The Political-Economy of Witchcraft

     There has always been a political-economy to witchcraft;  we have never been fully free of witch-fever.

     At Salem we stoned and hanged numbers of women Puritan town fathers determined were under the influence. There was, in fact, a specific political-economy to the executions. Salem (as did many New England towns) kept remarkably detailed family and business histories; I’ve read many. All those murdered at Salem were involved directly or indirectly in the then-very new economy, the trans-Atlantic trade, increasingly bound up with the then very modern idea of mercantile capitalism. Conversely, all of Salem’s accusers were farmers or members of agrarian families, tethered through their work to the far older, traditional political-economic paradigms. It takes no astonishing imagination, then, to realize that in a world whose primary lens was religious the agrarian accusers (regardless of what may have motivated specific, targeted, personal accusations) could easily see those tied to the new economy as losing their faith, as being, in fact, possessed.

     There has always been a political-economy to witchcraft. 

     Midvives, of course, were our nation’s first physicians. While they weren’t murdered for their efforts the then-new American Medical Association in the late 1800s effectively marginalized midwives through constant, brutal, sex-based slander, advertising, and lobbying. In fact it was the A.M.A. and not the Church in America that first strove consistently and hard to have abortion criminalized state-by-state. The motivation was not ethical, let alone religious. In women’s health, midwives had been doctors’ most powerful competition. The A.M.A. successfully labeled midwives over and again and with witchy-resonation. The male medical monopoly lasted a long while.       

     There has always been a political-economy to witchcraft.

     So came word less than a decade back that in the Saudi Kingdom, Amina Nassar was beheaded under law for her own witchery in Jouf Province. While her specific offense was not stated by the Saudi court–it’s not clear that was made known even to her family–Amnesty International notes that in Saudi women are often charged with witchcraft for expressing unwelcome political, economic, or religious opinions. In the same year at least five Saudi women had their sorceress-heads sliced off.       

     I’ve no idea when men will grow the hell up.

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