You probably know The Witches of Salem, The Witches of Eastwick, Samantha from Ma Sorcière bien-aimée, Jeanne d'Arc, La Sorcière de la rue Mouffetard, Maléfique or the Three Witches from Hocus Pocus... An emblematic figure of fictions, tales, films and series, she is also the symbol of a woman with various powers. Once hunted, witches are used today to illustrate the emancipation of women. Mona Chollet, in her book Sorcières, la puissance invaincue des femmes, relates the history of witch hunts, while illustrating how this has shaped the lives of women until today.
The Witch Hunt: A War on Women
Witch hunts in Europe began during the Renaissance, wiping out hundreds of thousands of women who were accused of all the evils of society, often because they were members of the working classes. The civil courts, mostly composed of men, proclaimed these women unworthy of any consideration, because they were healers, magicians, unmarried, widows, helped women to have abortions, or simply did not respect the "norms of society"... Everything was subject to accuse women of having made a pact with the devil. According to Mona Chollet, the symbol of the witch limiting women's freedoms was used to impose this patriarchal domination that we still find today in our society. The "prickers" were responsible for sticking needles into the scars or skin irregularities of arrested women, to find the mark of the Devil. If they reacted to the pain, they were tortured and executed in public. This witch hunt created a subjugation of the women who were all afraid of this phenomenon.
On Halloween 1968 in New York, women created the WITCH movement (Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), a feminist group of the women's liberation movement.
In our society, witches are represented as ugly, with a hooked nose, old with gray or white hair, very often with a black cat, a broom and possessing magical powers. According to the analysis of Mona Chollet, the symbol of old age refers to the link between beauty and youth that society "imposes". The lonely woman accompanied by her black cat illustrates the vision of celibacy for a woman in our patriarchal society...
The witch hunt was created to impose the alienation of women from men, limiting their freedom. But today, many feminists, considering themselves as witches, take back these attributes in order to fight against these misogynistic thoughts that have shaped our society according to Mona Chollet.