Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...
The Season of the Witch – Max Dashu On Why We Sexualize, Trivialize, and Fear the Witch
By Jocelyn Macdonald
on October 29, 2019
AE: in Woman Hating, Andrea Dworkin goes over this history and one of the things she says, and this is often used to discredit her, is the number of witches hunted amounted to more than the German Holocaust in world war two. She says it’s more than 6 million. I was wondering if you think the number matters and if that number is conservative or too liberal.
MD: Let’s talk numbers. This is something that always comes up. The number is mythical. Dworkin did not invent this number and nor did Matilda Joslyn Gage which may have been where Dworkin sourced that number. I don’t know if you know her, she was an intersectional feminist back in the late 1800s. She did a book called Women, Church and State which talks about the which hunts. She got the number from a German scholar writing maybe 100 years before her time. Methodologically his was not a great idea. He took numbers from the height of the German witch hunts and extrapolated those to all the countries of Europe. It’s a cipher. It’s a symbolic number. We can’t say 9 million burned at the stake. The question of how many women were affected? Were accused? Were shunned? Were denounced? That number could easily surpass nine million.
The number of women who taught their daughters keep your head down because this is what can happen to you. There was a huge impact on the way women raised their daughters to keep this from happening to them. I have seen accusations that this number was picked by feminists to surpass the number killed in the Holocaust and that’s false because the number estimated well predates that.
But we’re never going to know the real number because as I mentioned there are no trial records. Some places that actually did keep records, those were destroyed. Such as in France, Paris was thinking better of the witch hunts and the regional parliament was trying to hide them from the crown. They burned their own archives because it had become politically dangerous for that evidence to exist. There’s an historian of the Swiss witch hunts — we’re talking about the 1500s here — he finds not trial records, but payments for wood, tar and tow for setting the fires, and payments of the executioners including beer and meat that was included in the trial costs. So he’s proving on an economic level, in a Marxian way — we don’t have any judicial records, but we have financial records — that they were burning witches at this time.
There are so many reasons why the real number, we’re never gonna know.
Partly too there’s a mythology around this. When I was young the stereotype was the witch hunts happened in the Middle Ages and there’s this stereotype of the superstitious Middle Ages and how advanced everything became later on. Actually, they finally figured out the Renaissance is when the witch hunts started to really get bad.
> it is interesting that when in "the sciences" updates and corrections are applied based on new evidence and newer understandings of old evidence, that is praised as progress; when this is done in "the humanities" especially history, that's revisionism and pilloried
154: Recognizing that social subordination is a historical product rooted in a specific organization of woek as had a liberating effect on women. It has denaturalized the sexual division of labour and the identities built upon it, projecting gender categories not only as social constructs but as concepts whose content is constantly redefined, infinitely mobile, open-ended, and always politically charged. Indeed, many feminist debates on the valifidty of 'women' as an analytic and political category could be more easily resolved if this method were applied, for it teaches us that it is possible to express a common interest without ascribing fixed and uniform forms of behaviour and social conditions.
- "Marxism, Feminism, and the Commons," 151-174 in Re-Enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons, Silvia Federici, 2019, PM Press, Oakland
History is an account of the past based on surviving sources, but it is also a way of making sense of the present.... History is not just what happened in the past. It is what later generations chose to remember. [xxii]
In my scholarly work, my form of misbehavior has been to care about things that other people find predictable and boring. [xxx]
If history is to enlarge our understanding of human experience, it must include stories that dismay as well as inspire. It must also include the lives of those whose presumed good behavior prevents us from taking them seriously. If well-behaved women seldom make history, it is not only because gender norms have constrained the range of female activity, but because history has been very good at capturing the lives of those whose contributions have been local and domestic.
Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2007
In many parts of the world, women have historically been seen as the weavers of memory – those who keep alive the voice of the past and the histories of the communities, who transmit them to future generations and, in so doing, create a collective identity and profound sense of cohesion. They are also those who hand down required knowledges and wisdoms – concerning medical remedies, the problems of the heart, and the understanding of human behaviour, starting with that of men. Labelling all this production of knowledge "gossip" is part of the degradation of women – it is a continuation of the demonologists' construction of the stereotypical woman as prone to malignity, envious of other people's wealth and power, and ready to lend an ear to the devil. [41-42]
Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women; Silvia Federici, PM Press Oakland 2018
The 'generation gap' is an important social tool for any repressive society.
- Audre Lorde "Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference," 217-226 in All the Rage: Reasserting Radical Lesbian Feminism, edited by Lynne Harne and Elaine Miller, Teachers College Press, New York 1996.
EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT WESTERN CIVILIZATION IS WRONG, 16 November 2018 review of "...And Forgive Them Their Debts" by John Siman