Monday, May 30, 2011

Herstory: Witch Hunt

In the 15th century the church declared that all witches were part of a huge satanic conspiracy, and so began the period referred to as the “Burning Times”, which lasted until 18th century. During this time hundreds of thousands of people were murdered and torture in the name of “God”. Ironic because The church had for a long time denied the existence of witches and magic and even thinking that witchcraft could exist was heretical, but as soon as the church began to portray the witch as a slave to the devil and rumors began to spread that Jews, lepers, Muslims, and/or witches were conspiring to destroy Christianity by the use of poisons and magic. Then the bubonic plague came and the rumors got worse and then centered entirely on witches…the hunt was on and this new persecution of witchcraft allowed the church to prolong the profitability of the inquisition. Since anyone could be accused of witchcraft, a whole new group of people opened up to accusation and prosecution, and witch-hunts became big business. Witch hunters confiscate the property of the “witch” and divided it three ways; the church, the state treasury, and the inquisitors. The state kept prisoners accounts to cover costs of incarceration, trail, and execution. The victims were charged for the ropes that bound them and the wood that burned them. Each torture procedure also carried its own fees. If the “witch” was rich, after their execution, it was customary for a big banquet to be held for the officials funded by the deceased. The inquisitors made out the most, however. They did not have to pay taxes on what was confiscated, nor did they have to keep records of the confiscated properties. This gave them opportunity to acquire mass amounts of wealth that was never documented.
So what could brand one a witch? First there are the sexual crimes, for example…a women “witch” may “manipulate” a man’s mind to passion...what the hell does that mean? Well, say a man gets busted fucking, raping, or having an affair with a woman he shouldn’t be messing with, well she must be a witch! She made him do it! Kill her. Also, sterility and impotence were the work of the female witch as well as contraception, abortion, homosexuality and masturbation.

The other common crime associated with witches was the power to affect people’s health. Not only causing health problems, but they also healed them. The superstitions of whole villages, supported by the church, viewed the use of herbs and medicines as being the evil arts and those who used these skills of being in cahoots with the devil. So then, Healers,  who were abortionists, nurses, counselors, pharmacists, and midwives were all accused of witch craft. These people used painkillers, digestive aids, and inflammatory agents, had skills to abort fetuses, educate woman about birth control, and eased the pains of labor with ergot, which is still used to this day in the labor process. The relieving of labor pains was especially seen as heretical because the church believed labor pains were punishment and they must be suffered. The church also believed sickness came from sin, and suffering was punishment. Healers used knowledge of medicinal herbs and were more affordable and effective then church licensed physicians, who had also, just so happened, came into existence during this period of time. Coincidence?   

Before this time, the church stood in the way of the development of medicine as a profession, but once they discovered they could control it and only allow it to develop within their terms, then they sanctioned their own team of male doctors that were nowhere near as good as women healers. These crazy fucking doctors believed in the “Temperaments of Men”, believing health was determined by the mix of the four humors or fluids: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile in the body.  Doctors tried to change the imbalance of these fluids by puking, purging and bleeding. They looked upon surgery as a degrading job so those skills were left to others to perform. They studied medicine neither on patients nor by experimentation, unlike the Healers who understood the body’s muscle and bone structure as well as the use of herbs and drugs. Needless to say, the church murdered many healers during this time, and in turn many remedies and cures that had been passed down through the generations also died. Another reason why Catholicism is suspect, and I am Atheist.

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