Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

Goin’ on a witch hunt

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Starting in the fifteenth century and ending in the eighteenth, Europeans had a huge concern with the allegations of witchcraft and thought it was a threat to humanity. Society and governments ordered the need for further hunting for suspicious witches. These intense and vicious hunts varied from place to place as did the target of who was to be hunted. Women happened to be a specific targeted group who were accused, tortured, and massacred. Tens of thousands of people were killed off because of suspicions of being a witch, three-quarters of whom were women.

 

These witch hunts can be described as a case of “genderized mass murder.” According to Katz, (p. 503)”the overall evidence makes plain that the growth — the panic — in the witch craze was inseparable from the stigmatization of women. … Historically, the most salient manifestation of the unreserved belief in female power and female evil is evidenced in the tight, recurrent, by-now nearly instinctive association of women and witchcraft. Though there were male witches, when the witch craze accelerated and became a mass phenomenon after 1500 its main targets, its main victims, were female witches. Indeed, one strongly suspects that the development of witch-hunting into a mass hysteria only became possible when directed primarily at women.”

 

 

 

Above is a humorous clip from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” This clip is meant to show the false allegations of such witch hunts and the extremely unrealistic reasoning behind accusing one of being a witch.

 

While taking a look at Caryl Churchill’s “Vinegar Tom,” we can say that this is a play about witches with no actual witches in it. The songs that Churchill includes in this piece takes the reader out of the story and into the minds of the accused. This story circulates around a single mother who becomes to overall scapegoat of the play because of social and moral ills of her small town. A jealous neighbor falsely accuses her of being a witch. Once the village gets word of this, a professional witch hunter comes to town and in the end the women are hung.

Certain natural bodily actions that take place in a women’s body were said to be signs of witchcraft. Looking at specific lines from Churchill’s song “Nobody Sings,”

“Do you want your skin to wrinkle

And your cunt get sore and dry?

And the say it’s just your hormones

If you cry and cry and cry.

Oh nobody sings about it,

but it happens all the time.”

(Churchill,1243-1244)

These signs of maturing in a woman were usually an embarrassing time and women tended to try and hide these things from society. Without any knowledge of how the woman’s body works, no one would know that this was a natural process and it was in fact a very false allegation of being a witch.

Want to be a witch for a few minutes? How about just being accused of one. Click here to join an actual virtual witch hunt and find out what happens to you! Don’t make the wrong choice, or it could be your life.

 

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