I have a blog now (insert maniacal laughter) welcome to my soap box. You probably don't know it but I do a fair amount of research about a lot of random things before I do the work I do. The part where ideas turn into clothes.
This is probably why I do so many different collections that are all so seemingly unrelated. I have a lot of ideas to work through, and now I get to share those ideas, in other ways than clothes!
I couple of weeks ago I posted this photo on my @kiss_me_simone instagram page:
I’m not sure of the source, but I love the message.
I started thinking about it earlier this year after listening to Lisa Listers book “Witch: Unleashed, Untamed, Unapologetic” I also bought a copy of the book but the audio book is particularly captivating, because you get a better sense of the passion that lies behind it. In a way its an angry book, and I know that that word can have negative associations, but sometimes you just have to be angry to get the point across.
There is a very small part in the book about the witch burnings. A fairly significant chunk of western history (about a hundred years) that kinda gets brushed over or relegated to b-grade horror movies a lot. It started about 500 years ago, and I cant seem to find even an approximate figure but somewhere between thousands and tens of thousands of women and outsider/other people were tortured and murdered across Europe and the US, all over a belief in witchcraft, satanism, curses and religious fervor.
So, for over 100 years people were tortured, humiliated and killed all for being ‘other’ for being different, for being outspoken, for being willful or angry or simply not fitting in. Maybe they said ‘no’ when they should have said ‘yes’. ‘Should have’. This kind of threat breeds a culture of conformity right? And fear? Fear of not fitting in, being singled out, being tortured ad murdered for our differences. This kind of fear then becomes inter generational, Mothers worry about their children and teach them not to stand out, not to be different, to conform and be compliant, just to survive.
They are also taught to fear witches. I can tell you the fear of witches still exists, in a big way. We might think in this world of science we are well beyond believing in magic and curses. But when I label myself ‘witch’ people fear me, and they are angry in their fear.
I’ve worn the label ‘witch’ on and off throughout my life. I have plenty of stories of controversy about that label from my teens, but teenagers are by and large overly dramatic, they do dumb stuff and blame that dumb stuff on other dumb stuff. Whatever.
Now I’’m in my 40’s, and the other people in this story, also complete grown ups.
My neighbor and I have had a quiet ongoing dispute about a tree in my backyard. It is/was a beautiful silver wattle, that screened my bedroom windows from their front yard.
They kept cutting it back, popping their heads over my fence, talking shit about me and cutting it well over the property line. So I told them to stop. They kept doing it. Eventually the tree had to be pruned on my side because it had grown over the roof and was threatening to do damage to the house.
While the tree was in shock from its pruning (something I thought they’d be grateful for) they took the opportunity to poison the tree. You could see the poison dripping down the tree. I tried to revive her when I saw the damage, lots of water, some fertiliser and I also painted the evil eye on the trunk overlooking their property, just to reflect the bad juju.
WELL, they ain’t happy about that little drawing, there have been angry confrontations (I did laugh in a middle aged white mans face, that probably didn’t help) but apparently, to paraphrase, ‘I should be locked up, I don’t know what I’m doing, messing with black magic’
Give this man the ear of the inquisition and I’d be getting burnt alive right now, never mind what he did to my tree and my privacy.
Of course in this world irrational fear, anger and retaliation go hand in hand, generally with xenophobia, and bad politics. Personally I think the fear mongering our politicians and media drum up should be labeled terrorism more than the acts they depose, but that's a different story.
I do wonder though, were social relations different before these generations of fear? I am about half way through “Alphabet versus the Goddess’ (its a pretty lengthy tome) by Leonard Shlain which discusses gender relations prior to the written word, and written history, which is really interesting. Proposing that a lot of cultures were matriarchal or at least more equal, there was a time when men did not understand their role in child birth. So childbirth was just something that women did, and it gave them power, the power of creation, of life. The power of creation is a pretty big deal in most religion, and now all our creators are men... kinda weird right?
I’m off subject, I was wondering if gender relations in the western world were different before the witch trials? Maybe, and maybe not, it depends how far back in time your willing to go, as this quote attests
“The earliest Mesopotamian law code (2350bc) attributed to King Urokagina of Lagash, begins with a prescription against polyandry. “The women of former days used to take two husbands, but the women of today (if they attempt to do this) must be stoned”
...and I’m pretty sure they aren’t high.
This article from Quartz is fascinating in its study of religion as politics and economics in the spread of witch hunting across Europe. Strikingly similar to the fear mongering that's happening today.
'Germany was once the witch hunting capital of the world'
Also, I love the Guilty Feminist podcast and this particular piece about the fear of being an outsider in your social group (fear of being thrown to the witch hunting jackals) is hilarious, and also interesting. Episode 116 about 12mins in (just listen to the whole lot. its good!)
Also the piece about refugees versus baby's for economic growth is slightly off topic but also fabulous episode 117 about 19mins in.
Sabrina (on Netflix) is really a shit person.
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