The word mythhistory is used for narratives that may be myth but that have a grounding in factual real history. Some women were burnt at the stake as witches; true enough. The myth comes with the numbers.
In Wicca there are many myths. Some rely on actual historical facts, but many are fabricated: what Yvonne calls history-as-wished-for. Perhaps chief among these pieces of mythhistory is the burning of nine million people as witches. Under the influence of feminist Wicca, the number morphed into nine million women. Many people were murdered by the Christian establishment
over a considerable length of time in its drive for centralized power. The Christians have said that nine million from a population of probably less than fifty million would have been missed. That’s a specious argument, though, when we think of a period of at least two hundred years when the murders occurred.
We do know this much: An appeal was written to King James pleading for a cessation of the murders because “there is only one female left in the town and she is three years old”. Similarly we know that the production of lace almost ceased because of the killing of the lace makers. So who knows how many Witches and “heretics” died? No one can be sure. One is too many.
Remember: the vast majority were labeled heretics, not Witches, by the official centralized (Christian) power of the day; and many were hanged, not burnt. That’s just another hair-splitting quibble, though: dead is dead.
Burning at the stake is a persistent common image; whereas many were roasted on a grill, and their roasted body parts tossed to the cheering crowd.
In a similar mythhistory vein: who was actually burnt? The little old lady herbalist living in a cottage in the woods? The midwife? No, the most common victim was the wetnurse or lying-in maid who minded the newborn infants of the gentry. In a time when absolutely nothing was known about hygiene, nutrition, or sanitation, she was blamed for the death of the child in her care.
Another common victim was the landowner or the person of wealth whose relatives conspired to get at the land or the money.
A modern myth that seems to be morphing into historical “fact” is the allegation that Gerald Gardner invented Wicca. In all Gerald’s writings, he used the word Wicca only once–and even on that occasion he did not mean it to define a spiritual or religious path. Unless his spirit rose from the grave, he couldn’t have done it anyway; because Wicca was first used by the Frosts in 1968 and Gerald died in 1964. The word was also used by Martello in NewYork in 1968.
Gardner did a lot to popularize Witchcraft, and we admire him for his work. We are also pleased that some who travel the Gardnerian path now call themselves Gardnerian Wicca.
Remember that unless we get our facts right, the scholastic establishment will continue to scoff at our efforts to gain credibility and spiritual freedom for all. Let’s show some integrity, boys and girls. Fair enough?
BB all Gavin and Yvonne