December 12, 2017: Witches, Land & Family
It is not a coincidence that the witch hunt and the social-economic crisis of superinflation occurred simultaneously during the transition to capitalism and private property. Scholar Henry Kamen write that it was “precisely in the period when there was the main price hike (between the end of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th) [that] there were the greatest number of charges and persecutions” against witches (Kamen 1972: 249 — qtd in Federici 174). Women were politically organized in the resistance against early capitalism that was marked by the enclosure of common lands. As commonly held lands were transformed into private property in the transition to capitalism, fences went up and landless people now no longer had the ability to sustain their own lives and the lives of their families by hunting, berry picking, growing vegetables, grazing animals through shared access. The peasant revolts often took the form of tearing down fences — in an attempt to reclaim the commons: land that had been a source of shared wealth, now stolen and hoarded by the wealthy (or slightly wealthier). “During these revolts it was often women who initiated and lead the action . . . It was women, moreover, (after the revolts were crushed, with many men imprisoned or slaughtered) remained to carry on the resistance, although in a more subterranean manner. . . . The persecution of witches grew on this terrain. It was class war carried out by other means. In this context we cannot fail to see the connection between the fear of uprising and the persecutors’ insistence on the Witches Sabbat or Synagogue, the famous nocturnal reunion where thousands of people presumably congregated, travelling often from far distant places” (Federici 174-176).
Women came out then, as they often have, to defend and protect the health and wellbeing of their families.
Women’s history of political organization and action–although purely documents–is nothing new. This erasure of political action is also part of deep energy literacy.