Wonder woman Angelina Jolie follows in the steps of Beyonce’s essay in the September 2019 issue of Vogue, choosing to set her own narrative. Given the generally low quality of women’s magazines’ interview questions — I agree they have made progress — the haters should stop clutching their pearls around journalistic integrity and come up to Angelina’s level.
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.
In an interesting juxtaposition of women's history and art and contemporary events, Iraq and Ireland are both channeling feminine archetypes at the 2017 Venice Biennale.
The Ruya Foundation, organizer of the Iraqi pavilion at Venice, is sending a total of 40 ancient Iraqi artifacts, some of them looted and now returned. The antiquities will reside alongside works by eight modern and contemporary Iraqi artists and a new commission by Francis Alÿs, who held art workshops at an Iraqi refugee camp last year.
The ambitious exhibition, titled “Archaic,” will inspire a dialogue between the modern and contemporary works and antiquities loaned by the Iraq Museum spanning six millennia, from the Neolithic Age to the Neo-Babylonian Period.
Artist Jesse Jones will represent Ireland at the May 57th Venice Biennale, with her presentation 'Tremble Tremble', curated by Tessa Giblin. The 1970s chant was sung by women in the Italian Wages for Housework movement: “Tremate, tremate, le streghe sono tornate!” (tremble, tremble, the witches have returned!).
Even though the Catholic Church remains dominant in Ireland, there is a rising social movement demanding change between church and state. In 'Tremble, Tremble', the artist calls for a return of the witch as a "feminist archetype and disrupter" with an inherent ability to affect change.
The artwork envisions a different legal order, "one in which the multitude are brought together in a symbolic, gigantic body, to proclaim a new law, that of 'In Utera Gigantae' writes ArtNet.
Jones has researched the ways in which the law transmits memory over time, with a research combining an archeological dig of 3.5 million-year-old female specimen, the oppression of women during the 16th century witch trials, the symphysiotomy (a brutal form of caesarean) trials, and the legalisation of abortion in Ireland.
The film work takes testimony, statements, and written lyrics, blending them into a powerful incantation. The artist is collaborating with theatrical artist Olwen Fouéré and sound artist Susan Stenger to make an “expanded form of cinema.”
Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and the late French-born artist Louise Bourgeoise collaborated in the hauntingly beautiful and poetic Steilneset Memorial in Vardø, Norway, an arresting memorial to 91 people, 77 women and 14 men, who were burned at the stake here in the 17th century for the crime of witchcraft.
Sturla J. Stalsett, general secretary of the Vardø Church City Mission, pointed out during the opening ceremonies presided over by Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway, that the memorial is meant to remind us of the ongoing danger of collectively creating scapegoats. If historical circumstances seem peculiar now, the intent behind the work addresses larger moral claims.
The editorial begins with a quote by Theda Kenyon, author of ‘Witches Still Live’:
The blackest chapter in the history of Witchcraft lies not in the malevolence of Witches but in the deliberate, gloating cruelty of their prosecutors.