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Since I keep hearing from many different directions that now is supposed to be the time for women to step into their potential (even the Dalai Lama goes along with this – check out his proclamation at the 2010 Peace Summit in Vacouver: “The world will be saved by the western woman”), I thought it would be interesting to share with our readers a record of a period of time when it would appear that everything possible was done to utterly suppress women.
Why share this now? Dunno – except maybe to give us a collective kick up the backside, stop us playing small and reclaim our naturally rightful places. See what you think by the time you get to the end here.
The Burning Times is billed as a documentary though I think docudrama better describes it. You can watch it and decide for yourself – it’s freely available to see on the National Film Board of Canada’s site. It was produced by Donna Read in 1990 and it runs for just under an hour.
It takes an in-depth look at the witch hunts that swept Europe just a few hundred years ago. False accusations and trials led to massive torture and burnings at the stake and ultimately to the destruction of an organic way of life. The film questions whether the widespread violence against women and the neglect of our environment today can be traced back to those times.
If you’re in a hurry, or not sure whether to set aside an hour to watch it, here’s my precis on it based on watching it back in November 2010.
Women who, up until then had been been looked to as leaders, counsellors and healers were suddenly branded by the Christian church as witches; worshippers of the devil. By the time the witch craze was over women’s power was associated with evil and death.
With the arrival of Christianity, belief became Big Business. Churches were built and and goddesses were renamed and became saints. But there was no “chief” saint so the newly converted pagans demanded and claimed their own. Over the next hundred years 500 churches the size of cathedrals sprung up over Europe – all dedicated to Mary.
Joan of Arc grew up in a time when it was accepted by ordinary people that young girls could become prophetics… but that didn’t suit the church authorities who were becoming increasingly rigid and on the defensive. Bye bye Joan.
Remember that women had been the medics, healers, counsellors – responsible for birth control and pain control and bear in mind that midwives were specifically targetted. The church declared that no person could practise as a healer without accepted training. Since most universities were closed to women the rise of the male medical profession was guaranteed… Women continued to practise in fear of their lives. And, surprise, surprise, many went to their deaths on the testimony of male doctors.
Husbands were encouraged from the pulpit to beat their wives ‘for her soul’s sake’.
By the 16th century women’s rights to own property were revoked. Widows, spinsters and those who begged for a living were the most vulnerable scapegoats among strife and scarcity.
They provided amazing employment opportunities for lawyers, judges, people to sit on tribunals – just one accusation from a neighbour was enough to set the whole thing in motion.
As you can tell, there’s no way an hour’s worth of watching is represented here – I’ve just shared the headline bits that resonated or leapt out at me when I originally watchedthe film/ video/ whatever you want to call it.
Surely the way we can do most good for everyeone in our sphere of influence is to first use the oxygen-mask-on-the-plane-scenario principle? We’re not going to sustainably help others by ignoring and supressing our own needs.
And beyond that, how about regaining the self respect and self esteem it would appear we had in the Middle Ages before religion decided we were persona non grata? Without doubt we’ve regained a lot of ground over the last couple of generations – isn’t it time to build on that?
Please wade in and add your own thoughts!