How Midwives Survived Religious Persecution


During the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries the Catholic and Protestant Churches unleashed a wave of Misogyny (that is an irrational fear of women and all things effeminate) that saw an estimated 200,000 people drown, hanged, tortured to death and burnt at the stake for alleged Witchcraft.  Research has shown that the majority of these deaths involved women (many suffering from Disabilities), as well as a smaller number of men (accused of wizardry) and children accused of assisting in black magic rituals.  The UK ‘officially’ executed around 1000 victims for witchcraft – but many more were killed by sadistic mobs who took the law into their own hands (encouraged by local priests).  What many may not realise is that one of the crimes listed as witchcraft was ‘vile midwifery’ – a crime that demanded the death penalty.  Any woman who was found to possess knowledge of pregnancy, labour, childbirth and post-natal recovery were deemed in league with the devil and sentenced to be burnt at the stake.  This wiped-out centuries of folk-lore that dated before Christian times, and left pregnant women without any help.  As a result, midwifery went underground and has survived into the modern day as the Midwife Professional.  The Christian church tried to stamp-out Midwifery by replacing these local non-Christian women (who were well-known and respected within their local communities) by indifferent Christian nuns.  This is why I think Midwives are true heroes who have suffered historically to preserve and apply their expertise – and who are today being attacked yet again by an uncaring far-right Government in the UK.

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