The Wise-Woman as Healer: Popular Medicine, Witchcraft and Magic.” Women and the Practice of Medical Care in Early Modern Europe, 1400–1800, 2011, pp. 174–195., https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230295179_10.

Wigington, Patti. “Healing Magic Around the World.” Learn Religions, Learn Religions, 20 May 2019, https://www.learnreligions.com/healing-magic-2562359.

“Witchcraft.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Jan. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft#Practices.“Witchcraft, Women & the Healing Arts in the Early Modern Period: The Witches’ Flying Ointment.” Research Guides, https://guides.library.uab.edu/c.php?g=1048546&p=7609204.

Like the episode? Send us your thoughts and questions!

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