Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Disappearance of the Wise Woman

It is an unfortunate fact of life that the majority of herbal ‘Wise Women’ have long since disappeared from our modern society, being replace by disrespect for the elderly, distrust in all but modern medicine and those who are fortunate enough to hold knowledge, are all too regularly rude about the dispersal of it.

The patient teacher is rewarded with an apt pupil, but it takes time to get there,

Even so, there are few modern wise women and we are fortunate enough that said wise women are usually educated enough to share their knowledge through the medium of books and the internet. Even so, many so called wise women are nothing of the sort.

They are phony and full of exaggeration, talking much about something on which they know too little.

Other wise women are reluctant to mentor budding future wise women, responding in sarcastic and ridiculing manners.

It is true that our heritage is on the verge of extinction and I believe that many mentees should in fact be challenged when learning – but truth be told, I also believe that there is a tone of respect that ought to be maintained.

The path of a wise woman can be a hard one. Traditionally modern wise women are pagan, in touch with the goddess and the moon. They seek to re-create the glorious history they feel patriarchal cultures have denied them, and they are ever searching for truth.

A modern wise woman, who chooses to be a Christian may often face hardship in communicating with others, simply because of the falsehoods associated with the misunderstanding of history. Persecution in the past, which resulted from adherence to Catholicism in the face of Protestantism, or further back from an adherence to Paganism in the face of Catholicism is alive and well today, as many witches are anti-Christian, just as much as devout Christians are anti-witch. This is the one battle we have to fight to save the modern Wise Woman.

The truth about the past history of the Wise Woman is as simple as ‘We don’t know’. Many innocent women were executed as witches BUT it was not necessarily the Roman Catholic Church or because they were witches.

Women were executed when someone else reported them. Greed, lust and jealously were key motives as were indeed fear and superstition,

If a woman looked different for whatever reason, people were scared and called her a witch. Perhaps the woman in question was in the way of someone else, reporting her as a witch, was a good way to rid you of her.

The true crones were infrequently reported, being as their use to others was all too great. Only in the case of someone else’s misfortune did they end up blamed and only for second offenses were they executed.

People blame the Roman Catholic Church for the “burning times”. Truth be told, the majority of witch-hunts took place after the reformation and was usually caused by fervent followers of the new religion. The Salem witch trials are a good example. And most witches died at the end of a rope, courtesy of the hangman’s noose.

Now that is not to say that the Catholic Church did not perform witch-hunts or that witches were not burned. They did, and they were, but these were the minority of cases.

No, the demise of the old Wise Woman results from two other places - the industrial revolution and the medical revolution.

The industrial revolution hurt them because of work ethics (many poor people had to work there, including the wise women) and because the pollution from the factories killed out many native medicinal plants.

The medical revolutions started with the smallpox vaccination, the advent of anesthesia and the improvement of hygiene. Add the antibiotics and the doctors became demagogues.

When the trust level in doctors became high the wise women turned into the ‘crazy crone’ on the corner of the ‘superstitious old wife’.

People were both scare of them and revered them for often they were able to cure people the new medicine could not.

Although women no longer went to them for love potions, they dud utilize their wisdom for other female reasons.

Once women became doctors and abortion was legalized, the wise woman went in the footsteps of the dinosaurs, heading for extinction.

The hippie movement rescued them from sure demise by promoting the natural ways and once the health movement followed behind it was a sure bet that they were not going to die out.

Unfortunately in the meantime, many of them passed on to their reward, taking with them all the knowledge they accumulated in this life.

Valuable sources of lost knowledge are gone forever, never to return. Modern medicine constantly battles for control of the herbal cures and modern herbalists are require to re-learn much our ancestors knew, while trying to weed out fact from folklore.

It behooves us to both respect and communicate with out elders for in this way we can learn from their experiences as well as our own.

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