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To ask you about witches

(93 Posts)
DeepFatFriar Fri 08-Jun-18 17:51:08

Isn't there something really powerful and positive about the idea of witches?

Women living on their own, in harmony with nature, self sufficient, with healing powers?

Is this why they were persecuted?

DeepFatFriar Fri 08-Jun-18 17:52:11

Why were female witches historically a thing? Why were there no male witches?

RoseanneBarred Fri 08-Jun-18 17:53:19

Are you writing a book? confused

isseywithcats Fri 08-Jun-18 17:54:47

Nowadays they all live in Hebden Bridge lol and male witches were called wizards, but it depends on your definition of a witch, if you mean white magic, pagan style, living close to nature and doing good things then yes cant understand why persecuted, if your talking dark side, covens, and wishing all ill then yes can understand the emnity

Lustrum Fri 08-Jun-18 17:56:28

Male knowledge, authority, and self-sufficiency aren’t viewed as anomalous by patriarchal societies, hence not demonising powerful men as easily as women who were perceived not to ‘fit’.

speakout Fri 08-Jun-18 18:00:37

It's a feminist issue.

The church and the medical establishment wanted women out of the childbirth department, they were scared shitless of the power of women the apparent ability to produce life, to assist in the bringing of new life, the cunning folk, the healers, so decide to vilify and persecute.
Turning the idea of powerful women in dangerous ugly hags meant they could turn the public's view too,

DeepFatFriar Fri 08-Jun-18 18:08:21

Does anyone have a good book to recommend on the history of witchcraft and modern practices?

ZibbidooZibbidooZibbidoo Fri 08-Jun-18 18:13:29

Independent women scare men. It’s basically that simple. So the men come up with all sorts of reasons why these independent women are wrong and should be killed/imprisoned/banished.

DeepFatFriar Fri 08-Jun-18 18:16:00

Thank you @speakout I just posted on your other thread 😊

GeekyBlinders Fri 08-Jun-18 21:10:42

I wrote my undergraduate thesis on why witches were women, but back in the 1990s so I don’t recall much if the literature (which would be massively out of date anyway now) but it’s a very interesting topic, and very much linked to female power and productivity.

Fluffyears Fri 08-Jun-18 21:16:45

Look at it he hand maids tale, even in that men take over.

alltoomuchrightnow Fri 08-Jun-18 21:27:18

Witches are male or female.
I look on wizards as being more 'magickian' and can be male or female. (as opposed to Paul Daniels type of magician)
Don't understand the comment about covens and dark side. But I don't believe in white magic or black magic either. I was briefly in a coven and can assure nothing dark went on. I am now mainly solitary, occasionally pair up with friend or two.
As a Wiccan I was taught, 'you cannot heal if you cannot hex'. That does not mean you hex. You just have that knowledge. It's about duality, yin and yang if you like.. we all, from any background or religion, have our 'black and white' sides.
I can only go by my own pagan and wiccan view but we don't believe in black and white being separate

alltoomuchrightnow Fri 08-Jun-18 21:34:33

Hmm I don't think I explained that well. Hard to put into words. I see black and white as being one, we all have the power to harm or heal, it's our choice and our very nature as human beings. I don't know of any witches that do 'black magick'. If occasionally we have hexed, wished ill(always out of anger, injustice) it has bitten us on the bum by coming back to us, very quickly. Lesson learnt there.
To me the early witches were simply 'wise woman' who lived off the land, knowledgeable about herbs, helped with childbirth, people visited looking for help with aches and pains, this was seen as a threat to many and somewhat otherworldly when if you think about it, all their 'power' came from simply an earthly way of living.. being in tume with nature and the elements, and animals, certainly nothing supernatural. And yes there were wise men too, but misogyny has always ruled. Women were perhaps feared because of what their bodies were capable of, they bled with the moon, they carried and birthed a child..

DesignStatement Fri 08-Jun-18 22:12:12

Just attended a lecture by Professor Ronald Hutton on Witches.
His book is 'The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present'

Badbilly Fri 08-Jun-18 23:08:07

I wrote my undergraduate thesis on why witches were women, but back in the 1990s so I don’t recall much if the literature (which would be massively out of date anyway now) but it’s a very interesting topic, and very much linked to female power and productivity.

I seriously hope you didn't pass, as that is incorrect, and as alltoomuchrightnow as pointed out, the word witch or ( more accurately) it's original spelling of wicche, is gender neutral. It is only in modern times that witches have been sort of "hollywoodised" into the type of witch we see in modern literature, and indeed Christian literature has played it's part in portraying them as we see them today.

The persecution of Witches, both male and female, was (generally speaking) not from within their own communities, where they were valued for their skills, healing and general knowledge and wisdom, but from the religious establishment, where they were viewed as heretics, and (quite incorrectly, of course) accused of "devil worship" or "Satanism". This misconception is still as strong today, where paganism, in many peoples eyes, is still associated with these things by ignorant people (and film makers!).

Of course, the medieval religious establishment was an incredibly misogynistic hierarchy, and the persecution of witches was also related to the power struggles between the Protestant and Catholic Church in the turbulent times from the mid 1500's to the late 1600's.

The "Witch-hunts" of these times were more the Church wielding it's power over the masses, than an active attempt to wipe out pagan beliefs/religions.

Also in these times, an older wiser widowed or single woman, whilst still being a rarity, would not be as rare as an older wiser man, who's chances of surviving the many wars greatly diminished the older they got, and, if found to be a "wicche" would more likely be found more useful to be pressed into slavery, than executed.

Probably the most famous "Witch Hunt" of modern times is the Salam Witchcraft trials of the 1690's, where 20 people were executed, of which 15 were women. If this is taken as an example of the ratios involved, then of the estimated 40,000 executions over this 100 year odd period, then at least 75% of them would have been women.

Disclaimer: I'm not a Witch, but have a deep interest in (mainly) English folklore/paganism.

Puffycat Fri 08-Jun-18 23:11:49

All you need to do is read a bit of Sir Terry Pratchett, he will tell you all you need to know about witches 😉

LorelaiVictoriaGilmore Fri 08-Jun-18 23:35:06

As pp has said, both men and women were persecuted as witches although the majority were women. They were often people with no beliefs that modern day people would ascribe to witches.... very often they were the poorest and weakest of their community who, in times of trouble, were scapegoated. And unsurprisingly, the poorest and weakest people were very often female. Or they were people with religious differences or those who were otherwise seen as stepping out of their position in society and who, as a result, caused feelings of anxiety in their community. And again, unsurprisingly, a woman stepping out of her designated position in society was perhaps especially concerning in a patriarchal society.

The work historians were producing when I was studying suggested that the causes of incidents of persecution of witches were different in Protestant and Catholic countries. One argument was that full-scale witch hunts were more likely to occur in Catholic countries where the primary drivers were religious. In England, it has been argued that the causes were primarily economic suffering and unrest. This is perhaps the reason that there was arguably only one sustained witch-hunt in England (and if you are interested, I recommend Witchfinder by Malcolm Gaskill) as opposed to numerous witch hunts across Continental Catholic Europe.

Badbilly Fri 08-Jun-18 23:45:33

Does anyone have a good book to recommend on the history of witchcraft and modern practices?

Very good question, but very difficult to answer.

Paganism is a cover-all term that covers many aspects of Folk Religions, and "Witchcraft" is a sub-section of many of these pagan religions.

Many books on the subject try to cover too much , and the whole "pagan" thing becomes a mass porridge of different aspects of these religions by trying to mix-and-match Egyptian, Germanic, Norse, Anglo-saxon, Celtic, Druidism and British folklore.

It's very similar to the way all the Abrahamic religions of Judism, Islam and Christianity are related, but completely different, and so try and imagine asking for a good book to give you an insight into these religions, and that somewhat illustrates the problem.

Then there is Wicca, which is in itself a self admitted amalgamation of aspects of many different pagan religions, and whilst it has a big modern following, is somewhat controversial in that aspect (think Judean's peoples front.v Peoples front of Judea), but does have more accessible literature that relates to witchcraft, or the modern interpretation of it.

My own personal path started as a child (think 1960's) where I got very interested in local history and folklore via many tales my mother would tell me, that I should imagine her mother had told her. This led on to an interest in Folklore in general, and that just led me on further and further into the rabbit hole. Then it was harder than today (pre-internet) and many of the books had to be actively sought via the local library, and even the "big" library in town. I would therefore suggest just starting with folklore in general and it will soon lead you into learning about "witchcraft".

bebanjo Fri 08-Jun-18 23:45:34

Hi, my DD has recently ' become a witch' she is only 11 so I don't know how long it will last.
We went to the musium of witchcraft and magic about 6 weeks ago.
It was really interesting and it turned out I didn't know anything.
I would recommend the musium as a stating point, they have a good website if you can't get to Cornwall.

Badbilly Fri 08-Jun-18 23:54:29

Hi, my DD has recently ' become a witch' she is only 11 so I don't know how long it will last.
We went to the musium of witchcraft and magic about 6 weeks ago.
It was really interesting and it turned out I didn't know anything.
I would recommend the musium as a stating point, they have a good website if you can't get to Cornwall.

The Boscastle museum is absolutely fantastic on two levels- you can either just be mildly interested and spend an hour just wandering through the museum, or you can lose yourself and come out 4 hours later and much better informed. Whenever we go to Cornwall we spend a day in Boscastle, but unfortunately my 10 YO daughter is at the "mildly interested" stage, so no 4 hour diversions at present.

After the flood of 2004 I donated some of my books to the museum to replace the ones destroyed.

bebanjo Sat 09-Jun-18 00:02:09

I found the lady working that day to be very welcoming and happy to talk for ages answering all my stupid questions.
I don't know what I was expecting, but it was better IYKWIM.
We stayed at the youth hostel, perfect location.

TooManyPaws Sat 09-Jun-18 00:19:25

Professor Ronald Hutton is excellent on the history of modern pagan witchcraft in "The Triumph of the Moon".

RE the witch trials, I went to a very interesting lecture by Dr Louise Yeoman on the Fife witchcraft trials where she pointed out that people of property were often targeted because, if condemned, their property would be forfeited - to the church, I believe. Of course, those with money often could afford a decent lawyer to get them off. The story of the Pittenweem witches (Wikipedia isn't to bad on the major facts) is also interesting on the lynch mob mentality and the way the legal and political systems suppressed witch hunting. Edinburgh University used to have an excellent website on Scottish historical witchcraft under Scottish history.

GeekyBlinders Mon 11-Jun-18 17:44:41

BadBilly, I hate to blow my own trumper but I got a first, then a distinction and MA, and I now have a PhD in Medieval History - I assure you my analysis was very well received, and entirely based on the primary sources. Rather than folklore told to me by my mother. Yes, men were witches too, but there was a great deal of ingrained misogyny as well. HTH

HelenaDove Mon 11-Jun-18 18:05:46

The Witches of Canewdon. Including "cunning" men George Pickingill and James Murrell.

hauntedpalaceblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/canewdon-the-village-where-witchfinders-feared-to-tread/

speakout Mon 11-Jun-18 18:16:03

BadBilly witchcraft is not a religion.

Some witches may be Wiccan, but not all.

I am a witch and an atheist.

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