The voices of women are rising again
we are mothers, daughters,
lovers, leaders, teachers
authors, priestesses, even warriors
and we will not be silenced.
we will speak for the vulnerable
we will speak for the oppressed
and we will speak for ourselves.
The world will be saved,
not by a dying man,
but by women’s stories…
I listened to David Hillman speak on a recent episode of Voices of the Sacred Feminine and he mentioned that when political and religious tides were turning in the ancient world, those who wanted to dominate and control didn’t go for the leaders of countries, for political heads of states, or for those in powerful jobs, they went for the priestesses. They went for women who held the cultural stories and ritual language of the people. They went for the healers and nurturers and those who took care of others. They destroyed temples and sacred images and books. They almost succeeded in total eradication of the role of priestess from the world and worked really hard to take midwives and wisewomen out completely as well.
I addressed a similar topic in my Stigmatization of the Witch class at OSC with regard to the question of why sexuality and the woman as healer became such a threat to European Medieval society:
Many women accused as “witches” were past their childbearing years—thus, had used up their usefulness as a sexual commodity and because many of them were widowed/not controlled by a man, they threatened the very fabric of the patriarchal community. Women in general were associated with the “evils” of sexuality, sex in itself being viewed as sinful rather than sacred. Many of the women accused were midwives and healers. Birth was purposefully denigrated and made “unclean” as a means of subjugating women and dominant religious traditions sought “purification” and “rebirth” in patriarchal traditions—transcending the body and the “unclean” birth from a lowly female body, to a spiritual birth from a father figure. No mother/woman required! Midwives/witches’ association with the “dirty” and original-sinful act of birth, made them natural suspects for other mysterious and powerful events (such as infant death or personal disfigurement). It would seem much more logical that the power to give life, to express the might of creation, should really have been viewed as one of the holiest and most profoundly meaningful acts in society—it seems much more logical and natural to celebrate women as life-givers and sustainers of society, but this was actually purposefully inverted and fear rather than celebration came to surround the mysteries and potent powers of a woman’s reproductive life. In some ways, perhaps “womb envy” was one of the driving forces behind the witch hunt phenomenon…
Likewise with the healing abilities of the accused—the ability to heal was a special power that gave women authority and influence over the community members. I was interested by the Barstow’s remarks that the women accused were, “…uppity women—women given to speaking out, to a bold tongue and independent spirit….spirit, quarrelsomeness, a refusal to be put down. They talked back to their neighbors, their ministers, even to their judges and executioners.” (p. 27) What if other women, who saw these women as important figures, felt like they could also be independent and speak their minds? Society would fall apart!
I am reminded of a poem I received once in a card from the National Association of Mother’s Centers:
One Woman Awake
The second awakens her next door neighbor.
And three awake can rouse the town,
And turn the whole place upside down.
And many awake
Can raise such a fuss
That it finally awakens the rest of us.
One woman up,
With dawn in her eyes,
It is not uncommon for a society not to want to risk the threat of awakened women turning the whole place upside down.
“We’re volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. New mountains form.”
– Ursula Le Guin
”I hear the singing of the lives of women. The clear mystery, the offering, and the pride.”
– Muriel Rukeyser