Many years ago I did my dissertation on the European witch-hunts of the 1500s-1600’s, in a module on religion and society during a period of social upheaval. I have never forgotten this book, the author of which died at only 49.
The politics of popular belief.
The book’s mainly focus is on Scotland and England but Larner also covers continental Europe. She explores the distinctive nature of the English witch-hunts and how Scotland took more from the European model than the English did. Notice the subtitle is about the politics of popular belief. This was a popular belief system in the same way Gender Identity Ideology is a quasi-religious belief system. The approach Larner takes to the witch-hunts has much to teach us about the belief that people can be born in the wrong body, or have ”gendered souls”.
A study of this phenomenon is important because it can explain so much about contemporary issues. A belief in witchcraft became a regime enabled ideology. Laws were enacted to prosecute “witches”; in much the same way we are having a new State Religion, “Gender Identity Ideology”, imposed upon society. This has been accompanied by #HateCrime laws, to root out unbelievers, and public shunning of naysayers.
The belief in a “demonic pact” took particular hold in Scotland. This meant all those recognised as witches were now evil, a continental belief system King James I imported to Scotland. As you can see the result was the, subsequent, witch-hunts swept up the local ”scold” along with the ”village healers”
England retained the distinction between “Black” and “white” magic so the pattern of prosecutions and punishments somewhat differed from Scotland.
Dried up old women.
On ascending to the English throne, King James tried to introduce the notion of Satanic influence to his new subjects. A record of an exchange, with a courtier, survives, here James asks about the prevalence of witches among the ”ancient” women. He was met with a ribald joke about “dried up old women”.
In England the 17th century equivalent of Dr Haddock/Man at a bus stop, Matthew Hopkins, was responsible for one outbreak of testeria that saw 19 women hanged. Then, as now, there were men who particularly enjoyed their licence to demonise women.
Here’s a fun fact from another book. Men who were enthusiastic witch-hunters, came to be regarded as a nuisance and they were afforded the moniker ”Common-Prickers”. As in this quote some of those men sought to distract from their own sins. Here a man distracts from his own indecent exposure to attack an honest woman. 🤔
The above quote comes from this book which I have covered in a twitter thread but will add a blog for this series.
Torture was deemed necessary to extract confessions. The law was also amended to allow women to testify, especially to facilitate denunciations of other women. Usually women were not considered competent to be accepted as reliable witnesses. Naturally when women turned against other women the patriarchy was keen to hear from them. Plus ça change. (The more things change, the more things stay the same). Also children, convicted felons and interested parties were similarly upgraded to allow their testimony.
Trials of witches were considered more noteworthy than trials for theft, slaughter, cattle raising or for sex offences!
Of course they were!
Scapegoating and group solidarity.
The execution of a witch marked her as deviant and fostered group solidarity in the ”in-group” By general agreement the witch was marked as a deviant to be cast out of normal society. This was the 17th century version of #VirtueSignalling whereby denouncing other women, as witches, signals a desire for membership of the protected class of “virtuous” women. This functions in much the same way as ”Terf” does in modern day Britain, by adopting this language women are signalling their membership of (oxy) moronic version ”feminism” branded ”inclusive”.
English witches were old, poor and , of course, female. They were also often economically dependent on those who accused them.
Their poverty, and dependence, was an important feature of the ”witch class” because of economic shifts and changes to the “poor laws”. A bureaucratic system of relief had divested, in theory, the charitable responsibilities of the individual but, perhaps, left a residual guilt when not discharging traditional social obligations? Hence the resulting SocialTension.
State promotion of dysfunctional beliefs
Here Larner looks at the nature of belief in society and whether they have an autonomous existence. Why do beliefs exist that are visibly dysfunctional to society and why do states, new leaders and revolutionaries go to such lengths to convince their populations of their “correctness”? Consider the parallels with the 21st Century state mandated belief in “Gender Identity”. The resulting sterilising of children, male rapists in female prisons, men in women’s sports are all manifestly damaging societal cohesion; yet the majority of our political class are falling over themselves to convince the population these are unmitigated goods. 🤷♂️
Moral Panics & Darvo
It is of note that women, campaigning for sex based rights, are being accused of generating a moral panic. (See my series on Moral Panics). This is a classic example of D.A.R.V.O. This stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender. A step by step description of Gaslighting techniques. First you deny the truth; See #ThisNeverHappens about male rapists in female prisons. When that fails, due to mounting evidence, you attack. See #WomenRapeToo. Then you reverse Victim and Offender. See propaganda about the murder of trans-identified males and the accusations that ”Terfs” create the climate that allows these crimes against the trans community to flourish. Of course this also comes under Deny because those murders, the relatively small number that exist, are invariably committed by men.
During this time we see the emergence of the criminalisation of women which necessitated a new category of offences. Witches for the old and infanticide for the young, crimes very much rooted in being part of the reproductive sex class; either because you are currently fecund or you are no longer.
There is also an interesting aside here about the assumption women’s crimes were always as a result of ”male coercion”. Males are still more likely to be part of the criminal class and females in the prison system, for violent offences, especially those of a sexual nature, are significantly less likely to independently from a male. I think this is one area where we can be comfortably repudiate the, otherwise powerful rallying call, of “Sisters doing it for ourselves!”
Why were researchers into witch-hunts so oblivious to the sex question? Note the tautological answers. #WitchyWomenAreWomen….because the stereotype of witches was a women. Despite the obvious correlation between being female and demonised as a witch (much starker in England than Scotland or on the continent) some historians *still* disregard sex as an important variable.
Witches are Women & TWAW.
This 👆 is a precurser to many of the answers you receive to the mantra ”Trans Women are Women”. The answers are in variably reflective of a circular logic. We are told someone “feels like a woman” with no coherent way to define ”woman” without reference to sex stereotypes. The obvious definition is Adult Human Female but this cannot be allowed to stand because it excludes males.
Thank goodness the definition of woman was more stable in the period we are investigating. Look at the stats.😳. In England 92% of the accused were women.
In twelfth century Russia they just rounded up all women! Note it was a “sex-specific” crime. No gender bollocks when working out who to hang or burn!
The few male witches tended to be swept up in trials as a result of guilt by association.
Witches are women who don’t conform.
Women singled out, as witches, were the kind that departed from sex stereotypical behaviour. A standard set by men. 👇
We have learnt nothing!
These deviant women generate hostility. The persecution of witches (ter*s in 2021) is a warning to other women to get in line to conform, in short to #BeCompliant. Thank you to twitter user @georgiaxcross for this perspective on #BeKind feminism. This is it in a nutshell, it is not a request. It is a demand.
The next quote illustrates the overlap in motivations for the Jewish persecution, in York, in the twelfth century. Because of a historic, religious, prohibition of ”usury” the money lenders were mainly Jewish who did not have such a taboo. The men of York were in debt to the Jewish money-lenders had an added incentive to initiate their, violent, expulsion, from the city. We see the same playing out below with the women they defined as witches in Nupe witch- hunting. The women also violated social norms for women by taking lovers and not providing children.
In Scotland there is a also suggestive correlation with the new ability to make accusations of sexual impropriety to the landlord class. Is it not also interesting that this modern day #Backlash has emerged on the back of the #MeToo movement?
Another factor was the rise of the male medical profession. This generated backlash to the traditional role of women as “healers”. Men now coveted this role in the community.
Eventually as the witch-hunts spread they ran out of Scolds and turned on the “honest” women.
First they came for the Scolds/Ter*s and I did not speak out…Your silence /complicity will not protect you #Handmaidens.
This is a rather magnificent aside on the (1980’s) phenomenon of popular witchcraft. The idea that Standard Witchcraft magazines look like a cross between penthouse and a PhD thesis has delicious application to the world of #GenderStudies. Bravo! I .😂✊️
Labour! From witch to bitch to terf.
Oh and this quote too!. Absolutely one that should have served as a warning to we left-wing women.
From #DitchTheWitch (that’s a bit sexist)
To. Ok you have a point we will use …wait for it..
Women with the power of words are a distinct threat. I am sure we all have some particular women in mind re this quote.
And look at this! Margaret Lister (Fife) was also identified as a “libber”. A liberated women who insists on making an issue of it. I had no idea women’s libber dated back to 1662! How very dare she and how delicious she is called Lister the same as Gentleman Jack!
Was the State consciously seeking to terrorise and intimidate women?
Are the State doing this in 2021 by seeking to criminalise women for saying we exist? That sex is real and we are not an “identity”?
Bravo to whoever did this. Note that Witch-Hunters were called #CommonPrickers in Scotland. I prefer just to call them pricks. The Male Feminists are the worst. Ironically.
You can access Christina’s book here: Open Library is free but they do need donations.