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Society Witches: women with knowledge of philosophy and herbal medicine were burned for ‘knowing too much’

In the image, the Greek philosopher Hypatia (370-415 AD) was tortured to death by a Christian mob (Reproduction)

Bruno Pacheco – Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – Enchantments and rituals are practices remembered every year on “Halloween”, celebrated this Sunday, October 31st, a date that has myths created in the Ancient Age and reinforced in the Medieval Period, but that were deconstructed by History over the years. The patriarchal structure of both eras caused women who “knew too much” to be brutally murdered.

Originating more than 2,500 years ago, Halloween had its first ceremony based on the Celtic culture of the United Kingdom, with the so-called “Festival of Samhain”, in which the dead were believed to return to Earth. According to historians, the event was disfigured in the Middle Ages with the discrimination of women who participated in the ceremony and had a high degree of knowledge in philosophy, astronomy, herbal medicine and other areas of study.

A study of general and fundamental questions of human existence, Philosophy seeks knowledge about values, reason, mind, and language. Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial bodies and phenomena that originate outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and Phytotherapy, analyzes the therapeutic functions of plants and vegetables as potential remedies for the treatment and prevention of disease.

In the midst of a period when the Catholic Church was very influential in Europe, and was essentially ruled by men, women who had knowledge in healing practices using plants were judged as “witches”, a term that became associated with pacts with the “devil”.

Historically, witches are also portrayed as women outside the “social standards of beauty”, with big, pointy noses, full of warts and hunchbacks, with a horrifying laugh, and who were feared for kidnapping children and using them in macabre rituals, according to the Christian religion.

Historically, witches are also portrayed as women with big, pointy noses and full of warts. (Reproduction)

“In the middle ages, between the 15th and 12th centuries, witches were hunted with the accusation that they performed heresies. Heresies that were nothing more or less than the expression of their greatest gifts. By expressing themselves, by using plants, by praying to their Gods (other than the Christian ones), by maintaining a great connection with nature (earth, water, sun, moon, etc.), by following their intuition and their most intimate knowledge, such as premonition, or only those who were more cultured, beautiful or intelligent. They were burned, drowned or buried so that they would shut up and not express themselves as the women they were”, explains Portuguese spiritual celebrant and ritual specialist Cátia Silva.

In an interview to CENARIUM MAGAZINE, Cátia Silva recalls that in the beginning the Celts believed in the fact that between the night of October 31 and November 1, the veil between the dead and the living was thinner and communication with the ancestors was easier. According to the spiritual celebrant, this moment, for the Celtic culture, was a great celebration, with rituals involving bonfires, candlelight and fire, which brought a mysticism of their own. Over time, Christianity adopted some of these pagan ceremonies and there was an appropriation of the Samhain Festival.

Expert in experiences and rituals, Cátia Silva explains the culture that gave origin to Halloween (Photo credit: Monica Lages)

“What happened was an appropriation of the day of Samhain, a celebration of the end of the harvests, and end of summer, where people would enjoy it and start preparing for winter. And this passage was almost like a ‘portal’ for them. Christianity, as it wanted to adopt this stance, moved All Saints’ Day, which used to be May 13, to November 1, so that there would not be such a huge transformation from one ritual to another, from one culture to another, from paganism to Christianity”, explained Cátia.

Transition

The history teacher, Katia Regina Damasceno, explained that with the transition, the Europeans who immigrated to the United States (USA) took the rituals with them to the Americans. In the US, part of the customs changed: pumpkins, the most common vegetable found in North America, started to be used instead of turnips (used in Ireland) to ward off evil spirits.

In 1693 and 1694, the town of Salem, in the United States, drew the world’s attention for the series of trials of dozens of people, including witches and local inhabitants, who were executed and tortured in a public square for practicing witchcraft. With the large number of executions, fear also dominated the region and, consequently, legends and tales about witches and what they were capable of doing took over the popular imagination.

Illustrative image about women accused of witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Credit: Promotion/Youtube)

“What happened to these women, in the Middle Ages, was that they were burned, not because they had some extra-sensory knowledge (many of them did), but the point I want to make is that we women were used to silence all our internal wisdom so that we would not suffer consequences, from our family or from ourselves”, reinforced Cátia Silva.

According to the British historian Malcolm Gaskill, professor at the University of East Anglia, “women attracted a lot of mistrust from the Church, and when they showed themselves to be skilled in dealing with life, whether preparing medicines or acting as midwives, the bishops went mad.

“After several weeks of torture, the women would confess to unspeakable practices, such as kissing cats’ anuses, drinking human blood, or sacrificing newborn children”, the historian describes to Super Abril magazine.

Unjustified

Given the pejorative meaning of the word witch, a sexist and misogynistic culture was created in society, in which women were disqualified by men for submitting to the unknown and to the “forces of evil”. As a result, women succumbed to secondary and submissive roles to their husbands. More than 3,800 people were tried for witchcraft in Scotland between the 15th and 18th centuries, and there were no formal apologies for the heinous events.

Today, lawyer Claire Mitchell leads a movement fighting for historical reparations for 2,500 women killed for being witches. To this end, she has started the Witches of Scotland campaign. The lawyer explained that “the campaign has three goals: forgiveness for the convicted, apologies to the accused, and a national monument to remember them”.

Illustration of a woman being burned at the stake (Promotion)

Mitchell claims that 84% of witchcraft complaints in Scotland were made against women. “People believed that they were weaker and therefore more likely to fall under the devil’s spell”, she concluded.

For her, it is “very important” to recognize this grave injustice, and so she took a request on March 17, 2021, to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee for the country to apologize and make a memorial for the victims convicted under Scotland’s Witchcraft Act, which came into force in 1563 and remained in force until 1736. The document is under consideration, according to the country’s tabloid The National.

On the list of people executed on witchcraft charges during the “Witch Hunt” period are the Greek Neoplatonic philosopher Hypatia (370-415 AD), who was attacked and tortured to death by a Christian mob; the Chinese general Zhang Liang (killed in 646), beheaded after being accused of witchcraft; and the Frenchwoman Angèle de la Barthe, (1230-1275 A.D.) burned alive after being accused of having had sexual relations with the devil and giving birth to a “monster” baby.

Other women condemned to death for “witchcraft

Petronilla of Meath (1300-1324 a.C) – Tortured and burned alive at the stake after being accused of using witchcraft to enrich and murder her husbands

Kolgrim (died in 1407) – Sentenced to death by burning at the stake after being accused of using magic chants to bewitch another man’s wife

Matteuccia de Francesco (died in 1428) – Burned to death after being accused of prostitution, committing profanity with other women, selling love potions and medicinal ointment made with the blood of newborn babies

Joana d’Arc (1412-1431 a.C) – Sentenced to death by burning after being arrested on charges of murder and heresy

Agnes Bernauer Bernauer (1410 – October 12, 1435 a.C) – Thrown into the Danube River, where she drowned, she was accused of witchcraft and sorcery

Gracia la Valle (killed in 1498) – Considered the first execution for accusation of witchcraft in Spain

Mark Antony Bragadini (killed in 1500) – She was beheaded after being accused of witchcraft and sorcery.

In the image, the Greek philosopher Hypatia (370-415 a.C) was tortured to death by a Christian mob (Reproduction)

Empowerment

As a way to empower, give voice to, and bring out the witch in women, spiritual celebrant Cátia Silva has been working on celebrations and rituals for a year and a half in Lisbon, Portugal.

Cátia Silva is a spiritual celebrant and works with female empowerment (Photo Credit: Ana Freitas)

“This inner knowing, this wisdom and knowledge is rightfully mine and I have the right to put it out there to help others, to empower other women who are silent, women who suffer in society with racism, any kind of discrimination. And this work that I’m doing with women (circles and rituals), is to bring healing, light, these memories to heal each other. When I heal myself, I am healing another, because I am passing on my story and my message. And when she finds herself in me, she will try to do the process herself”, pointed out Cátia.

For Cátia, this movement represents the will of all women to free themselves from ties, from the oppression of their expressions and gifts. “Showing ourselves without shame and assuming what we really have in here, our internal wisdom and personal power. Feminism and this connection to the inner witch is about knowing the real meaning of being human: we are all equal – made of flesh and blood, with red blood and a heart on the left side of the body. In this sense, it is necessary that more and more women assume this inner witch to be free to be who they are, without judgments or fires, because we are in the 21st century and the watchword is freedom”, she concluded.

To learn more about the work of Cátia Silva, who seeks to celebrate life through rituals in an intentional, loving, and joyful way in which everyone can be free, accepted and happy, just access her website at: https://www.catiasilva.eu/ or access her social networks.