Why Were Witches All Female?


Have you ever wondered how the word “witch” could preserve its pejorative meaning for all these centuries although neither in christianity nor any other modern culture women are not burned alive anymore? Or why certain practices were specifically attributed to women and they were blamed for disrupting the nature’s balance and functioning? Here are your answers...

The word "witch” is not only used when referring to “bitter or hateful" women.


In many beliefs and cultures, witches are women who use their supernatural powers for evil.

Well, then why aren’t “bitter or hateful” men or boys called “witches?”


The relationship between witchcraft and women is not just an assumption. The word has always been used when referring to women and girls. Of course, there are reasons for that.

Who were “witches” anyway?


According to various religious beliefs, witches had been considered to be strong sorcerers and they used their gifts for negativity, destructiveness and other vicious purposes. They were believed to be giving pain, and even killing people. Witches were a group of women whose very existence is for the sake of evil, as the increasing mania of the 16th century suggested.

Why were women accused of wickedness?


In fact, practicing “witchcraft” was a social role. If we turn back and look at the creation myths; all three Semitic religions emphasize the victimization of Adam, who was expelled from heaven after Eve made him eat the forbidden fruit. We haven’t come so far since then, considering the gender roles in the modern world. Women are still considered the inferior sex.

Who else had been called witches in history?


The first image that comes to mind is a medieval woman flying on her broom, right? In fact, the image of a witch took many different forms throughout history in different cultures. The first wife of Adam, Lilith, for example, is considered to have had a witch-like character causing men to be led astray, killing children, and strangling helpless neonates.

Did witches exist in the East as well?


Of course they did. There is a Mesopotamian myth called Shahmaran.

Shahmaran was depicted as a half-snake half-woman and was known as the queen of the serpents. This wise snake woman was killed by men according to the story, which shouldn’t come as a surprise…

Things got worse as time went by


The Roman Christian Empire started a war on women’s and goddesses’ roles that had originated from pagan beliefs. In order to proceed to monotheism, pagan temples were turned into churches, and the worshipers were called “temple prostitutes.”  From the 4th century to the 11th, thousands of women were killed: gypsies, priestesses, herbalists, nurses, widows and many more…

Maybe the title should’ve been “Being a woman/witch in the age of Inquisition”


What was next is the case of Inquisition.  It was a group of institutions founded by the Catholic Church to combat “heresy.”  In 1204, the court legalized witch-hunting and spread rumors that even the plague was a job of these women. This way, killing whoever was considered to be a “witch” was awarded by the law.

What’s the deal with the fear of black cats?


The first cats brought to Rome from Egypt, the sacred cats, were seen as the symbols of pagan belief, which was then considered as wicked, so most of them were killed. As these cats in the ecosystem were destroyed, plague spread even more and women were blamed for what happened, since they were the ones who fed the cats the most.

Protestants were as misogynous as Catholics...


In 1489, a book named Malleus Maleficarum was written by the Pope’s command. In it, it was declared that sorcery is a perversion and a crime which belongs solely to women.  The reason was, they thought, that women were more likely to be melancholic or evil.  “Where there are many women there are many witches' is just one of the sentences in Malleus Maleficarum. Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, was no better: “I want to be the first to put fire to them” he said.

In fact, there’s only one reason why women were called “witches”


And that reason is the sexual division of labor. In primitive ages, males, who were supposed to be the physically stronger sex, went out hunting whereas females dealt more with gathering, making them wiser about nature. This knowledge of plants paved the way to the first scientific advancements. Females, therefore, were seen as capable of using this power for all kinds of purposes, including evil. This predisposition took different forms throughout history and we still struggle with similar stigmas.

PS. We still use the phrase “witch-hunting,” but why? Because every society creates its own witches.

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