I do not escape the fascination for witches, which goes back to the roots of childhood. I confess to loving dusty parchments, archives, the idea of grimoires, the bottoms of pits, the dark corridors of abbeys where the scent of rose name, the dungeons, the old stones that we venerate and which were covered in blood, all those clichés of dark times. Once abandoned the romantic, I shudder with horror imagining the story, the real one, of these women tortured because they were supposedly marked by the devil, satanic heretics.
Also, it is with great interest that I left aside the current affairs of the Republic to follow a debate of the RTS within the framework of the Night of the witches, this week, in the canton of Vaud. I must here praise the lucidity of the National Ecologist Councilor Léonore Porchet for having brought up this burning subject in the federal news of the year of grace 2022. She indeed defended on the airwaves a postulate tabled in September so that Switzerland rehabilitates these victims (3,500 over nearly three centuries) within the framework of discussions around a national museum of women in Swiss history. The elected representative and feminist activist seized on the subject by describing it as a war against women.
What about werewolves?
I wonder what Catherine Repond, known as “la Catillon”, would think of it, burned in Friborg in 1731. Or the kid Claude Bernard, a 12-year-old vagrant decapitated in this same canton in 1651, because his laughter was perceived as diabolical . Because from the mouth of historians, we learn that 10% of the trials involved minors, that men were also concerned, certainly to a lesser extent, and that, damnation!, it appears from the trial archives that denunciations for witchcraft were often the fact of women in neighborhood disputes in particular. For specialists, gender was not the determining marker. On the other hand, social origin, yes. You were more likely to end up at the stake if you were an immigrant, marginal or from the scum of society.
But what does history matter if it serves current political purposes. It makes sense that the witches were above all victims of the patriarchy and by no means those of an anxiety-provoking context mixing a dogmatic and delirious Catholic Church, wars, the plague. It is therefore appropriate to make them mascots of an iconic feminism. The hilarious Sandrine Rousseau, French deputy, did not hesitate to affirm that women accused of witchcraft were often “independent, widows, lesbians, detached from male authority in general”. I burn to hear it on the social profile and sexual orientation of the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene or Joan of Arc. And of Torquemada, well, it could be funny too.
Current militancy instrumentalizes history shamelessly, in the same way as the Church and the State did before it, to our greatest misfortune, in general. As for the witches, it does not matter, their damned souls will survive it. But since we are there, I also claim the rehabilitation of the werewolves, and as long as I do that of my ancestors, too, starving in the depths of their valley. And if there’s room left, well let’s rehabilitate the complexity. It seems to me the main victim of the contemporary debate.
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Also read: Delémont, the Little Prince and the sinkers
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The stake of political vanities
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