On Halloween costumes and perspective.

Today I went to the mall and there was much Halloween candy, many costumes, very exciting times.  It is that time of year where for one day people dress up, and pretend to be someone different, someone other than.  They get to portray a fantasy (even if it is as a “sexy nurse’) and walk for one day in another persons shoes.   They also get to eat limitless candy.  Seriously.  So. Much. Cheap. Candy.  I don’t really do costumes.  I am quite lazy.  My kids have never trick or treated, not with my permission, anyway. But, as ever, it set the thoughts to running.
Every Halloween, I share this poem in one way or another.  It is the lens through which I view Halloween.  There are two sides to every story. And then, there is the truth. It is all about perspective.
halloween-witch-vector-illustration-art-34475082
Each year they parade her about:
The traditional Halloween witch.

Misshapen green face,
stringy scraps of hair,
and a toothless mouth
beneath her disfigured nose.

Gnarled, knobby fingers
twisted into a claw,
protracting from a bent
and twisted torso
that lurches about on wobbly legs.

Most think this abject image
to be the creation of
a prejudiced mind,
or merely a Halloween caricature.

I disagree.
I believe this to be
how witches were really seen.

Consider that most witches:
were women,
were abducted in the night,
and smuggled into dungeons or prisons
under the secrecy of darkness
be presented by the light of day
as a confessed witch.

Few, if any,
saw a frightened,
normal looking woman
being dragged into a secret room
filled with instruments of torture.
To be questioned
until she confessed
to anything that was suggested to her,
and to give names
or say whatever would stop the questions.

Crowds saw the aberration
denounced to the world
as a self-proclaimed witch.

As the witch was paraded
through the town,
en route to be burned,
hanged, drowned, stoned,
or disposed of
in various, horrible ways,
all created to free
and save her soul
from her depraved body.

The jeering crowds
viewed the results
of hours of torture

The face, bruised
and broken by countless blows,
bore a hue of sickly green.

The once warm and loving smile
gone
Replaced by a grimace
of broken teeth ,
and torn gums
that leer beneath a battered,
disfigured nose.

The disheveled hair
conceals bleeding gaps
of torn scalp
from whence cruel hands
had torn away the lovely tresses.

Broken, twisted hands
clutched the wagon for support.
Fractured fingers locked like groping claws
to steady her broken body.

All semblance of humanity gone.
This was truly a demon,
a bride of Satan, a witch.

I revere this Halloween Witch
and hold her sacred.
I honor her courage
and listen to her warnings
of the dark side of humanity.

Each year I shed tears of respect.

————

Written by Angel, 6/99

Source

Trigger warning. Images of abuse.

There was literally nothing I could do to make the rest of this post less wordy and more fun.  I tried, I really did.

let you down

It is wordy and probably irrelevant, and is just me trying to work my way through how I am feeling this week.  Which for me is coming down to “what lenses do you look through, and do you know you are looking through them?”.  If you make it through the rambling, I will owe you a chocolate fish.

fish

I am mostly an atheist these days, but I hold a deep and reverent respect for my forebears and the ways they used “religion” spirituality and stories to build a society safe from harm, and to pass on the knowledge gained in each generation.  As a midwife, I am aware of the persecution that followed my ancestral mothers, of the huge price individual women paid for the knowledge we held about how to keep each generation safe.  In both the rigours of childbirth and the ensuing challenge of keeping very small people alive these women are the solid ground upon which I stand. In different cultures, we held different titles, but in my Anglo Saxon genetic history, my forebears were witches.

witchmidwife

They knew things that nobody else understood, did literal battle with the forces of life and death and stood in the doorway between two worlds.  This was before we had science and evidence based research to guide us.  They had only knowledge gained from experience, and from the experiences of those who came before.  They were mystical; as everything was mystical that was not understood in that time.  For the longest time, that was just the way it was.

Terry Pratchetts witches were fiercely independent, but relied on each others strengths to make a dfference.  They are also my favourite.

Terry Pratchett’s witches were fiercely independent, but relied on each others strengths to make a difference. They are also my favourite.

Gender roles were different, more defined, less fluid than in this 21st century world we inhabit. Men had their areas of interest in health and women had theirs. For the most part, throughout history across Anglo Saxon culture never the twain did meet, except when their paths merged in a single goal of saving a life. Men were the barbers, the saw bones, the tooth pullers, the gravediggers, the mechanical injury healers.  Women dealt with herbs, with pain, with grief, with the mind body interface.

Woman healers – midwives, witches.  They managed the esoteric, the hidden, the scary paths of birth and death.  They burned the candle at literally both ends. But there was power in that.  And at some point in history, it became clear that  they had to be brought down.  The taking down took centuries and was hard fought, but ultimately, women’s ways of knowing were slowly but surely made less.   They were vilified, criminalized and hounded.  They were beaten.  Killed.  Much knowledge was lost.

To this day, our knowledge is considered as less than.  We are Paid less. Valued less. Acknowledged less.

quiz

We know more now, of course.  Much of modern medicine is informed by the knowledge initially gained by our forebears, just fine tuned and developed to higher levels.  The roots of anesthesia for example may well have come from the observation that people were easier to sew back together if they were knocked out.  All the rest of it was just finding the best way to achieve that without accidentally killing someone.  Much of our technology exists because somebody was willing to look at things a different way.  I am very glad that I live today, in this world, where much of the time, we win the battles against death and my role as a midwife is now associated with being a job full of bouncing babies. How cool is that? Advances of modern science, FTW!

win

 

But, at the same time.  I wish it was better.  I wish that my last post was never necessary.  I wish that we could appreciate more than one set of knowledge at a time.   But, it seems that is still a long way off and that humanity is destined to continue to fight each other rather than see each other.  We have wars raging over religion, people arguing about science, families destroyed by gender identity and sexuality, women fighting for reproductive rights, disabled people fighting for basic human rights.  And let’s not forget, the Wallabies won’t say the words ‘All Blacks’.

 

wtf

 

So, as the western world prepares to dress up in costumes, and honour the festival of the dead, the day where the veil between the worlds supposedly lifts and the lines blur,  why not try on somebody else’s lenses for a test run.  See what it is like to view the world through the knowledge and understanding of somebody from a different religion, culture, or even historical context.  We all know our own challenges, but maybe they would be more manageable if we took off our lenses for a few minutes, and saw the world around us with a different perspective.

 

Just saying, y’all.  We can do better!

end

Thanks for reading!

 

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