Witch Hunting, Halloween, and Birth

ImageIt’s Halloween!  My kids want me to wear my green mask, ugly crooked teeth, dry haystack hair and cackle loudly at my children!  What fun!  But spare a thought for all those hundreds and thousands of women (and some men) who were sought out and burned alive at the stake.  These were our healers and midwives.  The more successful they were at healing, the more  magical and therefore dangerous they were thought to be.  Some “witches” used herbal remedies very successfully, including ergot for labour – today’s drug ergometrine is a derivative of this. But their skills were literally burned out, and then stamped out with legislation and slander.  For example, women were not allowed to study, and  practicing midwifery without having studied it was outlawed.  Sounds a little like the plight of today’s independent midwives in England, and yet England has a very powerful midwifery base compared to places like the United States. (Independent midwives in England are at the brink of being effectively outlawed). It also sounds a little like the plight of midwives all over the world who are being struck off or jailed, or who’s midwifery services such as the Albany Practice are being closed down. The media enjoy a frenzy if a home-birth midwife runs into trouble, but seem to revere doctors who may well be accountable for many more deaths.  I know that I, and many more midwives in this country, see the witch hunt continuing.  The battle of the sexes to take control of healing and childbirth continues to this day.  Thank-fully, we are not killing midwives any more, and thankfully, they have a greater voice.  Let’s keep listening to them, for they are wise, and gentle. This poem helps us to revere and respect the poor old witch.


: “Halloween Witch”


: Each year they parade her about,
: the traditional Halloween Witch.
: Misshapen green face,
: stringy scraps of hair,
: a toothless mouth beneath her deformed nose.
: Gnarled knobby fingers twisted into a claw
  protracting from a bent and : twisted torso that

  lurches about on wobbly legs.
: Most think this abject image to be the creation of a
  prejudiced mind or : merely a Halloween caricature.
: I disagree,
: I believe this to be how Witches were really seen.
: Consider that most Witches: were women,
: were abducted in the night, : and smuggled into

  dungeons or prisons under the secrecy of darkness to be
: presented by light of day  as a confessed Witch.

: Few if any saw a frightened normal-looking woman
  being dragged into a secret room filled with

  instruments of torture, to be questioned until she

  confessed to anything suggested to her and to
: give names or whatever would stop the questions.
: Crowds saw the aberration denounced to the world as a
  self-proclaimed Witch.

  As the Witch was paraded through town enroute to be
  burned, hanged, drowned, stoned
: or disposed of in various other forms of Christian
  love, all created to free and save her soul from her
  depraved body, the jeering crowds viewed the results

  of hours of torture.

  The face bruised and broken by countless blows bore a
  hue of sickly green. The once warm and loving smile gone,
: replaced by a grimace of broken teeth and torn gums
  that leers beneath a battered disfigured nose.
: The disheveled hair conceals bleeding gaps of torn
  scalp from whence cruel hands had torn away the lovely tresses.
: Broken twisted hands clutched the wagon for support,
: fractured fingers with nails torn away locked like
  groping claws to steady her broken body.
: All semblence of humanity gone,
: this was truly a demon, a bride of Satan, a Witch.
: I revere this Halloween Crone and hold her sacred
  above all. : I honor her courage and listen to her warnings

  of the dark side of man.
: Each year I shed tears of respect when the mundane
  exhibit their symbol.
: angel 6-26-99 Petals and Thorns poetry by angel


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