The agenda of the religious and medical establishment in the Middle-Ages
It is important to stress, that despite the assumptions and clichés, witchery is not the prerogative of the female. Historically speaking however, it is true, that of the hundred thousand or so witches who were killed during the Burning Times, 80% were women and girls. The reasons behind this high percentage, is not that there were more female witches than males, but that there was a definite Papal and oligarchical agenda, aiming to put a stop to the freedom, aspirations and rights of women
A kind of Renaissance where women had gained status and rights, had started in the 12th century . It had gained momentum for many reasons, cultural and economical. Occitania for example, was free from the feudal system and women there had long enjoyed financial and cultural independence. The trobairitz (female troubadours) made their mark in the Arts and the Cathar faith, allowed them to be Perfects.
The wars and the Plague meant that, by the XVth century, women were often the only labourers left on the land.They were also in control of the textile production and they
wanted freedom to do as they pleased with their earnings.
Add to this the emergence of “the medical doctor”, fresh out of his ten years of study who didn’t like competition from “unlearned” women and men, and you will understand the need for the system in place, to demonise healers, as a means to regain power. Instilling fear of the Other into the population to render it docile, was also a tactic used to firmly anchor that system.
Women were forbidden to attend Medical school, and this until the 1850’s.
It seems, that during the early Middle ages, the number of women doctors was roughly equal to that of the men and women such as Hildegarde de Bingen, or Trotula of Salerne were famed throughout Europe.
But soon the doors of Medicine were closed to all but a privileged few and they stayed tightly shut to women and the lower classes (as is still the case), keeping thus, healing, and health, in the hands of the wealthy and the powerful.
The witch-hunts like the culling of heretics and the various crusades, were solely motivated by greed for wealth, land and power but cunningly disguised by the Church and the mighty, as righteous necessities to please their venal God. Things didn’t improve with the arrival of the Protestant faith, quite the opposite. The last witch executed in England was hung in 1808. Whilst Helen Duncan, a medium, was the last person to be prosecuted as a witch in the UK, in 1944!
Plus ça change…
To a certain extent, things haven’t changed all that much. The system we live in now, was put in place then and though Medicine has improved dramatically, it is still dominated by greed, protecting and being protected by the big pharmaceutical companies.
In France for example, healers still often end up in jail as it is illegal to practice “medicine” without a medical qualification . The profession of herbalist was eradicated in 1941 and the excellent schools which had been in place for three centuries were closed down. In Ireland many herbs such as Saint John’s Wort can only be obtained with prescription from your MD. Yet there is hope, as more and more hospitals in France, are unofficially referring burn victims, from chemotherapy or other, to “barreurs de feu”(healers who specialise in the healing burns).
But it is usually the nurse who will discretely slip you their phone number never the doctor or the professor.