Sunday, January 6, 2013

Inspiration - The Witch Hunts

Execution of alleged witches, 1587
Execution of alleged witches, 1587 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The main character of my Healer's Shadow trilogy is a woman healer. In Love of Shadows she has to decide whether to heal and risk being executed for being a healer. My books are fantasy/magic realism, nevertheless I am by training a historian and use stories from history as the inspiration for my books. For Love of Shadows I was inspired by the story of the persecution of women healers in witch-hunts.

For most of history the majority of the population had no access to any form of medicine other than that provided by the local wise-woman. Even if they had, the medicine taught in universities was closer to magic than the empirical approach of the wise-woman. But whether the wise-women were healing their patients was not a consideration, the very act of healing was a crime and that crime was witchcraft. As one English witch-hunter said: It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death.

On continental Europe the witch-hunts resulted in many thousand executions usually by burning. At Toulouse 400 were killed in one day, 1000 died in one year in the Como area, whilst in 1585 two villages in the Bishopric of Trier were left with only on female inhabitant each. Women healers were not alone (there were also some male healers although they make up approximately on 15% of the numbers killed), it is hard to credit now but midwives were also under attack: Midwives cause the greatest damage. Either killing children or sacrilegiously offering them to devils.

The witch-hunts lasted from the 14th to the 17th century. By the time they finished possibly over a million women had died, much of the knowledge that had been acquired by generations of women healers had been lost and women's roles in healing had been so denigrated that women had to fight even to be nurses.

Blurb for Love of Shadows by Zoe Brooks

"I had always felt most alive, when I was healing. Without healing I was a tin top spinning out of kilter soon to catch the ground. It took all my energy to hold myself from skidding into chaos."

But in the city of Pharsis traditional women healers are banned from practising and the penalty for breaking the law is death by hanging. After being arrested and interrogated twice Judith is careful to avoid suspicion, but then scarlet fever breaks over the city like a poisonous wave, leaving in its wake the small corpses of children. What will the young healer do?

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Love of Shadows will be touring with Goddess Fish to blogs every monday for the next two months.
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1 comment:

Debby said...

Interesting post. Very sad time indeed.

Debby236 at gmail dot com