Kristina M. Lisanti
17 December 2009
"If we inquire, we find that all the kingdoms
of the world have been overthrown by women."
from Malleus Malificarum,
a witch hunter's guide, 1486
Wise women were spiritual advisors and healers. In the beginning all sorts of superstitions surrounded the birth of a child and wise women were there to help aid and welcome the new child into the world. She was asked to notice the alignment of the stars and the surroundings that accompanied the birth. A wise woman was asked to present the baby to the world and predict its fortune. A wise women, or witch was the priestess who instructed women in blood, birth, and the magic of it all. The French word for midwife means “wise woman”.
According to the Britannica Encyclopedia the “art of attending women in childbirth” is called midwifery. Midwives and their practices date back as far as ancient biblical, Greek and Roman times. Before the emergence of obstetrics, midwives and their practices were not considered an important part of the medical establishment. In it’s beginning midwives had no formal training and relied solely on experience and the teachings from mother to daughter within the profession. Wise women were the healers of the ancient world, it was during this time that wise women and witch became synonymous.
In the beginning of recorded history people lived in small groups as a tribe. Within the tribes men were in charger of the survival of the group. He was the protector and the hunter. Women’s roles revolved around their power to give birth. They were the nurtures of the family and the healers of both the physical and the spiritual. Women were a sacred part of the group and this arose to the worship of the Goddess. (Eisler, 1-7)
There were many goddesses and myths associated with birth. One of the Greeks most sacred Goddess’s was Artemis (also known as the Roman Goddess Diana). When Artemis was born she assisted her mother in the birth of her twin brother Apollo. She became the protector of women and made decisions regarding who would live and die during birth. (Encyclopedia mythica: Artemis) Heket was an Egyptian Goddess. She had a frogs head which was a symbol of life and fertility. She was also known as the Goddess of the last stages of birth. Although the word midwife did not exist at that time, the occupation of a midwife held the title of “the servants of Heket.” (Heket; Encyclopedia Mythica)
The Celtic Goddess Brigid is very interesting because she went from pagan mythology to Christianity and sainthood. Brigid was known as the Goddess with three aspects. She was a the patroness for blacksmiths, for poetry, and for healing and fertility. Brigid has a seasonal holiday on the calendar of paganism called Imbolc which is celebrated on Febuary first. It is a celebration to usher in the spring. Christians accepted Brigid as a surrogate mother to Christ and changed the pagan Imbolc to Candalmas. She was canonized as St. Brigid. (Brigid; Encyclopedia Mythica)
During the Goddess era, myths revolved around the goddesses who helped women. Women Goddess’s were the mothers of all. Shrines and temples were erected to the worshiping of these women. But all the good that surrounds women and their knowledge comes to an end with the emergence of a patriarchal God. Christianity changed the view of women as Gods. Eve, in the bible is solely responsible for all the evil in the world. In Genesis, it is Eve that is tempted by the serpent and brings shame upon herself and Adam with a punishment to last for eternity and all generations. God says: I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.[Gen. 3:6]
With Christianity in the forefront of spirituality and religion comes one of the darkest times for women. Midwives...
Bibliography: "Artemis." Encyclopedia Mythica. 2009. Encyclopedia Mythica Online.
13 Dec. 2009 .
"Brigid." Encyclopedia Mythica
13 Dec. 2009 .
"Heket." Encyclopedia Mythica. 2009. Encyclopedia Mythica Online.
13 Dec. 2009 .
"Midwifery." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 13 Dec. 2009 .
Please join StudyMode to read the full document