The Evolution of the Medieval Witch – and Why She’s Usually a Woman

The Evolution of the Medieval Witch – and Why She’s Usually a Woman

By Jennifer Farrell, Lecturer in Medieval History, University of Exeter. First published on The Conversation.

Flying through the skies on a broomstick, the popular image of a witch is as a predominantly female figure – so much so that the costume has become the go-to Halloween outfit for women and girls alike. But where did this gendered stereotype come from? Part of the answer comes from medieval attitudes towards magic, and the particular behaviours attributed to men and women within the “crime” of witchcraft.

Taking one aspect of the witch’s characterisation in popular culture – her association with flight – we can see a transformation in attitudes between the early and later Middle Ages. In the 11th century, Bishop Burchard of Worms said of certain sinful beliefs:

Some wicked women, turning back to Satan and seduced by the illusions and phantasms of demons, believe [that] in the night hours they ride on certain animals with the pagan goddess Diana and a countless multitude of women, and they cross a great span of the world in the stillness of the dead of night.

According to Burchard, these women were actually asleep, but were held captive by the devil, who deceived their minds in dreams. He also believed that none but the very “stupid and dim-witted” could think that these flights had actually taken place.

Why the Catholic Church Is So Slow To Act In Sex Abuse Cases: 4 Essential Reads

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Why the Catholic Church Is So Slow To Act In Sex Abuse Cases: 4 Essential Reads

By Kalpana Jain, Senior Religion + Ethics Editor. First published on The Conversation

The Vatican’s retired ambassador to the United States, Carlo Maria Vigano, has accusedPope Francis and other officials of covering up that they were aware of sex abuse allegations against Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington.

The accusation follows a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that revealed a long and shocking scale of sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Francis, who accepted McCarrick’s resignation last month, after an investigation found the allegations to be credible, has refused to comment on Vigano’s letter.

A Minimum of 30-40% Of Catholic Priests Are Gay, Asserts NY Times, As Vatican Prepares Sex Abuse Summit

Theodore McCarrick, previously the Archbishop of Washington, DC and Newark and a high-ranking Cardinal was defrocked last week and sent to live out his days in “prayer and penance'“ over sex abuse claims against him.

Theodore McCarrick, previously the Archbishop of Washington, DC and Newark and a high-ranking Cardinal was defrocked last week and sent to live out his days in “prayer and penance'“ over sex abuse claims against him.

A Minimum of 30-40% Of Catholic Priests Are Gay, Asserts NY Times, As Vatican Prepares Sex Abuse Summit

The New York Times has delivered a staggering, in-depth look at the Catholic Church and its crisis over sexual abuse — and sexual abstinence generally, considering the scale of it homosexual population among priests. Entitled ‘It Is Not a Closet. It Is a Cage.’ Gay Catholic Priests Speak Out, writer Elizabeth Dias navigates the complexity of church doctrine that drives away homosexuals in shame, while attracting a preistly population estimated to be minimally one-third gay.

The Blame Game: Taylor Swift Delivers Emotional Thank You; PA Condemns Over 300 Priests As Perpetrators Of Sexual Abuse

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The Blame Game: Taylor Swift Delivers Emotional Thank You; PA Condemns Over 300 Priests As Perpetrators Of Sexual Abuse

It's a year ago that Taylor Swift won her sexual assault case against Colorado DJ David Mueller, who sued her for $3 million in damages after she claimed he placed his hand under her skirt and grabbed her butt hile posing for a photo. Swift filed a countersuit asking for a symbolic $1 in damages, which the jury awarded her in winning her case. 

Swift addresed the issue during an emotional speech for her Tampa Reputation concert. Thanking her fans for their support while stressing the need for better justice for sexual assault victims, Taylor said: "I guess I just think about all the people that weren’t believed and people who haven’t been believed and the people who are afraid to speak up because they think they won’t be believed. And I just wanted to say that I’m sorry to anyone who ever wasn’t believed because I don’t know what turn my life would take if people didn’t believe me when I said that something had happened to me. And so I guess I just wanted to say that we have so, so, so much further to go, and I’m so grateful to you guys for being there for me during what was a really, really horrible part of my life." viaELLE US

The pop star's words ring so relevant this morning, with publication of "a searing report" about bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covering up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over 70 years. The report covered six of the state's eight Catholic dioceses, identifying more tha 1,000 victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests. 

Barbara Jatta Appointed First Female Director of Vatican Museums

Pope Francis' Tuesday announcement that art historian Barbara Jatta will become the new director of the Vatican Museums, marking the first time that a woman will lead one of the most important art institutions worldwide. Previously, Jatta worked at the Vatican Library, overseeing its collection of prints.

A Rome native, Jatta has worked for the Vatican since 1996 and will now become one of its most powerful administrators. While Pope Francis wants to increase the roles for women in the Catholic Church, he remains firm that the most important Vatican posts are reserved for cardinals and bishops, who are universally male. 

The Vatican Museums represent 54 galleries acrross seven kilometers, receiving six million visitors in 2015. Regularly listed among the top 10 visited museums in the world, the Vatican museums represent one of the Holy See's biggest income sources. Estimates are about $311 million in gross revenues and $41 million in profits are driven by Barbara Jatta's new assignment.

'Radical Grace' Tells Stories Of 3 Defiant American Nuns Under The Vatican Gun

‘Radical Grace’ Tells Stories Of 3 Defiant American Nuns Under The Vatican Gun

This film comes at a major crossroads in the Catholic Church, and the nuns are everything that’s right with the institution. They stand with the marginalized, and won’t be bullied by the hierarchy. I feel a deep connection to the women featured in ‘Radical Grace’. ~ Susan Sarandon, ‘Radical Grace’ Executive Producer